USDA has confirmed a positive test result as part of its enhanced surveillance program to test cattle for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). USDA has confirmed this animal did not enter the human food or animal feed supply. USDA is conducting an investigation to confirm the origin and age of this animal.
 
The bottom line for consumers remains the same: Beef is safe. Experts in human and animal health agree that U.S. beef is safe from BSE because of the progressive steps taken by the U.S. government over the past two decades. The world’s leading scientists, medical professionals and government officials agree that BSE is not a public or animal health risk in the U.S.
 
Should you receive local media inquiries, questions from retail partners or others, here are some talking points on BSE.
 
We recommend that you continue to drive traffic back to the BSE website, www.bseinfo.org. We are also activating Masters of Beef Advocacy (MBA graduates) to engage in social media and we have set up a twitter handle @BSEInfo so that we can re-tweet factual information. We encourage you to utilize your Twitter handles to share accurate information, using the hashtag #mad cow or #BSEInfo.

  • USDA announced a positive test result on April 24, 2012, as part of its targeted surveillance program to test cattle for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has confirmed the nation's fourth case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in a dairy cow from central California. According to USDA, the carcass of the animal is being held under State authority at a rendering facility in California and will be destroyed. It was never presented for slaughter for human consumption, so at no time presented a risk to the food supply or human health.
  • The bottom line for consumers remains the same: all U.S. beef is safe. The BSE agent is not found in meat like steaks and roasts. It is only found in central nervous system tissue such as brain and spinal cord. Experts in human and animal health agree that U.S. beef is safe from BSE because of the multiple interlocking safeguards and progressive steps taken by the U.S. government over the past two decades. The world’s leading scientists, medical professionals and government officials agree that BSE is not a public or animal health risk in the U.S.
  • The collaboration between the beef community, government and scientists has been successful in implementing and maintaining science-based measures to prevent and reduce the spread of BSE in the U.S.
  • U.S. cattlemen do not anticipate this announcement to have an impact on our relationship with our international trading partners. The U.S. will continue to engage in trade that is consistent with the international standards outlined by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), and we expect countries that trade with us to do the same.USDA’s ongoing BSE surveillance program tests approximately 40,000 high-risk cattle annually, bringing the total of tested animals to more than 1 million since the program began. A scientific analysis of seven years of surveillance data found the estimated prevalence of BSE in the U.S. to be less than one infected animal per 1 million adult cattle.BSE is fast approaching eradication worldwide—according to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the leading international body for animal healthy, there were only 29 cases of BSE worldwide in 2011, which is a 99 percent reduction since the peak in 1992 at more than 37,300 cases. This is only the fourth case of BSE in the U.S., compared to more than 37,000 cases in the U.K. alone during peak occurrence in 1992. In May 2007, OIE designated the U.S. a ‘controlled BSE risk’ country in recognition of these strong prevention measures. Experts in human and animal health agree that U.S. beef is safe from BSE because of the progressive steps taken by the U.S. government over the past 20 years.
  • Preventive measures going back to 1989 have ensured that BSE would not become a serious animal or human health issue in this country.
  • As America's cattle farmers and ranchers, our number-one priority has always been providing the safest beef in the world. Our livelihood depends on it, and that’s why we have worked with the government and top scientists for more than 20 years to build, maintain and expand the BSE safeguards that today are protecting our cattle as well as your family and our own families.

BSE is extremely rare in the U.S.

  • The U.S. started taking preventive steps against BSE in 1989.  BSE is not a risk in this country because significant actions were taken well before there was an opportunity for this disease to take hold.
  • BSE can only be spread through contaminated feed and, in 1997, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with the full support of the beef industry, banned from cattle feed such protein supplements that could spread BSE. BSE is not a contagious disease.
  • USDA’s ongoing BSE surveillance program tests approximately 40,000 high-risk cattle annually, bringing the total of tested animals to more than 1 million since the program began. A scientific analysis of seven years of surveillance data found the estimated prevalence of BSE in the United States to be less than one infected animal per 1 million adult cattle.
  • The already low risk in this country, coupled with an effective feed ban supports the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis projections that, if BSE currently exists in the U.S., it is extremely rare.

Because of the strong measures in place, the risk of BSE in the U.S. is approaching zero.

  • USDA Public Health Veterinarians examine every single animal before processing and condemn those with any signs of illness. Animals most likely to have BSE are older animals either unable to walk or showing signs of neurological disease. Such animals are banned from the human food supply.
  • The strong BSE measures we have in place in the U.S. apply to all beef produced in this country. All beef, regardless of whether it is organic, natural or conventionally raised, is safe. No cattle in the U.S. can be fed animal by-products that could spread BSE.
  • The BSE surveillance program in the U.S. is designed to detect the disease even if the prevalence rate is as low as one case per 1 million adult cattle.
  • The BSE risk in this country is so low, in part, because of a progressive series of strong actions taken by the U.S. government. Actions such as removal of materials that would most likely carry BSE, banning animals that show signs of the neurological disease and the effective feed ban ensure the very low risk of BSE in the U.S.

SRM Removal       

The most recent firewall established by USDA mandates removal from the food supply material that would most likely carry the BSE agent (such as brain and spinal cord). This process happens every day with every animal to ensure this diminishing disease has no affect on public health.

  • BSE infectivity exists primarily in nervous system tissues such as the spinal cord and brain of older animals with this rare disease, and USDA mandates that these materials are removed prior to processing.

Banning animals that cannot walk or show signs of neurological disease

  • In 2003, USDA strengthened its food safety program by banning from the human food supply any cattle that are unable to walk or show signs of possible neurological disease.

Feed Ban

  • In 1997, the FDA banned feeding ruminant-derived protein to cattle. This feed ban breaks the cycle of BSE.  

If asked about the susceptibility of other animals:

Dogs, birds, reptiles and horses are not known to be susceptible to the infectious agent that causes BSE in cattle. However, cats are susceptible. Approximately 90 cats in the U.K. and several cats in other European countries were diagnosed with the feline version of BSE, or FSE.

Currently in the U.S., some animal products that are prohibited from cattle feed are acceptable for use in pet food. Such products include meat and bone meal, for example. However, FDA believes that the safeguards it has put into place (i.e. ruminant feed rule) to prevent BSE in the U.S. have also protected cats. To date, no case of FSE has been found in the U.S. FDA continues to review these safeguards to be sure they are adequate.

To learn more about BSE, information can found at the following Web sites:

    •    Centers for Disease Control Q&A
    •    Food and Drug Administration Q&A
    •    USDA Q&A