April 28, 2006 -- In a teleconference this morning, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture?s (USDA) estimate of the prevalence of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the United States.
"Our enhanced BSE surveillance program has been an enormous undertaking, but well worth the effort," said Johanns. "We can now say, based on science, that the prevalence of BSE in the United States is extraordinarily low. The testing and analysis reinforce our confidence in the health of the U.S. cattle herd, while our interlocking safeguards, including the removal of specified risk materials and the feed ban, protect animal and human health."
The estimate of BSE prevalence in the United States is based on data gathered from not only the enhanced surveillance effort that has been underway since June 2004, but also from surveillance conducted in the United States for the 5 years prior.
The findings in two separate methodologies were similar, indicating that the most likely number of cases present in the United States is between 4 and 7 animals. Therefore, USDA concludes that the prevalence of the disease in the United States is less than 1 case per million adult cattle, based on an adult cattle population in this country of 42 million animals.
The testing program is not part of U.S. food safety protections. The system of interlocking safeguards protects animal and public health. The most important safeguards are the removal of specified risk materials from the food supply, along with the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) 1997 ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban. Science indicates that the longer the FDA's feed ban is in place, the lower the prevalence of BSE will be in this country.
USDA will use the prevalence analysis, once it is peer-reviewed, and international standards set by the World Animal Health Organization, to design an ongoing BSE surveillance program for the United States. The data and analysis will also assist in making science-based policy and regulatory decisions related to the disease.
USDA is confident the conclusions drawn regarding BSE prevalence in the United States are sound and scientifically credible. The analysis, along with a summary report on the BSE enhanced surveillance program, are available at: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom/hot_issues/bse.shtml
Reprinted in part from USDA Press Release