While Wednesday’s announcement that the US has found a rare atypical case of BSE in an aged dairy cow in California has hit headlines across the world, former US Department of Agriculture undersecretary Dr Richard Raymond has made some pertinent points to give the issue some context.
It can only be hoped that news-hungry media outlets worldwide pick up on some of his observations, and moderate any impact that might occur on red meat consumption both within the US and elsewhere, through unnecessary consumer alarm.
In his blog on yesterday’s MeatingPlace.com website, Dr Raymond presented the following facts:
Fact number 1: There has never been a case of variant Cruetzfeldt-Jakob Disease in a human associated with eating US beef. vCJD is the human condition resulting from consuming and becoming infected with the prions that cause Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle.
Fact number 2: The US has had a ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban in effect since 1997, a move designed to protect the health of its domestic cattle herd and the personal health of citizens.
Fact number 3: The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), has codified several action steps to control the risk of BSE and vCJD, including a list of materials that must be removed from the animal carcases and destroyed called Specified Risk Materials (SRMs).
Fact number 4: The Food Safety and Inspection Service worked day and night after the first cast of BSE was discovered in Washington State on December 23, 2003, to develop a list of interim rules to assure the safety of the beef supply, including mandatory removal of all SRMs under daily, continuous FSIS inspection.
Fact number 5: First cow with BSE in the US was discovered in 2003, the second in Texas in 2005 and the third in Alabama in 2006. The cow announced on April 24 to have BSE had ‘atypical’ BSE. That is good news because atypical is not contracted by consuming contaminated feed. I don’t know if it is a fact or not, but it is felt that atypical BSE may just be a part of aging, and that as long as we test, we should expect to see an occasional case.
Fact number 6: There has not been a case of ‘typical’ BSE in the US since 2006 and the feed ban has been in effect since 1997. Something tells me the feed ban is having the desired effect.
Fact number 7: USDA has tested over one million cattle, and found four positives. It has decreased the number of tests to 40,000 per year, but high risk animals are targeted.
Fact number 8: Every cow, before it goes to the knock box, is examined by an FSIS employee, usually a DVM, both at rest and in motion and if any sign of disease is seen, including central nervous system impairment, it does not enter the food chain.
Fact number 9: Worldwide, in 1992 37,000 head of cattle tested positive for BSE. In 2011 that number, worldwide, was 29. The spread of BSE has been contained very successfully worldwide.
Fact number 10: BSE does not appear in cattle under 30 months of age, and almost all of the US’s foreign export markets limit beef from the US to under 30 months of age. There is no reason to expect foreign sales to dip.
Fact number 11: No one has ever been sickened by BSE by eating US beef. (Maybe I already said that, but as consumer groups and media start calling for more testing and tighter controls, they need to be reminded of this fact many times over.)
Source: Meatingplace .com