In the current trend of globalisation, animal health measures have increasing importance to facilitate safe international trade of animals and animal products while avoiding unnecessary impediments to trade. In light of this, the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement) encourages the members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to base their sanitary measures on international standards, guidelines and recommendations, where they exist.
The OIE is the WTO reference organisation for standards relating to animal health and zoonoses. The OIE publishes 2 codes (Terrestrial and Aquatic) and 2 manuals (Terrestrial and Aquatic) as the principle reference for WTO members.
The Terrestrial Animal Health Code and Aquatic Animal Health Code respectively aim to assure the sanitary safety of international trade in terrestrial animals and aquatic animals, and their products.
The Terrestrial Animal Health Code was first published in 1968 and the Aquatic Animal Health Code was introduced to the public in 1995. The codes traditionally addressed animal health and zoonoses, but they have, in recent years, expanded to cover animal welfare, animal production food safety, consistent with the expanded mandate of the OIE which is ‘to improve animal health worldwide’.
The Manual of Diagnostic Tests and Vaccines for Terrestrial Animals and the Manual of Diagnostic Tests for Aquatic Animals provide a harmonised approach to disease diagnosis by describing internationally agreed laboratory diagnostic techniques. These manuals were published in 1989 and in 1995, respectively.
The OIE regularly updates its international standards as new scientific information comes to light, following its established transparent and democratic procedures. The only pathway for adoption of a standard is via approval of the World Assembly of Delegates meeting in May each year at the OIE General Assembly.