The USDA announced today a confirmed BSE (mad cow disease) cow is being held at a rendering facility in California. Questions if the animal will be rendered sent to USDA were not answered. Here is the USDA press release and their response to my questions…
Release No. 0132.12
Contact: Office of Communication 202-720-4623
Statement by USDA Chief Veterinary Officer John Clifford Regarding a Detection of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in the United States
Assures Consumers That Existing Safeguards Protected Food Supply; Reiterates Safety of Consuming Beef Products
WASHINGTON, April 24, 2012 – USDA Chief Veterinary Officer John Clifford today released the following statement on the detection of BSE in the United States:
“As part of our targeted surveillance system, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has confirmed the nation’s fourth case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in a dairy cow from central California. 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. Additionally, milk does not transmit BSE.
“The United States has had longstanding interlocking safeguards to protect human and animal health against BSE. For public health, these measures include the USDA ban on specified risk materials, or SRMs, from the food supply. SRMs are parts of the animal that are most likely to contain the BSE agent if it is present in an animal. USDA also bans all nonambulatory (sometimes called “downer”) cattle from entering the human food chain. For animal health, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ban on ruminant material in cattle feed prevents the spread of the disease in the cattle herd.
“Evidence shows that our 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.
“Samples from the animal in question were tested at USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa. 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.
“We are sharing our laboratory results with international animal health reference laboratories in Canada and England, which have official World Animal Health (OIE) reference labs. These labs have extensive experience diagnosing atypical BSE and will review our confirmation of this form of the disease. In addition, we will be conducting a comprehensive epidemiological investigation in conjunction with California animal and public health officials and the FDA.
“BSE is a progressive neurological disease among cattle that is always fatal. It belongs to a family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. Affected animals may display nervousness or aggression, abnormal posture, difficulty in coordination and rising, decreased milk production, or loss of body weight despite continued appetite.
“This detection in no way affects the United States’ BSE status as determined by the OIE. 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.
“USDA remains confident in the health of the national herd and the safety of beef and dairy products. As the epidemiological investigation progresses, USDA will continue to communicate findings in a timely and transparent manner.”
My questions sent to Stephanie Chan, Office of Communications, USDA…
I have a few questions on today’s press release regarding the BSE Positive cow…
1. The release stated the cow was being held at a rendering facility, will this animal be destroyed by rendering? If so, can you provide a list of industries this particular renderer sells to such as the pet food industry?
2. The release states this animal tested positive for “atypical BSE” that is “not generally associated with infected feed”. Can you provide test results to verify the ‘atypical BSE’ and provide any data on this type of BSE not being associated with infected feed.
And this is the response I received…
Good afternoon, please see below for statement from Secretary Vilsack:
“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.”
Please visit www.USDA.gov/BSE to learn more about BSE and to find updates as USDA continues to investigate this incident and share information as it becomes available. Video of an interview with USDA’s Chief Veterinary Officer John Clifford on the BSE case is available HERE.
In other words, the USDA did not respond to my questions. For those unaware, FDA Compliance Policies allow rendered diseased animals to become animal feed/pet food ingredients. Federal law says it is illegal for a human food or animal food to contain any part of a diseased animal, but FDA allows it. Parts of a sick cow can be rendered – cooked – and become cattle feed, pig feed, poultry feed and pet food. My question of – and the USDA’s statement of – ‘infected feed’ – directly relates to the concern that serious illness can be transmitted through rendered diseased animals. To which they did not respond. The USDA – in an effort of transparency – should provide evidence this animal was destroyed and not rendered. (My guess would be this animal will not be rendered because it is clearly in the national spotlight. To learn more about the rendering industry, Click Here to view a 2004 Report to Congress on the Rendering Industry.)
As well, consumers deserve to have independent, unbiased scientists confirm the ‘atypical BSE’ diagnosis (BSE not contracted through contaminated feed).
Wouldn’t it just be simpler, cheaper in the long run, and certainly healthier to stop feeding livestock and pets rendered diseased animal waste?
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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