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Johanns admits not all downers are human health risks

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Feb 13, 2005
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March 2, 2005
Johanns admits not all downers are human health risks

USDA Secretary Mike Johanns has agreed with many in the livestock industry that not all downer livestock pose a threat to human health.

In a recent interview with a major news service, Johanns said, "Let's say in the transport of an animal, that animal breaks its leg. Everybody agrees that there is no (BSE) risk whatsoever. You have an animal with a broken leg."

Downers have been banned from marketing channels, and the human food supply, since December 2003. The ban was put into effect after the first and only case of BSE was found in the U.S. herd that month.

Johanns' recent remarks track with the industry view that banning all downers, including those that are injured but show no symptoms of BSE, was an overreaction. However, there won't be any change in the rule anytime soon.

USDA won't consider amending the ban until it has completed the 12-18 month, stepped-up BSE testing program it began in June 2004.

"It won't be until after all the results are in from the testing program that USDA will consider the downer prohibition and make some judgment as to whether we want to continue with that approach," Johanns said.

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