The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (“APHIS”) is requesting comment on a proposed rule to amend the regulations governing importation of live bovines and products derived from bovines. Companies involved in the importation of meat and products derived from meet, including beef processors, dairy operations, and food processors, should review the proposed rule carefully. The proposed amendments include:
1. basing importation conditions on the inherent risk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (“BSE”) and the BSE risk status of the region from which the product originates,
2. establishing a system for classifying BSE risk by region,
3. classifying certain specified countries as to BSE risk, and
4. removing BSE restrictions on importation of cervids and camelids and products derived from cervids and camelids
The Federal Register notice includes a comprehensive history of the emergence of BSE, USDA’s response, and the current scientific knowledge concerning specified risk materials (SRMs) and the role of feed bans in reducing the risk of BSE.
Currently, APHIS classifies regions into one of three categories: regions where BSE is known to exist, regions that present an undue risk of introducing BSE into the United States, and regions that present a minimal risk of introducing BSE into the United States. Regions where BSE is known to exist or that present an undue risk of introducing BSE into the United States are not eligible to import meat, meat products and edible products other than meat into the United States. Processed animal protein, fats and oils, and derivatives of such are also prohibited. Regions that present a minimal risk of introducing BSE into the United States are eligible to import specified live ruminants and products derived from ruminants. Regions that do not fall into one of the three categories are not subject to any restrictions on importation of ruminants or ruminant-derived products due to BSE risk, but may face restrictions due to other diseases.
The proposed rule would revise the categories to regions of negligible risk, regions of controlled risk, and regions of undetermined risk. Risk determination will be conducted using the same process used by the World Organization for Animal Health (“OIE”), or an equivalent process. Importation of boneless skeletal muscle meat from bovines will be allowed regardless of the risk classification of the region of export if 1) the cattle were not subject to air injected stunning before slaughter or to pithing, 2) the cattle passed inspection before and after death, and 3) the meat was prepared in a manner that avoids contamination. Meat other than boneless skeletal muscle meat, meat food products and meat by products derived from bovines will be eligible for import under specified conditions that would vary depending on the risk classification of the region of export.
Argentina, Australia, Chile, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Sweden, and Uruguay would be classified as regions of negligible risk. Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom would be classified as regions of controlled risk.
APHIS is accepting public comment on the preliminary risk classifications for each country above and on the date of effective enforcement of a feed ban in Mexico. Comments are due May 15, 2012.