USDA Declares Beef Supply Safe, Despite BSE Diagnosis

5 years ago

The United States Department of Agriculture confirmed yesterday that the nation's fourth case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), which is also known as Mad Cow Disease, was detected in a central California dairy cow.

BSE, or Mad Cow Disease, is an almost-always fatal neurological disease in cattle. There is evidence it can be transmitted to humans who eat food contaminated by tissue—particularly nervous system tissue—from an infected animal. The disease shows up in humans as Variant Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease (vCJD), which is also a fatal, degenerative brain disorder. As of April 2012, only three cases of vCJD have ever been confirmed in the United States.

According to the USDA, the cow never presented a threat to the U.S. food supply—it was not slated to be slaughtered for human consumption.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack declared the American food supply "safe" in a statement released yesterday. "The systems and safeguards in place to protect animal and human health worked as planned to identify this case quickly, and will ensure that it presents no risk to the food supply or to human health," Vilsack said. "USDA has no reason to believe that any other U.S. animals are currently affected, but we will remain vigilant and committed to the safeguards in place."

"No need to fear, milk lovers," wrote Katie Stockstill-Sawyer of New To The Farm, "the system put in place to detect this and other diseases carried by livestock, worked and the animal that tested positive did not enter the food system."

But not all bloggers were as circumspect about the assurance of safety.

"I wonder if they test each cow, or just do random spot checks," wrote Susie Madrak of Suburban Guerilla. "Because if the latter, I’d say we still have something to worry about."

I, for one, am going to continue doing what I'm doing: buying all my meat from a local butcher who I trust to sell safe meat from organic, often-local sources. But as far as I'm concerned, the incidences we've seen are so statistically insignificant that there's no cause for panic. I'm still going to eat steak—and ground beef—when I want to. How about you?

Want to know more answers to your questions about BSE? Check out the USDA's FAQ on the issue.

You can also read more at the following blogs:

Will this latest BSE diagnosis change your food shopping and preparation habits? Why or why not? Share your thoughts and comments below.

Image Credit: justthatgoodguyjim on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license.


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