How does the government assure U.S. beef safety from "mad cow disease"?

Do "downer" cows threaten the safety of beef from "mad cow disease"?

How do we search for "mad cow disease" in this country’s cattle?

What is the risk of BSE in the United States? 


How does the government assure U.S. beef safety from "mad cow disease"?
Since 1989, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been developing and implementing an internationally recognized series of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, commonly referred to as "mad cow disease") safeguards to ensure a healthy cattle herd and a safe food supply. For example, certain cattle feed ingredients that could spread BSE have been banned since 1997. Additionally, tissues that could potentially carry BSE in an animal – including the brain and spinal cord – must be removed from cattle prior to processing, and therefore are not allowed into the food supply.

The United States began an active BSE surveillance program in 1990 and, since its inception, more than 1 million cattle at greatest risk for BSE have been tested. USDA's ongoing BSE surveillance program tests approximately 40,000 high-risk cattle annually. This program is rigorous and exceeds international guidelines by 10 times.

Do "downer" cows threaten the safety of beef from "mad cow disease"?
No. Any cattle exhibiting signs of central nervous system disorder are banned from the food supply. Because the inability of cattle to walk can specifically be a symptom of BSE, USDA prohibits all animals that are unable to walk from entering the human food supply. However, the "downer cow" ban ("Prohibition of the Use of Specified Risk Materials for Human Food and Requirements for the Disposition of Non-Ambulatory Disabled Cattle") is just one of many safeguards designed to protect animal health and the human food supply from BSE.

How do we search for "mad cow disease" in this country's cattle?
Since 1990, USDA has conducted a science-based surveillance program to detect BSE in the United States. In the U.S. BSE surveillance program, animals targeted for BSE testing include those exhibiting signs of central nervous system disorders, non-ambulatory animals (those that can not walk) and other animals exhibiting symptoms consistent with BSE that die on-farm. The program also focuses on cattle older than 30 months of age. Since tests can only detect abnormal prion protein a few months prior to clinical disease, testing younger animals has limited or no value.

USDA maintains an ongoing BSE surveillance program and currently tests approximately 40,000 high-risk cattle annually, a number that greatly exceeds the World Organization for Animal Health’s (OIE) recommended testing levels. The ongoing BSE surveillance program is designed to detect BSE at a prevalence level of one case per 1 million adult cattle.

What is the risk of BSE in the United States?
In May 2007, OIE classified the United States as a controlled risk country in regard to BSE. According to the OIE definition, controlled risk means U.S. regulatory controls are effective and that U.S fresh beef and beef products from cattle of all ages can be safely traded.

In addition, the results of government BSE testing show if BSE still exists in the U.S. cattle herd, it is very rare – estimated to be less than one infected animal per 1 million adult cattle.



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