Since Dec. 23, there's the unsettling thought that another case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) could appear in the U.S. Producers have been able to rebound well after the first case, but the thought of another is not a path producers want to be forced to travel.
On Friday, traders got a little scared when reports surfaced that a cow was being tested for BSE in a south central Texas slaughter facility. In the end, it was a only a rumor, but the USDA did reveal that proper procedure was not followed in the Lone Star Beef slaughter facility in San Angelo, Texas.
A joint statement released by Ron DeHaven, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) administrator, and Barbara Masters, Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) acting administrator states, "The cow in question was condemned and prohibited from entering the human food chain on antemortem inspection by a veterinarian with USDAâ€™s Food Safety and Inspection Service. The veterinarian condemned the animal after observing the cow stagger and fall, indicating either an injury or potentially a central nervous system (CNS) disorder or other health condition."
Standard procedures call for animals condemned due to possible CNS disorder to be kept until APHIS officials can collect samples for testing. However, this did not occur in this case and the animal was sent to rendering. But, the rendered product from this animal did not enter the human food chain; it presents no risk to human health.
The USDA is preparing to launch an enhanced surveillance program beginning June 1. The program will target as many animals as possible from the populations considered to be at highest risk for BSE, including animals with signs of central nervous system disorders and nonambulatory animals.