USDA says mad cow disease found in cow in California

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

This file photo shows a cow with BSE unable to stand.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has confirmed that a case of 'mad cow disease' (BSE) has been found in a dairy cow in central California. The disease is described as "atypical." None of the milk or beef from the cow made it to the consumption level.

"It (the cow) was never presented for slaughter for human consumption, so at no time presented a risk to the food supply or human health. Additionally, milk does not transmit BSE," said John Clifford, who heads the USDA's veterinary department. Tom Vilsack, the USDA's Agriculture Secretary also said the food supply is safe saying, "The beef and dairy in the American food supply is safe and USDA remains confident in the health of U.S. cattle. The systems and safeguards in place to protect animal and human health worked as planned to identify this case quickly, and will ensure that it presents no risk to the food supply or to human health. USDA has no reason to believe that any other U.S. animals are currently affected, but we will remain vigilant and committed to the safeguards in place."

According to reports, the cow was found in a rendering facility where testing turned back a positive match for the disease. Clifford says the cow's carcass will be destroyed. It is currently being held in a rendering facility in California under state authority.

"As part of our targeted surveillance system, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has confirmed the nation's fourth case of BSE in a dairy cow from central California," said Clifford in a statement to the press. "Samples from the animal in question were tested at USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa. Confirmatory results using immunohistochemistry and western blot tests confirmed the animal was positive for atypical BSE, a very rare form of the disease not generally associated with an animal consuming infected feed," he added.

This is the fourth cow in the United States to test positive for the disease since December of 2003 when a cow from a Washington State farm, born in Canada, tested positive for the disease.

"We are sharing our laboratory results with international animal health reference laboratories in Canada and England, which have official World Animal Health (OIE) reference labs," added Clifford.

Rumors of the find began to spread early Tuesday. As a result, cattle trading futures fell nearly US$3.00 per hundredweight for a live cow on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. On Tuesday morning, the price for a live cow was just under US$120.00 "The markets were very vulnerable due to a large ownership of live cattle futures by speculative fund managers, who quickly headed to the sideline with the rumor hit," said Arlan Suderman a market analyst for Farm Futures.

According to the USDA statement, mad cow disease "is a progressive neurological disease among cattle that is always fatal. It belongs to a family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. Affected animals may display nervousness or aggression, abnormal posture, difficulty in coordination and rising, decreased milk production, or loss of body weight despite continued appetite."

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