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Live cattle close limit-down after BSE find

Jeff Caldwell 04/24/2012 @ 2:42pm Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

A dairy cow has tested positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, on a farm in California, federal officials announced Tuesday. And, it had the live cattle market locked limit-down at the session's end Tuesday.

USDA Chief Veterinary Officer John Clifford said Tuesday the cow, which never entered the food or feed chain after dying on a farm in central California, never posed a risk to human health. In addition, Clifford said the animal's milk did not transmit the disease. The cow was nonambulatory, or a "downer," before it was shipped from its farm of origin, and protocol dictated it was removed from the chain of consumption.

"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," Clifford said Tuesday.

"This detection in no way affects the United States' BSE status as determined by the OIE (World Animal Health). 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," he added.

What's more, this case is unique from previous BSE-positives found in the U.S. in its origin. It's a different, naturally occurring strain, one that's not transmitted through feed. "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," Clifford said.

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USDA, FDA & CDC Safeguards 04/27/2012 @ 11:00am "Since 1990, USDA has conducted a program to detect BSE in the United States. Initially focusing on animals with clinical disease, the U.S. followed OIE guidelines in its later program - applying national targets to smaller regions of the country. Focus has increasingly included testing of targeted, high-risk cattle to detect BSE-infected animals. This now is the agreed international guidelines published by OIE. In the U.S. BSE surveillance program, testing includes those showing central nervous system disorders, animals that can not walk, exhibiting symptoms of BSE that die, focusing on cattle older than 30 months of age. USDA maintains an ongoing BSE surveillance program & tests 40K+ high-risk cattle yearly, above the OIE’s recommended levels for the risk status assigned by the OIE. The program is designed to detect BSE at a prevalence level of one case per 1 million adult cattle. All U.S. cattle are inspected prior to harvest, with high-risk animals identified for testing. From June 1, 2004 through Aug. 20, 2006, USDA tested 787,711 cattle & found two BSE positives, both in older cattle & both with a previously unrecognized form of BSE that was different from the typical form. As a result of this surveillance, the prevalence of BSE in the United States is estimated to be less than one infected animal per 1 million adult cattle. Prevention of risk to cattle The United States began prevention measures for BSE in 1989 by banning the import of ruminants and ruminant products from countries where BSE had been found. Because BSE spreads through contaminated feed, the beef industry agreed to a voluntary ban on the use of ruminant-derived protein supplements in cattle feed in 1996, and the FDA made the feed ban a law in 1997. Although some reduction in infectivity can result from the rendering process that produces MBM, studies have shown that cattle can become infected with doses as low as 1mg of infected brain tissue. This highlights the importance of excluding cattle-derived MBM from ruminant feed. Prevention of risk to humans In naturally occurring cases, BSE has only been detected in the brain, spinal cord and retina, peripheral nerves and dorsal root ganglia,also infectivity has been found in the distal ileum, dorsal root & trigeminal ganglia, tonsil as well as brain & spinal cord. The greatest risk is associated with the brain & spinal cord, which only become infectious late in the incubation period. Therefore, clinically affected animals represent the greatest risk of all. In January 2004, USDA added a measure to the existing import & feed ban. Parts that might carry BSE, are banned from human food, including brain, spinal cord, eyes, dorsal root ganglia, trigeminal ganglia & vertebral column older than 30 months of age, tonsil and distal ileum (lower part of the small intestine) of all cattle. Other BSE firewalls implemented by USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) include: Because inability to walk can be a symptom of BSE, USDA prohibits all animals that are unable to walk from entering the human food supply. Cattle tested for BSE cannot be marked by FSIS inspectors as "inspected and passed" to enter the food supply until confirmation the BSE tests are negative. FSIS expanded a prior prohibition on spinal cord from being allowed in product produced from a technology called advanced meat recovery (AMR) to include a prohibition on dorsal root ganglia, clusters of nerve cells connected to the spinal cord along the vertebral column. FSIS banned the practice of air-injection stunning. U.S. plants already had phased out air-injection stunning, but FSIS banned the practice to ensure it would not be used in foreign plants, which must meet FSIS requirements in order to export product to the United States."

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