STC Number - 107

Transitional TSE measures

Maintained by: European Union
Raised by: Canada
Supported by: United States of America
First date raised: October 2001 G/SPS/R/25 paras. 5-8
Dates subsequently raised:
Number of times subsequently raised: 0
Relevant documents: Raised orally
Products covered: 0102 Live bovine animals.; 0511 Animal products not elsewhere specified or included; dead animals of Chapter 1 or 3, unfit for human consumption.; 2309 Preparations of a kind used in animal feeding.
Primary subject keyword: Animal Health
Keywords: Animal health; Human health; Zoonoses; Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE); International Standards / Harmonization
Status: Resolved
Solution: In June 2007, Canada indicated that the concern had been resolved as it had been overtaken by the OIE's new risk assessment framework and categorization system for BSE risk posed by countries (G/SPS/R/45, par. 44-45).
Date reported as resolved: 01/06/2007

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In October 2001, the representative of Canada expressed concern about loss of access to the EC market for Canadian exports of pet food, live bovine animals, embryos, ova and tallow exports in the wake of the 1 October adoption of transitional TSE measures by the European Communities. These measures had the effect of unjustifiably pushing what was a domestic EU problem onto international markets. Recalling earlier criticism of the arbitrary nature of the EC's review process as it applied to third countries, the representative of Canada stated that the EC regulations classified countries according to four levels of risk, but applied only two levels of risk management. According to the OIE criteria, Canada was BSE-free, yet Canadian exports faced identical trade restrictions to EC member States in which BSE was prevalent. These market access problems would be further compounded by the EC animal waste regulations, due out next year, which threatened to prohibit the few remaining products of animal origin that Canada could still export to the European Union. The representative of Canada requested that the European Communities remove Canada from the scope of application of these measures.

The representative of the United States stated that his government shared many of the same concerns and trade effects as Canada. The European Communities was applying stringent measures to countries that were either not affected by the disease or which had significantly different risk factors. This approach lacked scientific justification and ran counter to the existing international standards regarding BSE. Trade from the United States was unjustifiably disrupted by the transitional measures which should be suspended until the final country classification was complete. The United States also had concerns regarding the methodology and for the information gathered on the United States for the Geographic BSE risk (GBR) assessment. As no case of BSE had been reported in the United States and the extensive national control measures were in place, the US representative hoped his country's final classification under the new EC regulation would not require SRM control measures for exports. Finally, he stressed that the EC GBR was not equivalent to an international standard and had no more standing than any other WTO Member's legislation under the provisions of the SPS Agreement.

The representative of the European Communities explained that the BSE country classification exercise had not been replicated by any other Member or by the OIE. All the procedures followed and opinions issued had been peer reviewed and made publicly available. The methodology used went beyond incidence and was based on risk assessment. Since the geographical BSE risk assessment was not the only element considered in arriving at the final country classification, it was not possible to predict the final risk classification of countries.

To enable trading partners time to comply with this regulation, the European Communities had established transitional measures between 1 July and 30 September, laying down import conditions for products of bovine, ovine and caprine origin. An exemption was made for countries classified in Category one (presence of BSE unlikely). As neither Canada nor the United States were included in Category one at present, these rules applied. From 1 October, the transitional measures had been extended to cover certification of other products of animal origin including raw materials for animal feedingstuffs, rendered fats, gelatine, pet food, bone and bone products. For live bovines, embryos and ova, certification of a mammalian to ruminant feed ban was required along with traceability for bovines identifying the dam and herd of origin. Exemption was again made for countries in Category one. Pet food was included within the scope of these comprehensive measures to protect consumers' health from BSE. At the heart of these control measures were prohibitions on the use of mechanically recovered meat and the use of specified risk materials.

In June 2007, the representative of Canada indicated that his authorities considered both of these specific trade concerns, numbers 96 and 107, to be resolved as they had been overtaken by the OIE's new risk assessment framework and categorization system for BSE risk posed by countries. The EC geographical BSE risk assessment had led to concerns regarding the consistency of the risk analysis and the possibility of reviewing risk assessments over time. The EC transitional TSE measures resulted in the classification of countries according to four levels of risk, but only recognized two levels of risk management. The OIE had made amendments to the Animal Health Code, which updated the risk assessment framework and BSE categorization. As previously reported, Canada was recognized as a controlled risk country for BSE. The European Communities had decided to use the new OIE standards.

The representative of the European Communities noted that the EC measures on BSE had always been intended to be interim measures. The European Communities had clearly indicated that the measures would be adapted in light of OIE standards, but that interim measures were required to to protect health while the OIE completed its work. The interim measures had been proportionate, fair and science-based, especially when compared to the measures imposed by other Members. When cases of BSE had occurred in Canada and the United States, the EC measures had not been changed in any way, whereas many other Members had imposed unjustified measures. Now the OIE had completed an excellent job in preparing appropriate standards, and the European Communities had adapted its measures immediately to ensure full conformity with the new OIE standards. This modification had already been notified to the SPS Committee, and the representative noted that the European Communities was the first Member to fully adopt the new OIE Code. Members had voiced their confidence in the international standards earlier, and the European Communities invited all Members to quickly adopt the OIE standards on BSE.