USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service on Thursday announced plans to allow importation of fresh chilled or frozen beef from northern Argentina and its intention to add Argentina's Patagonia area to the lists of regions that are considered free of foot-and-mouth disease and rinderpest.
Based on a risk assessment, APHIS determined that FMD is not present in the Patagonia Region of Argentina, and that the surveillance prevention, and control measures implemented by Argentina in that particular region were sufficient to minimize the likelihood of introducing FMD into the United States through the importation of susceptible ruminants and ruminant commodities.
Rinderpest has never been established in South America, USDA notes – no South American country has ever reported the disease except Brazil, where it was quickly eradicated nearly a century ago.
While the Patagonia Region will be declared free of FMD, the region will be added to the list of regions that are subject to certain restrictions designed to lessen the risk of introducing FMD into the United States, in accordance with APHIS regulations. These restrictions ensure that there is no commingling of products from regions with a lesser animal health status.
Fresh beef importation
APHIS also announced Thursday a proposal to amend the regulations to allow the importation of fresh chilled or frozen beef from northern Argentina, a region located north of Patagonia South and Patagonia North B.
An APHIS risk assessment, conducted at the request of the government of Argentina, indicates that fresh beef can be safely imported from the region of northern Argentina provided that certain conditions are met to ensure beef exported to the United States will not harbor the foot-and-mouth disease.
The assessment concluded that Argentina is able to comply with the U.S. import restrictions.
The assessment included five site visits to Argentina to assess the country's adequacy to effectively contain, eradicate and report an FMD outbreak. It consisted of an in-depth evaluation of the 11 risk factors identified by APHIS as factors in assessing the risk of the relevant animal disease posed by a region. Two of the factors considered when assessing risk factors include the region's disease status and vaccination status.
APHIS does not recognize countries or regions that continue to vaccinate against FMD as free of the disease. This is the situation in northern Argentina where they continue to vaccinate in the region. Therefore, APHIS cannot recognize this region as free of FMD.
APHIS can, however, evaluate the risk presented by fresh/frozen beef products imported under specific conditions. The proposed rule to allow fresh/frozen beef from northern Argentina is based on this type of analysis.
Once published in the Federal Register, the public will have 60 days to comment on the proposed rule to import fresh beef and accompanying economic analysis and risk analysis.