Livestock News

Rare case of BSE detected in Alabama beef cow


An atypical form of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was confirmed in an eleven-year old Alabama beef cow. The Commissioner of Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, John McMillan, confirmed that the department is working with USDA officials to address the rare and spontaneous incident.

The animal was discovered during routine surveillance at an Alabama livestock market. This animal never entered slaughter channels and at no time presented a risk to food supply or to human health.

Following delivery to the livestock market the cow later died at that location. Routine tissue samples were taken and sent to diagnostic laboratories in Colorado and Iowa for testing and confirmation. The results were confirmed for atypical BSE at the USDA laboratory in Ames, Iowa.

Unlike previous cases of classical BSE, this case is not the result of ruminant by-products being fed to ruminants. The United States banned the use of such protein supplements in cattle in 1997. In 2009, the USDA implemented the enhanced surveillance testing programs to protect animal and human health. Included in the regulation was the removal of specified risk materials – or the parts of an animal that would contain BSE – from all animals presented for slaughter. Another important component of the system – which led to this detection – is the ongoing BSE surveillance program that allows USDA to detect the disease in the U.S. cattle population.

“The Alabama beef industry is vital to our state’s agriculture economy,” said Commissioner McMillan. “The response to this case by USDA officials and our department’s professionals led by State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Frazier has been exemplary. This instance proves to us that our on-going surveillance program is working effectively.”

State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Frazier added, “The ADAI conducts routine surveillance that includes collecting samples by trained field staff and veterinarians and has a response plan in place.”

United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) President Kenny Graner responded to the announcement saying:

“USCA appreciates the swift response and communication by the USDA to both industry and consumers on this issue.  The safeguards in place by the U.S. worked successfully to detect this atypical case before any product entered the food supply.  The U.S. has had four previous atypical cases reports, and in no way are these the same as the Classical BSE cases reported in the 1980s in the United Kingdom and which would affect public health.  Experts have reported that atypical BSE cases do not represent a risk to public health, and given the differences between Classical and atypical cases, the two should be categorized separately.”

“It must be reiterated that atypical BSE, as determined by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), does not affect the United States’ current status as “negligible risk for BSE”.  This categorization is a direct result of the fact that an atypical case occurs spontaneously in all cattle populations at a very low rate.  Today’s case will not affect the U.S. trade status or relations, nor will it affect public health.”

“U.S. cattle producers pride themselves on producing the safest beef products possible, today’s announcement doesn’t change this.  Safeguards are in place for this very reason and the industry will continue to work with our animal health experts and officials to detect and protect against such cases.”

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