In a move seen as bolstering efforts to fully reopen Pacific Rim markets for U.S. beef, the World Organization for Animal Health's (OIE) Scientific Commission endorsed last month an OIE expert panel recommendation that the U.S. be classified as “controlled risk” for BSE. OIE's General Assembly will vote on the recommendation in May.

Ron DeHaven, USDA administrator for Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, says, “The controlled risk classification recognizes that OIE-recommended, science-based mitigation measures are in place to effectively manage any possible risk of BSE in the cattle population. This recommendation provides strong support that U.S. regulatory controls are effective and that U.S cattle and products from cattle of all ages can be safely traded in accordance with international guidelines, due to our interlocking safeguards.”

But the Kyodo News reports that Japan won't immediately relax its import terms for U.S. beef despite the OIE announcement. Japan currently only accepts beef products from cattle 20 months of age and younger.