The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) has decided to classify the United States risk for BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow’s disease) as “negligible”.
That’s the safest level the OIE offers, and it puts the U.S. on a better trade footing than Canada whose rating remains “controlled” risk.
A negligible rating is supposed to be reserved for countries that have never had a case of BSE, or it’s been 11 years since the most recent BSE case.
The U.S., however, reported a case in Alabama in April, 2012.
Canada’s most recent case was in 2004.
The decision to rank the United States’ risk as “negligible” instead of “controlled” came at the OIE’s annual meeting in Paris. Its scientific arm earlier recommended the upgrade after reviewing U.S. safeguards.
The new risk category was a “strong foundation” for increasing U.S. beef and beef product exports, said Tom Vilsack, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
Vilsack said the United States would press its trading partners “to base their decisions on science, consistent with international standards.”
The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, a trade group, has said the safer designation would be “a big step toward enhancing our export opportunities.”
U.S. safeguards include a ban on using ruminant parts in cattle feed and keeping spinal cords, brains and nervous tissue, the items most at risk of infection, out of the food supply. USDA tests about 40,000 head a year for the disease.
Canada’s standards are more stringent than the U.S. for keeping spinal cords, brains and nerve tissues out of the food supply.