The Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has proposed expanding the list of allowable beef imports from countries that present a minimal risk of introducing bovine spongiform encephalopathy into the United States.
Currently, Canada is the only minimal-risk country.
The proposal expands on a rule that APHIS published in January 2005 to allow the importation of certain live ruminants and ruminant products, including cattle under 30 months of age for delivery to a slaughterhouse or feedlot, from minimal-risk countries (see JAVMA, Feb. 15, 2005).
In the new rule, APHIS is proposing to allow the importation of the following:
- Live cattle and other bovine species (for any use) born on or after March 1, 1999, which APHIS has determined to be the date of effective enforcement of the ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban in Canada
- Blood and blood products from bovine species, under certain conditions
- Casings and part of the small intestine from bovine species
The January 2005 final rule addressed meat and meat products from animals of any age, after the removal of specified risk materials. In March 2005, APHIS delayed applicability of certain provisions of that rule (see JAVMA, April 15, 2005). This delay affected only meat and meat products from animals 30 months of age or older. Lifting the delay and allowing the importation of these products would be consistent if the new rule becomes final.
As part of the proposal, APHIS conducted a thorough risk assessment following guidelines from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and found that the risk from all these commodities is minimal. The assessment evaluated the entire risk pathway, including mitigations in place both in Canada and the United States. The assessment evaluated the likelihood of introduction of BSE via imports, the likelihood of animal exposure in such a situation, and the possible consequences.
The proposal appeared in the Jan. 9 issue of the Federal Register, available online at www.gpoaccess.gov/. Additional information is available on the APHIS Web site at www.aphis.usda.gov.
The deadline for comments is March 12. Parties can submit comments by mailing an original and three copies to Docket No. APHIS-2006-0041, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238. Parties also can visit www.regulations.gov, select Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service from the agency drop-down menu, and look for Docket No. APHIS-2006-0041.