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March 14, 2006   Email to Friend 

Christy Rhodes
(334) 240-7103
March 14, 2006

Alabama Agriculture & Industries Commissioner Ron Sparks, fourth from left, addresses BSE concerns during a press conference Monday. Joining him, from left, are: Jim Walker, Director of Homeland Security; State Health Officer Don Williamson; Perry Mobley, director of the Alabama Farmers Federation's Beef Division; Alabama Cattlemen's Association Executive Director Dr. Billy Powell, and State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Frazier.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Agriculture & Industries Commissioner Ron Sparks has confirmed that a second test for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is positive.

The cow was a downed animal and did not enter the human or animal food supply. The samples were taken from a cow that was on an Alabama farm within the last year.

"I was very concerned to find out that the samples that tested positive for BSE were from a cow in Alabama, but this is exactly the reason that we emphasis the importance of BSE surveillance," said Sparks.

"The cow was tested as part of the enhanced BSE surveillance program that has been in place in Alabama," said Sparks. "Even cows brought in from other states get tested for BSE before they would have a chance to be sold as food. I cannot stress enough how important this testing is to protect consumers. Also, having the Premises ID program in place in Alabama means we are able to trace the origin of a diseased animal. The cattle producers of Alabama understand the need for these precautions as well and we will continue to work together closely to protect consumers."

The cow had been purchased by an Alabama producer and was examined and treated by a local veterinarian. After failing to respond to medication, the cow was humanely euthanized by the veterinarian and a routine sample was collected to test for BSE.

Following an inconclusive test result from a rapid BSE test, the samples were tested at the National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa.

The Western blot test produced a positive result. A third test, the immunohistochemistry test, is in progress and will be completed later this week. BSE is not a contagious disease that spreads animal to animal, or animal to human. BSE spreads in cattle through feed containing meat and bone meal derived from BSE infected cattle. The United States banned the use of such protein supplements in cattle feed since 1997.

Commissioner Sparks stresses that beef consumption in this country is safe and there are measures in place to see that they continue.

For example, downer animals are not allowed to enter commerce for human consumption and there is a ban on feeding ruminant derived protein to cattle.

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