WASHINGTON – The first U.S. case of mad cow disease in six years has been found in a dairy cow in central California, John Clifford, the Department of Agricultures chief veterinarian, told reporters Tuesday in a briefing in Washington.
The cow was found at a rendering facility as part of routine testing for the disease, known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, Clifford said. Its meat did not enter the food chain and the carcass will be destroyed, he said.
This is the fourth case of the brain-wasting disease found in the U.S. herd since the first in December 2003, in a cow that was born in Canada. The most recent was in March 2006.
The carcass was never presented for slaughter for human consumption, so at no time presented a risk to the food supply or human health, Clifford said in a statement. USDA remains confident in the health of the national herd and the safety of beef and dairy products.
Clifford said the age and the exact birthplace of the animal were being investigated.
In the year following the discovery of the 2003 case, U.S. shipments of beef plunged 82 percent as dozens of countries closed their borders to exports, government data show. Losses to livestock producers and meatpackers including Tyson Foods and Cargill ranged from $2.5 billion to $3.1 billion annually from 2004 through 2007, the International Trade Commission has said.
Nations including Japan and China have maintained some restrictions on U.S. beef imports ever since.