The USA's fourth case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as Mad Cow Disease has been detected in a dairy cow in central California, USDA's Chief Veterinary Office, John Clifford announced yesterday. Clifford stresses that it is safe to eat beef and drink cow's milk and that existing high standards to protect the public's food supply is ongoing.
John Clifford explained that as part of the nation's surveillance system, the USDA's (US Department of Agriculture's) APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) confirmed the USA's fourth case of BSE.
US authorities say the infected carcass is currently at a rendering facility in California, under State authority, and will be destroyed. Clifford emphasized that the animal had never been presented for slaughter for the human food chain, and therefore never presented a risk to public health.
According to the USDA and UK agricultural and health authorities, BSE does not transmit through cow's milk.
John Clifford said:
"The United States has had longstanding interlocking safeguards to protect human and animal health against BSE. For public health, these measures include the USDA ban on specified risk materials, or SRMs, from the food supply.
SRMs are parts of the animal that are most likely to contain the BSE agent if it is present in an animal. USDA also bans all nonambulatory (sometimes called "downer") cattle from entering the human food chain. For animal health, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ban on ruminant material in cattle feed prevents the spread of the disease in the cattle herd.
Evidence shows that our systems and safeguards to prevent BSE are working, as are similar actions taken by countries around the world. In 2011, there were only 29 worldwide cases of BSE, a dramatic decline and 99% reduction since the peak in 1992 of 37,311 cases. This is directly attributable to the impact and effectiveness of feed bans as a primary control measure for the disease."
Samples from the infected animal were taken to the National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa. Western blot tests and tests using immunohistochemistry confirmed that the carcass was positive for atypical BSE. Atypical BSE is a very rare form of BSE, and is not normally linked to infection being caused by contaminated feed.
Laboratory results have also been sent to experts in England and Canada, the USDA informs; both countries have OIE (World Animal Health) reference laboratories. Clifford says the English and Canadian labs have vast experience in diagnosing atypical BSE and have been asked to review the US lab confirmation of this form of the disease.
"In addition, we will be conducting a comprehensive epidemiological investigation in conjunction with California animal and public health officials and the FDA.
BSE is a progressive neurological disease among cattle that is always fatal. It belongs to a family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. Affected animals may display nervousness or aggression, abnormal posture, difficulty in coordination and rising, decreased milk production, or loss of body weight despite continued appetite.
This detection in no way affects the United States' BSE status as determined by the OIE. The United States has in place all of the elements of a system that OIE has determined ensures that beef and beef products are safe for human consumption: a mammalian feed ban, removal of specified risk materials, and vigorous surveillance. Consequently, this detection should not affect U.S. trade."
California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director and Public Health Officer, Dr. Ron Chapman, said:
"There is no public health threat due to the discovery of BSE in a dairy cow. The food supply in California has not been affected by this discovery, and residents do not need to take any specific precautions. The California Department of Food and Agriculture has many procedures in place to keep this disease from entering the food chain, and the detection found is evidence that the system of safeguards is working. The cow in question was not slaughtered for food and BSE is not transmitted in milk.
CDPH will continue to monitor the situation and will advise Californians of any new information."
Mixed reaction from abroad regarding BSE in the USAUnited Kingdom - The Food Standards Agency, UK, said that the country has no plans for extra precautions or bans in response to the Mad Cow case in the USA. In an interview with CBS News, spokesperson Bradley Smythe said that current European Union measures are sufficient.
South Korea - according to local media, two large supermarket chains - Lotte Mart and Home Plus - took US beef off their shelves. However, Home Plus has since placed them back for sale, after being assured by government announcements. South Korea imported 107,000 tons of US beef last year.
Written by Christian Nordqvist