SAN ANGELO, Texas, May 5, 2004 (ENS): The U.S. Department
of Agriculture (USDA) is fielding criticism of an employee's
decision not to test a cow for mad cow disease after
it was seen to stagger and fall April 27 at Lone Star
Beef in San Angelo, Texas.
“The cow in question was condemned and prohibited
from entering the human food chain on antemortem inspection
by a veterinarian with USDA’s Food Safety and
Inspection Service, the USDA said through a joint statement
issued Tuesday by Dr. Ron DeHaven, administrator of
the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
and Dr. Barbara Masters, acting administrator of the
Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).
"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," the two officials said.
Mad cow disease, formally known as bovine spongiform
encephalopathy (BSE), is a fatal disease of the central
“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. The rendered product from this animal
did not enter the human food chain; it presents no risk
to human health," DeHaven and Masters said.
“The Food and Drug Administration’s feed
ban prohibits rendered products from this or any other
cow to be fed to other ruminants," they said. The
Food and Drug Administration is addressing the proper
disposition of the rendered product.
“We continue to investigate the circumstances
of this case and will take appropriate actions once
all information is available," they said.
One government source and another within the industry,
both of whom say they have firsthand knowledge of events
that day, said the final decision not to test the animal
was made by an APHIS supervisor in Austin, Texas, after
an APHIS technician at the meat packing plant advised
her supervisor she was preparing to take a tissue sample
from the culled animal for BSE testing. Both sources
spoke to Meatingplace.com on condition of anonymity.
The two USDA officials said the agency is currently
enhancing its surveillance program. The enhanced program,
which kicks off June 1, "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,"
USDA will also include approximately 20,000 apparently
healthy older animals in this sampling. As part of this
effort, USDA is providing comprehensive training on
USDA BSE sampling collection protocols to APHIS and
FSIS employees, state veterinarians, accredited veterinarians,
and participating veterinary technicians.
The additional training effort will help ensure that
clear communications occur regarding collecting samples,
the USDA officials said.