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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.


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MAD COW UPDATE, part three

Many of the articles are snipped from FSNet listserv, a food safety listserv, available by subscription. I try and provide links to articles if they are given or if I can find them.

For months, agriculture department delayed announcing result of mad cow test

Although the U.S. Agriculture Department was cited as confirming Friday that a cow that died last year was infected with mad cow disease, a test the agency conducted seven months ago indicated that the animal had the disease and the result was never publicly disclosed.The stories say that the delay in confirming the United States' second case of mad cow disease seems to underscore what critics of the agency have said for a long time: that there are serious and systemic problems in the way the Agriculture Department tests animals for mad cow.Indeed, the lengthy delay occurred despite the intense national interest in the disease and the fact that many countries have banned shipments of beef from the United States because of what they consider to be lax testing policies.Until Friday, it was not public knowledge that an "experimental" test had been performed last November by an Agriculture Department laboratory on the brain of a cow suspected of having mad cow disease, and that the test had come up positive. -LINK-

Taiwan's top health official sued over US beef imports

Angry parliamentarians were cited as filing a lawsuit Monday against Taiwan's top health official for refusing to remove US beef imports from the market despite fears the meat is contaminated with mad cow disease. The legal action against Taiwan's health department chief Hou Sheng-mao was taken two days after the department reimposed a ban on US beef that it originally lifted in April after a new US case was announced at the weekend. An MP from the Taiwan Solidarity Union party, Lai Shin-yuan, said the parliamentarians were suing Hou for failing to remove US beef imported since April from the island's supermarket shelves. -LINK-

CSPI reaction to new mad cow confirmation and administration's "faith-based mad cow policy"

It appears the animal that recently was confirmed as positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy did not enter the human food supply. But since the United States does not have a mandatory animal tracking system, USDA's strategy is basically to cross its fingers and hope that beef from a BSE-infected animal doesn't end up on Americans' dinner plates. Call it a faith-based mad cow policy. In May, Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns put national animal identification on a slow boat and delayed implementation until 2009. Canada was able to move from a voluntary to a mandatory animal tracking system in one year. There's no reason why the United States can't implement a system just as good as Canada's just as quickly. -LINK-

Australia beef backs U.S. in new mad cow case

Australia's beef industry, which banked a big pay-off from mad cow disease in the United States 18 months ago, was cited as urging Japanese consumers on Tuesday not to turn away from red meat after a new case of the disease.Michael Hartmann, deputy director of Cattle Council of Australia, was quoted as saying, "It's a terrible thing that a whole nation's industry can be brought to its knees by one old animal that comes down with this disease that doesn't really mean much in the scheme of things any more. … One would hope for the sake of industry that they (Japanese authorities) look at it on a scientific basis and recognize that its not really posing any great threat." -LINK-

SDA's BSE test protocols spur worldwide rumblings

Taiwan snapped its border shut to U.S. beef hours after Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced that a false-negative test for bovine spongiform encephalopathy had been confirmed as positive by a British laboratory. Japan's initial reaction was moderate, but after discovering more details about the evidently bungled testing protocols USDA has used, demanded full records of the tests that took place last fall.Meanwhile, leading U.S. newspapers published scathing attacks on USDA for, among other things, mingling the parts of the suspect animal with parts from other animals from different herds; freezing the remains, which makes detection more difficult; and failing to order the most definitive test on the market, the Western blot test. -LINK-

Indonesia bans U.S. beef from Thursday

Tri Satya Putri Naipospos, director for animal health at the Agriculture Ministry, was cited as telling Reuters on Wednesday that Indonesia will ban imports of U.S. beef and beef products from Thursday due to concerns over bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). -LINK-

Mad cow

The latest case of mad cow disease has, according to this story, brought new talk of a national livestock tracking system, something the chairman of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee says the beef industry can create more quickly than the government.The story says that the Agriculture Department, which confirmed the new case on Friday, is using DNA analysis because the cow's breed was mislabeled and its tissues got mixed with parts from other cows. -LINK-

Case of mad cow in Texas is first to originate in U.S.

John Clifford, chief veterinary officer for USDA's department's animal health inspection service, was cited as saying that the cow that was found last week to have mad cow disease spent its whole life in Texas, making it the first domestic case of the disease.Clifford was further cited as saying the animal's age -- 12 -- made it likely that it was infected before the 1997 ban on feeding protein from ruminants like cows and sheep to other cattle, and the Food and Drug Administration will check the feed logs from the ranch where the cow was raised and the processing records of plants where that feed was made to see that the ban was complied with. -LINK-

Delauro calls for USDA, FDA to coordinate attack on BSE

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) has sent letters to the heads of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration urging them to coordinate their oversight of bovine spongiform encephalopathy to avoid "presenting a dangerous gap in oversight of our food supply." DeLauro told that with more members of the House becoming concerned about the conflicting and overlapping roles of the two agencies, hearings may be scheduled.She joined Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) in calling for an accelerated program to develop a comprehensive animal identification and traceback system. "We've been talking about this for years and years," she said. "It's time to do something." Goodlatte, the chairman of the House Agricultural Committee, has said that he is open to a system developed by private industry if it can be enacted quickly, unlike USDA's National Animal Identification System (NAIS), which won't become fully operational until 2009.In her letters to USDA and FDA, DeLauro demanded that loopholes in the ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban be closed, that USDA develop a credible testing protocol for BSE, and that a national traceback system be established immediately. -LINK-

Mad cow-Johanns

The UU.S. [sic] government, according to this story, put in place protections against the spread of mad cow disease after the first U.S. case, but some 18 months later, those safeguards still are temporary.With confirmation of a second case of the brain-wasting disease, consumer groups are, the story says, asking for a permanent ban to keep "downer" cattle -- those unable to walk -- from entering the food supply. -LINK-

Round 2 for mad cow disease

Mike Johanns, the new U.S. agriculture secretary, was quoted as saying a few days ago, "I enjoyed beef this noon for lunch. It is the safest beef in the world." The editorial says that this is what agriculture secretaries are paid to say, especially now that a second American cow has mad cow disease. The cow was tested several times here, with contradictory results. The conclusive test was done seven months later in England.Mr. Johanns insisted that the system worked and was being improved. The cow, which was badly crippled, was kept out of the food supply. Mr. Johanns said that more cows, some 388,000 annually, were being tested, enough to build what he called a "firewall." And the department has now added to its repertoire the more sensitive test that was used in England. -LINK-

Mad beef policy

The more federal officials downplay mad cow disease, the scarier, according to this editorial, things get.The editorial explains that a Texas-born beef cow said to have arrived dead at a pet-food plant had been declared disease-free in November, but turned out to have had mad cow disease after all. Not only that, a test conducted seven months ago on the cow had come up positive, but those findings were not made public.The positive test was only experimental, USDA officials said, while the negative came from the Agriculture Department's "gold standard" test. There matters rested until recently, when the agency's inspector general, Phyllis Fong, reportedly concerned about the discrepancy, ordered a third test, using a method called the "Western blot," and received a positive reading.The editorial says that this shows, according to a strange interpretation of events by the USDA, that the nation's testing system works. Actually, it shows the testing works only when safety-minded leaders reject complacency.Now USDA officials, having determined that the 12-year-old cow was born and raised in the U.S. (no blaming it on Canada, as with the only previous confirmed case), are scrambling to track down its ranch-mates and offspring as well as other places its apparently contaminated feed was sent. -LINK-

Experts don't expect more cases of mad cow

After the first discovery of mad cow in the United States in 2003, some 700 head of cattle were, according to this story, killed as a precaution. Fears were high that Washington state's cattle market would crater. Federal government experts suggested the industry nationwide could lose $15 billion and others speculated it would not be surprising if a couple dozen infected animals were found. A year and a half later, experts say they have better information about the brain-destroying illness. -LINK-
(This article contradicts itself in the first paragrah....experts dont expect any more cases..where "others", whoever that is, expect a couple dozen infected animals.)

Ranchers group wants Canadian border to remain sealed

When Bill Bullard is making a speech to cattle ranchers, it's always a good sign when, according to this story, the parking lot is full of new pickups, as was the case on a recent evening at the VFW hall on the outskirts of thistiny town in south Texas. The story explains that Bullard is the executive director of R-Calf USA, a maverick organization of ranchers fighting to keep the U.S. border closed to Canadian cattle, an effort that was precipitated by the discovery of Canada's first case of mad cow disease in May 2003. -LINK-

France's Chirac mocks Britain for mad cow, bad food

French President Jacques Chirac cracked jokes to Russian and German leaders about bad British food and mad cow disease, Liberation said on Monday, revealing comments that could further strain Anglo-French relations.The French daily was cited as saying Chirac was overheard making a series of jokes at Britain's expense to Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on the sidelines of a meeting on Sunday in Kaliningrad, Russia, stating, "The only thing they (the English) have ever done for European agriculture is mad cow"When asked about Chirac's reported comments on Monday, French government spokesman Jean-Francois Cope was quoted as telling reporters, "I have nothing particular to say."Chirac was further quoted as saying, "You can't trust people who cook as badly as that. After Finland, it's the country with the worst food." -LINK-

BSE beef killed our son ; Family warns he won't be brain bug's last victim

Ireland's first victim of the human form of mad cow disease, variant CJD, died last week, the Irish Daily Mirror can reveal. The 26-year-old man was diagnosed with the degenerative brain disease, which is transmitted through blood and infected meat, last October. A spokesman for the Department of Health confirmed that he passed away in a South Dublin hospice on June 22. Last night, in an emotional letter to the Irish Mirror, his family was quoted as saying, "We our writing today because we feel the Irish public should know because we do not believe that our son will be the last person in Ireland to contract this terrible disease."And Health Minister Mary Harney confirmed a second person has been diagnosed with a suspected case of the horror disease at a Dublin hospital. The Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) revealed that the patient was a donor.

Panama-US-Mad Cow

Officials were cited as saying Tuesday that Panama banned the importation of U.S. beef after the second case of mad cow disease was discovered.The Agriculture Ministry said it notified U.S. officials of the ban on Tuesday, and it took effect immediately. -LINK-

China to continue ban of U.S. beef

China will continue to ban imports of cattle, beef and related products from the United States following confirmation of the United States' first native case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, China's Ministry of Agriculture announced late last week. -LINK-

BSE fallout

The market did not react, as it did in December 2003, to the United States first home-grown case of BSE in a 12 year old Brahman cross cow raised in Texas. The birth herd has been identified through DNA testing and is now under quarantine. Taiwan, Indonesia, Philippines, Panama, Belize, Romania, Tahiti, St. Vincent,Grenadines and St. Lucia have closed their borders to U.S. beef. However,Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said the BSE case will not affectJapan's decision to resume beef imports. -LINK-

Prusiner weighs in

When a Nobel Prize winner adds his two cents to a lawsuit, you've got to expect that people will listen. What's strange about the declaration submitted last week by Dr. Stanely Prusiner to the District Court in Billings, MT is how at odds it is with the international scientific consensus reflected in the new 2005 guidelines from the WTO's Office of International Epizootics (OIE). Prusiner comes across as an outlier. He speculates about prion plagues and 40 year incubation periods, concluding that "the only way to reduce the number of BSE-infected cattle entering the food chain is to require blanket testing of all slaughtered cattle so that animals testing positive for prions will be removed from the food supply."Even conservative Japan has recognized the futility of 100 percent testing as a means of stopping BSE, yet this is exactly what Prusiner recommends. -LINK-

29 cows killed, tested for mad cow disease

The U.S. Agriculture Department was cited as saying Friday that the government has killed and is testing 29 cows from the herd of the Texas cow infected with mad cow disease. -LINK-

Mad cow

Associated Press WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Agriculture Department was cited as saying Sunday that 67 cows culled from the herd of an animal infected with mad cow disease have tested negative for the disease.The story says that testing was conducted on two groups removed from the herd at an undisclosed ranch in Texas; 29 cows were tested on Wednesday, 38 on Friday. Results released Sunday on the second group were negative, the same finding the department had announced Saturday for the initial test group.The National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, conducted the tests.

U.S. senators appeal to Taiwan, Egypt to resume beef trade

Fifteen U.S. senators led by Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) sent a letter last week to Taiwan Minister of Health Sheng-Mou Hou urging Taiwan to resume beef trade with the United States. -LINK-

New bill would allow beef to carry 'no mad cow' label

Supermarket shoppers can buy grass-fed beef, organic beef, Black Angus and so on -- but if a bill, according to this story, sponsored by a local lawmaker passes, consumers will also get to look for the "no mad cow" label.Introduced by state Sen. Michael Machado, a Linden Democrat, the bill would allow beef producers to test their own animals for bovine spongiform encephalopathy -- better known as mad cow disease -- and then market the meat as having been tested for BSE, a nervous system disease in cattle that is fatal if passed on to humans. -LINK-

New review by leading Ag economists exposes profit motives behind efforts to keep Canadian border closed

Authors Urge Policymakers to Take Rational View of BSE Risk"The human health risk from BSE is probably far lower than the risk of choking on a toothbrush,” according to a new review by leading economists of the U.S. response to BSE, published in Choices, a publication of the American Agricultural Economics Association.The authors continued: “Thus to suggest, as did Judge Richard Cebull in granting the injunction blocking imports of Canadian cattle, that BSE poses a ‘genuine risk of death for U.S. customers’ is a complete distortion of the concept of what is really risky.”

Philippines bans U.S. beef

Saying that the United States has "not yet disclosed information on the cohorts of the new BSE case," Philppine Agriculture Secretary Arthur C. Yap banned the import of live American cattle and all beef commodity shipments, backdated to June 24. That means that shipments made after that date, but not yet offloaded, will be refused. According to BusinessWorld, the Philippines had imported about 1.5 million pounds of beef products from the United States in the first six months of 2005, although the bulk of the imports were offal and beef fat. About 500,000 pounds were choice cuts. -LINK-

Appeals court overturns Canada beef ban

A federal appeals court on Thursday was cited as overturning the ban on imports of Canadian cattle, throwing out a lower court's ruling that renewing the imports could spread mad cow disease in the United States.The unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturns a Montana judge who blocked the USDA from reopening the border in March, saying it ''subjects the entire U.S. beef industry to potentially catastrophic damages'' and ''presents a genuine risk of death for U.S. consumers.'' -LINK-

Japan questioning safety of U.S. beef

July 15, 2005Associated Press Mari YamaguchiTOKYO -- Officials were cited as saying Friday that Japanese food safety regulators were questioning the safety of U.S. beef after a Ministry of Agriculture study showed nearly half of the 20 mad cow cases found in Japan would have passed unnoticed under U.S. testing methods.They added that scientists on a Food Safety Commission panel have called for more details on a second case of confirmed mad cow disease in the United States, a move that could delay a decision to resume American beef imports, expected in late August. -LINK-

EU mulls easing mad cow rules to fight new threats

The European Commission was cited as saying on Friday that mad cow disease is under control in Europe and measures to prevent it could be relaxed, as it urged the EU to focus attention on emerging disease threats such as bird flu.The story says that the number of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) cases has dropped to 850 positive tests for the brain-wasting disease in 2004 in the enlarged 25-nation bloc from 2,129 in 2002 in the former 15-nation bloc.The EU executive will look at raising the 12-month age limit for removing the vertebral column from cattle which has taken T-bone steak off dinner tables across Europe since 2000. -LINK-

Johanns announces next steps for importing Canadian cattle

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today outlined the steps necessary to reopen the U.S. border to Canadian cattle under 30 months of age and other ruminants. "We will move as expeditiously as possible to begin importing Canadian cattle, but we will do so very carefully to ensure the minimal risk rule criteria are clearly met," Johanns said. "We are coordinating very closely with other U.S. and Canadian government agencies to make certain the correct procedures are in place to properly inspect shipments and verify that our criteria are met." USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will issue Standard Operating Procedures to their field offices, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and U.S. Customs and Border Protection offices. USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will issue an updated list of approved products that will be allowed across the border. The agency will also issue instructions to FSIS personnel who will inspect cattle received for immediate slaughter. The process for importing shipments of live cattle and other ruminants, once the preparatory steps are complete, will begin in Canada. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency will issue health certificates to verify the age and identification of the animal and ensure it meets the minimal risk rule criteria. Once verified, U.S. Customs and Border Protection will review the documentation and confirm the shipments are appropriate for entry into the United States. The animals will then be released to APHIS veterinarians at border inspection facilities who will inspect the cattle and validate the Canadian certification. Additionally, FSIS inspection personnel will verify U.S. requirements are met at the point of slaughter. -LINK-

Feed bans good BSE control

Dr. Danny Matthews from the UK's International Reference Testing laboratory in Weybridge, said at the Global Livestock Feed and Food Congress in Brazil this month that BSE is impossible to eradicate because too many countries will not implement proper bans on meat and bone meal trade because commercial considerations are outweighing sensible decision making. He said countries without BSE can put rigorous controls in place, but cannot guarantee that meat and bone meal purchased from another country actually came from that country, according to ABCRural, Australia.His comments were echoed by Professor William Hill of the School of BiologicalSciences at the University of Edinburgh who reconfirmed the elimination offood-borne sources as the key to the eradication of BSE and recommendedrisk-based controls and monitoring should be maintained on animals and feed,according to a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, July 7press release. Professor Hill presented his report to the British ChiefVeterinary Officer in mid-June which recommended that in the UK, and where the UK can influence, BSE measures should be tightened up because of the long incubation of BSE in some animals. The removal of infected animals and the elimination of food borne sources of transmission remain the key to the eradication of BSE. -LINK-

Chile opens borders to U.S. beef

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today announced that Chile is lifting its ban on U.S. beef and beef products from animals less than 30 months of age. "I applaud the Chilean government for making trade decisions based on internationally accepted scientific standards," said Johanns. "This is one more step toward normalized international trade in beef. USDA is working hard to normalize trade with all of our beef trading partners, both exporting and importing, based on scientifically-sound, internationally-recognized standards which protect both human and animal health." In 2003, the United States exported $5.3 million worth of beef and beef products to Chile. Chile imposed a ban on U.S. beef and beef products on Dec. 24, 2003. -LINK-

Mad cow

U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull in Billings, Mont., was cited as postponing a scheduled July 27 trial on whether Canadian cattle should be allowed to enter the United States. The story explains that Cebull had granted a preliminary injunction to ranchers who had sued to keep the border closed to Canadian cattle, saying it presented a risk to the U.S. beef industry as well as to American consumers. However, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed his injunction Thursday, allowing cattle shipments from Canada to resume. The first truckload entered the United States on Monday.Cebull was quoted as writing in an order Wednesday that, "After receipt of the court of appeals' opinion, this court will determine whether further hearings are necessary."

BSE cluster triggers fears over contaminated feed

A cluster of BSE in the U.K. is, according to this story, being investigated by scientists who fear that contaminated feed is still being given to British cattle, nearly 10 years after it was banned.The story says that the cluster, involving three young cows born long after the 1996 ban on contaminated feed is believed to have been found on a dairy farm in England, is only the second such cluster of young BSE cases.The first occurred on a farm in Wales and it too involved three young cattle that were born many years after the Government banned all animal feed that could be contaminated with BSE. Scientists said the occurrence of a second cluster of BSE in young cattle strongly suggested that the cases were not a statistical fluke and that contaminated feed had caused the outbreaks.

S. Korea to support research into BSE-resistant cattle

John GregersonThe South Korean government plans to fully support research efforts to develop a new breed of cattle resistant to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, said Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Park Hong-Soo.The Minister made the remarks after recently observing the artificial insemination of a specially fertilized egg into a cow by South Korean stem cell researcher Hwang Woo-Suk. The fertilized egg transplant is part of ongoing research by Hwang to develop specific genetic strands immune to BSE infection. No case of BSE has been detected in South Korea, but the growing volume of global trade has raised concern that an outbreak could occur there.Hwang made international headlines last year by cloning the world's first human embryos. He said that it could take four to five years to develop BSE-resistant cattle.Hwang's research is being performed in conjunction with the National Livestock Research Institute. -LINK-

Mad cow

The U.S. Agriculture Department was cited as saying Wednesday it is investigating another possible case of mad cow disease.John Clifford, the department's chief veterinarian, was cited as saying that testing indicated the presence of the disease in a cow that died on the farm where it lived, and that the cow was at least 12 years old and died of complications during calving, adding, "It is important to note that this animal poses no threat to the human food supply, because it did not enter the human or animal food chains."Clifford was further cited as saying the department is conducting further tests and is sending a brain tissue sample to the internationally recognized laboratory in Weybridge, England.The stories note that testing options are limited in this case. Because the farm was remote, the private veterinarian who removed a brain sample used a substance to preserve the tissue. That means that only one type of testing, immunohistochemistry, or IHC, can be done, the official said.Clifford was further cited as saying the animal died in April, but the veterinarian forgot to send the sample to USDA until this month, adding, "While that time lag is not optimal, it has no implications in terms of the risk to human health." -LINK-

Beef is safe: New non-definitive BSE test result should not raise concern

A new “non-definitive” BSE test result on a brain sample from a 12-year-old cow should not raise concerns among consumers or trading partners because beef is safe from BSE. Even if the test ultimately confirms positive, the safety of the U.S. beef supply is unchanged, the American Meat Institute (AMI) said today.“The beef we eat, like steaks, roasts and ground beef, is safe. These products have never been associated with a BSE-related human illness,” said AMI Foundation President James H. Hodges “Consumption of certain cattle parts that could harbor the BSE agent if the animal is infected -- primarily the brain and spinal cord -- has been identified as a possible cause of human illness.” -LINK-

Consumers Union demands cattle surveillance data

Consumers Union, the consumer-advocacy group, has attacked the credibility of USDA with a sharply worded letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns. The group cites reports from the Office of the Inspector General that call into question USDA's expanded surveillance program for bovine spongiform encephalopathy. "We are concerned that there are potentially serious methodological problems and/or flawed assumptions" involved with the program, the letter says.

More US mad cow mistakes raise credibility concerns

Industry and consumer groups were cited as saying Wednesday that a series of mishaps and confusion over U.S. testing for mad cow disease raise questions about the government's credibility and could undermine efforts to convince major trading partners of the safety of American beef.The USDA is now investigating a possible third U.S. case of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), in an animal at least 12 years old.The story explains that a brain sample from the suspect cow was taken by a local veterinarian in April but was not tested by the USDA until last week because the veterinarian "simply forgot" to submit it, the USDA said.The story adds that the sample was frozen, a violation of USDA guidelines, and the veterinarian also mistakenly used a preservative that limits the type of mad cow tests that can now be conducted. -LINK-

Spain reports first likely human death from mad cow

Spain was cited as reporting the first probable death from the human variant of mad cow disease on Friday, a 26-year-old woman who was likely infected before the mad cow scare of 2000 led to strict controls.Spain's Health Ministry said it believed the death was caused by Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) based on tests carried out at a Madrid hospital, and that it had sent samples to experts in Edinburgh for confirmation. -LINK-

Mad cow

August 3, 2005 Associated Press Libby Quaid WASHINGTON -- John Clifford, USDA's chief veterinarian, was cited as saying in a statement Wednesday that a cow suspected of having mad cow disease has tested negative for the brain-wasting ailment, following testing by the department's laboratory in Ames, Iowa, and the internationally recognized laboratory in Weybridge, England, adding, "Needless to say, we are very pleased with these results. I do want to emphasize that the most important protections for human and animal health are our interlocking food-safety protocols."The department ordered additional testing after initial results indicated the disease may have been present in the cow. Officials called those results "non-definitive" and said they didn't resemble normal samples in which mad cow disease is present.

The Philippines lifts ban on U.S. beef and beef products

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today announced that the Philippines will resume imports of U.S. beef and beef products. "I am very pleased with the reopening of the Philippines market to U.S. beef and beef products, which demonstrates their commitment to trade based on internationally accepted scientific standards for human and animal health," said Johanns. "The Philippines recognizes that U.S. beef and beef products are safe. This is another step forward in our efforts to reopen global markets for U.S. beef." -LINK-

USDA to begin testing low-risk cattle

With over 425,000 high-risk cattle tested so far in its 18-month surveillance program to measure levels of infection by bovine spongiform encephalopathy in the national herd, USDA will soon test 20,000 older but non-symptomatic cattle on a statistically valid national basis, as it promised to do at the beginning of the program.APHIS spokesman Jim Rogers said that the agency has been kept busy by the testing of suspect animals through the first 14 months of the program, but will now start testing healthy cattle at slaughter. -LINK-

Creutzfeldt-Jakob cases not linked to infected animals

Idaho officials were cited as saying yesterday an initial test has indicated one case of naturally occurring Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and they are investigating five other suspected cases, but said none are believed to be caused by eating infected animals. Tom Shanahan, spokesman for the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare, was cited as saying five of the cases involve people who have already died, lived in neighbouring counties and were over the age of 60. The sixth case centred on a man, also over 60, who lived 140 kilometres away and was still alive. -LINK-

Safer beef

Fears of another case of mad cow disease in the United States have, according to this editorial, faded for the time being because tests on the most recent suspect animal came back negative. But that is no reason to feel confident about the American beef supply. The editorial says that American cows still eat food that can potentially infect them with mad cow disease. American meatpackers use dangerous methods that other countries ban. And the United States Department of Agriculture does not require enough testing to ensure that American beef is completely safe. -LINK-

BSE coverage is criticized

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns was cited as saying Wednesday in a talk to meat-industry officials that much news coverage of the country’s two cases of mad cow disease has been inaccurate, costing the beef industry billions of dollars while the threat from bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, is “minuscule, adding, “The reality is this: There is no BSE ‘outbreak’ in the United States, and there never was."The American Meat Institute, a packing industry group, released a transcript of the speech by the secretary Friday. Johanns was further cited ass saying the brain-wasting disease BSE “has generated, in my opinion, far more headlines than it deserves. In reality, BSE is a minuscule threat in this country. And, I might add, a rapidly declining one worldwide. Because it is a threat that is being brought under control. There have been only two cases of BSE in the United States. -LINK-

Ag Dept. cites plants on mad-cow rules

The U.S. Agriculture Department was cited as saying Monday that inspectors have found more than 1,000 violations of rules aimed at preventing mad cow disease from reaching humans, but that no contaminated meat reached consumers.The rules, created in response to the nation's first case of mad cow disease in December 2003, require that brains, spinal cords and other nerve parts -- which can carry mad cow disease -- be removed when older cows are slaughtered. The at-risk tissues are removed from cows older than 30 months because infection levels are believed to rise with age.The Agriculture Department was cited as sasying Monday it had cited beef slaughterhouses or processing plants 1,036 times for failing to comply with rules on removing those tissues, which are commonly called specified risk materials or SRMs. The violations occurred over 17 months, ending in May. -LINK-


August 16, 2005 The Associated Press TOKYO -- Government officials were cited as saying Tuesday that Japan intends to ask the U.S. government for detailed information on a large number of violations by U.S. meatpackers of rules aimed at preventing mad cow disease from reaching humans,. The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry and the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry need to know causes and other details of the violations, they said.Kiyotoshi Kaneko, deputy chairman of Japan's Food Safety Commission, a panel of experts, was cited as saying that the commission is finalizing terms to remove the import ban on U.S. beef imposed after the discovery of the brain-wasting disease, and that the reported rule violations are expected to affect deliberations at the panel, adding, "We want to know details of the violations. I think data that arouse concerns about the safety of (American) beef will be reflected in our assessment" of the import ban.

R-CALF says it will go back to court to close border

Mont.-based Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund has vowed it will push the courts and Congress to close the U.S. border again to Canadian beef. Since the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a temporary ban on young Canadian cattle imports on July 14, R-CALF has been largely mum on how — or if — it would proceed with its original suit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture. On Monday, R-CALF President Leo McDonnell said that the broad plan is to return to court while lobbying Congress against the USDA rule that allowed the United States to resume imports of Canadian cattle. -LINK-

Britain to revise mad cow measures in autumn

Britain's farm ministry was cited as saying on Tuesday it would decide in the autumn whether or not to lift one of the last remaining mad cow disease control measures, the Over Thirty Months rule.Lifting the restriction would pave the way for a resumption of full beef exports. -LINK-

Consumer group calls the thousand meat plant violations another example of flaws in federal Mad Cow response

Press ReleaseResponding to information released by the US Department of Agriculture that over 1,000 meat packers had been citied for failing to take required steps to protect consumers from Mad Cow Disease, Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT) called for increased front-end Mad Cow protections, steps to be taken before the meat is processed. “This new USDA data illustrates that we cannot rely only on end-product steps to protect the American public,” stated Richard Wood, FACT’s Executive Director. “Front end protections must be increased, focusing on cattle feed and cattle surveillance,” he stated. -LINK-

Korea not likely to resume imports of U.S beef this year

South Korea is likely to delay the resumption of U.S. beef imports due to a lack of relevant technical information, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. The Korean government has requested information from the United States about the second U.S. case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy discovered in June, but it has not yet arrived, ministry officials said. -LINK-

Canada violates U.S. mad cow rules, ships adult cow

Steven Cohen, spokesman for USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, was cited as saying Monday that Canadian animal health inspectors accidentally approved the export of a 31-month-old cow to the United States, violating strict U.S. safeguards to prevent mad cow disease, and the mistake prompted a Wisconsin meat plant late Friday to recall voluntarily 1,856 pounds of beef that may contain the backbone of the imported cow, adding, "It is very, very unlikely that this product would cause illness. We are still investigating how much may still be available and if any retailers received it." -LINK-

Packer recalls beef under mad cow rules

Beef banned under mad cow disease rules was shipped to wholesalers in a half-dozen states and is now being recalled by a Wisconsin beef plant.The 1,856 pounds of beef included meat from a Canadian cow that inspectors in Canada determined was eligible for shipment to the United States. A Canadian audit two weeks later found, however that the cow was too old to be allowed entry to the U.S.

Japan panel worried U.S. feed rules may spread BSE

Members of an independent panel considering whether to allow U.S. beef to return to Japanese tables were cited as saying on Wednesday they were worried that lax U.S. animal feed controls could allow mad cow disease to spread.The panel members, meeting for the fifth time since May when the Japanese government asked them to rule on the safety of U.S. beef, said their final decision may take into account the chance that the brain-wasting disease could spread.Without approval from the 12-member group, a sub-committee of Japan's Food Safety Commission, the government cannot implement an agreement with the United States to resume imports.

Case of mad cow disease found in Austrian slaughterhouse

The Austrian health agency was cited as saying that a cow from neighboring Slovenia was found Wednesday to be infected with mad cow disease in a slaughterhouse in the southern Austrian city of Graz, but the cow had not entered the food chain. Austria's health ministry also "ruled out" any eventual contamination of meat sold to consumers "because all parts of the cow's body will be burned," a ministry statement said. -LINK-

‘Mad cow’ proteins successfully detected in blood

University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) have found a way to detect in blood the malformed proteins that cause “mad cow disease,” the first time such “prions” have been detected biochemically in blood.The discovery, reported in an article scheduled to appear online in Nature Medicine Aug. 28, is expected to lead to a much more effective detection method for the infectious proteins responsible for brain-destroying disorders, such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) in humans. The blood test would make it much easier to keep BSE-infected beef out of the human food supply, ensure that blood transfusions and organ transplants do not transmit vCJD, and give researchers their first chance to figure out how many people may be incubating the disease. -LINK-