20 July, 2017
Just as with the previous announcements that an atypical BSE case had been identified in the United States, USDA's announcement Tuesday that an 11-year-old beef cow in Alabama had been diagnosed with the disease barely created a ripple.
First of all, don't panic: Even though BSE can be fatal to humans that eat tainted meat, this animal never entered slaughter channels and at no time presented a risk to the food supply, or to human health in the USA, the USDA says. The animal was showing clinical signs and was found through routine surveillance at an Alabama livestock market. They said that this atypical form of the disease found in the Alabama cow is not spreading and it is not contagious, noting that it occurs sporadically and spontaneously in the cattle population. It seems to arise rarely and spontaneously in all cattle populations. The USDA lab in Ames, Iowa confirmed the diagnosis.
According to the USDA, this Alabama case "is the nation's 5 detection of BSE".
While the case of classical BSE in 2003 "shocked the world and shut down a big chunk of exports", the industry has since made changes to ensure that an infected cow would never enter the human food chain, Brett Stuart, a founding parter at Denver-based market researcher Global AgriTrends, said in a telephone interview. The U.S. has had four previous atypical cases reports, and in no way are these the same as the Classical BSE cases reported in the 1980s in the United Kingdom and which would affect public health. Of the four previous US cases, the first was a case of classical BSE imported from Canada; the rest have been atypical (H- or L-type) BSE. It exists in classical and atypical types.
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VCJD is different from classic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, though both are fatal neurodegenerative disorders with similar symptoms. People can contract this illness by eating beef contaminated with the infectious prion, which is not destroyed by cooking.
The second safeguard is a feed ban that protects cattle from the disease. Regulations from the Food and Drug Administration have prohibited the inclusion of mammalian protein in feed for cattle and other ruminants since 1997 and also have prohibited high risk tissue materials in all animal feed since 2009.
The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) has labeled the United States as having a negligible risk for BSE.
What's more, just like the previous atypical cases that were detected in Alabama, Texas and California, it doesn't affect our global trading status.