Mad Cow Test Increase To
Make US Beef Appear Safe

From Patricia Doyle, PhD

Hello, Jeff - The steps to be taken below are "intended" to make US beef products "appear" safe thus helping the US regain favor in the eyes of markets abroad.
It might also be construed as a step, albeit, a "baby-step" foward in the right direction, however, testing younger cattle needs to be done as well. We have leared from experience that prion disease in deer is being discovered more frequently since implementing the new rapid test. They are finding that they can identify infected deer at early stage.
I believe that if we don't test all ages of cattle, we will be unable to pick up the disease in early stage and people will still become infected via the meat of young cattle who are in asymptomatic stage of prion disease.
If the new testing regulations as explained below were simply intended to make US beef "appear" safe, then, I conclude the testing does NOT go far enough and will accomplish little if we do not diagnose younger animals infected with BSE.
A step in the right direction? Maybe? ...but not far enough. And then, what about the beef that enters the food chain "illegally?"
Patricia Doyle
A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail, a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases
By Ira Dreyfuss
The Guardian - UK
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 supply.
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],1282,-3866139,00.html
Patricia A. Doyle, PhD
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Zhan le Devlesa tai sastimasa
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