USDA Announcement of the Origin of the BSE-positive Dairy Cow in Washington State
Terry Stokes, Chief Executive Officer, National Cattlemen's Beef Association
December 27, 2003

Based on today’s announcement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture showing records indicate that the Washington state dairy cow that tested positive for BSE was imported from Canada, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association strongly urges our trading partners to reopen their borders to U.S. beef exports.

In five short days and despite the holiday, USDA has traced this animal through ear-tag identification to Canadian records.  These records suggest this cow is more than six years old and entered the United States with 73 other animals that are being traced by USDA.

Again, USDA authorities have confirmed the central nervous system tissue from this animal never entered the human food chain.  Rather, it was sent to rendering for non-human food uses.  In new developments, the Food and Drug Administration also announced today that they have "under control" all the rendered product from this Washington state cow. 

Scientists agree these central nervous system tissues, such as spinal cord and brain, are the carrier of BSE.  The BSE agent is not found in muscle meat, like steaks, roasts or ground beef.

We applaud USDA for their rapid progress on this investigation and their collaborative efforts with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to seek its swift conclusion.  We also applaud and appreciate the Washington state dairy and cattle producers who have cooperated fully with U.S. investigators.

This investigation must be USDA’s top priority.  To that end, we are requesting an indefinite extension of the final comments on the proposed rule regarding the opening of the Canadian border to live animal trade until the investigation is complete. This will allow us to gather all the information from the investigation so we can comment accordingly on behalf of our members.

Just like we expect from our trading partners, importation into the United States from Canada of boneless beef from animals under 30 months of age presents no public health risk and should continue.

All decisions concerning re-establishment of trade for beef exports must be based on sound science.  As USDA announced today, standards set by the international animal health body (OIE) recognize that meat can be safely traded from countries that have identified cases of BSE. 

Subsequent to the Canadian announcement of BSE on May 20, 2003, USDA implemented a voluntary Beef Export Verification program for U.S. trading partners requiring additional and precautionary assurances.   The Beef Export Verification program allows our trading partners to be assured that U.S. beef products remain safe for their consumers, just like it is for American consumers.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association expects trade to be the Administration’s top priority.  Beef and variety meat exports represent approximately 10 percent of U.S. beef production and were valued at $3.5 billion to the U.S. industry in 2002. 

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