• Earlier this week, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced an atypical case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), a neurologic disease of cattle, in an eleven-year old cow in Alabama (AL). APHIS reports that this animal never entered slaughter channels and at no time presented a risk to the food supply, or to human health in the United States. Importantly, APHIS reports that this atypical BSE finding has no impact on America’s “negligible risk” status for BSE as designated by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). Consistent with OIE guidelines for determining this status, atypical BSE cases do not impact official BSE risk status recognition as this form of the disease is believed to occur spontaneously in all cattle populations at a very low rate. As such, and consistent with APHIS’ announcement, this week’s finding of an atypical case will not change the negligible risk status of the United States, and should not lead to any trade issues.
  • Nevertheless, yesterday, South Korea announced that it had increased on-spot quarantine inspections of U.S. beef to 30 percent of imports from 3 percent in light of the BSE report from Alabama and has requested assurances that no beef from Alabama processing facilities enters the country.
  • South Korea’s response appears to be somewhat drastic given the fact that the atypical BSE detected in AL at no time presented a risk to the American food supply or exports to South Korea, and the U.S. continues to maintain a “negligible risk” BSE status. According to the Daily Livestock Report, the AL diagnosis of atypical BSE is expected to have “very little material impact” on domestic or export demand for U.S. beef. Indeed, a Japanese agriculture official told Bloomberg News earlier this week that Japan currently sees no need to take additional action to prevent entry of BSE from the U.S. because the U.S. already has appropriate measures in place, and the new case is atypical. It remains to be seen whether other countries will follow the thinking of Japan or South Korea. We will be sure to report on any developments on this situation as they unfold.