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Corvallis, OR, United States
My personal obsession with prion diseases with smidges of music I like and rescue dog advocacy from a disabled Oregonian.


Song in my head: This is the time to show Bush the door, Show Bush the door, show Bush the door. This is the time to show Bush the door. Vote Kerry this November.......... Mad Kane


How safe is commercially raised beef? Lets take a look at mad cow related news via FSNet Listserv, a food safety listserv, available by subscription. First an organization representing the marketing of cattle wants the USDA to strengthen their proposed BSE testing protocols.

R-CALF USA issues call to strengthen USDA's expanded BSE testing plan

Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA) CEO Bill Bullard today is calling on the United States Department of Agriculture to strengthen plans for testing additional cattle for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) to ensure that the source of BSE is accurately identified and that the highest risk cattle are tested. Only then can U.S. consumers and cattle be protected, should BSE-infected cattle be discovered.
"USDA should gather and release the country of origin of each tested cow so we can pinpoint the source and contain the disease. USDA also should target its tests to the highest risk animals -- those from Canada -- so that we are testing cattle most likely to have BSE," said Bullard, who will speak with USDA officials today to share his concerns on behalf of his organization which represents almost 10,000 cattle producers in 46 states.
Representatives of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange are reportedly holding a separate meeting with USDA officials today to raise concerns about the release of inconclusive test results and the possibility that USDA's plan may lead to uncertainty and volatility in the markets. While strongly supporting BSE testing in the United States, R-CALF USA shares these concerns.
"USDA should not publicly release information on inconclusive tests because it may lead to unnecessary concerns on the part of the public and the commodities markets," Bullard said. "The agency should wait until it knows the test results are conclusive before releasing them to the public. The current testing plan may very well generate results that are false positives leading to unfounded concerns."
In addition to concerns about releasing inconclusive results, R-CALF USA took issue with USDA's unwillingness to identify the country of origin of tested cattle. The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) categorizes cases of BSE based on the country of origin of the animal because that produces the best scientific correlation to where the disease appeared and where BSE prevention problems may lie. USDA's failure to gather and release country of origin information may unnecessarily put at risk the United States' status under international standards as provisionally BSE-free.
R-CALF USA also expressed concern that the USDA plan was not targeted toward the cattle most likely to carry BSE. There are approximately 450,000 Canadian cattle in the United States. In light of the fact that two Canadian cattle in the past year have tested positive for BSE -- and no U.S. cattle have tested positive -- those 450,000 Canadian cattle are a higher risk population within the United States. Those cattle should be identified and tested as part of any USDA testing program.
Even though the BSE testing program began June 1, USDA officials acknowledged that many components of the program are still being drafted. R- CALF USA urged USDA to take into account the negative effects of releasing potentially misleading information, the need to identify animal origin consistent with international standards, and the need to properly target its testing program when making final decisions about its testing plans.

And not to be an alarmist or anything, but we still need to pay attention to stories like this one.....

Britain checks for new brain disease in cattle
June 8, 2004
LONDON - Farm officials were cited as saying on Tuesday that British government vets are carrying out fresh tests on a cow that died from a type of brain disease that has yet to be identified.
An agriculture ministry spokesman was quoted as saying, "The Veterinary Laboratories Agency has recorded what is possibly a new condition in cattle in the initial diagnosis suspected botulsim but that has now been ruled out." Officials were further cited as saying that research into the causes of the heifer's death -- which came about a week after the animal began suffering from progressive paralysis -- was already under way.
Farm officials were keen to play down any suggestion that the disease could be a form of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the human form of which has been linked to the deaths of more than 130 people in Britain.
However, scientists have said several strains of the deadly brain-wasting disorder might exist.

And will this resume consumer confidence?

Trinidad lifts its ban on US beef imports

Trinidad opened its market to American beef and beef products for cattle under 30 months of age, according to the USDA. Trinidad joins Indonesia on the list of countries that have resumed importing American beef following the single case of BSE reported last December in Washington State.

And as I have cited before in this blog, the USDA might not be up to the huge task of protecting our commercial beef supply....

USDA did not test possible mad cows

The U.S. Department of Agriculture claims it tested 500 cows with signs of a brain disorder for mad cow disease last year, but, according to this story, agency documents obtained by United Press International show the agency tested only half that number.
USDA officials were cited as saying the difference is made up in animals tested at state veterinary diagnostic laboratories, but these animals were not tested using the "gold standard" test employed by the agency for confirming a case of the deadly disease. Instead, the story says, the state labs used a less sensitive test that experts say could miss mad cow cases.
In addition, the state lab figures were not included in a March 2004 USDA document estimating the number of animals most likely to be infected among U.S. herds, and apparently were not given to a congressional committee that had requested agency data on the number of cows with brain disorder signs that had been tested for the disease.
Felicia Nestor, senior policy adviser to the Government Accountability Project, a group in Washington, D.C., that works with federal whistleblowers, was quoted as saying, "This is just adding to the demise of USDA's credibility. If the USDA is going to exclude from testing the animals most likely to have the disease, that would seem to have a very negative impact on the reliability of their conclusion. … Are they deliberately avoiding testing animals that look like they have the disease?"
Dr. Peter Lurie, of the consumer group Public Citizen, was cited as saying that CNS cows should be the one category that absolutely has to be tested to have a sound surveillance system, adding, "CNS animals are far and away the most important animals to test. If there's any category that needs 100 percent testing, that's it, because they would be the most likely place to find mad cow in America. Any CNS cow that slips into the food supply represents a major case of malpractice by USDA, and similarly, the failure to test the brain of that animal to see if it was indeed infected is really a failure to protect the public."

APHIS announces toll-free number to report high-risk cattle

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced a new toll–free number to report high-risk cattle in the United States.
The toll-free number for the bovine spongiform encephalopathy surveillance program is 866/536-7593.
Callers reporting high–risk cattle will connect with a local APHIS office that will provide additional information. USDA will help defray costs incurred by industries participating in the surveillance program for such items as transportation, disposal, storage and tested carcasses.
As part of APHIS' enhanced BSE surveillance effort, producers, renderers, veterinarians, and others obtaining samples from high-risk cattle targeted in this program should call the toll-free number and report high-risk cattle if they see:
Non–ambulatory cattle
Cattle exhibiting signs of a central nervous system disorder
Cattle exhibiting other signs that can be associated with BSE, such as emaciation or injury
Dead cattle
For more information, go to the APHIS Web site.

So, if you spot and cattle tweeking out, you will know what to do...

Biological storm coming, warns Canada's top veterinarian and BSE expertJune 10, 2004
CP Wire
SASKATOON --- Brian Evans, Canada's chief veterinarian, was cited as telling a conference Thursday of about 200 veterinarians at Saskatoon's Western College of Veterinary Medicine that the emergence of new diseases like SARS, avian flu, West Nile Virus, mad cow and chronic wasting disease suggests society is at "the convergence of the perfect biological storm," noting that in 1978, scientists predicted new diseases would come every 10 to 15 years, and that 10 years later, that was revised to eight or nine years, adding, "Now, we're told there's going to be a new disease discovered every 14 to 16 months. We're also seeing malaria transferred in Canada in a way we haven't since the 1800s."
Evans was further cited as saying that the diseases are moving across continents extremely quickly, and that a disease found in Texas cattle could hit Alberta within 36 hours.
Some factors for the increased incidence of diseases are globalization, climate change, immigration, wildlife farms and the diversification of foreign animal species, such as emus, with Evans further quoted as saying, "We're dealing with new species and new pathogens as a result. And an outbreak in one sector impacts another, such as BSE starting in cows and spreading to sheep. … Animal movements are not always managed by political measures. Birds don't declare at the borders when they cross over."
The key to controlling the situation is cooperation and communication, he said.
Working together will lead to better prevention, preparedness and response, which translates into a quicker recovery.

Aussie beef captures market share in Japan

Australian exports of beef to Japan hit record levels, with the country supplying 90 percent of Japan's imported beef, according to the Cattle Council of Australia.
America was the single largest exporter of beef to Japan before the discovery of a cow with bovine spongiform encephalopathy in Washington state in December.

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