DC, August 8, 2003 (ENS): After a scientific
analysis determined that the risk of importing mad cow
disease is very low, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman
said today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will
begin accepting applications for import permits for
some ruminant derived products from Canada. Ruminants
are cattle, sheep, goats, elk and deer.
On May 20, Secretary Veneman temporarily halted imports
of live ruminants and most ruminant products from Canada
after a single cow in Alberta was found to have bovine
spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as mad
“We have a long history of safeguards in place
to prevent the introduction of BSE in the United States,
and the continued protection of the U.S. food supply
is our top priority,” Veneman said. “Our
experts have thoroughly reviewed the scientific evidence
and determined that the risk to public health is extremely
Today’s announcement comes after a review of
the international standards set by the International
Office of Epizootics (OIE), the standard setting organization
for animal health for 164 member nations. There also
has been an exhaustive epidemiological investigation
into the case by Canada, during which no other animals
were found to be infected, and Canada put risk reduction
measures in place after a review of their investigation
by an independent expert panel.
Veneman said that USDA will no longer prohibit the
importation of hunter harvested wild ruminant products
intended for personal use. The U.S. agency will begin
to accept applications for import permits for certain
products from Canada, including boneless meat from cattle
under 30 months of age, and boneless veal meat from
calves that were 36 weeks of age or younger at slaughter.
The Canadian Cattlemen's Association said today's announcement
of a partial opening of the United States border to
boxed beef from cattle under 30 months of age is great
news and a very important first step toward resuming
normal trade with the United States. Exports from Canada
to customers south of the border may resume by September
1, the association said.
Veneman said that a rulemaking process will begin immediately
for the importation of live ruminants and ruminant products.
Veneman called for an international dialogue on BSE
to develop more practical, consistent guidance to countries
regarding the resumption of trade with countries that
have reported cases of BSE. Veneman said that the United
States, along with Mexico and Canada, have requested
that the OIE include such a dialogue in an upcoming
meeting of international experts in September.
“The current OIE standards have been helpful
in guiding countries with their risk mitigation efforts,”
Veneman said. “But we are continually learning
about this disease and the science is advancing. Countries
knowing they will be treated consistently and fairly
will have greater incentive to conduct appropriate levels
of surveillance and reporting of BSE as well as to demonstrate
transparency with their trading partners.”
“It is vital that we pursue this course so that
there is consistency among trading partners and assurance
to consumers around the world that their food supply
is safe," Veneman said.
Since it was identified in the mid-1980s in Britain,
mad cow disease has resulted in the slaughter of millions
of cattle and the deaths of dozens of people from the
related brain wasting disease known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration explained in
2001 how BSE spreads. "Evidence suggests that certain
contaminated cattle feed ingredients are the source
of BSE infection in cattle. The process that leads to
the contaminated feed starts when livestock already
harboring the BSE agent are slaughtered. After cows
and sheep are killed, the edible parts are removed.
The inedible remnants are taken to a special plant,
where they undergo a process called "rendering."
This process creates two major products - fat, which
is used in an amazing array of products such as soap,
lipstick, linoleum, and glue, and meat-and-bone meal,
a powdery, high protein supplement that is often processed
into animal feed."
"Although the animal remnants are cooked at high
temperatures during the rendering process, the BSE agent,
if present, is able to survive. When this contaminated
meat-and-bone meal is fed to cattle as a protein supplement,
the BSE agent can be passed on to many new cattle."
Hunters can immediately begin bringing wild ruminant
meat products intended for their personal use into the
United States. Download permits from: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/lpa/issues/bse/bse.html.
Certain other previously banned ruminant meat products
may be imported with a “United States Veterinary
Permit for Importation and Transportation of Controlled
Material.” The application can be completed on
line at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/import_export.htm
or can be downloaded from http://www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/ncie.