OIE classifies the BSE risk status of the cattle population of a country on the basis of a risk assessment and other criteria. The cattle population of a country can be classified into three categories: negligible BSE risk, controlled BSE risk or undetermined BSE risk.

The negligible BSE risk distinction applies to cattle and commodities from countries or zones that pose a negligible risk of transmitting the BSE agent as demonstrated by 1) a risk assessment; 2) the appropriate level of BSE surveillance; 3) one of the following: no BSE cases, only imported BSE cases or indigenous BSE cases born no more recently than 11 years; 4) an existing education and reporting program; and 5) a feed ban that has been in place for at least eight years if an indigenous or imported case or other risk factors exist.

The controlled BSE risk category describes cattle and commodities from a country or zones that pose a negligible risk of transmitting the BSE agent due to commodity-specific risk mitigation measures. The conditions for this category are similar to the conditions for a negligible BSE risk distinction except that controlled risk countries with indigenous BSE cases must demonstrate an education and reporting program and an effective feed ban. Both negligible risk and controlled risk countries must also identify, track and prevent birth cohorts and feed cohorts of the known BSE-infected animal(s) from entering the food and export trade.

The OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code recommends imports from controlled BSE risk countries resume if: 1) the country meets the requirements for controlled risk; 2) live cattle selected for export are identified by a permanent identification system; and 3) the cattle selected for export are born after a feed ban was implemented (if the country has indigenous BSE cases).

OIE recommends that countries importing products from controlled risk countries require: ante- and post-mortem inspections, that meat come from cattle that were not subject to air-injection stunning, and fresh meat and meat products not contain prohibited tissues or mechanically separated meat from the skull and vertebral column from cattle older than 30 months.

The cattle population of a country or zone poses an undetermined BSE risk if it cannot be demonstrated that it meets the requirements of another category.

OIE criteria for establishing individual country risk classifications include surveillance and testing of livestock herds, protocols followed after positive tests and risk management strategies. In May 2007, OIE classified the United States as a controlled risk country in regard to BSE. According to the OIE definition, controlled risk means U.S. regulatory controls are effective and that U.S fresh beef and beef products from cattle of all ages can be safely traded.

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