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IE panel recommends favorable change to BSE rating

28 February 2007

US - A panel for the World Organization for Animal Health has recommended to its 167 member countries that the U.S. and Canada be given a favorable rating on "mad cow" disease safety, a designation both countries want to spur beef and cattle trade, according to U.S. and Canadian officials.
The organization, known internationally by its French Acronym OIE, is proposing both countries get a "controlled" risk rating for their handling of the cattle disease that can be passed to humans through consumption of tainted meat.

The OIE will meet in May for its annual general session and members will vote to approve or disapprove rating categories being proposed for several countries, including the U.S. and Canada.

There are three possible categories and "negligible" status is considered the best. That rating is reserved for countries with the smallest risk for "mad cow" disease, known scientifically as bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

Next best, and the rating U.S. government officials have privately said they are expecting, is a "controlled" rating. That is the category being proposed by the OIE Scientific Commission for the U.S. and Canada, government and industry officials said this week. The third rating is "undetermined."

The officials asked not to be named in this story due to the sensitive nature of the issue ahead of the OIE vote in May.

A Canadian government official expressed pleasure in the "preliminary" rating of "controlled" status and called it a positive step.

That commission, after reviewing member country submissions and developing rating proposals, distributed some copies in February. OIE member countries will have until the May OIE meeting to review the recommendations.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture sent the U.S. submission to the OIE last October.

The organization, on its Web site, says: "OIE standards are recognized by the World Trade Organization as reference (for) international sanitary rules."

Ron DeHaven, administrator of USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, was unavailable for immediate comment, but he previously told Dow Jones Newswires in a December interview that the U.S. would be satisfied with a "controlled" risk designation.

DeHaven said in December the primary difference between "controlled" and "negligible" is that with a "controlled" status countries must have comprehensive surveillance and safeguard measures in place. He said the U.S. already has established those measures.

An internationally approved favorable BSE-risk status for the U.S. is what is needed to convince countries around the world that they should drop barriers to U.S. beef, National Cattlemen's Beef Association Vice President Jay Truitt said Tuesday.

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Source: Drovers


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