Beef Is Safe
Apr 25, 2012
I admit there was a time after the outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the UK that news of USDA confirming a positive test of BSE would have sent chills up and down this beef farmer’s spine. I vividly remember the images of millions of cattle in England, Scotland and Wales being slaughtered as a precautionary measure. As a cattlewoman, I am quite connected to my cattle. I could never imagine being put in a situation where I have to destroy my entire herd due to a disease breakout.
While the "what-ifs" can keep this farmer up at night, the fact remains our beef and milk is completely safe because the U.S. has established a national surveillance program -- a program driven by America’s cattlemen urging the federal government to establish a science-based surveillance system to safeguard the nation’s food supply and my herd’s health.
The fourth case of BSE in the U.S. showcased that the interconnected safeguards to prevent BSE are working. While the news of USDA confirming a BSE case sent the beef market swirling downward, the announcement is just part of the educational process. We owe it to ourselves to get the facts before we eliminate nutritional valuable protein source from our diet. It is important as consumers to understand that beef is a safe, nutrient-enriched choice for our families.
Important Facts about BSE
- Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE, commonly referred to as "mad cow disease") is a degenerative neurological disease affecting the central nervous system in cattle.
- BSE can only be transmitted through feed containing meat and bone meal from BSE-infected cattle.
- BSE CANNOT be spread from animal to animal or from animals to humans through normal contact.
- BSE agent is only found in the central nervous system tissue (brain and spinal cord) of an infected cow. These specified risk materials (brain and spinal cord) are banned from the U.S. Food Supply
- It is NOT found in steaks, roasts, hamburger, or similar cuts of beef.
- BSE is NOT transmitted through milk.
Facts about the Beef Communities’ Actions to Protect the Beef Supply
- In 1996, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) called for a voluntary feed ban, which established an industry standard against feeding ruminant-derived meat and bone meal (MBM) protein to cattle. In 1997, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made the ban mandatory. The feed ban breaks the cycle of BSE and, with full compliance, assures the disease will be eliminated.
- The beef industry continues to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other food chain partners to further strengthen U.S. food safety systems overall. In fact, the industry invests $350 million annually in beef safety efforts. Beef producers alone have invested more than $30 million since 1993 in beef safety research.
Facts about the USDA’s Safeguards and Surveillance Program
- Specified Risk Materials (parts of the animal that contains the central nervous system tissue-brain and spinal cord) are banned from entering the food supply.
- USDA also bans all non-ambulatory ("downer" cows) from entering the human food supply.
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned ruminant material in cattle feed.
- Since 1990, the U.S. Beef has established a science-based surveillance program. Animals exhibiting signs of central nervous system disorder, non-ambulatory animals, and other animals showing symptoms consistent with BSE that die on the farm are tested for BSE.
- Approximately 40,000 high-risk cattle are tested annually in the United States. This program is rigorous and exceeds the international recommended testing levels established by the World Organization for Animal Health’s (OIE). In May 2007, the OIE classified the United States as a ‘controlled risk’ country in regards to BSE.
Important Facts about the California Dairy Cow
- A non-ambulatory dairy cow in California was tested for BSE at the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa.
- Tests confirmed the animal was positive for atypical BSE, a very rare form of the disease not generally associated with an animal consuming infected feed.
- The animal was held under State Authority at a rendering facility and will be destroyed.
- It never entered into the United State food supply.
- Milk does NOT transmit BSE.
Consumer Safety Facts about BSE