To: NMA Members

Fr: Rosemary Mucklow
NMA Executive Director

Re: BSE Update

December 24, 2003

In a briefing this morning for NMA members, the following information about the presumptive positive BSE case reported yesterday was provided by senior government officials. Dr. Bobby Accord, Administrator of APHIS, was joined by Dr. Peter Fernandez, and Dr. Ron deHaven. Mr. Garry McKee, Administrator of FSIS was joined by Dr. Ken Peterson. Under Secretary Bill Hawks was joined by Mr. Chuck Lambert. 

Tests of tissue samples from a 4 ˝ year old Holstein cow, slaughtered with 19 other animals at Vern’s Meats, Moses Lake, WA on December 9, are reported by the USDA laboratory in Ames as presumptive positive for BSE. The cow was non-ambulatory, came from a dairy herd, and was sent to slaughter because of birthing problems. The tissue sample has been sent to the United Kingdom to the world’s premiere reference laboratory for confirmation, which can take 3 to 5 days. The SRMs (specified risk materials) went to inedible. The cow passed USDA post mortem inspection. It was sold to Mid-Way Meats in Centralia, WA, and meat from the cow went to Interstate Meat in Clackamas, OR and Willamette Meats. USDA officials are engaged in both trace-back and trace forward activities, and in an abundance of caution, FSIS issued a class 2 recall notice very early this morning for the 20 carcasses slaughtered at Vern’s on December 9. In their trace-back efforts, they hope to be able to identify the herd of origin. The dairy from which the cow went to auction has 4,000 animals and one of its owners is himself a veterinarian. This particular cow was bought by the dairy, and not born there.

USDA officials are working with the U.S.’s trading partners and all interested parties to keep them apprised of emerging information. Asian countries, notably Korea, China and Japan, have banned import of U.S. meat, despite the strong scientific evidence that BSE is not a contagious disease, and has never been found in muscle beef cuts. 

NMA, joined by other meat and livestock associations, met with USDA officials last summer to discuss BSE testing and result dissemination. USDA officials are currently considering several options, including emergency requests that tested carcasses be held, probably in boxed meat form, pending test results. They also confirmed that they will expect to close the comment deadline on the Canadian border proposal on January 5 as scheduled. 

We’ll continue to keep you informed.

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