The question hanging over the recent BSE confirmation of a cow first tested last November was: "Where was that animal from?" Late Wednesday evening, USDA announced that it had confirmed the source herd of the animal determined last week to be positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy. USDA Chief Veterinarian John Clifford notes that informed received from the animal's owner notes the cow was born in a heard in Texas and was approximately 12 years old.
The downer animal was sent to a pet food plant in Texas and was selected for sample upon arrival. "The source herd is now under a hold order as we identify animals of interest within the herd," Clifford says. "Consistent with OIE (World Organization for Animal Health) guidelines, animals of interest would include any other animals that were born the same year as this animal, as well as any born the year before and the year after."
Terry Stokes, chief executive officer, National Cattleman's Beef Association, issued a statement noting that consumers should remember that "the animal did not enter the human food or animal feed supply, and the animal was born before the industry's feed ban."
The pet food plant where the animal was processed does not handle animals for human consumption and in this case did not use the animal for pet food; its remains were incinerated. Champion Pet Foods, the operation that had taken the animal in issued a statement noting the animal was dead when it arrived at the plant. Champion processes pet food for the greyhound industry.
USDA's Clifford notes the ag agency is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to determine the feed history of the animal. "Given the animal's age, we believe it is most likely infected by consuming feed prior to the implementation of the ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban in 1997.
Clifford notes the testing and traceback efforst may yield further information about how the cow as infected and adds that the safety of the food supply is no in question. "I am very confident that our interlocking safeguards are effective, and this case is evidence of that. USDA bans non-ambulatory cattle from the food supply. USDA bans animal parts that would carry BSE from the food supply. USDA bans slaughter techniques that could introduce BSE into the food supply," he notes.