From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 3, Number 40 - December 31, 2003
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BSE discovered in USA

by Cat Urbigkit

Last week's discovery of a dairy cow in Washington state that was diagnosed with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or "mad cow disease") has caused ripples of concern through the nation's beef industry and food consumers, and resulted exports being shut down, with a sharp drop in cattle futures and stocks of beef-serving food chains.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, on the morning of Dec. 25, the BSE world reference lab in Weybridge, England, confirmed USDA's Dec. 23 preliminary diagnosis of BSE in a single nonambulatory dairy cow that had been slaughtered on Dec. 9 at Vern's Moses Lake Meats in Washington state.

At the time of USDA's preliminary diagnosis on Dec. 23, USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service issued a Class II recall for the facility's entire day's production. The recall was classified as Class II due to the extremely low likelihood that the beef being recalled contains the infectious agent that causes BSE.

The herd the affected animal came from is under a state quarantine in Washington. While USDA has not made any decisions on the disposition of this herd, any cattle that die on the farm will be tested for BSE.

USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has determined the following additional information through its traceback investigation:

USDA's primary line of inquiry suggests that the affected animal likely entered the United States as part of a group of 74 dairy cattle that were imported through Eastport, Idaho, from Canada in 2001. Canadian officials are actively participating in efforts to trace this animal back to its birth herd.

There is some discrepancy in the records on the animal in question, according to USDA. Initial information obtained from the index herd owner indicate that this animal was 4 to 4-1/2 years old; Canada's records indicate that she was born in April 1997, making her 6-1/2 years old. USDA is working with Canada to ascertain the correct age of the animal in question and is initiating DNA testing to verify that the correct animal has been identified.

The group of animals imported from Canada in 2001 were all dairy cattle and entered the country only about 2-1/2 years ago. Most of them are likely still alive. And because of the records that are kept on dairy cattle, USDA is confident that the whereabouts of most, if not all, of them should be able to be traced. It is important to note that there is no scientific evidence to suggest that milk and dairy products carry the agent that causes BSE.

USDA is working to trace the whereabouts of all of the animals from the shipment in question. It must be emphasized that there is nothing to suggest that any of the other animals in the group were affected with BSE, according to the USDA. Indeed, even in the United Kingdom, where prevalence of this disease has been the highest, experience has indicated that usually only one or two animals in an affected herd are likely to have BSE.

The cow had recently given birth to a bull calf (resulting in the complications that led to her being culled), which was sold to a location in Sunnyside, Wash. Since the calf was not tagged, all bull calves at the Sunnyside premises under 30 days of age will likely be depopulated.

The cow in question has previously had two additional calves while in the index herd in Washington. One died at birth shortly after the cow's initial purchase by the index farm. One, a yearling heifer, remains in the index herd, where it is under a state quarantine.

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