USDA still working toward 48-hour disease traceability

Despite finalization of USDA's disease traceability rule, Department is "not even close" to goal 48-hour disease traceability, according to top vet.

PROGRESS has been made, but more is needed on the issue of Animal Disease Traceability (ADT), according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief veterinarian. Dr. John Clifford, deputy administrator of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) told attendees at a forum in Denver that the industry has moved forward considerably over the past decade, but has not yet achieved its goal of two-day traceback in the case of an animal disease event.

“Have we made progress on disease traceability? Given the fact that we’ve finalized our ADT rule, clearly we have,” Clifford said. “But have we achieved 48-hour traceability? Not even close.”

The contrast in Clifford’s candid remark illustrates the long and winding history of ADT, as well as the challenges yet ahead.

Clifford pointed out that ADT traces its roots many, many years back, to the years before and immediately after the discovery of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in the U.S. in 2003.

“It’s been 10 years since the ‘cow that stole Christmas,’ and that incident fueled a lot of our work toward a workable traceability system,” he said. “It’s noteworthy that we finalized our role in the same year that the OIE declared the U.S. as a ‘negligible risk’ for BSE.”

His remarks came during a presentation to a joint animal disease traceability forum hosted by the National Institute for Animal Agriculture and the U.S. Animal Health Association. Clifford noted that for the first time in many years of addressing the two organizations, he was able to address the concept of implementation, rather than discussing the ongoing development of a program.

Asked about USDA’s intentions for enforcing the mandatory traceability rules, Clifford reiterated that the Department’s initial focus is on outreach and education. Industry participants must be on the same page before USDA focuses its attention on enforcement.

Under the final rule, published in January, livestock moved interstate must be officially identified and accompanied by an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection, or other documentation allowed under the rule. The rule was viewed by industry as more flexible than previous efforts, creating a smaller burden on individual producers.

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