- At least 110 cows considered at risk for mad cow disease
have been slaughtered and most likely entered the food chain for human
consumption, federal agriculture officials said yesterday.
- Those cows could have been exposed to the same contaminated
feed source as the infected Yakima County cow.
- Consumers should not be alarmed, however, because there
is little chance those cows were also infected or that the meat poses a
human health risk, agriculture officials said.
- "There is probably no risk from these cows -- but
they may be in the food supply," said Madelaine Fletcher, a spokeswoman
for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection
- Also yesterday, authorities said they will soon begin
killing 129 dairy cows from the same Mabton farm that was the last home
of the infected Holstein. Those cows also could have been exposed to the
same feed source in Canada as the infected Yakima County cow, Dr. Ron DeHaven,
USDA chief veterinarian, said at a news conference.
- Scientists believe contaminated feed is the main transmitter
of mad cow disease. This will be the second group of quarantined cows destroyed
in the wake of last month's discovery of the first case of mad cow in the
- Eighty-one cows from the same Alberta herd -- including
the one that was infected -- entered the United States in 2001. Fletcher
said dozens of these cows are still unaccounted for.
- DeHaven yesterday explained how investigators have narrowed
the search among the 4,000 cows on the Mabton dairy where the infected
cow was found.
- "Through this process of elimination, we have narrowed
the at-risk population down to about 258 animals that could have been part
of this shipment of 81 animals," he said.
- "Of that 258 at-risk population, records would suggest
that 110 of them have been culled from the herd and we are doing further
investigation to trace those animals out," DeHaven said.
- When a dairy cow is no longer productive it is "culled"
or removed from the herd and sent to slaughter, where it is processed for
food and other uses.
- DeHaven said 129 of the cows in the at-risk population
are still on the Mabton farm. Those are the animals soon to be destroyed.
- "There are 19 for which we have no record of them
being culled from the herd, nor any other record to suggest that they are
still on the farm so we are again focusing a lot of are efforts to identify
those other 19 animals," DeHaven said.
- He also said authorities believe that approximately seven
cows from the original herd went to another dairy.
- Officials are trying to determine whether they are still
- DeHaven didn't identify the dairy, but Nolan Lemon, with
the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said it was in Quincy
and that authorities were requesting a state hold order for the facility.
- Tracing the animals from the source herd in Alberta is
fraught with complications and delays, Fletcher said.
- "Tracing is really difficult," she said. "There
are a lot of hand-written records, tags come off, records are incomplete
-- there are no automated systems."
- Of the latest group of cows to be slaughtered, 10 will
be killed today at a facility in Wilbur in northeastern Washington.
- Ten more are scheduled to be killed Monday and about
35 each day after that, said Lemon. .
- In contrast to the first group, which was younger than
30 months old and could not be tested for the disease, these 129 cows are
older and will be tested for BSE.
- The meat will not enter the human or animal food chains
regardless of the outcome of those tests, DeHaven said.
- Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy,
eats holes in the brains of cattle and is incurable.
- Humans can develop a brain-wasting illness, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob
disease, from consuming contaminated beef products.
- Officials have said, though, that the meat supply is
- The update on the USDA's mad cow investigation comes
at the same time Japanese agriculture and health officials are in Washington
on a fact-finding mission and discussing safety procedures for American
- More than two dozen countries -- including Japan -- have
banned the import of U.S. beef since the discovery of mad cow here.
- The only other case of the disease in North America was
discovered in an Angus cow from Alberta in May.
- Officials have said they believe both cows probably were
infected as calves because they were born before August 1997, when the
United States and Canada banned cattle feed that contained parts of cattle,
sheep or other cud-chewing animals.
- DeHaven also said yesterday that federal officials have
taken the following steps to increase confidence in America's beef supply:
- Dropped a proposal, for the time being, to reopen the
border to younger Canadian cattle, which are unlikely to have the disease
because of its long incubation period.
- Prohibited specified risk materials from animals over
30 months old, and the small intestine of cattle of all ages, from entering
the human food supply. Those specified risk materials include the skull,
brain, trigeminal ganglia, eyes, vertebral column, spinal cord and dorsal
- Expanded the prohibition on central nervous system tissue
in Advanced Meat Recovery products.
- Prohibited air-injection stunning of cattle at slaughter.
- This report includes information from The Associated
Press. P-I reporter Chris McGann can be reached at 206-448-8169 or email@example.com