SALEM, Ohio – The USDA has identified another cow that may have mad cow disease.
USDA Chief Veterinarian John Clifford said his lab had received nondefinitive test results July 26 from an animal sampled as part of the voluntary enhanced BSE surveillance program.
The test result means further testing is necessary before a correct diagnosis can be made.
Final tests results are expected this week.
More tests. USDA is conducting further tests on brain stem samples at the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa.
Experts from the International Reference Laboratory in Weybridge, England, are helping, and more samples were sent to the England laboratory for testing, Clifford said.
“It’s not a test that you can just buy off the shelf. And so there’s little variations between laboratories, and so what one may not detect another one might,” Clifford said of the decision to send samples to Europe.
From the farm. Clifford said a private veterinarian sent the sample from the cow that was at least 12 years old and experienced complications during calving.
USDA allows accredited vets to collect and submit samples for testing through its enhanced surveillance program.
Clifford said the veterinarian took the sample and preserved it in April 2005 but had put it aside and not submitted it until recently.
“On that point, I would like to emphasize while that time lag is not optimal, it has no implications in terms of the risk to human health,” Clifford said, noting the animal’s carcass was destroyed and did not enter the human food or animal feed chains.
Clifford said the USDA knows exactly where the animal came from but won’t release that information unless further testing shows a positive case of mad cow disease.
He said all indications showed the cow was from the United States.
Before the ban. The cow was born before the voluntary ruminant feed ban in 1996.
In 1997, the Food and Drug Administration made that ban mandatory, according to Terry Stokes, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
“International experts agree that a feed ban breaks the cycle of BSE and assures it will be eliminated,” Stokes said.
The FDA reports a 99.9 percent compliance rate for the feed ban, he said.
Enhanced. Clifford said the USDA’s enhanced surveillance program is designed to provide information about the level of prevalence of BSE in the United States.
Samples have been taken from more than 419,000 animals in the highest-risk population, he said.
To date, only one animal has tested positive for the disease as part of the surveillance program, he said.
(Reporter Andrea Myers welcomes reader feedback by phone at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at email@example.com.)
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