This article comes from NGFA's May 26 newsletter.

NGFA participated in a stakeholder call held by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in advance of its May 19 notification regarding the detection of an atypical case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in an approximately five-year-old or older beef cow at a slaughter plant in South Carolina.

As indicated by USDA’s announcement, the animal involved never entered slaughter channels and at no time presented a risk to the food supply or to human health in the United States. USDA officials said the animal was sent to rendering and all resulting rendered products had been identified and slated for destruction.

According to World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH) guidelines, atypical BSE cases do not impact official BSE risk status recognition as this form of the disease is believed to occur spontaneously in all cattle populations at a very low rate. Therefore, this finding of an atypical case will not change the negligible risk status of the United States and should not lead to any trade issues.

According to a USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) fact sheet, atypical BSE occurs rarely and spontaneously, typically in cattle that are eight years old or older. There is no association of atypical BSE with contaminated feed or ingestion of infected materials.

Instead, a spontaneous change in the prion proteins in older adult cattle causes atypical BSE. In contrast, classical BSE spreads through the ingestion of certain materials (brain, spine, etc.) from infected animals.

The main way classical BSE spread was through contaminated animal feed containing meat or bone meal from infected cattle. Because of BSE, FDA banned the use of ruminant protein in feed for ruminants in 1997 and additionally prohibited the use of certain high-risk tissues of cattle in feed for all animals in 2009.