U.S. BSE status changed to “negligible”

The U.S. recently achieved an important distinction in regard to its mad cow disease status.

At its annual meeting, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) voted to recognize the U.S. as having “negligible risk” for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or mad cow). Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands and Slovenia also received the same distinction.

BSE is a progressive, neurological disease that causes aggression, loss of coordination, decreased milk production and, eventually, death.

Previously, the U.S. held a controlled level designation for BSE. Negligible is the lowest level of risk under the OIE and indicates the U.S. has conducted thorough testing and surveillance for BSE in its domestic cattle herd. Last year, the U.S. submitted an application to have its status changed from controlled to negligible.

U.S. regulatory agencies and cattle producers alike welcomed the change.

“This announcement is an important step forward in increasing export opportunities for U.S. cattle producers,” said National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President-elect Bob McCan in a statement. “This is a significant achievement for the United States, our beef producers and federal and state partners who have successfully collaborated on this issue.”

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said the change in designation was a great reflection on the cooperation between producers and the government to implement BSE protections and was one that should help the U.S. beef industry.

“Last year, exports of U.S.-origin beef and beef products totaled $5.5 billion. With our negligible risk classification from the OIE, we have a strong foundation in place to continue increasing exports of U.S.-origin beef and beef products,” Vilsack said in a statement. “In doing so, we will continue to press trading partners to base their decisions on science, consistent with international standards. U.S. food and agricultural exporters and consumers worldwide benefit when countries adopt science-based international standards.”

The U.S. has several safeguards in place to prevent BSE, including removing risk materials from slaughtered animals, a ban on feeding animal products to other animals, and a strong surveillance program.

For more on Neogen blog’s BSE coverage, click here.

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