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U.S testing falls short big time

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frenchie

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Number of mad-cow tests in Northwest didn't reach federal agency's goal
February 26, 2004 Seattle Times by Sandi Doughton

SEATTLE _ The federal government fell short of its goal for mad-cow tests last year in the Northwest, where the nation's first case of the brain-wasting disease was found just before Christmas.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's surveillance plan said it would take at least 1,205 tests to adequately monitor the five-state area, which includes Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Utah. But the agency collected only 781 samples, less than two-thirds of the target.

In all other regions of the country, the agency exceeded its goals, bringing the total number of tests to about 20,000 in the 2003 fiscal year, which ended in October.

USDA senior staff veterinarian Lisa Ferguson said the agency didn't meet its target for the Northwest because few suitable slaughterhouses would participate in the voluntary testing program.

Nationwide, testing has plummeted after discovery of the mad-cow case near Yakima, Wash., announced Dec. 23.

Only 1,608 animals were tested in January, down from 3,064 in December. Those numbers don't include animals killed and tested in January as part of the investigation into the Yakima mad-cow case.

At Vern's Moses Lake Meats, the slaughterhouse where the infected cow was killed, no animals have been tested since Dec. 24, co-owner Tom Ellestad said.

"USDA requested us to stop taking samples," he said.

Ellestad didn't know why USDA made the request.

Agency spokesman Jim Rogers said he wasn't familiar with the situation at Vern's. He said the national drop-off is due to the fact that, in response to the infected cow, "downer" animals were banned from the human food chain shortly after Christmas and are no longer being shipped to slaughterhouses, where the testing effort had been concentrated.

___

More than 80 percent of the cattle tested last year were downers _ too sick or injured to stand.

The goal is to test 40,000 animals this year. The agency is working to revamp the program to target animals that die on farms or are sent to rendering plants, Rogers said.

Consumer advocates say the geographical disparity and drop in testing are alarming.

"We just found a case of mad-cow in this country," said Felicia Nestor, food-safety director for the Government Accountability Project, a watchdog group. "We should be doing a lot of tests now."

Much of the testing should focus on the Northwest, with its strong ties to Canada, birthplace of the infected Holstein, she added.

Three government advisory panels and one congressional committee have called for a more aggressive testing program, going far beyond the 40,000 target, which represents about one-tenth of a percent of the 35 million cattle slaughtered each year. The latest recommendation was made yesterday by a USDA committee of animal-disease experts.

Ferguson said the testing program was never intended to keep mad-cow out of the human food chain, but was a statistical sampling that would detect the disease if it was present in one animal out of a million.

An international panel of experts appointed by Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said testing should target all downers older than 30 months, as well as cattle that die on a farm or have symptoms of a nervous-system disorder.

USDA estimates that could total 600,000 animals a year, Ferguson said.

___

In addition to testing more animals, Nestor said, a revamped surveillance program should correct what she believes are troubling flaws in the system: It is voluntary, and plant operators generally select animals to be tested.



Ellestad said USDA officials repeatedly offered him up to $10,000 a year to participate in the testing program because they weren't meeting their quotas in the Northwest region.

He finally signed a contract to provide up to 1,000 brain samples for $10 each.

Ellestad also said he _ not a USDA veterinarian _ generally decided which animals to test.

While Ellestad said the voluntary system worked well, Nestor said it could be open to "gaming" by unscrupulous companies.

Fearful of finding an infected animal, plant operators could select healthy animals to test, she said. And if testing isn't required, farmers with sick animals could ship them to slaughterhouses that don't collect samples.

Ferguson confirmed that slaughterhouses don't have to participate in the sampling program.

"If they want us to stay away, they can tell us to stay away."

But in practice, she said, USDA vets work closely with company officials and state inspectors, often collecting samples from animals that are also being tested for other diseases, such as rabies.

Ellestad's account has also raised questions about the adequacy of a testing program that focuses almost exclusively on downers. While a USDA vet said the infected animal was a downer, Ellestad and two other witnesses say she was walking.

If that's true, mad-cow testing should be expanded to include apparently healthy animals, the Republican-led House Committee on Government Reform said last week.

The USDA inspector general is investigating the question
 

Murgen

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Frenchie, a little outdated, but still very interesting. It's funny how importance is put on downer cows. Don't know, but can't a cow be a non-downer one day and then a downer the next? This article also raises a huge question of how many animals were being tested in this same region of the country in 2004, does anybody know?
 

frenchie

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Frenchie, a little outdated, but still very interesting. It's funny how importance is put on downer cows. Don't know, but can't a cow be a non-downer one day and then a downer the next?


The point I was trying to make is that experts a yr ago were recommending to test up to 600,000 animals a yr.... now they want to cut it back to 40,000 in 2006 :roll:
 

Manitoba_Rancher

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This really looks good for the US producer doesnt it? There could be BSE infected cows lerching out there on US ranches and going through the food system and no one is any wiser! I guess we'll have to keep showing them up by testing all of the 4 d's we can!
 

Tam

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The CFIA rep told us that Canada has to test only 4D and if we test healthy animals we have to test 100 times as many. It's going to be eazier to turn over 30000 4D than it will be to turn over 3,000,000 healthy animals a year. We test the 4D because they are the ones that are the HIGHEST RISK and if we know what the prevalence is in that catagory we can figure what the prevalence is in healthy cows. We remove the SRM from those apparently healthy animals just in case they do have BSE and are not showing signs yet. According to the science we follow today by removing the SRM's all risk is removed from the consumer. What Canada and the US did by removing the SRM's was eliminated the risk of BSE and the testing is to see what the prevalence is.

If the US wants to test the same they would have to test 202,500 4D's or 20,250,000 head of healthy per year for 5 years. They are going back to 40,000 hd of slaughter cattle coming from plants that are not to accept downers after 1 year. And R-CALF says they are doing a better job of testing. :???:
 
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Manitoba Rancher: "There could be BSE infected cows lerching out there on US ranches and going through the food system and no one is any wiser!"


There are many who believe that has been already happening.
 

nr

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"Ellestad also said he _ not a USDA veterinarian _ generally decided which animals to test.

While Ellestad said the voluntary system worked well, Nestor said it could be open to "gaming" by unscrupulous companies.

Fearful of finding an infected animal, plant operators could select healthy animals to test, she said."

Far, far from a scientific approach. Doesn't give this consumer much confidence the USDA cares what it is doing for the problem.
 

SMS

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Nationwide, testing has plummeted after discovery of the mad-cow case near Yakima, Wash., announced Dec. 23.

Only 1,608 animals were tested in January, down from 3,064 in December. Those numbers don't include animals killed and tested in January as part of the investigation into the Yakima mad-cow case.

At Vern's Moses Lake Meats, the slaughterhouse where the infected cow was killed, no animals have been tested since Dec. 24, co-owner Tom Ellestad said.

"USDA requested us to stop taking samples," he said.

Ellestad didn't know why USDA made the request.

Agency spokesman Jim Rogers said he wasn't familiar with the situation at Vern's. He said the national drop-off is due to the fact that, in response to the infected cow, "downer" animals were banned from the human food chain shortly after Christmas and are no longer being shipped to slaughterhouses, where the testing effort had been concentrated.



Statements like this, shows why the US hasnt found more cases of BSE. You have to look for it to find it.
 

Murgen

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Do you think R-calf is using promotional material like this to back up their claims on science?
 

Denny

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SMS said:
Nationwide, testing has plummeted after discovery of the mad-cow case near Yakima, Wash., announced Dec. 23.

Only 1,608 animals were tested in January, down from 3,064 in December. Those numbers don't include animals killed and tested in January as part of the investigation into the Yakima mad-cow case.

At Vern's Moses Lake Meats, the slaughterhouse where the infected cow was killed, no animals have been tested since Dec. 24, co-owner Tom Ellestad said.

"USDA requested us to stop taking samples," he said.

Ellestad didn't know why USDA made the request.

Agency spokesman Jim Rogers said he wasn't familiar with the situation at Vern's. He said the national drop-off is due to the fact that, in response to the infected cow, "downer" animals were banned from the human food chain shortly after Christmas and are no longer being shipped to slaughterhouses, where the testing effort had been concentrated.



Statements like this, shows why the US hasnt found more cases of BSE. You have to look for it to find it.


Do you have a date this was printed or did you just forget to post that...
 

Manitoba_Rancher

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I think the US is letting there consumers down by not testing more. To think those R-calf buggers were picking holes in Canada's system. This is a bad nightmare waiting to happen. There could be thousands of MAD cows walking around the US. If they were testing up to the standard Canada is they would have some to report. I get sick of these R-calf wanna bes picking on us telling us we have a huge outbreak of BSE! Well R-calf members you can kiss my jackass!! :mad:
 

Denny

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reader (the Second) said:
Denny - the date of publication of the article is at the beginning of the article that Frenchie posted -- at the top of this forum.

Okay thanks..
 
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Anonymous

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The USDA enhanced testing was designed to test 270,000 of high risk cattle. The statisitics of the testing are such that if there were only 5 head of BSE infected cattle in the US testing the 270,000 head of high risk cattle should have caught at least one of the cases. I suspect the amount of testing is declining at this point because the USDA is getting close to the 270,000 number.
 
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Anonymous

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Manitoba-Rancher, SMS, and others,

Many US producers have supported the science based approach to BSE risk and international trade with Canada and other nations. We would appreciate it if you would do the same.

It is poor form to run down R-Calf hysteria about Canadian BSE on one thread and then post Canadian producer hysteria about US BSE on another thread. Canada has a good system that produces safe beef. The US has a good system that produces safe beef. Both sides of the border need to remember this.

Thanks,
TJIT
 

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