The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued a statement confirming that its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service identified a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in a dairy cow from central California. According to the April 24, 2012, news release, the cow presented with an atypical type of BSE “not generally associated with an animal consuming infected feed” and was never destined for human consumption.

“The United States has had longstanding interlocking safeguards to protect human and animal health against BSE,” said USDA Chief Veterinary Officer John Clifford, adding that milk does not transmit BSE. “For public health, these measures include the USDA ban on specified risk materials, or SRMs, from the food supply. SRMs are parts of the animals that are most likely to contain the BSE agent if it is present in the animal. USDA also bans all nonambulatory (sometimes called ‘downer’) cattle from entering the human food chain.”  

Clifford also noted that the nation’s fourth BSE case should not alter its status as determined by the World Organization for Animal Health or otherwise affect international trade. Indonesia, however, has reportedly banned all imports of U.S. beef until officials prove “that its beef industry is free of any mad-cow disease,” as Vice Agricultural Minister Rusman Heriawan was quoted as saying. “It could be one month or one year, it depends entirely on the U.S.”  

Meanwhile, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has already used the incident to reiterate its call for a livestock tracking program. “The United States has first-world resources and technology but a third-world animal identification system,” CSPI’s Sarah Klein opined in a April 24, 2012, statement. “If the cow were exposed to the typical strain of BSE via animal feed—and the government says that’s not the case here—that would have represented a significant failure. The government’s ability to track down other cattle that may have been exposed via feed would have been hampered without an effective animal I.D. program.”