Published Date: 2004-03-18 23:50:00
Subject: PRO/AH> BSE, bovine - USA (WA) (16): new regulations
Archive Number: 20040318.0747
BSE, BOVINE - USA (WASHINGTON) (16): NEW REGULATIONS
A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail, a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases
Date: 16 Mar 2004
From: A-Lan Banks <A-Lan.Banks@thomson.com>
Source: The Guardian, UK / Associated Press [edited]
The United States Agriculture Department (USDA) is planning a 10-fold
increase in the number of cattle tested for mad cow disease (BSE,
bovine spongiform encephalopathy) in response to discovery of the
nation's first case of the disease in December 2003.
The department announced plans Monday to test more than 221 000
animals over a 12- to 18-month period beginning in June 2004.
Included would be 201 000 animals considered to be at high risk of
BSE because they show signs of nervous system disorders such as
twitching. Random tests also will be conducted on about 20 000 older
animals sent to slaughter even though they appear healthy.
Those tests are aimed at sampling cattle old enough to have eaten
feed produced before 1997, when the Food and Drug Administration
banned the use of cattle tissue in feed for other cattle.
The government during 2003 conducted BSE tests on tissues from 20 543
animals, virtually all of which were cattle that could not stand or
walk. After the case in December 2003, the department initially
doubled the number of animals to be tested in 2004 to 40 000.
Agriculture Department officials emphasized that the expanded testing
regime announced Monday is a one-time deal only. They said they hope
to begin it in June 2004 and meet the total target over the next 12
to 18 months. Dr. Ron DeHaven, the USDA's top veterinarian, said the
need for testing in the range of 200 000 animals a year will be
re-evaluated once the initial round is completed.
Cattle eating the tissue of a diseased cow [or another cow] is
considered the primary way the misshapen protein blamed for BSE is
transmitted. For humans, eating meat that contains BSE can cause a
similarly rare but fatal illness in people, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob
disease (vCJD). Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman estimated that the
new testing will cost USD 70 million. She said the expanded testing
reflects the recommendations of an international scientific review
panel she appointed a week after BSE was confirmed in a Washington
state Holstein slaughtered on 9 Dec 2003.
"We are committed to ensuring that a robust U.S. surveillance program
continues in this country," Veneman said.
Nearly 50 countries imposed bans on American beef after the first US
case was confirmed. Poland has lifted its ban and Mexico has relaxed
its prohibitions, but major importers like Japan and South Korea have
said they will not allow American beef back in until all of the
approximately 35 million cattle slaughtered in the United States each
year are tested.
The new US testing plan still does not meet Japanese requirements,
said Tadashi Sato, agricultural attache at the Japanese Embassy in
Washington. "We want to see the US government introduce the same
system for beef safety, or at least an equivalent system, that we
have in Japan. We test all slaughtered cattle, regardless of age --
not some," he said. [Japan also does not slaughter 35 million or more
cattle annually. - Mod.TG]
Domestic critics also weren't satisfied.
Felicia Nestor, food safety director for the Government
Accountability Project, a watchdog group, said the new testing
doesn't guarantee that any animals with BSE won't enter the food
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) supported the
limited-duration testing program. But it said the new rapid tests
that return results without hours instead of weeks have the potential
to label animals as BSE-infected when they aren't. [These are most
commonly called false positives. - Mod.TG] The Agriculture Department
has said any positive results from the rapid tests will be verified
by more exact tests.
Before BSE, exports accounted for about 10 percent of the nation's
more than 26 billion pounds of beef produced each year. The
department expects to announce soon a new system of rapid tests that
will make the increased surveillance possible. The rapid tests could
be done at laboratories around the nation, as well as the
department's National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames,
Iowa, currently the only facility that can do testing.
The testing could find one case of BSE in 10 million animals, he
said. It would establish whether the United States has more cases of
BSE. DeHaven has said it's not necessary to test every animal because
the department's targeted surveillance program system would pick up
one case of BSE in 10 million animals. [Yet, CJD (not vCJD)
supposedly exists at a rate of 1 in 1 million. It could be higher if
reporting were mandatory, and science may link it to vCJD. Although
those allegations are yet to be proven, why is the USDA looking to
detect 1 case in 10 million, why not 1 case in 1 million? - Mod.TG]
[Byline: Ira Dreyfuss]