Potential BSE case found in US

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Usda, Bovine spongiform encephalopathy

The US beef industry is waiting with baited breath while the
Department of Agriculture (USDA) retests a sample suspected of
being from a cow infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy
(BSE).

The retesting highlights a problem with different methods of testing for BSE, which can produce contradictory results. The sample had previously tested negative using a rapid method used by the USDA. Out of 375,000 animals tested since June 2004 using the rapid method, three returned inconclusive results the USDAsaid in a statement on 10 June. The animal samples were subsequently retested using the immunohistochemistry (IHC) test. All three animals tested negative under IHC, an internationally recognised method. Earlier last week a review team recommended that all three of the samples should be subjected to a second internationallyrecognised confirmatory test, the SAF immunoblot test. SAF is often referred to as the Western blot test. Of the three samples, two were negative, but the third came back as "weak positive", the USDA said. The sample was from an aged downer animal first identified in November 2004. Because of the conflicting results the USDA has sent the sample to a reference laboratory in Weybridge, England for further analysis. The USDA will also conduct further testing on the sample, whichthe government body said would take several days to complete. "In the case of this animal, it was a non-ambulatory (downer) animal and as such was banned from the food supply," the USDA said. "It was processed at a facility thathandles only animals unsuitable for human consumption, and the carcass was incinerated." The animal involved was born before August 1997, after which the USDA imposed new feed rules designed to prevent the spread of the brain-wasting livestock illness. BSE, or mad cow disease, first appeared in North America when the disease was detected in an Alberta heifer in May 2003. Two other cases were subsequently discovered. The US and other countries then closed their borders to Canadian beef. Two other cases of BSE were subsequently found in Canada this year. One case of BSE was discovered in the US in Washington state in December 2003. Several countries also banned US beef imports as they previously did Canadian imports. While some have relaxed restrictions, Japan, the largest foreign market for US beef, has not. Scientists believe eating the BSE infected beef is the cause of the human variant, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a fatal brain disorder that led to the death of about 150 people, mostly in the UK in the 1990s. Last month the US agriculture secretary, Mike Johanns, unveiled the proposals on the national animal identification system and opened them to comments from the industry and interested parties. A study released in April by the Kansas Agriculture Department estimates the industry lost up to $4.7 billion last year because of the mad cow case in Washington. Top markets for US beef (accounting for over 90 per cent of total beef exports) Vol: millions of lbs. carcass weight. Val: $m 2002 2003 2004 Volume Value Volume Value Volume Value Japan 771 843 920 1,167 12 0.6 Mexico 629 596 589 604 334 372 South Korea 597 610 588 749 1 0.4 Canada 241 286 226 321 56 94

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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