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From: TSS ()
Subject: Mad cow traced to Waco, Texas
Date: June 30, 2005 at 7:39 am PST

June 29, 2005, 10:41PM

Mad cow traced to Waco
The animal, born and raised in Texas, was sent to a pet food plant
News Services


AP file
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns tours a Utah beef processing plant in May.

Mad cow found in U.S. cow from Texas 6/24

• The connection between mad cow disease and humans
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Phone hot lines:
• USDA meat and poultry hot line: 1-888-674-6854
• Regular updates at 1-866-4USDACO.

• USDA news release on BSE finding 6/24
• Active USDA meat recalls
• Overview of the disease

Video courtesy Associated Press. (Free Real Player required.)

A cow known to have been infected with the dreaded mad cow disease was born and raised in Texas, the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed Wednesday.

USDA officials refused to identify the animal's owner or specify where the animal was reared.

The animal was first identified as a potential case of the brain-wasting disease at Waco-based dog food maker Champion Pet Foods, the Houston Chronicle has learned.

The cow was already dead when it arrived at the plant on Nov. 15, Champion President Benjy Bauer said in a prepared statement.

"We followed our normal daily procedures and sent a sample from this cow to the USDA-approved laboratory at Texas A&M," Bauer said.

After the first test on the animal came back as "inconclusive," a USDA representative took the carcass to the Texas Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at A&M, where it was incinerated.

No part of the animal was used to make dog food. Champion produces several blends of dog food, primarily for greyhounds.

The animal in question represents the first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, better known as mad cow disease, in a U.S.-born cow.

USDA officials believe the animal was born 12 years ago, four years before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration imposed a ban on feeding livestock food containing mammalian protein.

The government is now testing cattle born on the same ranch within a year of the infected animal, John Clifford, chief veterinarian at the Agriculture Department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, told reporters during a conference call from Washington.

USDA officials have identified at least two other animals related to the infected cow.

"Experience worldwide has shown us that it is highly unusual to find BSE in more than one animal in a herd or in an affected animal's offspring," Clifford said, adding that officials are tracing the feed eaten by the animal. Feed is thought to be the primary way the disease is spread.

USDA officials also plan to test offspring born to the cow within the past two years.

Michael Hansen, a senior research associate with Consumers Union, questioned why agriculture officials would only test offspring born within the past two years. If an animal contracted the disease before the feed ban took effect in 1997, that animal has been incubating the disease for years.

"I would think you would want to test animals as far back as you can get them," Hansen said.

About 97 percent of cattle in production today nationwide were born after the feed ban, Dan Hale, a meat specialist at Texas A&M, said.

"Most ranchers are wondering how the consumer will react after hearing the news," he said. "They want to know whether the consumer will understand this is not a food safety issue but more of a testing issue and about the protocol the USDA uses."

Government and industry officials stressed that no part of the animal made it into the human food chain.

Humans who eat contaminated beef products can contract a fatal variant of mad cow disease known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

A potentially negative consumer reaction has Texas cattle producers on edge.

"I hate that this animal did come from Texas — who in our industry in Texas would want this to be a case of an animal from Texas or even the United States?" said Shane Sklar, executive director of the Texas Independent Cattlemen's Association. "But this doesn't change anything, whether it's from Texas, because our system worked so that should be comforting to the consumer."

Even though the infected cow's home ranch was not identified, this case could devastate the ranch's business, especially if officials determine much of the herd needs to be euthanized.

"I'm not sure what will happen, but as things proceed and it becomes public knowledge who that person is, they could decide to get out of the business, if it's too much of a hassle," Sklar said. "As far as other ranchers are concerned, it goes back to how comfortable they are with testing procedures. I think they believe the USDA is on the right track. I would hate to see us get to a point where a rancher just didn't tell anybody about a cow with symptoms."

USDA's refusal to provide more details about the infected cow's herd continues what has been a controversial handling of this case.

After the initial "inconclusive" test result on the animal, Agriculture officials twice performed what's known as the immunohistochemistry or IHC test and concluded the cow was free of the disease.

They failed to conduct another kind of test called the Western blot method, known to be more sensitive under certain circumstances. And they ignored the results of another "experimental" test which proved positive.

Earlier this month, the Agriculture Department's inspector general ordered USDA officials to conduct a Western blot test, and they were forced to recant their earlier pronouncement.


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