Are USDA assurances on mad cow case 'gross oversimplification'?
2 May 2012 11:24am, EDT
By Robert Bazell, Chief science and medical correspondent, NBC News
The mad cow discovered in California last week was not really a mad cow. It suffered from a closely related disease. There is no cause for alarm at this point, but several top scientists say the public health implications may not be as clear the U.S. Department of Agriculture would have us believe.
The diseased dairy cow from a rendering (or carcass recycling) plant in Hanford, Calif., near Fresno, was infected with a condition variously known as BASE (bovine amyloidotic spongiform encephalopathy), atypical BSE and L-type BSE, which has so far been found in about 70 animals in the world. Lyndsay Cole, a spokeswoman for USDA, confirmed the diagnosis in an email Tuesday.
This condition, first reported in two Italian cows in 2004, causes the same rapid crippling and death as the classic bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) that swept through Britain and much of Europe in the 1980s and '90s. But the brains of the animals look very different after their demise.
Some experiments have shown that this rare disease can jump from species to species, infecting lab mice and even non-human primates. The research also suggests that the infectious agent for the rare disease could be more virulent than BSE, more likely to appear in meat (classical BSE is mostly in brain and nervous tissue) and might be carried in milk. Many scientists are quick to point out that all this research consists of studies too small to be conclusive.
The U.S. government has confirmed the first case of mad cow disease in six years, but the government is stressing there is no threat to human health. NBC's Robert Bazell reports.
However, there is an urgent need for further study, they say.
What irks many scientists is the USDA’s April 25 statement that the rare disease is “not generally associated with an animal consuming infected feed.”
The USDA’s conclusion is a “gross oversimplification,” said Dr. Paul Brown, one of the world’s experts on this type of disease who retired recently from the National Institutes of Health. "(The agency) has no foundation on which to base that statement.”
“We can’t say it’s not feed related,” agreed Dr. Linda Detwiler, an official with the USDA during the Clinton Administration now at Mississippi State.
In the May 1 email to me, USDA’s Cole backed off a bit. “No one knows the origins of atypical cases of BSE,” she said
The argument about feed is critical because if feed is the cause, not a spontaneous mutation, the California cow could be part of a larger outbreak.
The British and European outbreaks of BSE ignited because the industry turned cattle -- natural vegetarians -- into cannibals, feeding them the remains of cattle and other animals. U.S. farmers did the same, but Britain had a huge incidence of a related disease in sheep called scrapie, and many scientists believe that was the source of the massive cattle outbreak. Although experiments showed that BSE could infect monkeys and other animals, it was not until the first human infections that anyone realized the threat it poses to people. The human form of the disease, first discovered in Britain in the 1980s, has been blamed for the deaths of at least 280 people worldwide, with 175 in the UK alone.
How could the California cow have been infected with feed? Following the British outbreak, ranchers in the U.S. and most of the rest of the world stopped feeding cattle the remains of cattle, sheep and other mammals. But a farmer’s feed still could get contaminated by other means. The USDA still allows chickens to consume the remains of cattle. Chicken litter, containing urine and feces, is fed to cows. That could theoretically transmit the infection to cattle.
And if it is feed, what does that say about the potential of an outbreak in the rest of this cow’s heard? It appears the USDA and the California Department of Food and Agriculture are investigating. Dr. Jim Cullor, associate dean of the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine and an expert on many animal illnesses, spoke to me from his office, which is close to the dairy farm that housed the sick cow. He would not identify the farm (nor will any government agency) but he did say dairy farms in the area usually have about 3,000 animals (about half of them milk producers). But some farms in the area have as many as 10,000 head, Cullor explains. Typically, the inspectors would visit the farm’s “hospital,” where sick animals are treated. They would also go over the hospital’s records as well as the farmer’s feed and records of past feed purchases.
“That farmer will feel like he’s had a visit from the IRS,” Cullor quipped.
But does such an inspection guarantee safety? Dr. Michael Hansen of the Consumers Union, along with many scientists, argues that, like Europe, the U.S. should test all animals that look sick or are over 6-years-old before they enter the food supply. The rationale behind testing healthy animals 6 years old or older is that BSE usually takes that long to develop.
"With thorough testing we would know the food supply is safe,” Hansen said. “We wouldn’t be guessing.”
We would also learn the true incidence and origin of spontaneous and atypical cases.
But the U.S. tests far fewer animals -- about 40,000 of the 35 million cattle slaughtered annually. The argument is about cost, an estimated $25 to $30 per animal. Widespread testing would add a few cents to the cost of a pound of beef. Britain, Europe, Japan and several other nations have decided it is worth it. The USDA says it is not and declares: “The surveillance program allows USDA to detect the disease if it exists at very low levels in the U.S. cattle population.”
Few scientists would argue that the one California cow which never was headed to the U.S. food supply represents a health hazard. But many maintain that the current surveillance is insufficient. Dr. Kurt Giles, an expert in neurogenerative diseases now at the University of California, San Francisco, was at Oxford during the British outbreak. He told me USDA’s assurances about safety today remind him of British statements during the 1980s.
“It is so reminiscent of that absolute certainty,” he said.
Robert Bazell is NBC's chief science and medical correspondent. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter @RobertBazellNBC
Friday, May 25, 2012
R-CALF USDA’s New BSE Rule Eliminates Important Protections Needed to Prevent BSE Spread
Subject: Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy; Importation of Bovines and Bovine Products APHIS-2008-0010-0008 RIN:0579-AC68
Comment from Terry Singeltary Document ID: APHIS-2008-0010-0008 Document Type: Public Submission This is comment on Proposed Rule: Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy; Importation of Bovines and Bovine Products Docket ID: APHIS-2008-0010 RIN:0579-AC68
Topics: No Topics associated with this document View Document: More Document Subtype: Public Comment Status: Posted Received Date: March 22 2012, at 12:00 AM Eastern Daylight Time Date Posted: March 22 2012, at 12:00 AM Eastern Daylight Time Comment Start Date: March 16 2012, at 12:00 AM Eastern Daylight Time Comment Due Date: May 15 2012, at 11:59 PM Eastern Daylight Time Tracking Number: 80fdd617 First Name: Terry Middle Name: S. Last Name: Singeltary City: Bacliff Country: United States State or Province: TX Organization Name: CJD TSE PRION Submitter's Representative: CONSUMERS
Comment: comment submission Document ID APHIS-2008-0010-0001
OIE et al, what a difference it makes with science, from one day to the next. i.e. that mad cow gold card the USA once held. up until that fateful day in December of 2003, the science of BSE was NO IMPORTS TO USA FROM BSE COUNTRY. what a difference a day makes$ now that the shoe is on the other foot, the USDA via the OIE, wants to change science again, just for trade $ I implore the OIE decision and policy makers, for the sake of the world, to refuse any status quo of the USA BSE risk assessment. if at al, the USA BSE GBR should be raise to BSE GBR IV, for the following reasons. North America is awash with many different TSE Prion strains, in many different species, and they are mutating and spreading. IF the OIE, and whatever policy makers, do anything but raise the risk factor for BSE in North America, they I would regard that to be highly suspicious. IN fact, it would be criminal in my opinion, because the OIE knows this, and to knowingly expose the rest of the world to this dangerous pathogen, would be ‘knowingly’ and ‘willfully’, just for the almighty dollar, once again. I warned the OIE about all this, including the risk factors for CWD, and the fact that the zoonosis potential was great, way back in 2002. THE OIE in collaboration with the USDA, made the legal trading of the atypical Nor-98 Scrapie a legal global commodity. yes, thanks to the OIE and the USDA et al, it’s now legal to trade the atypical Nor-98 Scrapie strain all around the globe. IF you let them, they will do the same thing with atypical BSE and CWD (both strains to date). This with science showing that indeed these TSE prion strains are transmissible. I strenuously urge the OIE et al to refuse any weakening to the USA trade protocols for the BSE TSE prion disease (all strains), and urge them to reclassify the USA with BSE GBR IV risk factor.
SEE REFERENCE SOURCES IN ATTACHMENTS
PLEASE SEE Terry S. Singeltary Sr. _Attachment_ WORD FILE ;
***Also, a link is suspected between atypical BSE and some apparently sporadic cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. These atypical BSE cases constitute an unforeseen first threat that could sharply modify the European approach to prion diseases.
MAD COW USDA ATYPICAL L-TYPE BASE BSE, the rest of the story...
***Oral Transmission of L-type Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy in Primate Model
***Infectivity in skeletal muscle of BASE-infected cattle
***feedstuffs- It also suggests a similar cause or source for atypical BSE in these countries.
***Also, a link is suspected between atypical BSE and some apparently sporadic cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans.
The present study demonstrated successful intraspecies transmission of H-type BSE to cattle and the distribution and immunolabeling patterns of PrPSc in the brain of the H-type BSE-challenged cattle. TSE agent virulence can be minimally defined by oral transmission of different TSE agents (C-type, L-type, and H-type BSE agents) . Oral transmission studies with H-type BSEinfected cattle have been initiated and are underway to provide information regarding the extent of similarity in the immunohistochemical and molecular features before and after transmission.
In addition, the present data will support risk assessments in some peripheral tissues derived from cattle affected with H-type BSE.
in the url that follows, I have posted
SRM breaches first, as late as 2011.
MAD COW FEED BAN BREACHES AND TONNAGES OF MAD COW FEED IN COMMERCE up until 2007, when they ceased posting them.
MAD COW SURVEILLANCE BREACHES.
Friday, May 18, 2012
Update from APHIS Regarding a Detection of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in the United States Friday May 18, 2012
> > > Ackerman says downed cattle are 50 times more likely to have mad cow disease (also known as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or BSE) than ambulatory cattle that are suspected of having BSE. Of the 20 confirmed cases of mad cow disease in North America since 1993, at least 16 have involved downer cattle, he said. < < <
don’t forget the children...
PLEASE be aware, for 4 years, the USDA fed our children all across the Nation (including TEXAS) dead stock downer cows, the most high risk cattle for BSE aka mad cow disease and other dangerous pathogens.
who will watch our children for CJD for the next 5+ decades ???
WAS your child exposed to mad cow disease via the NSLP ???
SCHOOL LUNCH PROGRAM FROM DOWNER CATTLE UPDATE
DID YOUR CHILD CONSUME SOME OF THESE DEAD STOCK DOWNER COWS, THE MOST HIGH RISK FOR MAD COW DISEASE ???
you can check and see here ;