U.S., Canada, Mexico agree to jointly eradicate mad cow


WASHINGTON, 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 disease.

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 beef.

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.

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