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Statement Of the American Meat Institute On Changes to Office of International Epizootics Animal Health Code

Thursday, May 26, 2005

(Attribute Statement to AMI Foundation President James H. Hodges)

The Office of International Epizootics (OIE) plays a pivotal role in setting international animal health standards. The challenge to date has been encouraging nations – the U.S. included – to abide by these standards.

We are gratified that OIE is continuing to refine its standards and to build support for a single, global animal health standard. Had one been widely followed, the U.S. would not have lost its markets in the wake of a single case of BSE detected in December 2003 and trade with Canada would not have ceased in May 2003 and still be partially blocked more than two years later.

OIE’s revised standard announced today affirms what we have believed and supported for a long time: that beef is safe for consumption even from nations with BSE so long as appropriate procedures are in place to remove tissues like the brain that can pose a risk if an animal has BSE.

Unfortunately, some media reports have mischaracterized OIE’s new standards. The fact is, beef and cattle of all ages can be traded from even high risk countries if appropriate preventative measures are in place. However, the new OIE code adopted this week emphasized that beef from younger animals may be traded from countries regardless of the BSE status of the country and the BSE preventive measures the country has taken. Beef may be traded from animals over 30 months from countries with controlled or undetermined risk so long as additional measures have been taken.

Make no mistake: beef is safe regardless of age. The BSE infective agent has never been detected in beef muscle. Adding an arbitrary age number that cannot be justified by science runs the risk of sending a confusing message to the consumer. Indeed, the OIE has agreed to study this new policy over the next year to be sure it is scientifically sound.

The most important message for the American consumer is that beef is safe to eat regardless of age. OIE’s previous and its revised guidelines ultimately support global beef and cattle trade regardless of age.

For more information contact:
David Ray
Vice President, Public Affairs
Janet Riley
Sr. Vice President, Public Affairs

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