First case of 'mad cow' disease found in US

America's first suspected case of BSE, or mad cow disease, has been discovered on a farm in Washington State.

The impact was evident almost immediately as several countries, including Japan, South Korea, Australia and Taiwan, halted US beef imports just hours after the Agriculture Department announced that a cow at a farm near Yakima, Washington, had tested positive for the brain-wasting disease. Japan is the largest overseas market for US beef.

Agriculture Department officials and cattle industry executives tried to allay fears that American beef supplies had become infected, saying the US inspection system was working effectively.

The farm where the cow originated has been quarantined and officials are tracing the movement of the cow from the farm to the slaughterhouse, and the flow of the meat to three processing plants in Washington state.

"We remain confident in the safety of our food supply," Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said, adding that the risk to human health was "extremely low."

Nonetheless, US beef producers worried that they could suffer heavily from a mad cow scare. Restaurants that serve beef also could be affected.

"I think it has the potential to hurt our industry," said Jim Olson, a rancher in Stanfield, Arizona, who owns about 150 cattle.

Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, called on the government to test more cows for the disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

"The US needs to be far more proactive in protecting the American food supply. We are very concerned that the diseased animal made it into the food supply and that the processing plants could be contaminated," said Michael Hansen, a senior research associate.

The disease was found in a Holstein cow which tested preliminarily positive on 9 December. Samples from the cow were sent to Britain for confirmation of the preliminary mad cow finding, Ms Veneman said. The results will be known in three to five days, she added.

The apparent discovery of mad cow disease comes at a time when the US beef industry is flourishing, in part because imports from Canada dried up after a single case of the disease was found there last spring.

"The beef cattle industry has just had a resurgence of growth. This is going to be a setback," said Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Thad Cochran.

Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said that while whole cuts of meat should be safe, there could be problems with ground meat, which can be mechanically stripped from the bone near an infected part.

"USDA needs to take swift action to insure that the meat that is found in hot dogs, hamburgers and those others doesn't pose a risk," she said.

The beef industry said there was nothing to worry about.

"The infectious agent is only found in the central nervous system tissue," said Patti Brumbach, executive director of the Washington State Beef Commission. "None of that made it into the beef supply. I think once consumers understand that the beef supply is safe, it should be a short-term concern."

BSE eats holes in the brains of cattle. It emerged in Britain in 1986 and spread through countries in Europe and Asia, prompting massive destruction of herds and decimating the European beef industry.

People can contract a form of mad cow disease if they eat infected beef or nerve tissue, and possibly through blood transfusions. The human form of mad cow disease has killed 143 people in Britain and 10 elsewhere, but none in the United States.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
footballHe started just four months ago
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect