USDA to allow live cattle and beef imports with strict BSE controls
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said it would allow countries to export beef or live cattle under 30 months of age to the United States if they demonstrate effective bovine spongiform encephalopathy prevention and detection measures.
BSE, or “mad cow” disease, may be transmitted to humans through the consumption of infected beef. The United States experienced its first case of BSE in a Canadian-origin cow in Washington state on Dec. 23, 2003.
“After conducting an extensive review, we are confident that imports of certain commodities from regions of minimal risk can occur with virtually no risk to human or animal health,” said Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman in a Dec. 29 statement.
“Our approach is consistent with guidelines established by the World Organization for Animal Health, or OIE, and relies on appropriate, science-based risk mitigation measures,” she said.
Canada will become the first country, effective March 7, to take advantage of the rule. Under the rule, Canada will be subject to restrictions designed to ensure that live cattle are slaughtered by the time they reach 30 months of age. The rules require permanent marking of the animals as to their origin, requiring them to move in sealed containers to a feedlot or to slaughter, and not allowing them to move to more than one feedlot while in the United States, the USDA said.
Beef imports that have already undergone Canadian inspection are also subject to re-inspection at ports of entry by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to ensure their eligibility for import.
The USDA’s 500-page rule also outlines conditions under which sheep, goats and other livestock can be imported, as well as meat and other products and byproducts from these animals.
“Other countries or regions that meet the minimal-risk conditions will be considered in the future,” USDA said. “The designation of any future countries as minimal-risk regions will be accomplished through rulemaking procedures following completion of an appropriate risk assessment.”