Bovine spongiform encephalopathy case confirmed in California


Case presents no risk to human food or animal feed supply in U.S., authorities say.

On April 24, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirmed the nation’s fourth case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or “mad cow” disease). The animal was humanely euthanized after it developed lameness and became recumbent and was sampled for disease at a rendering facility in central California. Samples were sent to the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory for testing and forwarded to the National Veterinary Services Laboratories for confirmation. A positive animal’s carcass will be destroyed.

According to a statement by the USDA, the cow did not enter the animal feed or human food supply and presents no risk to U.S. consumers. Additionally, the USDA reiterates that BSE cannot be transmitted through cow’s milk.

The diseased animal was identified as part of a comprehensive safeguard system designed to protect public and animal health from BSE in the United States, the USDA says. The system is made up of three elements:

  • The removal of specified risk materials (the parts of an animal that would contain BSE if an animal was diseased) from all animals presented for slaughter in the United States
  • A strong feed ban that protects cattle from the disease
  • An ongoing BSE surveillance program (the testing protocol that identified this case) that allows the USDA to detect the disease if it exists at very low levels in the U.S. cattle population

In response to this development, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued the following statement: “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 USDA says it is working closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and state officials to continue the epidemiological investigation and will keep the public apprised of future developments.

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