DATA DRIVEN VIEW POINT - This from Aljazeer. This is an important source of independent news on the subject since mainstream US media may be unduly influenced by US laws and powerful interest groups that restrict reporting on the beef industry. According to Aljazeer’s numbers, about 4.4% of our domestic beef is tested by the FDA. That is a higher percentage than I expected, but still leaves 95.6% of our beef untested. A single frozen burger patty can contain parts hundreds or thousands of cows, according to some sources, further increasing the odds of something going wrong. But contrast this with the fact that the prior BSE detection was in 2006 and it starts to look like things are not so bad in the industry. You decide.
[UPDATE - See below for FDA announcement]
The first new case of mad cow disease in the US since 2006 has been discovered in a dairy cow in California as the world's top beef exporter scrambled to reassure consumers around the world.
No meat has entered the food chain and the cow "at no time presented a risk to the food supply or human health," the Department of Agriculture said on Tuesday, pointing out that the disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), cannot be transmitted through milk.
Despite the reassurances, the case set alarm bells ringing as previous mad cow discoveries in the US, Canada, Israel, Europe and Japan have caused disruptions to the global food trade worth billions of dollars.
A stream of sanctions and restrictions had to be introduced in some cases and entire herds of cattle had to be slaughtered, destroying the livelihoods of many farmers.
According to the US Meat Export Federation, beef brings more than $353 million into the United States, with Mexico, Canada, South Korea and Japan among the main export markets.
Large chunk of economy
The US has an estimated 90.8 million head of cattle, forming a large chunk of the economy in states like Texas, Nebraska, Kansas and California.
Around 40,000 US cattle are tested by the Department of Agriculture each year.
Samples from infected animal were sent to a laboratory in Ames, Iowa, where they proved positive for a rare form of the disease. The results are now being shared with labs in Britain and Canada.
"The US Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has confirmed the nation's fourth case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in a dairy cow from central California," a government statement said.
"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."
On the Chicago Mercantile Exchange the price of cattle futures fell on rumors of the news.
The biggest fear for US farmers will now be for sanctions on US beef, a possibility the Department of Agriculture tacitly addressed, and refuted.
"This detection should not affect US trade," they said.
More than 190,000 cases of mad cow disease have been detected in the EU since it was first diagnosed in Britain in 1986, forcing the destruction of millions of cows.
More than 200 people around the world are suspected to have died, most of them in Britain, from the human variant of the disease, which was first described in 1996.
Scientists believe the disease was caused by using infected parts of cattle to make feed for other cattle.
Authorities believe eating meat from infected animals can trigger the human variant of the fatal brain-wasting disease.
For Immediate Release: April 26, 2012
Media Inquires: Curtis Allen, 301-796-0393, firstname.lastname@example.org
Consumer Inquiries: 888-INFO-FDA
FDA Statement on USDA Announcement of Positive BSE Test Result
This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirmed that a dairy cow in California tested positive for atypical bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or "mad cow" disease). The USDA also confirmed the cow did not enter the animal feed or human food supply. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is working with federal and state authorities to further investigate this case.
The FDA is confident in the effectiveness of the existing animal feed safeguards designed to prevent the spread of BSE through feed. Although current science suggests that atypical cases of BSE, such as this one, are unlikely to be transmitted through animal feed, the FDA will work with the USDA to complete a thorough epidemiological investigation.
Importantly, scientific research indicates that BSE cannot be transmitted in cow's milk.
The FDA is committed to protecting the safety of the U.S. human food and animal feed supply from BSE. We will continue to work closely with the USDA and state officials on this public health issue and will provide updates as information becomes available.
Here is some information on BSE from Wikipedia:
Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as mad-cow disease, is a fatal neurodegenerative disease in cattlethat causes a spongy degeneration in the brain and spinal cord. BSE has a long incubation period, about 30 months to 8 years, usually affecting adult cattle at a peak age onset of four to five years, all breeds being equally susceptible. In the United Kingdom, the country worst affected, more than 180,000 cattle have been infected and 4.4 million slaughtered during the eradication program.
The disease may be most easily transmitted to human beings by eating food contaminated with the brain, spinal cord or digestive tract of infected carcasses. However, it should also be noted that the infectious agent, although most highly concentrated in nervous tissue, can be found in virtually all tissues throughout the body, including blood. In humans, it is known as new variant Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (vCJD or nvCJD), and by October 2009, it had killed 166 people in the United Kingdom, and 44 elsewhere Between 460,000 and 482,000 BSE-infected animals had entered the human food chain before controls on high-risk offal were introduced in 1989.
A British inquiry into BSE concluded that the epizootic was caused by cattle, who are normally herbivores, being fed the remains of other cattle in the form of meat and bone meal (MBM), which caused the infectious agent to spread. The cause of BSE may be from the contamination of MBM from sheep with scrapie that were processed in the same slaughterhouse. The epidemic was probably accelerated by the recycling of infected bovine tissues prior to the recognition of BSE. The origin of the disease itself remains unknown. The infectious agent is distinctive for the high temperatures at which it remains viable; this contributed to the spread of the disease in the United Kingdom, which had reduced the temperatures used during its rendering process. Another contributory factor was the feeding of infected protein supplements to very young calves.
The first reported case in North America was in December 1993 from Alberta, Canada., Another case reported later in May 2003. The first known U.S. occurrence came in December of the same year though it was later confirmed that it was a cow of Canadian origin and imported to the U.S. Canada announced two additional cases of BSE from Alberta in early 2005. In June 2005 Dr. John Clifford, chief veterinary officer for the United States Department of Agriculture animal health inspection service, confirmed a fully domestic case of BSE in Texas. Dr. Clifford would not identify the ranch, calling that "privileged information". A new case of Mad Cow disease was recently found in a dairy cow on April 23, 2012 inCalifornia during a planned Agriculture Department surveillance program. United States health authorities were quick to point out that the animal was never a threat to the nation's food supply and claim that this is an atypical case of BSE caused by "just a random mutation that can happen every once in a great while in an animal."