OAKLAND, CA – Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) has not been found in cattle in the United States despite an extensive program of detection. This is due to the unflagging efforts of the U.S. meat industry to assure that its products meet the highest safety standard possible. National Meat Association and other industry groups have, through education and assistance, made it possible for meat processors to enforce standards that meet or exceed those required by USDA.

NMA, and indeed the whole meat industry, supports USDA's efforts to ban risk materials and foreign livestock that are at risk from the disease. Fortunately, the U.S. is not at great risk. According to today's General Accounting Office (GAO) report, during the period when BSE would have been incubating, before the 1997 ban on such products, only about 0.35% of total imported beef and a minute 0.003% of total imported cattle came to the United States from countries that later discovered BSE. A Harvard risk assessment performed by leading scientists has determined that this amount, if it had led to any infection in the U.S. herd, would have been quickly eliminated.

The U.S. has a multi-tiered system of defenses in place, including inspection, detection and outright bans on risk materials, that make it nearly impossible for BSE to enter the country and guarantee that if it ever did it would not spread. “The GAO's reports of possible noncompliance by feed companies should not be taken lightly,” said NMA Executive Director Rosemary Mucklow. “However, we have every confidence that the system in place is very effective.”

According to the GAO report, the United States acted as many as 5 years earlier than other countries to impose controls over imports of animals and animal feed ingredients from countries that had experienced BSE. Similarly, U.S. surveillance efforts to test cattle brains for BSE met internationally recommended testing targets earlier than other countries. This should give Americans a very high level of confidence in their meat supply.

National Meat Association is a non-profit trade association representing meat packers and processors, as well as equipment manufacturers and suppliers who provide services to the meat industry. The association, with over 600 members throughout the United States, includes membership in Canada, Australia and Mexico.

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Jeremy Russell
National Meat Association
(510) 763-1533
[email protected]

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