US Mad Cow Disease Confirmed

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Gross Violation by Feed Mills

NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 12-26-03

[US Mad Cow Disease Confirmed]

``WASHINGTON (AP) -- A British lab provided initial independent confirmation yesterday that the United States has its first case of mad cow disease, U.S. agriculture officials said. Federal investigators labored to trace the path the infected animal took from birth to slaughter.

Scientists at the Veterinary Laboratories Agency in Weybridge, England, told the Agriculture Department they concur with the reading of tests on the stricken Holstein cow that led U.S. officials to conclude the animal had the brain-wasting disease, U.S. officials said ...''

NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 12-25-03, By IRA DREYFUSS, Associated Press Writer

``WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration scrambled yesterday to trace the life of the first U.S. cow believed infected with mad cow disease and contain the growing economic and political damage from a now-suspect food supply. Country after country slapped import bans on American beef as U.S. officials assured consumers their Christmas roasts and fast-food hamburgers were safe to eat ...

Federal and state-level officials worked to trace the Holstein's history before it came to its last home, a large dairy operation near Mabton in southern Washington state, in 2001. USDA chief veterinarian Ron DeHaven said officials have identified two livestock markets in Washington where the animal could have been purchased, but he did not identify them.

But because the brain-wasting disease is usually transmitted through contaminated feed and has an incubation period of four to five years, it is ''important to focus on the feed where she was born,'' DeHaven said.

''Once we have the birth herd, we'll want to know what animals have come into that herd and what animals have left that herd and all the feeding practices for that herd,'' DeHaven said.

The human form of the disease, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob, is thought to be contracted by eating meat from an infected animal ...

Agriculture Department officials told a briefing the cow was culled from its herd and slaughtered Dec. 9, after she became paralyzed, apparently as a result of calving. Preliminary tests showed she had mad cow disease.

Tissue samples were sent to Britain's Veterinary Laboratories Agencies, a world leader in mad cow identification, for confirmation. Scientists agreed to forgo their Christmas day off to quickly conduct the tests ...

U.S. beef exports totaled $2.6 billion in 2002, with Japan, South Korea, Mexico and Hong Kong the biggest importers. They all have banned U.S. beef. All told, at least 11 countries banned U.S. beef.

Politically, Democrats jumped on Republicans who removed from a massive agriculture spending bill a ban on processing meat from ''downed'' animals, those that are ill when they reach the plant. USDA officials have said the Holstein in Washington state was a downer.

Rep.Gary Ackerman was been a leader in supporting the processing prohibition. ''This is something that's a potential disaster,'' the New York Democrat said. ''This was so predictable by anybody following the issue.'' ...

The investigation was focusing on the animal's feed because contaminated feed has been blamed in other countries for carrying the misshapen animal proteins, called prions, that can transmit the disease. The United States has had in effect, since August 1997, a ban on use of cow and sheep byproducts for animal feed, which cuts off a major mode of transmission of the disease.

Investigators were at processing plants in Oregon, where meat from the infected cow had been turned into fresh boneless beef, said a spokesman for the Agriculture Department. Authorities want to know where the meat was sent ...

The animal was one of 20 slaughtered Dec. 9 at Vern's Moses Lake Meat Co. in Moses Lake, Wash. All 10,410 pounds of beef from those carcasses have been recalled ...

Canada had an isolated case of mad cow disease earlier this year. The U.S. banned imports of Canadian beef immediately after that announcement but has gradually begun allowing beef imports.

A USDA official said investigators are trying to determine whether the case in Canada is linked. But the official said it is unlikely because the animals were of different breeds -- the animal in Canada was an Angus raised for beef ...''

Associated Press writer Emily Gersema in Washington contributed to this report.

NEWS ARTICLE from The Washington Post, 12-26-03, By Shankar Vedantam and Blaine Harden

``Mad cow origin probe widens

A Washington state Holstein cow found infected with mad cow disease may have brought in the disease from outside the state, even outside the country, a top U.S. official and a veterinarian familiar with the investigation said Thursday.

In tracking records from the Sunny Dene Ranch in Mabton, which acquired the cow in Oct. 2001, Agriculture Department officials had initially said that one of two herds in Washington state was the birth herd.

Identifying this herd is crucial because the cow was likely infected before it got to Mabton.

If the cow did come from out of state, it could widen the potential circle of risk. Each step back that investigators go to find the birth farm exponentially increases the number of ways the infection might have spread elsewhere.

"While we initially went from the index herd where we found two locations, we are tracing back further from there," W. Ron DeHaven, USDA's deputy administrator and chief veterinary officer, said Thursday night. "It gets to be a spider web of possibilities from there."

Regulators want to find the birth herd and the sources of the infected Holstein's feed in order to predict which other cattle may have eaten the same feed and are at risk.

Every extra step in their search dramatically complicates efforts to clamp down on the source of the disease.

Officials also announced Thursday that a top British laboratory had confirmed from tissue samples flown in on a military plane that the Holstein suffered from mad cow disease -- final proof that the dreaded illness has made its first appearance in the United States.

A veterinarian in the Yakima Valley familiar with the investigation who asked not to be identified said he had learned that the "cow didn't spend her whole life in the state of Washington."

In recent years, a large number of cattle have been imported into the Yakima Valley, primarily from Canada, following a rapid expansion of local dairy herds, according to another veterinarian, Ernie Munck.

"I have several clients that have brought in cows from Canada," said Munck, a large animal veterinarian from Prosser, Wash. "One client brought in a few truckloads from Ontario."

DeHaven declined to speculate on whether the Holstein might have come from Canada, where a case of mad cow disease was unearthed in May.

Following that discovery in Alberta, the U.S. clamped down on beef imports from Canada. The infected Holstein likely ate contaminated feed around 1999 or 2000, before the ban on Canadian cattle and products was put in place.

"Cattle move interstate and internationally all the time," DeHaven said. "At the time this cow entered the herd from which she went to slaughter was before Canada had found their first case and live cattle were moving back and forth ... what we're doing is tracing all the premises of residence."

Mad cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy is believed to be transmitted through infected cattle feed.

A single case could be the harbinger of others -- since other animals might have eaten the same feed. Studies have shown that a minority of animals who eat infected feed become sick, but the exact risk to an individual animal is difficult to quantify, said David Ropeik, director of Risk Communication at the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, which has studied the potential impact of mad cow disease in the U.S.

Some 154 people have died of variant Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease, mostly in Britain.

The fatal brain-wasting disorder is associated with eating beef infected with mad cow disease ...

The veterinarian who asked not to be identified said he heard about the progress of the investigation through contacts in the livestock industry; he also said that investigators had concluded the infected cow was purchased at the Toppinish Livestock Commission, a large sale yard not far from Sunny Dene Ranch ...''

NEWS ARTICLE from The Associated Press, 12-26-03, By MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press Writer

``WASHINGTON - Government food safety officials are working through the holidays to prevent a potential outbreak of mad cow disease ...

Confirmation that a Holstein cow in Washington state had the deadly disease came Thursday from the Veterinary Laboratories Agency in Weybridge, England ...

Federal officials were trying to find the herd the cow was raised with, since the cow likely was sickened several years ago. The disease is spread by eating feed that includes parts from an infected cow. The incubation period in cattle is four to five years, said Dr. Stephen Sundlof of the Food and Drug Administration.

Authorities also want to know where the animals were transported and have narrowed their search to two unidentified livestock markets in Washington state, where the sick cow could have been purchased.

The cow had lived since 2001 at the Sunny Dene Ranch in Mabton, Wash., a town 40 miles south of Yakima, according to government sources speaking on condition of anonymity. Officials have said a dairy farm near Mabton is under quarantine and that its herd would be slaughtered if the mad cow diagnosis was confirmed ...

Humans can contract a fatal variant of mad cow disease by eating infected beef products, but experts say muscle cuts of beef, including steaks and roasts, are safe.

Still, authorities scrambled to find where the meat cut from the animal was sent. The Agriculture Department already has issued a recall for beef slaughtered along with the infected cow Dec. 9 at a meat company in Moses Lake, Wash.

Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said the recall was an extra precaution.

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But the government came under criticism from John Stauber, the author of "Mad Cow U.S.A." He said the U.S. hasn't done enough to keep BSE out of the country.

Cattle get sick by eating feed that contains tissue from the brain and spine of infected animals. The United States has banned such feed since 1997.

"Here's the problem. The feed ban has been grossly violated by feed mills," Stauber said in a telephone interview from his home in Madison, Wis.

In one such case, X-Cel Feeds Inc. of Tacoma, Wash., admitted in a consent decree in July [2003] that it violated FDA regulations designed to prevent the possible spread of the disease.

The Food and Drug Administration says only two companies have serious violations of the 1997 regulations.

Stauber also said he believed the ban has been ineffective because it exempts blood from cattle, which he said could transmit mad-cow type diseases. Government officials and industry executives have said there was no evidence that animals could be infected from the blood of other animals.

BSE is caused by a misshapen protein, a prion, that eats holes in a cow's brain ...''

NEWS ARTICLE from The Plain Dealer, 12-27-03, By John Solomon, Associated Press

``WASHINGTON -- Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean yesterday ... said he supports federal aid to help the American beef industry weather the storm ...

The former [Vermont] governor, whose state has a large dairy cow population, said the Bush administration failed to aggressively set up a system that would allow the government to quickly track the origins of the sick cow, quarantine other animals it came in contact with, and assure the marketplace the rest of the meat supply is safe.

"What we need in this country is instant traceability," he said.

Dean said such a system should have been set up quickly after the mad cow scare that devastated the British beef industry in the mid- to late-1990s. The Bush administration was still devising its plan when the sick cow was slaughtered Dec. 9 [2003], and yesterday the government still hadn't determined the infected animal's origins ...

Dean said as a result the beef industry will suffer enormously. Officials said yesterday [12-26-03] 90 percent of the foreign markets for American beef have been closed because of the announcement ...''

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