BSE update; AFIA statement

Latest news on the U.S. BSE outbreak
December 26, 2003

The identification of BSE in a cow in the U.S. has sent shockwaves through livestock and feed commodity markets; the price of beef on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange today was down the $1.50 limit. Experts at Purdue University have said the scare could cost the American beef industry $2billion.

To date more than 20 countries have banned U.S. beef, including the three top importers: Japan, Mexico and South Korea. The European Union had already banned most U.S. beef  for a number of years because of the use of growth hormones.

It should be pointed out that in contrast to the single infected cow in Washington state, the United Kingdom has to date suffered 180,000 confirmed BSE cases and as many as 750,000 infected animals may have entered the British food chain before the disease was recognized.

The disease is believed to have been caused in the U.K. by the ingestion of rendered mamalian protein that contained brain and spinal cord material from infected animals.  For this reason the USDA is conducting a trace-back investigation to identify the birth herd of the infected U.S. cow.

The American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) has issued the following statement:

AFIA is working closely with U.S. government officials and industry groups following USDA’s announcement of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in a 4.5 year-old Holstein dairy cow from Mabton, Washington. The animal was purchased October 2001 and added to a farm of about 4,000 animals with 1,800 replacement heifers. USDA and FDA are tracing herd records to identify all animals that may have come in contact with the cow.

The cow was culled from its herd on December 9, after sustaining injury from calving, according to USDA. This injury was apparently the cause of hip paralysis in the animal. Because the animal was non-ambulatory when it arrived at slaughter, it underwent two USDA/FSIS veterinary inspections where no evidence of injury or disease beyond the calving-related paralysis was found. The animal was certified for slaughter, but brain, spinal cord and other related tissues were taken as part of USDA’s regular BSE surveillance program. It was these tissue samples that under "gold standard" testing showed positive for BSE.

AFIA is confident that the U.S. beef supply is safe and that appropriate actions are underway to further protect consumers and their food. AFIA staff is monitoring all developments and responding to calls. AFIA has further encouraged FDA to use all diligence in accessing the impact of this incident on the animal feeding industry.

USDA has been holding planning technical briefings almost daily. They can be accessed at

AFIA applauds the federal government for its quick actions in response to this incident. The finding is a result of USDA’s aggressive surveillance program and stands as an example of its effectiveness. (The diseased animal was detected in a very short time, sampled on December 9 and first positive reported on December 22).

Federal officials are discussing what actions may now be appropriate in light of the Washington case. In the meantime, the government is encouraging consumers to continue to purchase beef with the utmost confidence.

For further information, please contact Richard Sellers for technical information at 1-703/558-3569 or Rex Runyon for general information and news media referrals at 1-703/558-3579