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Update: USDA says Food Supply not Threatened by California BSE Case

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USDA has confirmed detection of BSE in a dairy cow in central California, and yesterday USDA Chief Veterinary Officer John Clifford released a statement saying there is no risk of the disease getting in the food supply.

Clifford said a USDA laboratory confirmed the finding of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as mad cow disease.

“It was an atypical for of BSE, a very rare form of the disease not generally associated with an animal consuming infected feed, which is the method in which normally it would be spread from cow to cow,” he explained.

At no time did the animal in question enter the food supply, “so there is no concern about that.”

Clifford added, “The safety of our food is addressed through the interlocking safeguards and through the removal of any type of material that contain the BSE agent in the United States. Therefore we continually protect public health through the removal of these materials. Our food safety inspection service oversees the inspection at these slaughter facilities to ensure that these types of materials like brain and spinal cord are removed appropriately and properly, and not allowed to enter the human food supply.”

Clifford said international trade should not be affected by this week’s disclosure.

“We follow international guidelines through the World Organization for Animal Health, and those international standards are based upon safe trade in both animal and animal products. It’s our interlocking safeguards that protect both animal health as well as human health. So the finding of this case should not affect international trade.”

U.S. livestock is some of the healthiest in the world according to Clifford, and he said consumers should be confident in the food supply.

In the nation’s fourth case of BSE in a dairy cow the carcass of the animal is being held under State authority at a rendering facility in California and will be destroyed. Clifford said the 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.

USDA will be conducting a comprehensive epidemiological investigation in conjunction with California animal and public health officials and the FDA.

In a statement Tuesday evening, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “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.”[audio:http://www.hoosieragtoday.com//wp-content/uploads//2012/04/BSE-found-in-California1.mp3|titles=BSE found in California]