Efforts to contain impact of US mad cow disease

By Michael Kosmides

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: United states, Mad cow disease, European union, Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, Beef

Efforts to contain impact of US mad cow disease
The United States government has told GlobalMeatNews that there should be no reason why countries should ban its beef imports following the discovery of its first bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) case in six years, in California.

A spokesperson for the US Department of Agriculture  (USDA) said: “The United States has in place all of the elements of a system that OIE ​[World Organisation for Animal Health] has determined ensures that beef and beef products are safe for human consumption: a mammalian feed ban, removal of specified risk materials, and vigorous surveillance. Consequently, this detection should not affect US trade.”

Of all major US trade partners, only two South Korean retailers and Indonesia have thus far suspended American beef imports. The European Union (EU), however, has decided not to ban US beef imports. The European Commission's health and food safety spokesman Frederic Vincent said: "This is the first animal to be found in six years, which shows that the surveillance system they have in the United States is working."

Speaking to the GlobalMeatNews​, he noted that in the EU last year, with its own BSE surveillance system, there were 28 cases of cows with mad cow disease. “Systems have been put in place and these systems allow us to remove from the market any animal which has BSE disease, with health being the priority,"​ Vincent stressed.

USDA also argued that BSE was a problem that could soon disappear. Its statement noted a dramatic decline in cases, to 29 worldwide in 2011 compared to more than 37,000 in 2009, saying this was directly attributable to the impact and effectiveness of feed bans as a primary control measure. A USDA spokesperson told GlobalMeatNews​ that their inspectors prevent non-ambulatory disabled cattle from entering the human food supply.

"In addition they prevent certain slaughter practices that might present a risk of transmission of BSE.​ [They] condemn any cattle that display clinical signs of neurological disease or central nervous system disorders. To prevent the disease's transmission to people, the single most important food safety measure is to avoid human consumption of SRMs. Inspectors in every slaughterhouse in the United States work to ensure these and other food safety standards are met,"​ he said.

OIE officials added that the American precautions taken so far are consistent with OIE standards and there should be no implications for the current US risk categorisation. And while they are waiting for notification of data on the US case data, an OIE statement noted the detection demonstrates the national surveillance system in the US is efficient.

Related topics: Meat

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