Meat from diseased cow went to eight states; animal came from Canada

| 12/30/2003

Meat from a cow confirmed to have “mad cow” disease was shipped to eight states and to the island of Guam, media outlets reported recently.

The eight states are Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada, Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho and Montana. Roughly 10,000 pounds of meat have been recalled in those states because it does or may contain parts of the infected cow.

However, officials continue to stress that the chance of infection to humans is small, since before butchering, the cow was stripped of the parts that could transmit the illness to humans.

The cow in Washington state that sparked the mad cow scare in the United States did not originate in the U.S., but in Canada, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a statement. The infected cow made its way south from Alberta, the province where the first North American outbreak of the illness occurred, through Idaho. The dairy cow was slaughtered Dec. 9 at Vern's Moses Lake Meats in Washington state.

The case of mad cow disease was confirmed a few days earlier when the BSE world reference lab in Weybridge, England, confirmed the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dec. 23 preliminary diagnosis, USDA said.

Mad cow disease is formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy. More common in Europe, the illness has led to more than 100 deaths.

The Canadian case involved a cow in the province of Alberta that was slaughtered in January. It led the U.S. government to cut off beef shipments across the U.S.-Canadian border, severely impacting the beef industry – and the truckers who haul the beef.

The American case has already spurred a similar reaction among some of the United States’ trading partners. The AP reported Dec. 23 that eight nations in Asia have banned American beef imports, and some – including Japan, the No. 1 importer of U.S. beef – will recall what is already on the shelves.

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy is a chronic, degenerative disease affecting the central nervous system of cattle, according to the USDA Web site. Worldwide, more than 180,000 cases have been reported since it was first diagnosed in 1986 in Great Britain. More than 95 percent of all mad cow cases have been in that country.

There is no treatment, the USDA said, and all affected cattle die.

The human form of the disease is called Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. That illness is thought to be caused by people eating parts of an affected cow such as brain and spinal cord.