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USDA investigating possible BSE case

Agriculture.com Staff 03/13/2006 @ 7:34am

The USDA is investigating an inconclusive test result on a rapid BSE test from an animal sampled as part of the U.S. enhanced BSE surveillance program. Results should be known in four to seven days.

On Saturday, a statement was released by John Clifford, USDA Chief Veterinary Medical Officer clarifying the investigation.

"This inconclusive result does not mean we have found a new case of BSE. Inconclusive results are a normal component of most screening tests, which are designed to be extremely sensitive so they will detect any sample that could possibly be positive. In addition, this animal did not enter the human food chain nor the animal feed chain.

The USDA tests are being done at the National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa, using an immunohistochemistry test, according to the statement. In addition, USDA's Agricultural Research Service, will also conduct a Western blot test. The results of those tests will be released as soon as they have all been completed, within the next four to seven days.

Clifford emphasized that human and animal health in the U.S. are protected by a system of interlocking safeguards and that the USDA remains very confident in the safety of U.S. beef. The most important of these safeguards is the ban on specified risk materials from the food supply and the Food and Drug Administration's feed ban. And by any measure, the incidence of BSE in this country is extremely low.

"Our enhanced surveillance program is designed to provide information about the level of prevalence of BSE in the United States, while these interlocking safeguards continue to protect our food supply," Clifford said.

Clifford added, "We are extremely gratified that since June 2004, all sectors of the cattle industry have cooperated in this program by submitting samples from more than 640,000 animals from the highest risk populations and more than 20,000 from clinically normal, older animals, as part our enhanced BSE surveillance program. To date, only one of these highest risk animals has tested positive for the disease as part of the surveillance program."

The USDA is investigating an inconclusive test result on a rapid BSE test from an animal sampled as part of the U.S. enhanced BSE surveillance program. Results should be known in four to seven days.

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