WASHINGTON, 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 cow disease.
“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 Disease.
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
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.