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WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2005-The U.S. Department of Agriculture today released its assessment of the Canadian ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns in a hearing Feb. 3 before the Senate Agriculture Committee stated that USDA would be "absolutely transparent" with the results of the assessment and would immediately release it when it was available.

"After the two recent BSE finds in Canada, it was important to get a team up there to conduct a firsthand assessment of Canada's compliance with the feed ban," said Dr. Ron DeHaven, Administrator of USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). "This assessment affirms our science-based decision to begin lifting the ban on live ruminants and ruminant products from Canada that have virtually no risk to human or animal health."

USDA assembled a team of technical experts that arrived in Canada on Jan. 24 to gather all relevant information to do an in-depth assessment on Canada's ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban and their feed ban inspection program. USDA took this additional step to ensure compliance with Canada's feed ban control measures. The feed ban has been determined to be an important BSE risk mitigation measure to protect animal health.

The inspection team's report states that "Canada has a robust inspection program, that overall compliance with the feed ban is good and that the feed ban is reducing the risk of transmission of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in the Canadian cattle population."

In both the risk assessment conducted by APHIS as part of the BSE minimal-risk rule and the feed ban assessment announced today, the agency found that compliance by feed mills and rendering facilities in Canada to their feed ban regulations is good and, just like the United States, Canada is continually looking for ways to make it even better.

USDA is confident that the animal and public health measures that Canada has in place to prevent BSE, combined with existing U.S. domestic safeguards and additional safeguards provided in the final rule, provide the utmost protections to U.S. consumers and livestock. When Canadian ruminants and ruminant products are presented for importation into the United States, they become subject to domestic safeguards as well.

On Jan. 4, USDA published a final rule that amends the regulations to provide for the importation of certain ruminants, ruminant products and byproducts from regions that pose a minimal risk of introducing BSE. Canada will be the first country recognized as a minimal-risk region and, as such, will be eligible to export to the United States live cattle, as well as certain other animals and products, from animals under 30 months of age. Live cattle imported from Canada under this rule will be subject to restrictions designed to ensure that they are slaughtered by the time they reach 30 months of age. These include permanent marking of the animals as to their origin, requiring them to move in sealed containers to a feedlot or to slaughter, and not allowing them to move to more than one feedlot while in the United States. The rule is to go into effect on March 7, 2005.

For a copy of the feed ban assessment, the final rule, and other documents pertaining to BSE, visit the APHIS BSE website at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/lpa/issues/bse/bse.html

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