The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has proposed changes to the system of categorising countries according to their BSE status.

The OIE currently has five categories, ranging from BSE-free to a high-risk status, but under the proposals the five categories would be replaced with three: BSE negligible risk, BSE controlled risk, BSE unknown risk.

The proposals come after more than 50 countries banned imports of US beef and cattle after the discovery of a single case of BSE, or mad cow disease, in December, reported Dow Jones.

Alex Thiermann, a USDA animal disease expert, said the new categories would move the emphasis from whether a country has reported cases of BSE to what a country is doing to control and prevent the disease.

“Whether you have one case or a hundred cases, the important thing is what the country is doing with the situation,” he was quoted by Dow Jones as saying.

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Therefore, under the proposals, the US would be categorised as “BSE controlled risk” as it has adopted BSE safety measures. Countries such as Australia and New Zealand would be put into the “BSE negligible risk” category as they have safety measures in place and have no reported cases of the disease. If a country cannot provide evidence of safeguards against BSE, it will be placed in the “unknown risk” category, regardless of whether or not it has ever had a case of BSE.

The proposals are to be discussed at the next OIE meeting in May.