WASHINGTON – Industry groups a applauding the release of a final rule aimed at modernizing import regulations for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). The US Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said the rule allows for safe trade of cattle and beef products while protecting the United States from the introduction of BSE.

“This action will bring our BSE import regulations in line with international standards, which call for countries to base their trade policies on the actual risk of animals or products harboring the disease,” said Dr. John Clifford, APHIS Deputy Administrator and Chief Veterinary Officer. “Making these changes will further demonstrate to our trading partners our commitment to international standards and sound science, and we are hopeful it will help open new markets and remove remaining restrictions on US products.”

APHIS will use the same criteria and categories used by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) to identify a country's BSE risk status, the agency said. Additionally, APHIS will conduct its own assessment when necessary such as when OIE has not classified a country's BSE risk and asks that APHIS conduct a risk assessment. The new rule does not change other measures currently in place, such as the ban on ruminant-to-ruminant feed and cattle materials known to carry BSE risk materials.

“The basis of these import regulations, set on internationally-accepted science and the OIE guidelines, is critical in showing that the US is committed to ensuring trade, unfettered by protectionist motivations, and sends a clear message to our trading partners of the value we place on fair trade,” said Scott George, president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. “I am pleased that NCBA has been a leader on this issue since 2003 and that the USDA/APHIS incorporated the comments of cattle producers in finalizing these regulations. These regulations show that cattlemen and women not only talk about market access, but that we stand behind it.”

The American Meat Institute also welcomed news about the release of the comprehensive BSE rule.

“The rule is a significant step forward to make US beef import regulations more consistent with international animal health standards,” said J. Patrick Boyle, president and CEO of AMI. “We have long said that having such a rule in place will show leadership on the global scale and believe it will enhance US trade and give USTR and USDA a stronger position to press other nations to follow the OIE's guidelines and adopt science-based BSE policies. Using internationally recognized science-based standards as the basis for trade facilitates exports and imports of meat and poultry products — for the benefit of consumers and producers.”

The rule becomes effective 90 days after publication in theFederal Register.