In their own words…
For several years some of us have been sharing with the public and coming up against the Terrestrial Animal Health Code, hereafter referred to as the ‘Code’, policies openly embraced at the city, county, state, and federal levels.Â This ‘Code’ contains the standards for implementation of Agenda 21 and other UN mandates.Â Each one of these books is over 1100 pages.
THE INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS OF THE OIE
This paper provides an overview of the international standards of the OIE (the World Organisation for Animal Health) – their development, content and implementation.
The OIE develops and publishes two types of international health standards for animals and animal products â€“ trade standards and biological standards. These standards are developed through elected Specialist Commissions and are adopted by OIE Members during the annual OIE General Session.
The four publications containing the OIE standards are:
Â· the Terrestrial Animal Health Code
Â· the Manual of Diagnostic Tests and Vaccines for Terrestrial Animals
Â· the Aquatic Animal Health Code
Â· the Manual of Diagnostic Tests for Aquatic Animals
The Terrestrial Animal Health Code and Aquatic Animal Health Code (referred to hereafter as the Codes), aim to assure the sanitary safety of international trade in terrestrial animals (mammals, birds and bees) and aquatic animals (amphibians, fish, crustaceans and molluscs) and their products. This assurance is achieved by detailing the health measures to be used by the veterinary services or other competent authorities of importing and exporting countries in establishing health regulations for the safe importation of animals and animal products. Such measures aim to avoid the transfer of agents pathogenic for animals and/or humans, without the imposition of unjustified trade restrictions.
Veterinary services and other competent authorities should bear in mind that the Codes are the primary references for international trade and that the adoption of these standards allows countries and territories that are Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to meet their relevant obligations under the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (the SPS Agreement).Â The Codes are also essential tools for supporting the mandate of the OIE in the area of improving animal health and welfare world wide through the application of the standards on animal disease surveillance and recommended control methods.
While the Codes have traditionally addressed the OIE responsibilities for animal health and zoonoses, they have in recent years expanded to cover animal welfare (Terrestrial and Aquatic Codes) and food safety (Terrestrial Code) within the framework of the new mandate of the OIE which is â€˜to improve animal health worldwideâ€™.
The Terrestrial Animal Health Code was first published in 1968 and the current edition is available on the OIE Web page in English, French and Spanish (Terrestrial Code in English, Terrestrial Code in French, Terrestrial Code in Spanish). It is also published in Russian and Arabic. In 2008 the Terrestrial Code was published in two volumes. Volume one contains recommendations that apply to a wide range of species, production sectors and/or diseases (‘horizontal standards’) and Volume two contains recommendations on specific diseases (‘vertical standards’), including recommendations on agent inactivation, disease surveillance and risk assessment.
The Aquatic Animal Health Code was first published in 1995 and the current edition is available on the OIE Web page in English, French and Spanish (Aquatic Code in English, Aquatic Code in French, Aquatic Code in Spanish).
The health measures in the Codes are developed in light of the commodity and, as appropriate to the commodity, the animal health status of the exporting country. The health measures normally make reference only to the animal health situation in the exporting country as the assumption is that the pathogen of interest either is not present in the importing country or, if it is present, that it is the subject of an official control or eradication programme, consistent with obligations of WTO Members under the WTO SPS Agreement.
The following general principles apply throughout the Codes:
Â· The importing and exporting countries are in compliance with relevant WTO obligations.
Â· The latest scientific information is used.
Â· Health measures are based on an assessment of the risks appropriate to the commodity traded.
Â· An evaluation of the performance of veterinary services or, as appropriate, other competent authorities has been conducted.
Â· Zoning and compartmentalisation are being applied where deemed appropriate.
Â· Claims by importing and exporting countries regarding their health status are based on sound epidemiological information collected using surveillance systems that are consistent with OIE standards.
The Manual of Diagnostic Tests and Vaccines for Terrestrial Animals and the Manual of Diagnostic Tests for Aquatic Animals (referred to hereafter as the Manuals), provide a harmonized approach to disease diagnosis by describing internationally agreed laboratory diagnostic techniques. The Terrestrial Manual also includes requirements for the production and control of biological products (mainly vaccines).
The Manual of Diagnostic Tests and Vaccines for Terrestrial Animals was first published in 1989 and the current edition is available on the OIE Web page in English, French and Spanish (Terrestrial Manual in English, Terrestrial Manual in French, Terrestrial Manual in Spanish).
The Manual of Diagnostic Tests for Aquatic Animals was first published in 1995 and the current edition is available on the OIE Web page in English and Spanish: Aquatic Manual in English and Aquatic Manual in Spanish.
The aims of the Manuals are to provide general information on sampling methods, good laboratory practice, etc., and detailed information for laboratory technicians on diagnostic tests. The Terrestrial Manual also provides information on the principles of veterinary vaccine production and, where appropriate, the requirements for vaccines or diagnostic biologicals.
Development and updating of OIE standards
The OIE process for developing and updating standards is flexible and rapid, compared to the procedures of some other international organisations. Importantly, it provides a basis for continuous improvement to standards as new scientific information comes to light.
Standards can only be adopted (by consensus or vote) at the annual OIE General Session. There is no other pathway for adoption.
Content of OIE standards
Generic chapters in the Terrestrial and Aquatic Codes
Key terms and expressions used in the Codes are defined in the Glossary. This includes terms such as â€˜diseaseâ€™, â€˜establishmentâ€™, â€˜incubation periodâ€™, â€˜official veterinarianâ€™, â€˜stamping-out policyâ€™ and â€˜zoneâ€™. Some definitions apply only to particular sections or chapters in the Codes and may be found in those locations.
1 Working Group membership is endorsed by the World Assembly of Delegates . Currently the OIE has Working Groups on wildlife diseases, animal production food safety and animal welfare.
Notification and Epidemiological Information
These chapters describe the obligation of OIE Members to provide to other Members, through the OIE, whatever information is necessary to minimise the international spread of important animal diseases and to assist in achieving better worldwide control of these diseases. To achieve this, OIE Members should comply with the notification requirements specified in Chapters 1.1. of the Codes. These requirements address the first occurrence or re-occurrence of a listed disease, the occurrence of a new strain of a listed disease, a significant change in the epidemiology of a listed disease, or the detection of an emerging disease. OIE Members are also required to report on the evolution of a notified incident until it has been resolved. All Members have to notify on a six-monthly basis on the absence or presence, and evolution of diseases listed by the OIE and, on an annual basis, provide information on their Veterinary Services and any other information of significance to other OIE Members.
Obligations and ethics in international trade
Chapters 5.1. and 5.2. of the Codes address the responsibilities of importing and exporting countries in
exchanging up-to-date health information, setting import regulations and providing accurate health
Import risk analysis
The importation of animals and animal products involves a degree of disease risk to the importing country,
and the principal aim of import risk analysis is to provide countries with an objective and defensible method
of assessing and managing the disease risks associated with the importation. The Codes describe the
components of import risk analysis: hazard identification, risk assessment, risk management and risk
communication, and provide guidelines for conducting risk analyses.
The principles and methods are described in Section 2 of the Codes. The methodology is further elaborated
in a separate OIE publication, the Handbook on Import Risk Analysis which discusses both qualitative and
The estimation of the risk associated with the importation of animals and animal products, and the choice
of the appropriate risk management option(s) are made more difficult by differences among the animal
health and production systems between OIE Members. It is now recognised that significantly different
animal health and production systems can provide equivalent animal and human health protection for the
purpose of international trade, with benefits to both importing and exporting countries.
Chapter 5.3. in the Terrestrial Code provides information to assist OIE Members to determine whether
sanitary measures arising from different animal health and production systems may provide the same level
of animal and human health protection. The chapter mentions principles which can be utilised in a
judgement of equivalence, and outline a step-wise process for trading partners to follow in facilitating a
judgement of equivalence. The same principles apply regardless of whether equivalence applies at the level
of specific measures or on a systems-wide basis, and whether equivalence applies to specific areas of trade
or commodities, or generally.
Similar principles apply to trade in aquatic animals and their products.
Import / export procedures
Chapters 5.4. to 5.9. of the Codes describe, in general terms, the animal health measures applicable before
and at departure from an exporting country, during transit and on arrival in an importing country. These
chapters cover issues such as animal identification, the safe transport of aquatic animals and aquatic animal
products, the need to meet the requirements of the importing country and of any transit country, the use of
border posts / quarantine stations, and the containment of pathogens during transportation.
The generic issues addressed in these chapters should be implemented in conjunction with the health
measures detailed in the disease specific chapters.
Model international veterinary and aquatic animal health certificates
An international veterinary or aquatic animal health certificate is a document, drawn up by the exporting
country in accordance with Chapters 5.1. and 5.2. of the Codes, describing the animal health requirements
and, where appropriate, the public health requirements, for the exported commodity. The assurance given to
the importing country that diseases will not be introduced through the importation of animals or animal
products depends, inter alia, on the quality of the exporting country’s veterinary services and its disease
International veterinary or aquatic animal health certificates are intended to facilitate trade and care should
be taken to avoid imposing unjustified health conditions. In all cases, the exporting and importing countries
should refer to the health conditions recommended in the Codes as they develop and finalise a health
Chapters 5.10. to 5.12. of the Terrestrial Code provide model international veterinary certificates for live
animals, hatching eggs and products of animal origin. Chapter 5.10. of the Aquatic Code provides similar
model international aquatic animal health certificates.
Quality of veterinary services
The quality of the veterinary services of an OIE Member depends on a range of factors, including
fundamental ethical, organisational and technical principles. Veterinary services should strive to conform to
these fundamental principles, regardless of the political, economic or social situation. Should the
responsibility for establishing or applying animal health measures, or issuing international animal health
certificates be exercised by an organisation other than the veterinary services (for example such as in the
field of aquatic animal diseases), or by an authority or agency on behalf of the veterinary services, the same
fundamental principles apply. These principles are described in Chapter 3.1. of the Codes.
The quality of the veterinary services of an OIE Member can be ascertained through an evaluation, the
principles of which are described in Chapter 3.2. of the Terrestrial Code. These principles apply whether an
OIE Member is evaluating its own veterinary services (self evaluation) or the veterinary services of another
OIE Member, or asking for an OIE official opinion. The purpose of evaluation may be to assist a national
authority in the decision-making process regarding resources and priorities for its own veterinary services or
as part of a risk analysis to determine the health measures to be applied to imports from another OIE
Member. The relative importance of the criteria described in this chapter may vary according to
circumstances. In all cases, the evaluation should aim to determine whether the veterinary services have the
capability for effective knowledge of and control over the health status of animals and animal products,
either generally or for specific commodity groups.
The OIE Tool for the Evaluation of Performance of Veterinary Services (OIE PVS Tool) should be used in making
an evaluation of consistency with the standards set out in Chapter 3.2. of the Terrestrial Code. Information on
the OIE PVS Tool may be found at:
Similar principles apply to the evaluation of competent authorities other than veterinary services.
Zoning and compartmentalisation
The principles underpinning these important concepts are discussed in Chapter 4.3. of the Terrestrial Code
and Chapter 4.1. of the Aquatic Code. The sequence of steps to be taken in establishing a zone/compartment
and having it recognised for international trade purposes is described in Article 5.3.7. of the Terrestrial Code.
Zoning and compartmentalisation are procedures implemented by an OIE Member to define animal
sub-populations of distinct health status within its territory, in accordance with the recommendations in the
Codes. Zoning applies to an animal sub-population defined on a geographical basis (using natural, artificial or
legal boundaries) while compartmentalisation applies to an animal sub-population defined by management
practices related to biosecurity. Nevertheless, spatial considerations and good management practices are
relevant to the application of both concepts. Establishing and maintaining a compartment requires a
partnership between the veterinary services or other competent authorities of an OIE Member and the
relevant enterprise/industry. The producers are responsible for managing the compartment in a biosecure
manner and the government for supervising and ensuring that the correct biosecurity practices are being
Zoning and compartmentalisation allow resources to be focused on activities that have the greatest chance
of success in controlling or eradicating a disease, or in gaining or maintaining market access for certain
commodities. They are particularly important in situations where freedom of the whole territory of the
OIE Member from the disease(s) or pathogen(s) is not possible or practicable.
There are Code recommendations for zones and compartments for diseases for which the concepts are
appropriate; these concepts cannot be applied in all situations. The recommendations depend on the
epidemiology of the disease, environmental factors, biosecurity measures and surveillance.
Compartmentalisation may be applicable in situations where zoning cannot provide the required assurances,
for example in intensive industries where production systems are vertically integrated.
If an exporting country wishes to define a free zone or compartment within its territory for a particular
disease, its veterinary services or other competent authorities need to implement the recommendations in
the Codes for setting up and maintaining such a zone or compartment. The exporting country needs to
document the measures it has taken to identify the animal sub-population, and to define and maintain its
distinct health status. An importing country should then recognise the existence of this zone or
compartment, and apply the appropriate recommendations in the Codes with regard to the importation, or
transit through its territory, of commodities from that zone or compartment. Where an importing country
does not recognise the zone or compartment established by a trading partner, it should clearly document the
reasons for this and provide recommendations as to steps the exporting country could take to facilitate
recognition. The OIE provides guidance on how importing and exporting countries can work together to
facilitate the process of recognition2.
The ability of veterinary services or other competent authorities to substantiate their reports of the animal
health situation in their territory by sound surveillance programmes is essential to safe trade in animals and
animal products. A national surveillance system should address key epidemiological features of significant
pathogens, including descriptions of host populations and environmental assessment.
The Terrestrial Code provides general principles and specific guidelines for surveillance systems for animal
diseases aimed at determining the animal health status of a country, zone or compartment.
Chapter 1.4. of the Terrestrial Code (Animal health surveillance) provides general principles for declaring
freedom from a disease/pathogen in relation to the date of most recent occurrence, and for recognising
Specific recommendations address the necessary mechanisms for recognising historical freedom from a
disease, and the establishment or the regaining of recognition for a disease free country, zone or
compartment and are included in each disease chapters. Diseases covered include currently foot and mouth
disease, rinderpest, contagious bovine pleuropneumonia, scrapie, classical swine fever, avian influenza and
bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
Chapter 1.4. of the Aquatic Code provides guidelines for aquatic animal health surveillance.
2 The OIE has procedures for the official recognition of Member Countriesâ€™ or zonesâ€™ status for FMD, BSE, CBPP
and rinderpest. The resulting list of free countries and zones is published by the OIE.
Collection and processing of semen and embryos
The purpose of official control of the animal health aspects of semen and in vivo derived embryos intended
for international trade is to ensure that specific pathogens, which could be associated with semen or
embryos, are controlled and the transmission of infection to recipient animals and their progeny is avoided.
Chapters 4.5. and 4.6. of the Terrestrial Code cover the collection, processing and storage of ruminant and
pig semen. Chapters 4.7. to 4.10. provide recommendations for trade in embryos. Chapter 4.11. provides
recommendations on animal health aspects of production animals derived from somatic cell nuclear
transfer in production livestock and horses.
The International Embryo Transfer Society (IETS) regularly reviews research and field information on
infectious diseases regarding the likelihood of their transmission via in vivo derived embryos. As a result of
these reviews, the IETS has grouped pathogenic agents into four categories, based on the likelihood of
transmission. These lists are taken fully into account in the disease specific chapters of the Terrestrial Code.
Animal production food safety
Chapter 6.1. of the Terrestrial Code provides guidance in regard to the role and responsibilities of the
Veterinary Services in food safety and Chapter 6.2. of the Terrestrial Code provides guidelines for the control
of biological hazards of animal health and public health importance through ante- and post-mortem meat
inspection. Chapter 6.3. of the Terrestrial Code provides guidance on animal feeding in relation to animal
health. The OIE is developing additional chapters on animal production food safety.
Chapters 4.1. and 4.2. of the Terrestrial Code provide standards on the identification and traceability of live
animals. Animal identification and animal traceability are important for effective management of disease
outbreaks and food safety incidents, implementation of vaccination programmes, herd/flock husbandry,
zoning and compartmentalisation, disease surveillance, early response and notification systems, animal
movement controls, and inspection and certification procedures.
Prudent use of antimicrobial agents is essential to safeguard this important therapeutic tool and to protect
against risks associated with the development of antimicrobial resistance in animals and, possibly, in
Chapters 6.7. to 6.11. of the Terrestrial Code contain standards for:
l the harmonisation of antimicrobial resistance surveillance and monitoring programmes;
l the monitoring of the quantities of antimicrobials used in animal husbandry; and
l the responsible and prudent use of antimicrobial agents in veterinary medicine.
These chapters also discuss risk analysis for antimicrobial resistance.
Section 7 of the Terrestrial Code dedicated to animal welfare contains general principles relevant to animal
welfare, and standards for the land and sea transport of animals, the slaughter of animals for human
consumption and the killing of animals for disease control purposes.
Chapter 7.4. was developed in coordination with the Interna tional Air Transport Association (IATA) and
specifies requirements for the international transport of domestic animals and wildlife by air.
Section 7 of the Aquatic Code provides introductory guidelines on the welfare of farmed fish and a Chapter
on the welfare of farmed fish during transport.
Disease specific chapters
The health measures described in the Volume 2 of the Terrestrial Code and in Sections 8 to 11 of the Aquatic
Code are designed to prevent the disease in question being introduced into an importing country, by taking
into account the nature of the commodity and the animal health status of the exporting country. The
measures are based on the latest scientific information, and diagnostic and vaccination techniques. When
correctly applied, the measures provide optimal animal health safeguards for trade.
The recommendations on surveillance described for the most significant diseases enable the countries that
apply them to be better informed of their animal health situation and to apply the necessary controls.
As stated above, these measures make reference only to the animal health situation in the exporting country,
and it is assumed that the disease either is not present in the importing country or, if it is present, that it is the
subject of an official control or eradication programme.
In general, each chapter in Volume 2 of the Terrestrial Code addresses a single disease and is structured as
follows (Note: not all chapters contain all elements described below ):
l a brief description of the disease (strains of the pathogen, infective period, standards for diagnostic
tests and vaccines, and epidemiology relevant to the measures in the chapter);
l a list of commodities3 in regard to which no disease-specific measures are required, regardless of the
status of the exporting country for the disease in question;
l information on the measures that should be applied to other commodities4;
l information on the factors that should be taken into account in assessing the risks presented by the
exporting country for that disease;
l information on the requirements to be met by a country/zone/compartment to achieve a specified
disease status e.g. free country, free zone with vaccination, free flock;
l articles on methods that can be used to inactivate disease agents;
l articles on methods for disease surveillance;
l articles on the appropriate means to conduct a risk assessment.
When a particular commodity is not mentioned in a chapter, it means that the OIE has not yet developed
relevant health measures. An OIE Member should base its import regulations for that commodity on a
scientific risk assessment.
Chapter 11.6. of the Terrestrial Code on BSE is an example of a disease specific chapter that contains
recommendations on all aspects identified above.
In the Aquatic Code, chapters in Sections 8 to 11 (Recommendations applicable to specific diseases) address
individual diseases and contain:
3 Commonly traded commodities include live animals, semen/embryos/hatching eggs, fresh meat and meat products,
milk and milk products, hides/skins/hair/feathers, and products for pharmaceutical or industrial purposes.
4 see footnote 3.
l a brief description of the disease, the susceptible host species, and standards for diagnostic tests and
l lists of the requirements which should be met by a country, zone or compartment in order to achieve a
certain disease status e.g. free country, free establishment, restoration of free status;
l articles containing the recommended health measures to be applied to commonly traded commodities,
taking into account the likelihood of the pathogen being transmitted through that commodity and the
disease status of the exporting country, zone or compartment.
Inactivation of pathogens and vectors
Chapter 4.13. of the Terrestrial Code contains some brief general recommendations on disinfection and
disinsectisation. For easy reference, recommended procedures for the inactivation of the agents of foot and
mouth disease (FMD), transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, avian influenza and classical swine fever
(CSF) virus are included in the relevant disease specific chapters.
In Chapter 4.2., the Aquatic Code provides some general recommendations on disinfection and further
information is available in Chapter 1.1.5. of the Aquatic Manual.
Diagnostic tests for international trade
In many of the Code chapters relating to specific diseases, the reader is referred to the relevant Manual for
detailed information on the relevant diagnostic tests and vaccines. The table in Chapter 1.3. shows the
diagnostic tests that can be used when the Terrestrial Code recommends a testing procedure.
The Terrestrial and Aquatic Manuals
The eleven introductory chapters in the Terrestrial Manual (Part 1) deal with a variety of general subjects of
interest to veterinary laboratory diagnosticians:
l Collection and shipment of diagnostic specimens
l Biosafety and biosecurity in the veterinary microbiology laboratory and animal facilities
l Quality management in veterinary testing laboratories
l Principles of validation of diagnostic assays for infectious diseases
l Validation and quality control of polymerase chain reaction methods used for the diagnosis of
l Laboratory methodologies for bacterial antimicrobial susceptibility testing
l Biotechnology in the diagnosis of infectious diseases and vaccine development
l Principles of veterinary vaccine production
l Tests for sterility and freedom from contamination of biological materials
l Guidelines for international standards for vaccine banks, and
l The role of official bodies in the international regulation of veterinary biologicals.
These chapters are intended to give a brief introduction to their subjects, and should be regarded as
background information and not as standards.
The main part of the Terrestrial Manual (Part 2) covers standards for diagnostic tests and vaccines for the
diseases addressed in the Terrestrial Code. Some additional diseases, which may also be of importance to trade
but which do not have a chapter in the Terrestrial Code, are included. Each disease chapter provides veterinary
officials with an overview of the tests and vaccines available for the disease. This is followed by information
intended for laboratory technicians, including details of diagnostic tests and, where appropriate, the
requirements for vaccines or diagnostic biologicals.
The Aquatic Manual contains introductory chapters on quality management in veterinary diagnostic
laboratories, the principles of validation of diagnostic assays for aquatic animal diseases and on disinfection
The tests in the Manuals should be performed according to the specifications to minimise confusion in the
interpretation of results.
The OIE also publishes the OIE Quality and Guidelines for Veterinary Laboratories Conducting Tests for
Using the Terrestrial Manual
In each disease chapter of the Terrestrial Manual, Part A gives a general introduction to the disease, Part B
deals with laboratory diagnosis of the disease, and Part C (where appropriate) with the requirements for
vaccines or in-vivo diagnostic biologicals. The information concerning production and control of vaccines or
diagnostics is given as an example; it is not always necessary to follow these when there are scientifically
justifiable reasons for using alternative approaches.
The Terrestrial Manual groups diagnostic tests into two categories: â€˜prescribedâ€™ and â€˜alternativeâ€™. â€˜Prescribedâ€™
tests (printed in blue) are those that are required by the Terrestrial Code for the testing of animals before they
are moved internationally. The OIE has not yet developed prescribed tests for every disease. â€˜Alternativeâ€™
tests do not provide the same level of confidence as prescribed tests. Nevertheless, the OIE Terrestrial
Animal Health Standards Commission considers that an â€˜alternativeâ€™ test, chosen by mutual agreement
between importing and exporting countries, can provide valuable information for the diagnosis of diseases
nationally or regionally, and for evaluating the risks of proposed trade in animals or animal products. When
the Terrestrial Manual does not designate Prescribed or Alternative Tests, this is because there is no
requirement in the Terrestrial Code for testing for that disease prior to international movements.
Although the OIE list of Prescribed and Alternative Tests gives only summary descriptions of the tests (e.g.
â€œELISAâ€, or â€œPCRâ€) it should not be assumed that all tests under that description are suitable for
international movement. Only the method described in the Terrestrial Manual should be used, or else a
method that has been fully validated to show equivalent performance to the designated Prescribed Test
method. â€œValidationâ€ in this context means compliance with the OIE validation template and the more
detailed description in the validation chapter of the Terrestrial Manual.
Some other tests are described, which may be of some practical value in local situations or which may be
OIE Reference Laboratories are recognised as centres of excellence in their specified fields. Their principal
l to function as centres of expertise and standardisation for a designated disease(s) or topics;
l to store and distribute to national laboratories biological reference products (e.g. antisera, antigens) and
any other reagents used in disease diagnosis and control;
l to develop new procedures for diagnosis and control of the designated disease(s) or topics;
l to gather, process, analyse and disseminate data relevant to their speciality;
l to place experts at the disposal of the OIE.
Currently, more than 175 Reference Laboratories, in 32 OIE Member Countries and Territories, cover
more than 95 diseases and topics. The list of Reference Laboratories is updated by the World Assembly of
Delegates each year and the current list is available on the OIE Web site (list).
Using the Aquatic Manual
For the diseases listed in the Aquatic Code, clinical signs in fish are not pathognomonic and subclinical
infections may occur. Reliable diagnosis of fish diseases depends on the specific identification of pathogens
by laboratory methods. These methods, which are suitable for the diagnosis of disease as part of national
aquatic animal health surveillance/control programmes, form the main contents of the Aquatic Manual.
The diagnostic methods presented in the Aquatic Manual are all direct diagnostic methods. Due to the
insufficient development of serological methodology, the detection of antibodies to pathogens in fish is not
yet accepted as a routine method for assessing the health status of fish populations. Mollusc and crustacean
diseases differ in some ways from fish diseases; for example, diagnostic methods must be direct because
these animals do not produce antibodies to pathogens.
Implementing OIE standards
Determining import regulations
The WTO SPS Agreement allows WTO Members two options in setting health measures (in the form of
import regulations) to protect against the animal and public health risks associated with the importation of
animals and animal products. The SPS Agreement strongly encourages WTO Members to base their health
regulations on OIE international standards such as the Terrestrial Code and the Aquatic Code. In the absence of
relevant standards or when a Member chooses to adopt a higher level of protection than that provided by a
standard, the use of scientific risk analysis is essential to determine whether importation of a particular
commodity poses a significant risk to human or animal health and, if so, what health measures could be
applied to reduce that risk to an acceptable level.
A risk analysis may still be necessary even if an importing country applies the health measures
recommended in the Codes. While a full risk analysis may not be needed, establishing import regulations
often requires at least a partial analysis of the risks to ensure a sound framework for linking the hazards
identified for the specific commodity, the disease statuses of the exporting and importing countries, and the
recommendations in the Codes.
With this in mind, the first step in the process of determining import regulations is to perform a hazard
identification, identifying all the hazards (pathogens) that could be associated with the commodity and
which are not known to be absent from the exporting country. The OIE is the main source of official
information on the disease status of its Members. Up-to-date information can be obtained from the Web
interface of the World Animal Health Information Database (WAHID) that is supplied by the World Animal
Health Information System (WAHIS). Once this list of pathogens has been compiled, it has to be compared
to the list of pathogens that are exotic to the importing country or are under official control programmes
there. A final hazard list is thus determined.
Although the application of the measures contained in the Codes is the preferred option, the S PS Agreement
recognises the right of Members to adopt more stringent measures, provided they are based on a scientific
risk assessment. The import regulations determined as a result of the risk analysis process may be a
combination of the health measures in the Codes and when relevant additional measures imposed by the
The OIE has developed a Handbook on Import Risk Analysis for Animals and Animal Products. This handbook
outlines the international obligations with respect to the WTO SPS Agreement and provides a framework
for the risk analysis process based on the standards described in the Codes. This is intended to ensure that
stakeholders, risk analysts and decision-makers can be confident that the disease risks posed by imported
animals and animal products are identified and managed effectively. Volume I of this handbook introduces
the concepts of import risk analysis and discusses qualitative risk analysis, while Volume II addresses
quantitative risk analysis. More information is available at Import Risk Analysis Handbook.
In preparing an international animal health certificate importing countries should take into account the
model international animal health certificates in Chapters 5.10. to 5.12. of the Terrestrial Code and Chapter
5.10. of the Aquatic Code. This provides a general framework, with the contents of each certificate being
adapted to the commodity as required. Importing countries should follow the follow ing procedures:
l compile a list of the diseases for which the country is justified in seeking protection, in view of the risks
associated with the particular commodity and the measures for disease that are applied in the
importing countryâ€™s territory;
l list the health measures for each of these diseases, which can be determined by referring to the articles
in the Codes relevant to the commodity; and
l when relevant, list additional health measures imposed by the importing country as a result of the risk
The OIE procedures for d ispute mediation
The Codes summarise the responsibilities of importing and exporting countries and state that importing and
exporting countries should comply with their obligations as members of the OIE and the WTO with a view
to minimising unjustified trade restrictions and reducing conflicts between trading partners.
On request, an exporting country has an obligation to supply an importing country with information on its
animal health situation and any changes in that situation. It should also provide information on the quality
of its veterinary services and other competent authorities, the authority which they exercise, and the disease
surveillance systems it has in place.
If an OIE Member believes that another Member is not meeting its obligations as a Member of the OIE (as
described in the Codes) or is not adhering to the provisions of the WTO SPS Agreement, it may formally or
informally lodge a complaint.
The Codes and Manuals may be used to challenge the scientific justification for the import regulations of
The OIE offers a voluntary dispute mediation mechanism to OIE Members. This is a science-based
approach to finding alternative solutions and resolving differences, as distinct from the law-based approach
used in the formal WTO system. The role of the OIE is to assist the parties to arrive at a scientifically-sound
conclusion, based on the application of the OIE standards.
The mechanism is voluntary in that the agreement of both parties is needed in order for the OIE to initiate
the process. As well, and distinct from the WTO process, the outcomes are not legally binding unless both
parties agree to this in advance. Following agreement of both parties to the terms of reference and the scope
of the dispute, the Director General of the OIE recommends experts, usually from the relevant OIE
Reference Laboratories, to serve as mediators. Once approved by the disputing parties, the OIE expert(s)
meet with both parties to conduct the mediation.
The experts are required to submit a confidential report on their conclusions and recommendations to the
OIE Director General, who then transmits it to both parties. The cost of the mediation is covered by the
Use of the OIE good offices does not preclude either party from using mechanisms provided by the WTO
to deal with disputes. While the outcomes of the OIE mechanism are non-binding and confidential, the
views of the OIE and its experts could be called upon by the WTO in its consideration of a dispute between
WTO Members and would substantially influence the outcome of WTO dispute settlement procedures.