Calif. Mad Cow discovery no threat to U.S. food

April 24, 2012 8:36:13 PM PDT
The first new case of Mad Cow Disease in the United States since 2006 has been discovered in California, but health officials say the animal was never a threat to the nation's food supply.

Officials say the infected cow was discovered at a transfer station at baker commodities in Hanford, Calif.

The disease was discovered during random testing and the cow was apparently not headed for the food supply.

Bovine Spongiform Encephalitis, better known Mad Cow Disease, is fatal in cows and can cause a fatal human brain disease in people who eat tainted meat. Tuesday, the Chief Veterinary Officer says this is an isolated case and there is no cause for alarm.

"Our livestock population in some of the healthiest in the world and the consumers should be confident in our food supply," said David Wright.

Clifford says it's important to know that the California cow is what scientists call an atypical case of BSE because it didn't get the disease from eating infected cattle feed, it was just a random mutation that can happen every once in a great while.

"First of all, this is only the fourth case reported worldwide and we've seen a substantial reduction in the number of cases," said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. "We've taken steps to notify our Canadian and Mexican partners in North America, and we've also taken a look at the top 20 trading partners reassuring then this is the way the system is suppose to work."

The infected cow has been euthanized and the carcass will be destroyed.

Everyone still remembers the devastating outbreak of Mad Cow Disease in Britain during the 1990s when 150 people died. After the first case was confirmed in this country back in 2003, dozens of countries banned U.S. beef and shipments decreased more than 80 percent. Of the millions of cows that are slaughtered every year, the USDA tests only 40,000 cows a year.

"USDA has not completed their investigation of this particular case so well be watching carefully to see what they find," Vilsack said. "Obviously if it turns out that we have tainted feed we will have a much larger problem on our hands."

Investigators say the FDA and the USDA are planning to test the cattle feed even though they say the cow did not contract the disease from cattle feed.

The government is advising that the beef is safe, however food safety advocates are warning that stricter safeguards should be in place to guarantee this never happens again.