APHIS establishes process for reviewing animal health status

APHIS establishing review process to increase assurances that its import procedures appropriately mitigate risk of foreign animal diseases.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced Jan. 18 a new process for prioritizing reviews of countries or regions it has previously granted animal health status recognition.

APHIS said it is establishing this review process, as directed by Congress in the fiscal 2016 appropriations bill, to increase assurances that its import procedures appropriately mitigate the risk of foreign animal diseases. APHIS said it remains confident in its rigorous, science-based, analytical approach to assessments and regulatory status for countries and regions. This new review process will help the agency maintain a high level of vigilance and adjust safeguards when new information or situations arise.

APHIS will maintain a strategic plan for conducting reviews of APHIS-recognized animal health statuses of foreign regions. Each year, APHIS will determine the number of regions it will select for review during the following year, which will vary depending on the availability of resources, travel funds and any emerging issues and/or unforeseen circumstances.

The new process is based on the following three-tier system:

* Tier 1 — includes regions not recognized as free of specified diseases or pests but that are permitted to export certain animals or products under specific mitigating conditions.

* Tier 2 — includes regions recognized as free but where special restrictions are applied due to proximity or trade relationships with disease-affected regions.

* Tier 3 — includes regions recognized as free of the specified disease.

APHIS said the new process is applicable for regions that have not reported disease outbreaks or pest occurrences for which the region is recognized since the agency's most recent evaluation.

APHIS will prioritize its review of regions within each of these three tiers based on the following five risk-based criteria: disease factors, region factors, commodity factors, time factors and other risk-based factors.

Only APHIS-recognized animal health statuses found on the APHIS website will be considered for evaluation under the review program. Once finalized, APHIS will post on its website the list of country- or region-specific animal health statuses slated for review and also will make this information available through the agency stakeholder registry. Similarly, the findings of all APHIS reviews will be made available to stakeholders through these same means.

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