US BSE fears played down by industry

By Aidan Fortune

- Last updated on GMT

The infected cow does not pose a public health risk, USDA said
The infected cow does not pose a public health risk, USDA said

Related tags Bovine spongiform encephalopathy Beef Livestock

The US beef industry has moved quickly to allay fears over an incident of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in Alabama.

The incident was confirmed in an 11-year-old cow after it showed clinical signs of atypical (L-type) BSE during routine surveillance. According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the animal never entered slaughter channels and at no time presented a risk to the food supply or to human health in the US.

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association​ (NCBA) cattle health and well-being committee chairman Jimmy Holliman said: “USDA confirmed that an 11-year-old cow that never entered slaughter channels and at no time presented any risk to the food supply was discovered through routine surveillance to test positive for atypical (L-type) BSE. It’s important to note that this type is very different than the classical type of BSE, which occurred mainly in the United Kingdom in the 1980s. BSE is not contagious and the cow announced today posed no risk to human health. The bottom line: all US beef is safe.

USDA’s ongoing BSE surveillance program has tested more than one million cattle since the program began. The incidence of BSE in the US is extremely low, and will remain so. The US currently has a ‘negligible BSE risk’ status from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) – the lowest possible risk in the world. We commend USDA and animal health experts for effectively identifying and controlling the potential risks associated with BSE.​”

Beef sector ‘vital’ to Alabama

This is fifth incident of BSE to be found in the US. Of the four previous US cases, the first was a case of classical BSE that was imported from Canada; the rest have been atypical (H- or L-type) BSE.

The OIE classifies the US as ‘negligible risk for BSE’. Atypical BSE cases do not impact official BSE risk status recognition, as this form of the disease is believed to occur spontaneously in all cattle populations at a very low rate. Therefore, this finding of an atypical case will not change the negligible risk status of the US, and should not lead to any trade issues.

Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) commissioner John McMillan praised the controls that led to the incident being discovered.

The Alabama beef industry is vital to our state’s agricultural economy,​” he said. “The response to this case by USDA officials and our department’s professionals, led by state veterinarian Dr Tony Frazier, has been exemplary. This instance proves to us that our ongoing surveillance program is working effectively.​”

Frazier added: “The ADAI conducts routine surveillance that includes collecting samples by trained field staff and veterinarians and has a response plan in place.​”

Related topics Meat

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