Public Likely Ate Suspect
Mad Cow Meat can this be??

By Andy Dworkin
The Oregonian

"According to US Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, the cow was either sick or injured and not destined for the food supply. Ms Veneman said that means the US food supply is safe."
Mad Cow 'Not In Food Supply' Says USDA
She wouldn't LIE now, would she??
Public Likely Ate Suspect Cow Meat
By Andy Dworkin
The Oregonian
Northwest residents probably have eaten meat from a Holstein with mad cow disease, agriculture officials said Friday, as several grocery chains recalled specific kinds of beef that could contain the cow's meat.
Albertsons, Fred Meyer, Safeway and WinCo Foods all received batches of beef, which could have contained bits of the sick cow, from Interstate Meat Distributors in Portland. It was sold mostly as ground beef to Northwest customers from about Dec. 15 through Dec. 23 -- although Safeway's recall includes 69 pounds of "fresh beef hearts."
"From a practical standpoint, some of this has already been consumed and can't be recalled," given the beef's distribution dates, said Dalton Hobbes, a spokesman for Oregon's Department of Agriculture.
Also Friday, a U.S. Department of Agriculture spokesman said the sick cow's discovery was partly luck: Another of the 20 cows being slaughtered at Vern's Moses Lake Meats on Dec. 9 was acting strangely, so inspectors sent tissue from all 20 cows for testing, Daniel Puzo said. Those tests showed the disease instead affected the Holstein, whose only notable injury came while giving birth.
"It's very ironic, actually," Puzo said.
Inspectors said that, since Wednesday, they have quarantined a Sunnyside, Wash., facility that feeds young bulls, including one recently born to the diseased cow. Because that bull calf was not tagged for positive identification, all 400 bull calves there younger than 30 days will be killed, said Linda Waring of the Washington Department of Agriculture.
Other state and USDA officials labored to pinpoint where the sick cow was born.
"My hope is that we will be able to identify that location within a number of days" if the cow's owners kept good records, said Dr. Ron DeHaven, the USDA's chief veterinary officer. But "it could be a matter of weeks or months. And there's always the possibility that because of lack of records, we might not be able to absolutely determine that at all."
Once the "birth herd" is found, discovering what that herd ate will be more important, because contaminated feed is the chief suspect for spreading mad cow disease. It also will be harder, officials said, because farmers are not likely to scrupulously record what their cattle ate years ago.
The chance of any person catching the fatal, human form of mad cow disease from eating meat is very, very low, officials stressed again Friday. But information from grocers, meat distributors and federal officials made clear that it is very likely someone has eaten meat from the sick cow, probably purchased in Oregon or Washington. And the revelation that chance played a significant role in finding the sick cow opens the question of how many similar cows there might be.
Farm bought cow in 2001 Federal officials said the cow in question was sold to a Mabton, Wash., dairy farm in October 2001, when the farmer was aggressively expanding his herd. The owner bought the heifer from either a local "dairy cattle finishing farm," which sold him more than 100 cows that month, or a livestock auction house, DeHaven said.
"From there," he said, tracking the cow's birth "becomes a tangled web" that could lead to many different states or Canada.
Officials revealed that the cow's first calf died shortly after birth in 2001. The second, born last year, remains on the Mabton-area farm now under quarantine, so no animal can leave without a permit. The third was recently sent to the bull-feeding facility similarly restricted.
DeHaven continued to insist that the cow could not walk when inspected for slaughter because of injuries from giving birth.
Puzo, the USDA official, said the agency does not test all such immobile cattle, known as "downers." He said there are too many such cows, and the agency does not test those whose only problem seems to be routine injuries, such as broken bones or calving injuries.
Inspectors do try to test all cows showing signs of nervous system disease, he said, and "noted something else in one of the other cows" slaughtered Dec. 9 that made them suspect a nervous disease and order the testing of all 20 cattle.
Conflict on information Puzo and Hobbes also shed more light on an information-sharing conflict that continues to keep the USDA from giving Oregon officials a detailed list of where meat from the diseased cow went. Both said the problem was that Oregon has not signed a memo that details how information can be shared in recalls and what states must do to help the government on big recalls.
States that sign the memo agree not to publicly release information about businesses' customers during "class II," or low-risk, recalls, such as the one going on now, Puzo said. And if Oregon had signed the memo, state officials could not tell the public where the suspect meat went, he said.
"That sort of information is proprietary," Puzo said, "and according to legal interpretations, it's up to a company to decide whether they want to release that information."
Hobbes said Oregon didn't sign the memo last year because agriculture officials feared they did not have the resources to take part in a big recall, if required. He added that state and USDA officials talked through "this rough patch" Thursday and Friday, and "we're getting some information. It's not as much as we'd like at this point."
Data from distributors, stores The two Oregon distributors who received suspect meat and several store chains filled in some of that information Friday.
Willamette Valley Meat received about 2,000 pounds of beef from the affected lot of meat on Dec. 12. Most of it never left the Southeast Portland meat distributor's freezer.
Hundreds of pounds were sold to Portland-area firms, typically to be made into jerky, pepperoni or other products that contain the low-grade meat that comes from dairy cows. All those customers were notified by Wednesday, and most said they had not used or resold the meat, said Mark Klein, president of Willamette Valley Meat.
Interstate ground meat from the suspect shipment on Dec. 12. and Dec. 15. It shipped the meat as ground beef and ground beef patties, labeled to be sold, used or frozen by dates ranging from Dec. 23 to Jan. 1. In all, Interstate shipped 19,758 pounds, because the sick cow's meat was cut with healthy cows' beef from successive rounds of processing.
The four grocery chains that recalled meat Friday all were supplied by Interstate.
Some recalls were relatively small: Safeway's mentioned only 19 stores, and Fred Meyer's only 96 pounds of beef. Others were broader, partly because officials have not yet been able to track their shipments to individual stores, the companies said. So WinCo's recall covered five states, Fred Meyer's recall covered four, and Albertsons' hit three, even though not all stores in all states got affected products.
Although the recall covered many hundreds of pounds of beef, store representatives said it was a very small amount of overall sales. Safeway recalled 167 pounds of ground beef and beef hearts; the chain sells 120,000 pounds of ground beef in an average week in Oregon and Southwest Washington alone, spokeswoman Bridget Flanagan said.
- Bryan Denson and Betsy Hammond of The Oregonian and correspondent Wendy Owens contributed to this report.
- Andy Dworkin: 503-221-8239;
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