Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today released USDA's estimate of the prevalence of BSE in U.S. cattle herds.

The estimate of BSE prevalence is based on data gathered from enhanced surveillance since June 2004 and surveillance data from the five years prior to the first case of BSE. Two methods were used -- the BSurvE Prevalence B method and Bayesian birth-cohort method -- and the findings of the methods were similar. They indicate that the most likely number of cases in the U.S. is between four and seven animals. USDA concluded, from that data, that the prevalence in the U.S. is less than 1 case/million adult cattle. The adult cattle population in the U.S. is about 42 million head.

"We can now say, based on science, that the prevalence of BSE in the U.S. is extraordinarily low," Johanns says. "The testing and analysis reinforce our confidence in the health of the U.S. cattle herd, while our interlocking safeguards -- including the removal of specified risk materials and the feed ban -- protect animal and human health."

USDA says it will use the prevalence analysis to design an ongoing BSE surveillance program for the U.S., after it is peer reviewed. -- Stephanie Veldman