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030527 Cattlemen Comment on Mad Cow Scare

May 21, 2003

Denver, CO - The Canadian Minister of Agriculture announced on May 20 the confirmation of a case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE, also known as mad cow disease) in an 8-year old cow in Alberta.

The U.S. does not have BSE and has worked for more than 15 years to prevent the introduction of this disease into the country.

NCBA applauds the swift action taken by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to comply with existing BSE regulations and stop all cattle, beef, sheep and goat imports from Canada until further notice. This includes all live animals and all ruminant animal food products.

NCBA also appreciates the swiftness with which the Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced this finding of BSE. We also appreciate Canada's aggressive investigation of this incident and support USDA's dispatch of a U.S. technical team to assist in the investigation.

Consumers should continue to eat beef with confidence. First, the Canadian case proves that the systems designed to protect consumers do work. The animal in question did not enter the food supply.

Americans can be confident in the safety of U.S. beef for a number of reasons:

* The BSE agent is not found in meat. It is found in central nervous system tissue such as brain and spinal cord.

* All U.S. cattle are inspected by a veterinarian before going to slaughter. Animals with any signs of neurological disorder are not permitted to enter the human food chain and are tested for BSE. These

samples are sent overnight to a federal laboratory, and the average turn-around time for the test is eight days.

* BSE affects older cattle, over 36 months of age. The vast majority of the cattle going to market in the U.S. are less than 24 months old. BSE has never been found in commercial cattle less than 24 months of age.

* The U.S. began a surveillance program for BSE in 1990 and was the first country without the disease within its borders to test cattle for the disease. The surveillance system targets all cattle with any signs of neurological disorder as well as those over 30 months of age. No BSE or any similar disease has ever been found in U.S. cattle. Test samples are shipped overnight to the National Veterinary Services Lab in Ames Iowa and results are provided within eight days.

* The U.S. banned imports of cattle and bovine products from countries with BSE beginning in 1989.

* A multi-year risk analysis conducted by Harvard University reported "the U.S. is highly resistant to any introduction of BSE." Harvard's report also said "Measures taken by the U.S. government and industry make the U.S. robust against the spread of BSE to animals or humans should it be introduced into this country."

Some media reports are speculating a link between chronic wasting disease in deer and BSE in cattle. This is not the case. Multiple research projects indicate there is no cross species transmission under natural conditions. This includes a 10-year trial at Colorado State University, now in its sixth year, in which cattle are co-mingled in a secure area with CWD-infected deer.

The U.S. has the safest food supply of any country in the world. Beef producers have enhanced product safety in recent years through checkoff-funded research and have specifically funded research that strengthens our knowledge of BSE to help assure the security of U.S. beef products.


Meat Industry INSIGHTS Newsletter
Meat News Service, Box 553, Northport, NY 11768