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EDITORIAL: Easing testing for BSE
03/30/2005



Many hurdles remain for U.S. beef imports.


The government seems poised to ease its blanket testing of all cattle for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the world's toughest controls against mad cow disease.

An expert panel under the government's Food Safety Commission has concluded that exempting cows 20 months old or younger from testing will not significantly increase health risks for consumers.

The current anti-BSE system based on the blanket-testing approach has been in place since Japan's first discovery of a BSE-infected cow in autumn 2001. During the three and a half years since then, the number of infected animals has not shown any worrisome increase, while new safety measures have been adopted. The panel's conclusion can be regarded as a reasonable one.

But the proposed review of the testing system should not immediately lead to the lifting of the ban on U.S. beef imports. There are a host of problems that must be sorted out before the Japanese market can be safely opened again to beef from the United States, where meat safety standards are far less rigorous than in Japan.

Despite the beef panel's judgment, most local governments plan to continue testing all domestic cattle for the time being, ensuring that untested beef will not enter the supply chain in Japan anytime soon.

The expert panel debated the appropriateness of easing the testing program on the basis of evaluation of the safety steps that have been taken so far..

Even blanket testing is unlikely to discover BSE in very young animals because the amount of prions-a misshapen protein believed to cause the degenerative brain disorder-is too small to detect in such early stages of infection. The risk of human infection from such young cows is very low. There was general consensus among panel members on these points.

But prions cannot be destroyed easily by ordinary heating. And there are still many questions about BSE that remain unanswered, such as what prion amount poses a serious health hazard. Some panel members warned that the data currently available are insufficient for warranting an easing of the testing policy.

The panel gave the green light to modifying the testing method on certain conditions. In order to secure beef safety, the panel says, regulations on cattle feed, especially imported feed, should be tightened to prevent prions from finding their way into the food chain.

Measures should also be taken to ensure that brains, spinal cords and other dangerous body parts will be eliminated completely from beef sold on the market.

The easing of the controls is not enough for the resumption of U.S. beef imports. That also requires a new round of talks at the Food Safety Commission on the safety of American beef.

U.S. regulations on cattle feed and meat processing methods have been criticized, even in the United States, as being dangerously flawed. The commission will have its work cut out in evaluating the safety of U.S. beef.

One big challenge will be how to track the precise age of the American animals. In the United States, there are no records kept for individual cows. Japan was right in refusing to give a specific date for lifting the ban when U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged Japan to take the step during her visit to Tokyo.

If it wants Japan to restart imports of U.S. beef quickly, Washington should be willing to provide all necessary data for discussions at the Food Safety Commission.

Following the beef panel's conclusion, the commission is expected to soon draw up its final report on domestic measures for beef safety. Besides providing scientific estimates of health risks in food, the commission is responsible for increasing and improving public understanding of these risks through exchanges of information and opinions.

The commission needs to deliver a convincing conclusion on U.S. beef based on rigorous scientific evaluation of the risks.

--The Asahi Shimbun, March 29(IHT/Asahi: March 30,2005)
 

PORKER

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Yes ,BSE testing is and will always be cheaper than SRM removal at the expense of the PRODUCER.It takes extra effort and loss of offal in determining the price of an animal to put through a packing plant. TESTING for BSE is $150 .00 less than SRM removeal unless someone can prove otherwise.
 

Mike

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PORKER said:
Yes ,BSE testing is and will always be cheaper than SRM removal at the expense of the PRODUCER.It takes extra effort and loss of offal in determining the price of an animal to put through a packing plant. TESTING for BSE is $150 .00 less than SRM removeal unless someone can prove otherwise.

According to AMI's calculations (August 2004) US SRM disposal/lost revenue costs are between $761 Million and $963 Million, NOT including removal costs.
If 35 Million head per year are slaughtered that would be $21.75 to $27.50 per head plus removal costs.
It only makes sense that the producer pays these costs in lost margins by the packers.
Add the risk of BSE tainted beef going in the food chain to the equation and I don't know how anyone could argue with testing ALL cattle for a period of time until complete eradication occurs.
 

Sandhusker

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Mike said:
PORKER said:
Yes ,BSE testing is and will always be cheaper than SRM removal at the expense of the PRODUCER.It takes extra effort and loss of offal in determining the price of an animal to put through a packing plant. TESTING for BSE is $150 .00 less than SRM removeal unless someone can prove otherwise.

According to AMI's calculations (August 2004) US SRM disposal/lost revenue costs are between $761 Million and $963 Million, NOT including removal costs.
If 35 Million head per year are slaughtered that would be $21.75 to $27.50 per head plus removal costs.
It only makes sense that the producer pays these costs in lost margins by the packers.
Add the risk of BSE tainted beef going in the food chain to the equation and I don't know how anyone could argue with testing ALL cattle for a period of time until complete eradication occurs.

Another thing I thought of at dinner...... if they start removing SRMs, when do they stop? If they test, it seems that after a time of finding no positives, there would be a good arguement for stopping testing and cutting out that expense.
 

Tam

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Q2. Why isn't USDA testing all cattle slaughtered in the United States?
A2. USDA's BSE tests are not food safety tests. They are specifically used to determine whether BSE exists in the U.S. cattle population and if so, at what level. It is USDA's position that such testing is valid only for a statistically based surveillance system. It is important to note that the removal of specified risk materials (SRMs) is the single most important action that can be taken to protect public health. Current BSE tests are not accurate for animals that are not showing clinical signs of BSE. One estimate is that current test methodology would have a false negative test rate of 92% for clinically normal adult cattle because prion accumulation is lower than the detection threshold (i.e., if 100 BSE-infected adult cattle were tested while clinically normal, 92% of them would test negative even though they were, in fact, infected).


Removing the SRM is the most important thing we can do to insure that we are not eating or feeding infected material to our cattle. even if we 100% tested we still would have to remove the SRM's according to the OIE rules. Testing is not a food safety issue and it will not save the expence of SRM removal. Testing is for finding the prevalance of the disease in our herds to see if the safeguard we are using are working or if we need to implement more.This is what the OIE told both Canada and the US in their reports after the reviews of our investigations. So all those that think we can save the SRM if we test are wrong according to OIE RULES.
 

Mike

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Tam, there are many tests now than can detect animals subclinical with a higher rate of accuracy and a much lower false negative rate. What we have is a problem with "Standardized Tests" for each country. Each country uses different testing methods and the OIE knows this. Thats why they are using the SRM removal as a "One Size Fits All" safeguard.

The OIE should set standards for tests but don't, there's too much money being made on test kits.

Tam, if given the choice of 2 calves for your freezer and knowing they had both been exposed to BSE. Would you choose the one tested negative or the one with SRM's removed? Would you eat a calf that tested positive, but had SRM's removed?
 

cowsense

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Perhaps it's time the test everything proponents sit back and do the math....$150-185 to cover the loss of value and disposal of SRM's,$20-25 for the rapid test; $15-25 for plant and lab labour and lab costs. Then try to factor in the productivity losses (estimated @ %25-%40 by independent industry consultants) as well as the cost of building and maintaining extra cooler capacity! There have been few if any instances where our industry has ever had the necessary margins to justify a totally unnecessary and unjustified cost :!:
 

Mike

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cowsense said:
Perhaps it's time the test everything proponents sit back and do the math....$150-185 to cover the loss of value and disposal of SRM's,$20-25 for the rapid test; $15-25 for plant and lab labour and lab costs. Then try to factor in the productivity losses (estimated @ %25-%40 by independent industry consultants) as well as the cost of building and maintaining extra cooler capacity! There have been few if any instances where our industry has ever had the necessary margins to justify a totally unnecessary and unjustified cost :!:

The NCBA said we lost $175.00 per head last year from loss of exports
(and growing every day)................and NOTHING to show for it! Zilch!
 

cowsense

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Mike.... Believe me WE realize the losses in value to our industry as they go far beyond anything the American industry has suffered!! BUT that is value that is already gone forever: locking into needless, unjustified testing just adds further costs that will come directly out of the value of a producer's cattle. I believe that this option is a slippery slope that will diminish producer profitability while doing absolutely nothing for food safety!
 

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cowsense said:
Mike.... Believe me WE realize the losses in value to our industry as they go far beyond anything the American industry has suffered!! BUT that is value that is already gone forever: locking into needless, unjustified testing just adds further costs that will come directly out of the value of a producer's cattle. I believe that this option is a slippery slope that will diminish producer profitability while doing absolutely nothing for food safety!

But when you test, you KNOW. My point is that testing is an expense now, but it allows you to have a conclusion, simply removing SRMs does not. If you test for 3 years with no positives, you actually have an arguement to stop testing. You can remove SRMs for 20 years and you still wouldn't have a solid case for stopping testing because you really wouldn't of learned anything regarding the prevalence of BSE all those years. You still wouldn't KNOW anything. It seems to me SRM removal is the slippery slope.
 
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Sandblaster: "But when you test, you KNOW."

When you test cattle younger than 24 months of age, you don't know a damn thing because the prions are not detectable at that age.

Why can't you understand that???

The prions could be there but not be detectable under 24 months.


Reader the Second: "....I am most concerned about cattle 20 - 30 months when they could transmit BSE but be asymptomatic. I keep harping on the study I heard which showed lab animals transmitting the disease halfway through the incubation period."


~SH~
 

Mike

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~SH~ said:
Sandblaster: "But when you test, you KNOW."
When you test cattle younger than 24 months of age, you don't know a damn thing because the prions are not detectable at that age.
Why can't you understand that???
The prions could be there but not be detectable under 24 months.
Reader the Second: "....I am most concerned about cattle 20 - 30 months when they could transmit BSE but be asymptomatic. I keep harping on the study I heard which showed lab animals transmitting the disease halfway through the incubation period."
~SH~

Europe has had some 20 month olds test positive with "OLD" testing methods out of the few tested. Japan had a 21 month test positive just awhile back. Prusiner himself confirmed it.

We are way past the days of the first tests that required injecting a mouse with brain matter and waiting months for prions to appear in the mouse.

A live blood test will be announced shortly. Will you be against that too?
 

Sandhusker

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Mike said:
~SH~ said:
Sandblaster: "But when you test, you KNOW."
When you test cattle younger than 24 months of age, you don't know a damn thing because the prions are not detectable at that age.
Why can't you understand that???
The prions could be there but not be detectable under 24 months.
Reader the Second: "....I am most concerned about cattle 20 - 30 months when they could transmit BSE but be asymptomatic. I keep harping on the study I heard which showed lab animals transmitting the disease halfway through the incubation period."
~SH~

Europe has had some 20 month olds test positive with "OLD" testing methods out of the few tested. Japan had a 21 month test positive just awhile back. Prusiner himself confirmed it.

We are way past the days of the first tests that required injecting a mouse with brain matter and waiting months for prions to appear in the mouse.

A live blood test will be announced shortly. Will you be against that too?

Yeah, SH! :p :p :p :p :p :p :p :p :p :p :p :p :p
 

Tam

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Sandhusker said:
cowsense said:
Mike.... Believe me WE realize the losses in value to our industry as they go far beyond anything the American industry has suffered!! BUT that is value that is already gone forever: locking into needless, unjustified testing just adds further costs that will come directly out of the value of a producer's cattle. I believe that this option is a slippery slope that will diminish producer profitability while doing absolutely nothing for food safety!

But when you test, you KNOW. My point is that testing is an expense now, but it allows you to have a conclusion, simply removing SRMs does not. If you test for 3 years with no positives, you actually have an arguement to stop testing. You can remove SRMs for 20 years and you still wouldn't have a solid case for stopping testing because you really wouldn't of learned anything regarding the prevalence of BSE all those years. You still wouldn't KNOW anything. It seems to me SRM removal is the slippery slope.

Could you please read this again and tell me what you read as I don't think you are getting the full meaning of the statement made by the USDA themselves

Current BSE tests are not accurate for animals that are not showing clinical signs of BSE. One estimate is that current test methodology would have a false negative test rate of 92% for clinically normal adult cattle because prion accumulation is lower than the detection threshold (i.e., if 100 BSE-infected adult cattle were tested while clinically normal, 92% of them would test negative even though they were, in fact, infected).

With SRM removal we at least know the meat is safe. But if you start feeding the SRMs back to people and animals just because you tested then what will happen if the test is wrong on an animal that is not showing clinical signs. The Test the US is using is not accurate enough and are you willing to take a change on your childs health to test and not remove the SRM's I'm not. By the way Mike if an animal test positive that animal wouldn't be going into my freezer it would be going to a landfill. But I'm pretty sure I would not sit down to a dinner of Cattle SRM's even if a test came up negative on an animal because the test could be wrong
 
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Mike: "Europe has had some 20 month olds test positive with "OLD" testing methods out of the few tested."

That were not confirmed with modern testing methods. Hell, we had false positives too in case you forgot.


Mike: "Japan had a 21 month test positive just awhile back. Prusiner himself confirmed it."

Was it confirmed with the gold standard test?

Even if it was, that doesn't tell you how many cases tested negative WHICH CARRIED UNDECTABLE BSE.

That's the issue.


Mike: "A live blood test will be announced shortly. Will you be against that too?"

I'm not against current testing unless it creates a false "ILLUSION" of safety as Creekstone's would have.


Sandblaster, bring something of your own instead of constantly dragging on someone else's coattails. What a pathetic little cheerleader! Your pom poms aren't even the right color and your hair's a mess.




~SH~
 

Mike

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Tam:"With SRM removal we at least know the meat is safe"

No you don't.
I don't think you will find anybody that will guarantee the safety of beef post SRM removal. It ,as SH says, "creates the illusion" of safety. It will be stated as a "Low Risk".
What about cattle that have been split down the center of the vertabrae with a saw and the spinal cord parts removed afterwards? Happens all the time in UTM cattle.

What I'm saying is that testing has advanced tremendously since the article you quoted was printed. Remember the USDA just accepted rapid testing a year ago and have since moved from (IHC) to the Prionic's Western Blot for confirmation. And it's considered a "rapid test". Their false negative rate is substancially higher than 92% and has never had a false positive.
 
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Mike: "What about cattle that have been split down the center of the vertabrae with a saw and the spinal cord parts removed afterwards? Happens all the time in UTM cattle."

It is my understanding that the spinal column is now removed prior to carcass splitting so you are living in the past on that issue.


Using the most modern BSE testing technology available, can a carcass that tests negative for BSE, due to the "MAJORITY OF" prions being undetectable prior to 30 months, develop into BSE later?

If it can, then you are placing false hopes in BSE testing and SRM removal is still an important safety measure.

Testing carcasses under 24 months of age for BSE is like testing children for Alzheimers. Even the Japanese government now recognizes this and they are aware of the same modern testing methods you are.

I know Sandblaster is still holding onto this 100% testing silver bullet because he doesn't know any better but why are you advocating testing of young cattle when "MOST" BSE prions are not detectable in carcasses until after 30 months of age?

What sense can it possibly make to test for something that is not yet detectable even with the best of testing methodology?

Time will tell whether the hope you are placing in more modern testing methodology will reveal prions at a younger age. We certainly can't bank on research that has not yet proven itself.


~SH~
 

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