By Rita R. Robison
Two consumers that I know don’t eat meat or poultry anymore due to outbreaks of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy or “mad cow disease” in the 1990s.
The cow was never presented for slaughter for human consumption and at no time presented a risk to the food supply or human health, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a statement. In addition, the agency said milk doesn’t transmit BSE.
"The United States has had longstanding interlocking safeguards to protect human and animal health against BSE,” USDA Chief Veterinary Officer John Clifford said.
These include the USDA ban on specified risk materials, or SRMs, from the food supply. SRMs are parts of the animal that are most likely to contain the BSE agent if it’s present in an animal. The USDA also bans all nonambulatory or "downer" cattle from entering the human food chain.
For animal health, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ban on ruminant material in cattle feed prevents the spread of the disease in cattle herds.
"Evidence shows that our systems and safeguards to prevent BSE are working, as are similar actions taken by countries around the world,” Clifford said. “In 2011, there were only 29 worldwide cases of BSE, a dramatic decline and 99 percent reduction since the peak in 1992 of 37,311 cases.”
USDA remains confident in the health of the national herd and the safety of beef and dairy products, he added.
However, the Center for Science in the Public Interest doesn’t agree.
The U. S. has first-world resources and technology but a third-world animal identification system, Sarah Klein, food safety attorney for the center, said in a statement.
“In fact, some third-world countries do a better job of tracking livestock than America does,” Klein said. “Botswana, for one, uses RFID microchips to track its animals up and down the supply chain.”
She said if American cattlemen suffer economic losses at the news of discovery of BSE in the California dairy cow because some consumers reduce their meat consumption, they should blame only themselves and other opponents of a mandatory animal identification system.