When you think about the risk of introducing animal pests and diseases into the United States, you probably think that the risk comes from live animals. However, animal-derived products, such as fresh meat, pose just as great a threat to American livestock and poultry. For this reason, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) created Veterinary Regulatory Support (VRS).
USDA, APHIS established the Veterinary Medical Office (VMO), in the early 1970s under its Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) unit. The VMO’s main goal was to provide guidance to PPQ port inspectors regarding animal disease exclusion activities. In 2001, the staff name was changed to Veterinary Regulatory Support (VRS). VRS is now charged with assisting U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) with the same activities at U.S. ports of entry. The staff became part of PPQ’s Quarantine Policy, Analysis and Support (QPAS) in 2012.
VRS has veterinarians and plant health specialists who are committed to USDA’s mission of keeping foreign animal diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease, and detrimental plant pests out of the country by providing guidance regarding the importation of animal products and byproducts, regulated garbage and related materials. VRS assists USDA in achieving this mission in many ways, including collaborating with officials in CBP, APHIS PPQ, and USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to ensure appropriate and consistent handling of animal materials and regulated garbage at U.S. ports of entry; providing veterinary expertise that bridges the technical gap between the foreign animal disease exclusion regulations established by APHIS’ Veterinary Services (VS) National Center for Import and Export (NCIE) and the enforcement requirements for the implementation of these regulations, carried out by CBP officers at U.S. ports of entry; and developing effective communication links with VS NCIE, CBP, FSIS, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the military, State veterinary authorities, industry groups, and others concerned with the animal disease exclusion activities at U.S. ports of entry.
PPQ’s Role in Safeguarding Regulated Garbage
VRS is headquartered in Riverdale, MD; however PPQ also has a field staff of Agriculture Quarantine Inspection Veterinary Medical Officers (AQI VMO) strategically assigned throughout the United States and its territories. The AQI VMOs are located where the concentration of foreign cargo activity and international travelers are highest. These veterinarians provide regional oversight for operational procedures designed to prevent the introduction of infectious, contagious, or communicable diseases of livestock and poultry into the United States. VRS and the AQI VMOs collaborate with officials in CBP and other APHIS PPQ personnel to ensure appropriate and consistent handling of regulated garbage at U.S. ports of entry and elsewhere. View the below link for information pertaining to safeguarding regulated garbage.