Mad Cow Disease Discovered In Single Alabama Cow: What Now?

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The cow tested positive for the atypical L-type of BSE after exhibiting clinical signs at an Alabama livestock market, the USDA said in a press release.

Health officials with the agriculture department in Alabama confirmed the cow suffered from the "atypical" form of the disease which is considered to be of much less concern.

An 11-year-old cow was identified in Alabama with the neurological condition known as 'mad cow disease.' The discovery was made before the cow was butchered and, according to the USDA, wasn't at any point any sort of risk for the food supply chains. When the classical case was found in 2003, several countries moved to ban beef imported from the U.S. China just started importing U.S. beef again this year, partially in response to the United States accepting chicken processed in that country. The United States banned the use of such protein supplements in cattle in 1997. Another important component of our system - which led to this detection - is the ongoing BSE surveillance program that allows USDA to detect the disease if it exists at very low levels in the USA cattle population. As noted in the guidelines for determining this status, atypical BSE cases do not affect official BSE risk status recognition as this form of the disease is believed to occur spontaneously in all cattle populations at a very low rate. The OIE, the global organization for animal health, recognizes the U.S.as a country at negligible risk for BSE. Only one case of classical BSE has been detected in the U.S. in a Canadian cow.

This is fifth incident of BSE to be found in the US.

As I was finishing this early afternoon yesterday, the Live Cattle futures were up and initial media reports indicated that while South Korea will ramp up inspections of US beef, other major export markets for USA beef didn't anticipate any adverse reaction to the announcement. The bottom line: all U.S. beef is safe. It's important to note that this type is very different than the classical type of BSE, which occurred mainly in the United Kingdom in the 1980s. The U.S. has, most likely, the most robust animal health surveillance system in the world.

Unlike previous cases of classical BSE, this case is not the result of ruminant by-products being fed to ruminants.

According to USDA, the World Organization for Animal Health has recognized the United States as having "negligible risk for BSE".

"The Alabama beef industry is vital to our state's agricultural economy, " he said. "This instance proves to us that our on-going surveillance program is working effectively".

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