USDA announced case of BSE, groups release statements on safety of milk & beef

USDA confirmed yesterday afternoon the discovery of an animal infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in California.  USDA Chief Veterinary Officer John Clifford said in a statement that the dairy cow was found as part of USDA’s targeted surveillance system.

The carcass of the animal is being held under state authority at a rendering facility in California and will be destroyed. It 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, said Clifford.

“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,” Clifford said.

Samples from the animal in question were tested at USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa. 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.

“We are sharing our laboratory results with international animal health reference laboratories in Canada and England, which have official World Animal Health (OIE) reference labs. These labs have extensive experience diagnosing atypical BSE and will review our 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,” said Clifford.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack had this to say about the discovery:

“The beef and dairy in the American food supply is safe and USDA remains confident in the health of U.S. cattle. The systems and safeguards in place to protect animal and human health worked as planned to identify this case quickly, and will ensure that it presents no risk to the food supply or to human health. USDA has no reason to believe that any other U.S. animals are currently affected, but we will remain vigilant and committed to the safeguards in place.”

The National Milk Producers Federation released a statement saying that on-going surveillance and inspections will continue to ensure that BSE does not enter the food supply in the U.S. Three previous cases of BSE have been discovered in the U.S. in the past nine years, but NMPF says the country’s milk remains safe.

And the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Cattle Health and Well-being Committee Chairman Tom Talbot issued a statement saying that the nation’s beef supply is safe.

Sources: Feedstuffs, USDA, NMPF, NCBA