USDA Announcement of Inconclusive BSE Test Result
Terry Stokes, Chief Executive Officer
National Cattlemen's Beef Association
June 25, 2004
"Earlier this evening, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced an inconclusive test result as part of its aggressive surveillance program to test cattle for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE, known as mad cow disease). The USDA explained this announcement does not mean the U.S. has another case of BSE. Inconclusive tests are a normal component of most screening tests, which are designed to be extremely sensitive.
"This finding is the result of the first of a two-part test process. To test a significant number of targeted animals, the government’s first step uses a rapid screening test, which can produce inconclusive results as it did with this animal. The second step is now under way with the sample going to USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa. NVSL has the capability to use the gold standard immunohistochemistry (IHC) test to determine the presence of BSE.
"Until we get further results from the NVSL, it is important to remember that precautions have already been taken – such as removal of all specified risk materials – to ensure BSE cannot enter the food supply, and that U.S. beef remains safe. Because of strong regulations to protect consumers, the animal being tested has not entered the food supply.
"Even in the event that this inconclusive test is confirmed, top scientists, government experts and food industry leaders agree that U.S. beef will remain safe and that the risk of BSE to humans is near zero. Most importantly for consumers, the BSE agent is not found in the beef we commonly eat, such as steaks, roasts and ground beef. In fact, after years of research, scientists have never found BSE infectivity in beef muscle or fat.
"For America’s beef producers, providing the safest beef in the world has always been our number one priority. For generations, our livelihood has depended on providing safe, wholesome and nutritious beef to your family and our own."
The government has built and maintained four effective firewalls to ensure that U.S. beef remains safe from BSE.
In 2003, USDA strengthened its food safety program by banning from the human food supply any cattle that appear ill, are unable to walk or show signs of possible neurological disease. The USDA also prohibited from the food supply any material from animals that could carry the BSE agent (specified risk materials or SRMs, such as spinal cord or brain).
In 1997, the FDA banned feeding cattle the type of animal-derived protein that can spread BSE. International experts agree that a feed ban breaks the cycle of BSE and assures it will be eliminated. The FDA reports a remarkable 99 percent compliance rate for the feed ban.
In 1990, the United States was the first country in the world without BSE to begin a BSE surveillance and testing program.
In 1989, the United States was the first country in the world without BSE to ban imports of beef, cattle products and cattle from countries where BSE is prevalent.
To learn more about the risks of BSE, information can found at the following websites:
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