The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) this week is holding its 81st World Assembly of national delegates in Paris. During the session, the organization’s Scientific Commission announced the anticipated recognition of the United States as having “negligible risk” for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Previously, the Unites States was rated as a “controlled risk” country.

The commission also granted negligible-risk classification to The Netherlands and Slovenia, and upgraded Bulgaria and Costa Rica to the controlled-risk rating.

The decision drew praise from cattle organizations and government in the United States. NCBA president-elect Bob McCan, a cattleman from Victoria, Texas, made the following statement:

“This announcement by OIE’s Scientific Commission is very positive news for U.S. cattle producers. The U.S. being classified as negligible risk for BSE by the OIE further solidifies the fact that the safety and health of our cattle and our beef is a top priority for American cattlemen and women. With the implementation of multiple interlocking safeguards by the U.S. beef industry and our partners, we have successfully been able to prevent BSE from becoming a threat to the U.S. beef supply, which remains the safest in the world. The vote by the OIE, an internationally recognized, standard-setting body, is proof that the science-based mitigation measures in place in the United States effectively protect our public and animal health.

“This announcement is an important step forward in increasing export opportunities for U.S. cattle producers. This is a significant achievement for the United States, our beef producers and federal and state partners who have successfully collaborated on this issue.”

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack had this to say:

“This decision demonstrates OIE’s belief that both our surveillance for, and safeguards against, BSE are strong. U.S. beef and beef products are of the highest quality, wholesome and produced to the highest safety standards in the world.

"Last year, exports of U.S.-origin beef and beef products totaled $5.5 billion.  With our negligible risk classification from the OIE, we have a strong foundation in place to continue increasing exports of U.S.-origin beef and beef products.  In doing so, we will continue to press trading partners to base their decisions on science, consistent with international standards. U.S. food and agricultural exporters and consumers worldwide benefit when countries adopt science-based international standards.”

U.S. Meat Export Federation President and CEO Philip Seng also welcomed the announcement by saying, “This decision by the OIE should clear away any remaining concerns that some countries have about the risk associated with importing beef and beef products from the United States. We think the decision announced by the OIE today should provide a number of beef importing countries with a reason to reevaluate their requirements for beef imports from the United States.”

On its website, the OIE lists the BSE status of countries around the world. As of may 29, the list had not been updated to reflect the changes announced in this week’s meeting.