The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced on Wednesday that it is working closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding an atypical case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), a neurologic disease of cattle, in a six-year-old, mixed-breed beef cow in Florida. This animal never entered slaughter channels and at no time presented a risk to the food supply, or to human health in the United States. This form of BSE is not contagious.
“This detection shows just how well our surveillance system works. We’re grateful to our partners at the U.S. Department of Agriculture who work alongside us day in and day out to conduct routine surveillance and protect consumers,” stated Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam.
Atypical BSE is different than Classical BSE, and it generally occurs in older cattle and seems to arise rarely and spontaneously in all cattle populations.
USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) confirmed that this cow was positive for atypical H-type BSE. The animal was tested as part of APHIS’s routine surveillance of cattle that are deemed unsuitable for slaughter. APHIS and Florida veterinary officials are gathering more information on the case.
BSE is not contagious and exists in two types – classical and atypical. Classical BSE is the form that occurred primarily in the United Kingdom, beginning in the late 1980’s, and it has been linked to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) in people. The primary source of infection for classical BSE is feed contaminated with the infectious prion agent, such as meat-and-bone meal containing protein derived from rendered infected cattle. Regulations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have prohibited the inclusion of mammalian protein in feed for cattle and other ruminants since 1997 and have also prohibited high risk tissue materials in all animal feed since 2009.
The United States has a longstanding system of interlocking safeguards against BSE that protects public and animal health in the United States. Additionally, the BSE surveillance program allows USDA to detect the disease if it exists at very low levels in the U.S. cattle population.