Fourth BSE case found in country since 2003
U.S. beef is safe. This is the message that is being promoted by ag officials since a bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) case was detected April 24 in California. This makes the fourth case identified in the United States since the first was identified Dec. 23, 2003. The last recorded BSE case in the United States was March 15, 2006, in Alabama.
“The carcass of the animal is being held under State authority at a rendering facility in California and will be destroyed,” said U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Chief Veterinary Officer John Clifford in an April 24 USDA press release. “It [the carcass] was never presented for slaughter for human consumption, so at no time presented a risk to the food supply or human health. Additionally, milk does not transmit BSE.”
Measures put in place by the federal government to safeguard against this progressive, neurological, fatal bovine disease include:
•A ban on specified risk materials that may contain the BSE agent.
•Ban on all nonambulatory or “downer” cattle.
•Ban on ruminant material in cattle feed.
•An ongoing BSE Surveillance Program.
“Evidence shows that our systems and safeguards to prevent BSE are working, as are similar actions taken by countries around the world,” Clifford said. “In 2011, there were only 29 worldwide cases of BSE, a dramatic decline and 99 percent reduction since the peak in 1992 of 37,311 cases.”
“Samples from the animal in question were tested at USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa,” Clifford said. “Confirmatory results using immunohistochemistry and western blot tests confirmed the animal was positive for atypical BSE, a very rare form of the disease not generally associated with an animal consuming infected feed.”
The government has made contact with official World Animal Health (OIE) reference labs, Clifford said. “These labs have extensive experience diagnosing atypical BSE and will review our confirmation of this form of the disease.”
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) credits the surveillance program for the detection of this case.
“USDA’s ongoing BSE surveillance program tests approximately 40,000 high-risk cattle annually,” said NCBA Cattle Health and Well-being Committee Chairman Tom Talbot in an April 24 NCBA press release.
According to the USDA- Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service website, more than 44,000 cattle were tested in fiscal years 2009 and 2010. More than 245,000 tests have been conducted since Sept. 1, 2006. The USDA collects samples from a “variety of sites and from cattle populations where the disease is most likely to be detected, similar to the enhanced surveillance program procedures,” the website states.
“As the nation’s leading producer of cattle, Texas is closely following recent news from California regarding detection of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or BSE,” Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said in an April 24 press release.
“It’s important for domestic consumers and foreign trading partners to note the animal did not enter into the food chain, and the American food supply is safe and has not been impacted by this recent detection,” Staples said. “Thanks to a firewall of safeguards in place, American consumers can remain confident our food supply is the safest in the world, and Texas beef is as safe as ever.”
The case has raised trade concerns abroad.