USDA's Expanded BSE Surveillance Program
Gary Weber, Ph.D., NCBA Executive Director, Regulatory Affairs
July 14, 2004

"Today's hearing before the House Government Reform Committee and House Agriculture Committee presents an opportunity to further engage in an open dialogue about these important animal health issues.  The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association supports this open communication and encourages questions about our collective commitment to maintaining the health of the U.S. cattle herd.

"While the focus of today’s hearing is on USDA’s expanded BSE surveillance program, it is important to point out actions taken in the U.S. since BSE was first identified in the United Kingdom in 1985. The U.S. has a history of being first when it comes to BSE prevention.  The U.S. was the first country in the world without BSE to:

  • ban the importation of cattle, beef and beef products from countries with BSE.  
  • develop a BSE surveillance program. Since 1989, this program has been supported by and expanded as deemed necessary by both Republican and Democratic administrations.  
  • ban the use of cattle feed ingredients that have been identified as capable of transmitting the BSE agent. 
  • conduct an independent analysis of the risk of BSE and the prevention measures that have been put in place.  In 2001, following a comprehensive multi-year assessment, the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis concluded that ‘measures taken by the U.S. government and industry make the U.S. robust against the spread of BSE to animals or humans should it be introduced into this country.'

"In addition to the measures listed above, USDA’s expanded BSE surveillance program began on June 1, 2004, and represents an action recommended by the international review team (IRT) in response to the December 23, 2003 identification of BSE in a single cow in Washington state. The expanded surveillance program aims to find if the disease is present at a frequency of 1 in 10 million animals with a confidence level of at least 99 percent.  NCBA supports this one-time, large scale testing program to estimate potential disease prevalence. NCBA also supports USDA’s efforts to conduct this program in a transparent manner.

"If the expanded surveillance program indicates our long-standing BSE prevention programs have been effective, then we believe staying on that course will sufficiently protect animal health in the U.S.  If the data indicates our prevalence is other than expected, we’ll work to analyze the situation and determine what, if any, additional science- and risk-based measures may be needed to further protect animal health."

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