To:  NMA Members

Fr:  Rosemary Mucklow

Re:  The Cow That Stole Christmas

December 27, 2003

USDA held another media briefing this morning (T: 1-866-487-3226). A transcript of the briefing is available on USDA’s website. The next briefing will be 11 o’clock on Sunday, December 28. In summary, information today is:

New preliminary information suggests that the cow that has tested positive for BSE entered the United States through Eastport, Idaho as part of a lot of 74 dairy animals in August 2001. Further, preliminary info suggests that it was born in Alberta, Canada in April 1997, and that it gave birth to two calves before coming to the U.S.  To confirm this, USDA is conducting DNA tests, which will take about a week. It is likely that others in the lot of 74 animals are still alive, and tracing their whereabouts is ongoing. USDA officials said that, even at the height of the BSE problem in the UK, only 1 or 2 animals in a herd were likely to test positive, but in an abundance of caution, they are working to trace all of the herd, which came with this index cow. Further, milk and dairy products have not been shown to be carriers of the rogue BSE protein.

25% of the meat processed which contained meat from this carcass is still at Interstate. Customers of both Interstate and Willamette have been contacted to return any meat remaining on hand. It is too early to provide information about how much has been recovered. FDA officials confirmed that they have under control product made from rendered material for both Mid-Way and Vern’s Meat for the day in question. 

During the Q&A, the following points were made:

  • USDA’s TSE working group is evaluating all evidence, and no decision has been made about de-population of the index herd. The slaughter of non-ambulatory livestock occurs for many reasons; post mortem inspection assures against diseased livestock entering the food supply. USDA conducts BSE testing on the potentially high-risk animals that may evidence neurological conditions at ante mortem inspection. Meat from the carcass of the index cow is very low-risk, and the recall is being conducted out of an abundance of caution.\
  • The cows that were tested for BSE on the day in question included the index animal and other non-ambulatory livestock -- not all the animals slaughtered that day.
  • Investigators found a match of the ear tag for the index cow to the Canadian tags with the same number. This would be consistent with the cattle movement between the U.S. and Canada. 
  • There is no BSE test, at this time, for live cattle.
  • With respect to the likelihood of cosmetics that contain rendered material, tallow is used in cosmetics, but is a fat; the prion protein has not been found in fat – it is carried forward in the protein material.
  • The U.S. delegation to Japan includes David Hegwood, Trade Adviser to Ag. Secretary Ann Veneman and Dr. Charles Lambert, Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing & Regulatory Affairs. They are en route, and will team up with Japanese-based U.S. officials from APHIS, FAS and FSIS in Tokyo for meetings on Monday.

Dr. Ron DeHaven, Chief Veterinary Officer for the United States, Dr. Stephen Sundlof, Food & Drug Administration, Dr. Kenneth Petersen, Food Safety & Inspection Service were joined by Dr. Brian Evans, Chief Veterinary Officer for the Canadian Food Inspection Authority on the call.

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