U.S. officials, grappling to control the mad-cow crisis, on Sunday expanded the recall of more than 10,000 pounds of beef to eight mostly western states and Guam.
U.S. officials, grappling to control the mad-cow crisis, on Sunday expanded the recall of more than 10,000 pounds of beef to eight mostly western states and Guam. While federal investigators cautioned the hunt for beef linked to a Washington state cow diagnosed with the deadly mad cow disease was at an early stage, a high-ranking USDA official called on foreign countries to end their ban on U.S. beef. A recall of the beef, which had been underway in Washington state, Oregon, California and Nevada, was expanded to Alaska, Montana, Hawaii, Idaho and Guam, the USDA said. The 10,000 pounds of beef represents meat from 20 animals, including the sick cow, that were slaughtered at a Washington state facility on Dec. 9. That meat has since been distributed to stores and some of it possibly has been consumed. The USDA reported no further progress Sunday toward identifying the birth herd of the Washington state cow, following information on Saturday that the animal may have come from Canada. Most major importers, including Japan, Mexico and South Korea, have sealed their borders to American beef and cattle. A USDA team is in Japan to try to persuade Tokyo that U.S. beef is safe to eat and that adequate safeguards are in place to control the spread of the animal brain-wasting disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). “We think that the restrictions that are being imposed should be lifted,” said Ron DeHaven, the U.S Department of Agriculture’s chief veterinarian. “Unfortunately, with this situation, what we’ve seen internationally is again an overreaction, (with) trade restrictions imposed more out of public perception than based on the science of what we know about this particular disease,” DeHaven told reporters. The first U.S. case of mad cow disease could cost the cattle and beef industry billions of dollars in United States. The U.S. exports about $3 billion worth of beef a year. A change in consumer sentiment, on top of the trade bans, would further damage the $175 billion industry made up of more than 1 million businesses, farms and ranches.Still unclear is whether American consumers will stop eating beef out of fears they could contract a human variant of mad cow disease. An outbreak of BSE in Europe more than a decade ago resulted in 137 human deaths, mostly in Britain. British farmers destroyed some 3.7 million cattle because of the outbreak. McDonald’s Corp. (MCD.N: Quote, Profile, Research) , the largest U.S. hamburger chain, on Saturday said the crisis has had no impact on sales of its beef products. It did not provide specific sales figures, however. Attempting to demonstrate that it is being overly cautious, the USDA said it expanded the beef recall despite the fact that the meat presented “virtually zero” risk. DeHaven said the beef included none of the brain, spinal cord or other risky tissues that carry mad cow disease. Scientists believe the cow may have contracted mad cow disease from contaminated feed when it was young. DeHaven said a small silver ear tag linked to the cow “suggests that tag would have been applied in Canada.” But Canadian and American officials said they won’t know for sure until DNA tests are run using tissue samples from the sickened cow. DeHaven said Canada has obtained a semen sample from “what is believed to be the sire of this infected cow.” By comparing DNA samples from both sides of the border, “We should be able to make a firm determination” on where the Holstein cow was born, he said.(Source: Reuters News: December 2003)