NDSA raises worry of FMD risk in Namibian proposal
The North Dakota Stockmen’s Association (NDSA) issued comments in opposition to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) proposal that would add Namibia to the list of countries whose meat inspection system for boneless fresh beef is adequate for importation into the United States.
The southwestern African nation is seeking the listing to export boneless fresh beef produced south of its Veterinary Cordon Fence (VCF) into the United States. The VCF was built in 1954 to protect producers in the southern region of the country from foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreaks occurring among roaming, native, African buffalo north of the VCF.
NDSA President Steve Brooks, a Bowman, North Dakota, cow-calf and seedstock producer, said that the 86-year-old cattle producers’ trade organization remains concerned about the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) lack of recent on-site animal health inspections in Namibia. APHIS inspectors last visited the country 12 years ago.
“It would be irresponsible to implement this rule without up-to-date site visits that verify the country’s animal health status and ensure that meat can be exported without subjecting the United States to FMD, a highly contagious and economically devastating disease,” Brooks wrote in a comment letter to the USDA. “Our animals, our industry and our economy are at stake.”
While FMD does not pose a food safety threat, it has serious animal health and welfare consequences. The disease is characterized by fever, a loss of appetite, weight loss, lameness and painful blisters in the mouth and on the feet of infected animals.
Since January 2015, FMD cases have been confirmed in both cattle and free-roaming African buffalo originating from the Namibian region north of the VCF.
In his comments, Brooks pointed to deficiencies in the areas of Namibia’s government oversight, statutory authority, food safety regulations, sanitation, and chemical residue and microbiological testing programs. He urged USDA officials to reject the proposal until updated information about the country’s current animal health status is obtained and reviewed and all issues can be addressed.
–North Dakota Stockman’s Association