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    "Mad Cow Disease" Found in Canadian Cow: FDA Bans Canadian Beef Imports; Read FDA & U.S. Agriculture Sec'y Statements

    (May 20, 2003) -- A case of "Mad Cow Disease" (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy or (BSE)) that destroys the central nervous system of cattle, and in a related form has claimed human victims in Europe, has been found in a Canadian cow.

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration moved swiftly to ban the import of Canadian beef cattle, beef, beef-based products, and animal feed. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman also released a statement. We post the full text of both statements below.

    USDA provides detailed information about the disease on an informational webpage. We post a link to the page below.

    USDA says in part, "BSE belongs to the family of diseases known as the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE's), which are caused by a transmissible agent which is yet to be fully characterized." Among TSEs' common characteristics are "a prolonged incubation period of months or years [and] a progressive debilitating neurological illness which is always fatal..." TSE's include "[c]lassical Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease (CJD)" which is "a slow degenerative disease which affects the central nervous system of humans" and "occurs sporadically worldwide at a rate of approximately 1 case per 1 million people per year."

    Statement by U.S. Food & Drug Administraion

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has learned from the government of Canada that the brain of an eight-year old cow in a remote area of Alberta has tested positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, also known as "Mad Cow Disease").

    According to Canadian officials, meat from the cow did not enter the food supply. The animal had been on the farm in Alberta for three years. Although BSE has not been shown to be transmitted among cows in a herd, as a precaution the herd in Alberta is being destroyed.

    FDA is working closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, other U.S. agencies, and the appropriate Canadian officials to gather additional information about this case, including previous owners of the cow and its location, as well as records concerning animal feed the cow ate.

    To date, no case of BSE has ever been found in the U.S., despite years of intensive testing for the disease.

    After the original outbreak of BSE in the United Kingdom in 1986, the U.S. government established a comprehensive set of measures designed to protect Americans and U.S. cattle from BSE. These included a list of "BSE countries" from which cattle, meat, beef-derived products, and animal feeds could no longer be exported to the U.S.

    As in the past, when individual European countries and Japan discovered their first cases of BSE, today’s announcement means that Canada will be added to the list of BSE countries. As a result, cattle, beef, beef-based products, and animal feed will no longer be allowed to be exported from Canada to the U.S.

    Possible further actions will depend on the findings from the current investigation of this one confirmed case of BSE in Alberta.

    Since 1997, America has been protected from BSE by the prohibition against using most mammalian protein to manufacture animal feeds given to "ruminant" animals such as cows, sheep, and goats. The BSE epidemic in the U.K. is thought to have spread through the addition of such mammalian protein to the feed consumed by cows. The regulation is designed to prevent the spread of BSE in the U.S. if a case ever occurred here.

    In 2001, the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis concluded that the FDA’s "feed rule" provided the nation’s major defense against BSE.

    BSE is one of several diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. These diseases are characterized by a long incubation period, a relatively short clinical course of neurological signs, and 100 percent mortality.

    FDA will provide updates on this case of BSE in Alberta as additional information becomes available.

    Statement by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman

    I have spoken with Canada’s Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Lyle Vanclief a short time ago about Canada’s investigation and feel that all appropriate measures are being taken in what appears to be an isolated case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Information suggests that risk to human health and the possibility of transmission to animals in the United States is very low.

    USDA is placing Canada under its BSE restriction guidelines and will not accept any ruminants or ruminant products from Canada pending further investigation. We are dispatching a technical team to Canada to assist in the investigation and will provide more detailed information as it becomes available.

    The United States remains diligent in its BSE surveillance and prevention efforts. In 1997, the Food and Drug Administration prohibited the use of most mammalian protein in the manufacture of animal feed intended for cows and other ruminants to stop the way the disease is thought to spread.

    Since 1989, the U.S. government has taken a series of preventive actions to protect against this animal disease. This includes USDA prohibitions on the import of live ruminants, such as cattle, sheep, goats and most ruminant products from countries that have or are considered to be at risk for having BSE.

    In fiscal year 2002, USDA tested 19,990 cattle for BSE using a targeted surveillance approach designed to test the highest risk animals, including downer animals (animals that are non-ambulatory at slaughter), animals that die on the farm, older animals and animals exhibiting signs of neurological distress.

    U.S.D.A. maintains a detailed web page on "Mad Cow Disease" (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)). It can be accessed at: U.S.D.A. BSE Information page.

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