SALEM, Ohio – Tests confirmed a cow previously determined not to have mad cow disease was, in fact, positive.
The news came June 24, seven months after the animal first tested inconclusive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
The Office of Inspector General determined earlier this month further testing was needed on three cows that had inconclusive results in November. Two of them came back negative, and one came back positive. A sample of this positive animal was sent to Weybridge, England, for further testing.
Those results confirmed the cow did have the brain-wasting disease.
This is the second case of BSE in the U.S.
Who is the cow? According to Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns and APHIS Chief Veterinary Officer John Clifford, the cow was a downer animal and it was incinerated at a facility that did not take animals for human consumption. It did not enter the food supply, they said.
The cow was a beef breed and was at least 8 years old, meaning it was born before the feed ban, they said at a news conference June 24.
Johanns added there was no evidence the cow was imported.
Information about where the cow came from is not being released until epidemiological work is completed, he said.
Is beef safe? Despite the news of this second case of BSE, the USDA sticks by its word that the meat supply is safe.
“Frankly, we have said all along that we expected additional positive results,” Johanns said.
“One positive result out of 388,000 tests in our enhanced surveillance program indicates that the presence of the disease is extremely, extremely low in the United States.”
The intensified BSE monitoring program began after the first case of mad cow was found in the U.S. in December 2003.
To date, USDA has tested 388,309 cows.
Doubts. Not everyone, however, is as optimistic about the USDA’s testing procedures.
National Farmers Organization questions why it took seven months for the samples to be re-tested when the results were doubted.
“The market volatility and resulting losses cattlemen have suffered during USDA’s handling of the most recent BSE investigation does economic harm not only to beef producers, but spreads across all areas of agriculture,” said Paul Olson, the organization’s president.
“That’s why it is so important to only announce final, conclusive results to minimize market turmoil.”
American Farm Bureau echoed this sentiment, saying preliminary results, like those in November, should not be announced before the confirmatory tests are finished.
Spurring change. This most recent positive finding spurred Johanns to call for changes to USDA protocols.
At the news conference, he said he had concerns about the way animals’ samples were not separated during storage, how samples are handled after they get an inconclusive result, and inadequate paperwork after the November testing.
He also found samples were frozen, which is inconsistent with guidelines, but said this “did not compromise the integrity of the sample.”
Corrective actions are being taken to address these issues, Johanns said.
In addition, the USDA will now run both an immunohistochemistry (IHC) and Western blot test if another BSE test results in an inconclusive finding.
If results from either confirmatory test are positive, the sample will be considered positive for BSE.
(Reporter Kristy Hebert welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 23 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
USDA APHIS Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy
Conflicting results: Old ‘inconclusive’ may be BSE positive (6-16-2005)