USDA Announces Final BSE Minimal Risk Rule

The final rule to normalize cattle trade with countries classified as minimal-risk for BSE has been released.

This morning USDA published a final rule that will harmonize cattle trade with countries presenting a minimal risk of introducing BSE into the United States. The rule expands on a rule published by USDA in January 2005 that established conditions for the importation of live cattle under 30 months of age from regions with effective BSE prevention and detection measures. The rule also designated Canada as the first minimal risk country recognized by USDA.

"The expansion of that rule is a major step in facilitating fair, science-based trade while continuing to protect animal health in this country consistent with international standards as defined by the World Organization for Animal Health," says John Clifford, USDA's chief veterninary officer.

Specifically, this rule allows the importation of cattle for any use born on or after Mar. 1, 1999. That is the day determined by USDA to be the date of effective inforcement of the ruminant to ruminant feed ban in Canada. Meat and meat products from cattle older than 30 months of age will be allowed, provided specific risk materials are removed before importation.

USDA issued a proposed rule at the first of the year and the public comment period opened January 9, 2007. In addition to making the proposed rule and all supporting documents available for review and comment by the public, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service also requested an external, formal, independent peer review of the risk assessment.

"The objective of the peer review was to determine whether the risk assessment was scientifically sound, transparent and consistent with international standards," says Clifford. "All of the peer reviewers agreed with the risk assessment conclusion that the likelyhood of BSE becoming established into the U.S. cattle population by allowing additional commodities from Canada is negligible."

APHIS incorporated several clarifications and updates suggested by the reviewers. The changes improved the transparancy and accuracy of the document, but did not alter APHIS's original conclusion.

The rule will be published in the Federal Register on Sept. 18, 2007 and becomes effective on Nov. 19, 2007.

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