The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the nation’s beef supply is not affected by the discovery of a mad cow case in California this week because the animal was never intended for slaughter. The agency on Tuesday confirmed a dairy cow in California’s Central Valley was diagnosed with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease.
Mad cow is not transferred to humans through milk.
The USDA also said the case should not affect export sales of U.S. beef.
“The most important message is that U.S. beef is safe,” said Philip Seng, president and CEO of the U.S. Meat Export Federation. “We are already reaching out to our trade contacts around the world to reassure them that this finding is an indication that the system to safeguard the wholesomeness and safety of U.S. beef is working. The U.S. government is providing this same information through its channels to all of our trading partners.”
After a rash of cases throughout the world during the 1990s and early in the new century, international standards were set to control the spread of the disease. After the U.S. implemented the suggested guidelines, it was given a “controlled risk” classification through the World Organization for Animal Health. USDA officials said that designation would not change because of the new discovery.
This is the fourth case of mad cow in the U.S. After the first in December 2003, export sales of beef dropped significantly. In 2003, U.S. producers sold 1,274,098 metric tons of beef valued at $3.856 billion; the next year the numbers dropped to 321,967 metric tons, valued at $809 million.
Export sales have slowly climbed back. In 2011, U.S. producers shipped 1,287,259 metric tons of beef worth $5.4 billion, a level 33 percent higher than 2011 sales receipts.
But the 2003 discovery still has a shadow over U.S. beef markets. In a report to Congress earlier this year, the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office said there were dozens of instances around the world where countries used mad cow as a pretext to ban or restrict U.S. beef.