WASHINGTON – The American Meat Institute, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, US Meat Export Federation and the National Meat Association are urging the US Department of Agriculture to move forward with a comprehensive bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) rule that would give the agency the legal authority to base its decisions on whether to open the US market to beef imports from other countries on the international guidelines established by the World Organization of Animal Health (OIE).

Currently, the US applies BSE-related import restrictions to beef imports from the European Union (EU), even though most countries in the EU have been given the same BSE risk classification as the US by the OIE.

Many EU member states are linking their support for the approval of lactic acid as a carcass wash to the publication by USDA of its comprehensive BSE rule. Approval of lactic acid is essential to the second phase of a memorandum of understanding on beef trade between the two countries, which has resulted in a 150 percent increase in EU imports of US high-quality beef since August 2009.

“We continue to face BSE-related barriers to US beef exports in a number of countries around the world,” sated the letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Implementation of the comprehensive rule would not only permit USDA to respond to those countries in the EU that are interested in exporting beef and veal to the US, but in our view it should also put the U.S. government in a stronger position to press other countries to follow the OIE’s guidelines and adopt science-based BSE policies.”