Just want to keep you guys up to date:
(CNN) – The first U.S. case of mad cow disease in six years sparked fears of illness that prompted at least one major South Korean retailer to suspend the sale of American beef.
However, public health officials said the risk for disease for Americans is extremely low given that the affected dairy cow in central California was not part of the human food chain and was not exposed to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) through animal feed.
“It was never presented for slaughter for human consumption, so at no time presented a risk to the food supply or human health,” said John Clifford, the Agriculture Department’s chief veterinarian.
Sarah Klein, food safety attorney for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said there is no need for consumers to take precautions.
“A case of a single cow with bovine spongiform encephalopathy is not a reason for significant concern on the part of consumers, and there is no reason to believe the beef or milk supply is unsafe,” she said.
“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,” she said.
However, she said the government would have had a difficult time tracking down other cattle that may have been eating the same feed because the nation lacks an effective animal identification program.
In South Korea, one of the world’s largest importers of U.S. beef, the discovery of BSE, also known as mad cow disease, was enough to prompt retailer LotteMart to remove American beef from store shelves.
“Currently, the sale of U.S. beef is temporarily suspended to ease our customers from anxiety,” LotteMart said.
For its part, the South Korean government said it will step up checks on U.S. beef imports — but not halt it for now.
In 2010, South Korea imported 125,000 tons of U.S. beef, a 97% increase from the year before, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.
The cow’s carcass was at a Baker Commodities Inc. rendering facility in Hanford, California, according to company Executive Vice President Dennis Luckey.
The company renders animal byproducts and had randomly selected the animal for testing last Wednesday, he said.
“We are in the business of removing dead animals from dairies in the Central Valley,” he told CNN. “As part of that program, we participate in the BSE surveillance program.”
The sample was sent to the University of California at Davis for initial testing, which came back inconclusive. It was then sent to the Department of Agriculture’s laboratory in Ames, Iowa, where it tested positive, the agency said.
The carcass was in quarantine Tuesday night.
“We’re waiting now for USDA to tell us how to dispose of it,” Luckey said.
Eating contaminated meat or some other animal products from cattle that have BSE is thought to be the cause of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.The fatal brain disease was blamed for the deaths of 150 people in Britain, where there was an outbreak in the 1980s and 1990s.