USDA Announcement of BSE case
Terry Stokes, Chief Executive Officer
National Cattlemen's Beef Association, Centennial, Colorado
June 24, 2005

"A short time ago, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it has confirmed a case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE, also known as mad cow disease) in a cow born before the FDA feed ban.

"The animal did not enter the human food or animal feed supply.

"The bottom line for consumers remains the same: Your beef is safe. Scientists, medical professionals and government officials agree that BSE is not a public health risk in the United States. BSE infectivity has not been found in beef, including steaks, roasts and ground beef.

"Since June 2004, the U.S. BSE Enhanced Surveillance Program has tested more than 388,000 targeted animals at highest risk for BSE and has found only this case, which confirms estimates that the prevalence of this disease in the U.S. cattle population must be extremely low.

"But as far back as the late 1980s, the U.S. government and cattle industry have taken precautions to protect public and animal health from BSE. 

"To keep our beef supply safe, USDA mandates removal from the food supply materials that would most likely carry the BSE agent (such as brain and spinal cord). This process happens every day with every animal to ensure this diminishing disease has no affect on public health.

"To protect our cattle, one of the most important measures undertaken is the FDA feed ban, which was championed by cattlemen and became law in 1997. The feed ban prohibits feeding ruminant-derived protein to cattle. BSE is not contagious; the disease is only known to spread through feed so the feed ban breaks the cycle and helps assure the disease will be eliminated.  As USDA Secretary Johanns said in the announcement today, ‘BSE is becoming very rare,’ like ‘searching for a needle in the haystack,’ because of the effectiveness of the feed ban.

"We support Secretary Johann’s recommendations and thorough review of the testing protocol.  It is important to remember this sample went through a rigorous testing protocol prior to this determination, and that all other samples tested in the U.S. BSE Enhanced Surveillance Program – more than 388,000 – have tested negative.

"Because U.S. beef is safe from BSE, this announcement should not affect ongoing discussion to reopen the border for beef trade and we urge USDA to do everything within its power to send that message to our trading partners.

"As America's beef producers, our number-one priority has always been providing the safest beef in the world. Our livelihood depends on it and NCBA has worked with the government and top scientists for more than 15 years to build, maintain and expand the safeguards that today are protecting consumers and our cattle from BSE." 

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Additional Information:

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 are unable to walk. Cattle showing signs of possible neurological disease always have been banned from the food supply. The USDA also prohibited from the food supply anything that could potentially carry BSE.

In 1996, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association launched a voluntary feed ban, which established an industry standard against feeding ruminant-derived protein to cattle. In 1997, with our support, the FDA made the ban mandatory. 

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 BSE, information can found at the following Web sites:

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