Earlier this week, the Scientific Commission for the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) notified USDA it is recommending the United States’ BSE risk be upgraded from “controlled” to “negligible,” the lowest risk level in the OIE’s rating system. The change will place the United States in the same category as key export competitors including Argentina, Australia and Brazil, according to ratings on the OIE website. Canada and Mexico remain classified as controlled risk for BSE.

The upgrade in status should strengthen the position of trade negotiators in gaining access to markets for U.S. beef. Although Japan recently relaxed its age standards for U.S. beef, several other countries, including China, continue to ban or restrict imports of U.S. beef based on our history with BSE. The new risk category provides additional science-based evidence of the safety of U.S. beef.

According to the USDA, formal adoption of negligible risk status for the United States will occur at the OIE’s General Assembly meeting in May, when it is considered.

Industry groups and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack praised the announcement, saying it reflects the success of multiple layers of safeguards the United States has adopted to protect animals and humans from BSE.

“This announcement by OIE’s Scientific Commission is great news for U.S. cattle producers, says NCBA president-elect Bob McCan, a cattleman from Victoria, Texas. The U.S. beef industry has worked with government officials and scientists to implement multiple interlocking safeguards to prevent BSE from taking hold in our country.