USDA issues statement on sick Texas cow

USDA issues statement on media speculation regarding sick cow in Texas sent for rendering prior to mandated BSE testing
May 4, 2004

In response to media reports that have questioned the health status of a cow that was taken to slaughter on Tuesday, April 27, 2004, at Lone Star Beef in San Angelo, Texas, Dr. Ron Dehaven, administrator of APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) and Dr. Barbara Masters, acting administrator, Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA, have issued a joint statement:

“The cow in question was condemned and prohibited from entering the human food chain on antemortem inspection by a veterinarian with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. The veterinarian condemned the animal after observing the cow stagger and fall, indicating either an injury or potentially a central nervous system (CNS) disorder or other health condition.

“Standard procedures call for animals condemned due to possible CNS disorder to be kept until APHIS officials can collect samples for testing. However, this did not occur in this case and the animal was sent to rendering. The rendered product from this animal did not enter the human food chain; it presents no risk to human health.

“The Food and Drug Administration’s feed ban prohibits rendered products from this or any other cow to be fed to other ruminants. FDA is addressing the proper disposition of the rendered product.

“We continue to investigate the circumstances of this case and will take appropriate actions once all information is available.

“USDA is currently enhancing its surveillance program. The program, which kicks off June 1, will target as many animals as possible from the populations considered to be at highest risk for BSE, including animals with signs of central nervous system disorders and nonambulatory animals. USDA will also include approximately 20,000 apparently healthy older animals in this sampling. As part of this effort, USDA is providing comprehensive training on USDA BSE sampling collection protocols to APHIS and FSIS employees, state veterinarians, accredited veterinarians, and participating veterinary technicians. The additional training effort will help ensure that clear communications occurs regarding collecting samples.

“APHIS has tested approximately 20,000 animals each year for the past two years as part of our BSE surveillance program. This testing includes targeted surveillance in adult animals that have clinical signs that could be considered consistent with BSE, such as animals with CNS signs, non-ambulatory animals and animals that die on the farm for unexplained reasons. Animals similar to the one in this case will continue to be part of this routine surveillance.”