The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) announced Wednesday that delegates at the World Assembly approved a BSE status upgrade for the United States to 'negligible risk."
The decision comes after the OIE first announced its intention to upgrade the United States' BSE status in February.
Also updated to negligible risk are Israel ,Italy, Japan, the Netherlands and Slovenia. Bulgaria and Costa Rica were changed to "controlled risk" status.
Negligible risk is the lowest risk level under the OIE Code. Countries defined as negligible risk have conducted extensive surveillance and testing in domestic cattle to demonstrate a minimal risk for BSE.
National Cattlemen's Beef Association president-elect Bob McCan, said the U.S. upgrade is "very positive news" for cattle producers, and explained that the status change signifies that safety and health remains a top priority for the U.S.
"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," McCan said in a press statement.
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack noted also that an upgrade to negligible risk provided strong opportunities for trade expansion.
"We have a strong foundation in place to continue increasing exports of U.S.-origin beef and beef products," Vilsack said in a press statement. "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."
The OIE determines a country's risk status based on actions the country has taken to manage the risk of the disease. These actions include instituting a strong ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban, strictly controlling imports of animals and animal products from countries at risk for the disease, and conducting appropriate surveillance.
The OIE, which provides guidelines animal health and safe trade, uses the World Assembly to review and adopt international standards annually. At this year's meeting, held this week, delegates also recognized Argentina, Boliva and Peru as countries officially free of foot and mouth disease and introduced plans to update OIE code regarding responsible use of antimicrobials in veterinary medicine.