DC, January 19, 2004 (ENS): The United States,
Canada and Mexico have agreed to further harmonize their
countries' regulations to controlbovine spongiform encephalopathy
(BSE), also known as mad cow disease, the three governments
said in a joint statement Friday.
The statement, issued at the conclusion of the first
joint meeting of the three countries' top agriculture
officials, said maintaining consumer confidence in beef
is "fundamental" to the management of the
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman hosted Canadian
Agriculture Minister Bob Speller, and Mexican Secretary
of Agriculture Javier Usabiaga in a discussion of food
safety challenges after a case of BSE was identified
in the United States in December and a case in Canada
identified in May 2003.
The United States closed the U.S. - Canada border last
May when the Canadian mad cow was found, and in December
Canada and Mexico, along with many other nations, closed
their borders to U.S. beef. Resuming North American
beef trade was also on the agenda.
The highly integrated nature of the North American
beef industry was recognized, and so was the need for
a coordinated approach to address both the regulatory
and trade aspects of mad cow disease.
Each government agreed at the meeting to appoint a
sub-cabinet level agriculture official to coordinate
interagency efforts to resume North American trade in
The three officials said they have been working together
for months to expand the current dialogue on BSE. Their
objective is to update World Organization for Animal
Health (OIE) guidelines and "encourage adherence
to the science based guidelines and applications for
the international trade in safe animal and animal products
in the OIE," they stated.
They agreed to the development of global incentives
to further the control and eradication of the disease
and will focus on, among other things, treating countries
fairly and consistently if and when BSE is discovered.