Iowa Public Television


Mad Cow Disease Discovered in U.S.

posted on December 26, 2003

Hello, I'm Mark Pearson.

For America's cattle producers, 2003 has been one for the record books. Tight supplies and blistering demand combined for the highest prices in history, and analysts expected favorable prices to continue well into the New Year and beyond.

But all of that changed Tuesday, when the agriculture department announced the discovery of the first apparent case of Mad Cow Disease in the United States.

USDA acted swiftly, quarantining the suspected farm, announcing a recall of 10,000 pounds of meat and launching an investigation to determine where tainted meat was shipped and whether other cattle were infected.

Nevertheless, the announcement sent shockwaves through the food chain as government and industry officials alike attempted to reassure the nation that the food supply is safe.


Mad Cow Disease Discovered in U.S.

The first reported case of Mad Cow disease in the United States was announced this week by Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman. The secretary said initial tests on a Holstein cow from a dairy farm near Yakima, Washington, were positive for the brain-wasting disease that has devastated livestock industries in other nations.

Agriculture officials close to the investigation said the diseased cow was "a downer"  an injured or sick animal not destined for the food supply. But there also were reports that muscle cuts from the cow were sent to two processing plants.

Veneman, who said it was too early to tell if it was an isolated caser, said the farm where the animal originated has been quarantined.

She also urged U.S. consumers to remain confident in the safety of their food.

She said, quote, "Even though the risk to human health is minimal, we will take all appropriate actions out of an abundance of caution." She also said, discovery of the Mad Cow case was, quote, "a clear indication that our surveillance and protection program is working."

The threat of Mad Cow disease hangs like a cloud over the cattle industry. Canadian beef producers still have NOT recovered from the discovery of a single diseased cow in Alberta province last May. And the British beef industry has taken years to rebound from a more widespread outbreak in the 1980s.

Mad Cow disease also has turned up in other parts of Europe and in Asia. Those cases prompted the massive destruction of cow herds and ruined consumer confidence in meat supplies.

Veneman said a tissue sample from the suspect U.S. cow was taken December 9th and sent to a testing lab in Iowa. Officials say samples from the cow now have been sent to Britain for confirmation of the finding.


Tags: agriculture animals beef diseases food safety livestock Mad Cow meat news