BSE Case in Alabama

Atypical Version of BSE Should Not Impact U.S. Trade Status

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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APHIS says an atypical case of BSE has been found in an 11-year-old Alabama cow. (DTN file photo)

OMAHA (DTN) -- An 11-year-old Alabama cow has tested positive for an atypical variety of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, USDA announced on Tuesday.

USDA stated the animal never entered slaughter channels and at no time presented a risk to the food supply, or to human health in the United States. The cow was discovered through routine surveillance after showing clinical signs at an Alabama livestock market, USDA stated.

USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's (APHIS) National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) have determined that the cow was positive for atypical (L-type) BSE. APHIS and Alabama veterinary officials are gathering more information on the case.

The confirmed case marks the fifth positive case of BSE in the U.S. since 2003, the first since a 10-year-old cow tested positive in California in 2012.

USDA stated the Alabama cow was an atypical, or sporadic version of BSE that usually affects older cattle and arises spontaneously.

Classical BSE has been linked to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) in people. That version of BSE largely is caused by feed contaminated with the infectious prion agent, such as meat-and-bone meal containing protein derived from rendered, infected cattle.

USDA stated that of the four previous U.S. cases, the first was a case of classical BSE that was imported from Canada; the rest have been atypical (H- or L-type) BSE.

USDA stated the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) has recognized the United States as negligible risk for BSE. As noted in the OIE guidelines for determining this status, atypical BSE cases do not impact official BSE risk status recognition as this form of the disease is believed to occur spontaneously in all cattle populations at a very low rate. Therefore, this finding of an atypical case will not change the negligible risk status of the United States, and should not lead to any trade issues.

Kenny Graner, president of the United States Cattlemen's Association (USCA), said his organization appreciates USDA's swift response and communications to both the industry and consumers. Graner reiterated that the new case should not affect the U.S. trade status or relations.

"U.S. cattle producers pride themselves on producing the safest beef products possible, today's announcement doesn't change this," Graner said. "Safeguards are in place for this very reason and the industry will continue to work with our animal health experts and officials to detect and protect against such cases."

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Chris Clayton