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May 03, 2006   Email to Friend 

Darryal Ray
(334) 613-4187
May 03, 2006

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks announced Tuesday that the probe into the case of the Alabama cow found to have bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) has been completed, but the origin of the red crossbreed was never determined.

The cow, which tested positive for the fatal never disease in March, had become unable to walk or stand, and was euthanized by a veterinarian. It was buried on the farm without having entered the human food chain.

The cow was later exhumed and tests determined it was probably 10 years of age, born prior to the 1997 ban against adding ruminant byproducts to cattle feed. Eating contaminated feed is the only way cattle are known to contract the disease.

The investigation identified two of the cow's offspring, one a 6-week-old calf is under observation at a United States Department of Agriculture lab in Ames, Iowa; the second died last summer.

The USDA's Animal and Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and Alabama officials investigated 36 farms and five auction houses and conducted DNA testing on herds that may have included relatives of the cow.

"APHIS' investigation did not reveal the BSE-positive animal's herd of origin," said Dr. John Clifford, the USDA's chief veterinary officer. "However, this was not entirely unexpected due to the age of the animal, along with its lack of identifying brands, tattoos and tags. Experience worldwide has shown that it is highly unusual to find BSE in more than one animal in a herd or in an affected animal's offspring."

To ensure adequate feed controls were in place in the feed facilities in the immediate geographic area of the farm, FDA conducted a feed investigation into local feed mills that may have supplied feed to the animal after the 1997 feed ban. This investigation found the local feed mills to be in compliance with the FDA's feed ban.

As part of APHIS' BSE enhanced surveillance program, more than 700,000 samples have been tested since June 2004. To date, only two of these highest risk animals have tested positive for the disease as part of the surveillance program, for a total of three cases of BSE in the United States.

"While APHIS' epidemiological investigation did not locate additional animals of interest, it is important to remember that human and animal health in the United States is protected by a system of interlocking safeguards, which ensure the safety of U.S. beef," Clifford said. "The most important of these safeguards is the ban on specified risk materials from the food supply and the FDA's 1997 feed ban. "

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