USDA continues to work with the Canadian officials to verify traceback of the index animal. Records obtained from the owner correspond with Canada's records indicating that this animal was approximately 6-1/2 years old at the time of slaughter. USDA is working with Canada to conduct DNA testing to verify that the correct animal has been identified. The age of the animal is significant. She would have been born before feed bans were implemented in North America in August 1997. The feed bans prohibit the inclusion of ruminant protein in feed intended for other ruminants to eat. That practice has been identified time and time again as the primary means by which BSE spread.
On the morning of December 25, the BSE world reference lab in Weybridge, England, confirmed USDA's December 23 preliminary diagnosis of BSE in a single nonambulatory dairy cow that had been slaughtered on December 9 at Vern's Moses Lake Meats in Washington State.
At the time of USDA's preliminary diagnosis on December 23, USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a Class II recall for the facility's entire day's production. The recall was classified as Class II due to the extremely low likelihood that the beef being recalled contains the infectious agent that causes BSE.
The herd the affected animal came from is under a State quarantine in Washington. While USDA has not made any decisions on the dispositions of this herd, any cattle that die on the farm will be tested for BSE.
USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has determined the following additional information through its traceback investigation:
• USDA is continuing to trace the other 73 head of cattle that came in the same shipment. Furthermore, USDA has identified another shipment of 8 cows from the same herd in Canada which USDA is also tracing.
• The cow had three calves while she was in the United States. One of them died shortly after birth. One of them remains in the herd in Washington State where the index cow had most recently lived. That herd is under a "hold order" placed by the State of Washington--again, not to stop the spread of disease, because BSE is not contagious, but rather to prevent further complications to traceback and traceforward investigations. USDA is continuing to consider the appropriate disposition of these animals.
• A third calf from the index cow--her most recently born bull calf--is currently commingled in a herd of about 460 young bull calves, all around 30 days of age. That group of calves remains under a "hold order" pending completion of USDA's epidemiological investigation. Maternal transmission of BSE from mother to calf is very rare, if it occurs at all, but the animals are being held out of an abundance of caution, to preserve public and international confidence in the health of the U.S. cattle herd.
USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) has determined the following additional information:
• Since the discovery of BSE, FSIS has been working around the clock to protect the public health. A recall was initiated out of an abundance of caution following the report of one cow testing presumptive positive for BSE. Even though USDA remains confident in the safety of these beef products, USDA is and will continue to verify distribution and control of all products related to this recall.
• To briefly summarize the current situation on the beef products related to the December 23, 2003 BSE recall. The beef products were distributed from Verns Moses Lake to Midway Meats on December 11. All of the central nervous system related tissue, brain, spinal cord and distal ileum, were removed at the Verns facility during the slaughter that occurred on December 9, 2003. Those are the tissues that are most likely to contain the BSE agent. Because the meat leaving Verns did not contain these high risk materials, the recalled beef presents an essentially zero risk to consumers.
• FSIS is verifying that the customers have been notified of the recalled products and know how to handle the product.
• FSIS has found that the products were distributed to 42 locations from Interstate Meats and Willamette Valley Meats. The vast majority of these products--at least 80 percent---were distributed to stores in Oregon and Washington.
• FSIS is verifying that these 42 distributors are complying with their requirement to notify their customers.
• In overseeing this process, FSIS has found that all of the companies that have received these products have been proactively notifying their customers.
APHIS and FSIS continue to work closely with our colleagues in State and other Federal agencies as part of this investigation. Information will be posted to http://www.usda.gov as it becomes available.
Consumers with other food safety questions can phone the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline. The hotline is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Eastern Time), Monday through Friday. Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day.