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USDA vets charge U.S. BSE cases bungled

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Radar

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Have any of you seen this article in meatingplace.com this morning? Talk about hurting consumer confidence.
 

Bill

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Maybe the wrong people are offering to take the lie detector test.


BEEF NEWS
USDA vets charge U.S. BSE cases bungled

by Pete Hisey on 4/14/2005 for Meatingplace.com


Two former USDA veterinarians and one scientist still serving at USDA have come forward to charge that at least two 1997 investigations concerning severely ill cattle were not performed correctly.

Dr. Masuo Doi, a retired USDA veterinarian, Dr. Karl Langheindrich, chief scientist at the USDA laboratory in Athens, Ga., and Lester Friedlander, a former veterinarian and USDA inspector who was fired in 1995 after allegedly criticizing safety practices within the inspection system, have all made charges that USDA botched two tests that might have confirmed the cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

The Canadian Broadcast Corporation, working with documents and videos it obtained from USDA and elsewhere, reports that an animal that arrived at a slaughterhouse in Oriskany Falls, N.Y. may have been the United States' first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, but tests that cleared the animal were conducted on the wrong parts of its brain.

According to CBC, three months later another animal appeared at the same slaughterhouse, exhibiting similar symptoms. The animal's brain was sent out for testing, and Dr. Doi was told verbally that it tested negative. He says he demanded to see the test results, but they were never provided.

CBC finally got those test results. According to notes from the scientist who conducted the test, so much of the brain was missing that the test was probably compromised. He wrote that the results were of "questionable validity" because he couldn't tell which part of the brain he was testing.

Langheindrich told CBC that no one can ever say for sure what the results were in either incident, other than both animals suffered from a central nervous system disease. In the videos, one animal is seen lunging at workers and staggering hunchbacked in the yard; the other animal is disoriented and unable to stand.

Ed Loyd, press secretary for Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, disputes the entire scenario. "They're really reaching if they have to go back to the mid-90s, when we were testing six hundred or seven hundred head of cattle per year," he told Meatingplace.com. USDA has to be transparent in its testing, he said, "because if we lied we would jeopardize everything we have worked for, we would lose consumer confidence and all those markets we have worked so hard to open would close right back up."

James Hodges, president of the American Meat Institute Foundation, says the charges "are devoid of factual information. Those samples were sent to the National Veterinary Lab in Ames, Iowa, and were tested and retested. And they came back negative for BSE; it was clear and unequivocal."

Meanwhile, Friedlander has made news across Canada with his charges in testimony to the House of Commons that veterinarians within USDA who are nearing retirement age have told him that tests conducted by private labs returned positive BSE results while tests at USDA labs on the same samples returned negative results. He refused to identify his sources, saying that they would be fired if their names were revealed.

Friedlander's charges have been met with skepticism, and he offered on Tuesday to undergo a lie detector test.

In another recent event, an animal in St. Angelo, Tex. which exhibited the classic symptoms of BSE was simply not tested by USDA, and was sent for rendering instead.

USDA's Loyd concedes that the Texas case was a mistake. "It was a miscommunication between APHIS and FSIS," he says. "It was very unfortunate, and we have since had intensive training to make sure everyone is using the same standard. We want to test every high-risk animal, and that one should have been tested." The animal was rendered he said, but the resultant products were quarantined and never made it into the food supply.
 

Tam

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We want to test every high-risk animal,

If this is true then why isn't the USDA testing ON FARM downers, diseased, dieing and dead cattle they told the CFIA they are getting their samples from slaughter houses and they are not to be processing downer cattle.
 

Mike

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Tam said:
We want to test every high-risk animal,

If this is true then why isn't the USDA testing ON FARM downers, diseased, dieing and dead cattle they told the CFIA they are getting their samples from slaughter houses and they are not to be processing downer cattle.

They ARE testing on farm around here. They're paying $100.00 to come out and cut the head off. In fact they're getting so many calls the State Vet's office told me they had a hard time keeping up and might stop testing dead cows. May start observing for CNS related problems only.
 

Tam

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If what you say is true then why is the USDA telling the CFIA and that even thought they do pay an incentive they still get the majority of their test samples from slaughter houses? This is what the CFIA told us at a meeting about 2 months ago.
 

Mike

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Tam said:
If what you say is true then why is the USDA telling the CFIA and that even thought they do pay an incentive they still get the majority of their test samples from slaughter houses? This is what the CFIA told us at a meeting about 2 months ago.

It only makes sense that they get the majority of samples from slaughter houses since they won't take downers at the sale barn anymore.

Who wants to take $100.00 for a dead one when you can get $500.00 to $600.00 at the sale barn?

Now why would the CFIA tell you in a meeting where OUR test samples are coming from? If what you say is true the CFIA is more worried about what we are doing than trying to fix your problem.
 

Kato

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You could haul downers to a sale barn in the past? :???: How would that work? How could you get paid for them?

Before the ban on hauling downers, the only place ours could go was directly to slaughter. Now they go nowhere, which is just as well. I don't think our customers want to think they are eating beef from sick or injured animals anyway. Not exactly a wholesome image is it?
 

Bill

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Mike said:
Tam said:
If what you say is true then why is the USDA telling the CFIA and that even thought they do pay an incentive they still get the majority of their test samples from slaughter houses? This is what the CFIA told us at a meeting about 2 months ago.

It only makes sense that they get the majority of samples from slaughter houses since they won't take downers at the sale barn anymore.

Who wants to take $100.00 for a dead one when you can get $500.00 to $600.00 at the sale barn?

Now why would the CFIA tell you in a meeting where OUR test samples are coming from? If what you say is true the CFIA is more worried about what we are doing than trying to fix your problem.

The US is an important market for Canadian beef so a lot of us are worried about what you are or aren't doing. Evidently more so than many American producers.
 

Tam

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Mike said:
It only makes sense that they get the majority of samples from slaughter houses since they won't take downers at the sale barn anymore.

Could you please explain this as it makes no sense to me. Are you saying downers describe as Non ambulatory cattle use to go through the sale barns. :?

You said
They ARE testing on farm around here. They're paying $100.00 to come out and cut the head off. In fact they're getting so many calls the State Vet's office told me they had a hard time keeping up and might stop testing dead cows. May start observing for CNS related problems only.

The OIE told the USDA that "the goals for measures related to these cattle must be to test them for surveillance. Given their exclusion from supervised slaughter at inspected slaughterhouses, this important subpopulation may no longer be available for BSE surveillance programme at these locations. Therefore it is imperative that the USDA take additional steps to assure that facilitated pathways exist for dead and non ambulatory cattle to allow for collection of samples----

Now you say "It only makes sense that they get the majority of samples from slaughter houses" and the poor vets are getting so many on farm dead that they are think about going back to CNS related. Did they miss the MUST BE, this important subpopulation may no longer be available for BSE surveillance programme at these locations and INPERATIVE in the OIE report? :???:

Who wants to take $100.00 for a dead one when you can get $500.00 to $600.00 at the sale barn?


Also explain this, In Canada the only thing you can do with a dead cow is hope to get your $75 dollars out of her, by having her tested on farm. Are you saying that your can take your dead cow to the sale barn and get $500. to $600 for her. I heard that an good Auctioneer can sell anything but dead cows for $500 to $600, that is a little hard to believe. :shock:

Now why would the CFIA tell you in a meeting where OUR test samples are coming from? If what you say is true the CFIA is more worried about what we are doing than trying to fix your problem.

Mike why shouldn't the CFIA talk about what the USDA is doing? Was the USDA not in the US talking about what the CFIA was doing? The USDA had just been in Canada inspecting and they gave us a thumbs up on what Canada was doing pertaining to BSE. The CFIA was just taking the USDA 's word for it. They weren't in the US wasting time to inspect like the USDA was in Canada. The USDA has just as big of problems if not bigger to deal with in the US. Why dont you tell the USDA and FDA to inspect your feed mills and records of compliance, like the GAO says their not doing, instead of ours. Canada has proven compliance to the feed bans. Why don't you tell the GAO to inspect your cattle testing records to see if the USDA is doing the testing that was recommended or if they are scimpy on that like they did the feed bans. Canada tested almost three times as many cattle in 2004 of the recommended catagory of cattle as targeted. Look to me as if you are the ones that want the border kept closed because of the problems you have in the US, the USDA's time would have been better spent in the US cleaning up your mess instead of inspecting what we said we were doing. You wouldn't take our word for it so the USDA and the NCBA had to come see for themselves taking away time for your mess.
 

Les

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I think we need to go into the usa and look for ' cows of mass distruction'
 

Mike

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What I'm saying Tam is the WE have the innate ability to look at a cow and detect what day and hour she's going to die and send her to the market a few days OR hours beforehand, so that we can get top salvage dollar from her.
(DELIBERATE SARCASM)

In other words,
IF YOU SEND YOUR POOR DOERS TO THE AUCTION BARN YOU GET MORE MONEY THAN WHEN SHE'S DEAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
THEREFORE YOU DON'T WAIT UNTIL SHE DIES ON THE FARM. IF SHE DOES, YOU CALL THE STATE VET AND COLLECT YOUR $100 DOLLARS. NOW, WHAT WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE, $100 OR $500? OK, YOU CHOSE $500, NOW, WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN A COW LOOKS SICKLY, OK, NOW YOU HAVE IT. YOU SEND HER TO THE AUCTION BARN! GOOD GIRL, YOU LEARN FAST! NOW, HOW MANY DEAD COWS DO WE HAVE LYING AROUND? NONE, THAT'S RIGHT! BECAUSE YOU GOT RID OF HER BEFORE SHE DIED AND YOU HAVE MORE SICK COWS GOING TO SLAUGHTER TO BE TESTED. ONCE AGAIN, WHY DO WE HAVE MOST OF THE TESTS BEING DONE AT SLAUGHTER? THAT'S RIGHT, BECAUSE THAT'S WHERE THE SICKLY AND OLDER ONE'S ARE! BUT WHAT ABOUT THE ONE'S WE HAD THAT DIED WHILE CALVING OR GOT STUCK IN A POND? THEY LIKELY DIDN'T NEED TO BE TESTED ANYWAY, BECAUSE THEY DIED BY ACCIDENT AND MOST LIKELY DID'NT HAVE BSE. BUT WE GOT A FREE $100 DOLLARS FOR A COW THAT DIDN'T NEED TO BE TESTED ANYWAY! YOU SEE WHY THEY MAY HAVE TO CHECK FOR CNS PROBLEMS? RIGHT, THAT MONEY IS BEING WASTED! I'M SO GLAD YOU PICK UP SO FAST TAM. IT HAS BEEN A PURE DELIGHT DISCUSSING THIS MATTER WITH YOU AND I HOPE THE NEXT TIME YOU NEED AN EXPLANATION YOU WILL FEEL FREE TO CALL ON ME TO EXPLAIN HOW TO NOT LOSE $400 ON A SICK COW. YADAYADAYADA
 

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Personaly, I refuse to send sick or unsightly animals to market. Period. No exceptions, no matter the money. But thats just me. Every year I seem to end up with some odd and unusuals kicking around.... maybe a poorly healed broken leg, a cancer eye, frozen joint, something. I deal with these myself. Maybe I'm missing out on some cash, but I go to market with some pride, knowing the product I take is top notch. But thats just me, to each their own.
 

Mike

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Silver said:
Personaly, I refuse to send sick or unsightly animals to market. Period. No exceptions, no matter the money. But thats just me. Every year I seem to end up with some odd and unusuals kicking around.... maybe a poorly healed broken leg, a cancer eye, frozen joint, something. I deal with these myself. Maybe I'm missing out on some cash, but I go to market with some pride, knowing the product I take is top notch. But thats just me, to each their own.

There are different degrees of "top notch". Most of my culls take a ride for lack of production, in other words, their calves ratio below 90 and that's all that's wrong with them, they are even bred back.. Should I consider them substandard and let them die on the farm?

Not culling your poor-doers can get you in a lot of trouble sometimes.
 

Silver

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Mike said:
Silver said:
Personaly, I refuse to send sick or unsightly animals to market. Period. No exceptions, no matter the money. But thats just me. Every year I seem to end up with some odd and unusuals kicking around.... maybe a poorly healed broken leg, a cancer eye, frozen joint, something. I deal with these myself. Maybe I'm missing out on some cash, but I go to market with some pride, knowing the product I take is top notch. But thats just me, to each their own.

There are different degrees of "top notch". Most of my culls take a ride for lack of production, in other words, their calves ratio below 90 and that's all that's wrong with them, they are even bred back.. Should I consider them substandard and let them die on the farm?

Not culling your poor-doers can get you in a lot of trouble sometimes.

I understand that perfectly. That's what the cull market is for. I'm just talking about those 'others' like I listed. My version of top notch I guess is healthy, alert, sound, edible..... you get the picture.
 

Tam

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Mike said:
What I'm saying Tam is the WE have the innate ability to look at a cow and detect what day and hour she's going to die and send her to the market a few days OR hours beforehand, so that we can get top salvage dollar from her.
(DELIBERATE SARCASM)

In other words,
IF YOU SEND YOUR POOR DOERS TO THE AUCTION BARN YOU GET MORE MONEY THAN WHEN SHE'S DEAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
THEREFORE YOU DON'T WAIT UNTIL SHE DIES ON THE FARM. IF SHE DOES, YOU CALL THE STATE VET AND COLLECT YOUR $100 DOLLARS. NOW, WHAT WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE, $100 OR $500? OK, YOU CHOSE $500, NOW, WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN A COW LOOKS SICKLY, OK, NOW YOU HAVE IT. YOU SEND HER TO THE AUCTION BARN! GOOD GIRL, YOU LEARN FAST! NOW, HOW MANY DEAD COWS DO WE HAVE LYING AROUND? NONE, THAT'S RIGHT! BECAUSE YOU GOT RID OF HER BEFORE SHE DIED AND YOU HAVE MORE SICK COWS GOING TO SLAUGHTER TO BE TESTED. ONCE AGAIN, WHY DO WE HAVE MOST OF THE TESTS BEING DONE AT SLAUGHTER? THAT'S RIGHT, BECAUSE THAT'S WHERE THE SICKLY AND OLDER ONE'S ARE! BUT WHAT ABOUT THE ONE'S WE HAD THAT DIED WHILE CALVING OR GOT STUCK IN A POND? THEY LIKELY DIDN'T NEED TO BE TESTED ANYWAY, BECAUSE THEY DIED BY ACCIDENT AND MOST LIKELY DID'NT HAVE BSE. BUT WE GOT A FREE $100 DOLLARS FOR A COW THAT DIDN'T NEED TO BE TESTED ANYWAY! YOU SEE WHY THEY MAY HAVE TO CHECK FOR CNS PROBLEMS? RIGHT, THAT MONEY IS BEING WASTED! I'M SO GLAD YOU PICK UP SO FAST TAM. IT HAS BEEN A PURE DELIGHT DISCUSSING THIS MATTER WITH YOU AND I HOPE THE NEXT TIME YOU NEED AN EXPLANATION YOU WILL FEEL FREE TO CALL ON ME TO EXPLAIN HOW TO NOT LOSE $400 ON A SICK COW. YADAYADAYADA

The OIE told the USDA that "the goals for measures related to these cattle must be to test them for surveillance. Given their exclusion from supervised slaughter at inspected slaughterhouses, this important subpopulation may no longer be available for BSE surveillance programme at these locations. Therefore it is imperative that the USDA take additional steps to assure that facilitated pathways exist for dead and non ambulatory cattle to allow for collection of samples----

Could this be a possible reason to test these animals that are on farms.

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN A COW LOOKS SICKLY, OK, NOW YOU HAVE IT. YOU SEND HER TO THE AUCTION BARN! GOOD GIRL, YOU LEARN FAST!

Sorry Mike these are considered diseased animals and are condemned at the slaughter plant in Canada and if the plant has to dispose of them the rancher just might get a bill for it instead of a check. What would you do Mike load a sick cow up, pay for the fuel to haul her to town, have her possibably go down on the trailer and take a chance of not only not getting a check but getting a bill for her disposal and a fine for hauling her to town. Would you take the chance of paying three bills instead of collecting the small amount the government is willing to pay for these animals right on your farm.

WHAT ABOUT THE ONE'S WE HAD THAT DIED WHILE CALVING OR GOT STUCK IN A POND? THEY LIKELY DIDN'T NEED TO BE TESTED ANYWAY, BECAUSE THEY DIED BY ACCIDENT AND MOST LIKELY DID'NT HAVE BSE.

Would you like to know why the Washington cow was sent to slaughter? She was thought to have hurt herself calving so what is to say the one that died in the pasture wasn't the same way. What is saying that the one that fell in the pond didn't do so because she couldn't stand up on her own because of BSE? Would it be a waste of money to check these animals if you really want to know the prevalence of BSE in the US herd. My guess is that the OIE wouldn't have told you that it is imperative that the USDA take additional steps to assure that facilitated pathways exist for dead and non ambulatory cattle to allow for collection of samples, if they thought it was a waste of money. I see by your explanation that knowing the true prevalence is a waste of money in the US thanks for explaining that to all of us. To bad Canada is expected to waste so much money to prove our prevalence to the rest of the world so we can get back into our export markets. Maybe they should just take our word for it like you think they should take the US's word.
 

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WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN A COW LOOKS SICKLY, OK, NOW YOU HAVE IT. YOU SEND HER TO THE AUCTION BARN!

What is it with you Americans and hauling sick livestock in for slaughter. If I recall correctly, it was an American that hauled in the first Canadian mad cow that started this whole thing. Apparently you guys haven't learned anything in the past two years.
 

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SASH said:
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN A COW LOOKS SICKLY, OK, NOW YOU HAVE IT. YOU SEND HER TO THE AUCTION BARN!

What is it with you Americans and hauling sick livestock in for slaughter. If I recall correctly, it was an American that hauled in the first Canadian mad cow that started this whole thing. Apparently you guys haven't learned anything in the past two years.

Ya, Sash, but he was a catfish farmer too. Probably had elevated mercury levels.... that messes up the ole bean... :wink:
 
A

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Experts: No mad cow in second 1997 animal
By STEVE MITCHELL
WASHINGTON, April 15 (UPI) -- A cow with obvious signs of a brain disease appeared in a slaughterhouse in upstate New York in August 1997, generating concerns about mad cow disease because it initially tested positive for the deadly disorder.

Recent media reports have suggested there were procedural problems with testing the cow and that it might have been possible the animal was infected with the mad cow pathogen -- also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE.

The initial test turned out to be invalid, however, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture tested the animal multiple times, finding nothing to indicate the cow was infected with BSE and ultimately ruling it negative, a two-year investigation by United Press International has revealed.

USDA officials have denied assertions the cow was not properly tested and pointed out the testing records show the cows were tested multiple times and found to be negative.

In mid-August 1997, USDA veterinarian Masuo Doi inspected a 2-year-old cow at the Oriskany Falls Packing plant in Oriskany Falls, N.Y. The young cow was unable to stand and showed other symptoms that made it a candidate for BSE testing.

Another suspicious cow had been delivered to the plant just three months earlier. It also initially was suspected of being infected with BSE. Doi said a USDA laboratory pathologist, who initially looked at brain tissue from that cow, suspected the animal was infected, but subsequent testing at a different USDA lab came back negative.

The events of that earlier case had left Doi skeptical about the USDA's testing procedures, however, so when the suspicious cow appeared just a few months later, he secretly obtained a sample of the cerebrospinal fluid from the animal and sent it by FedEx to Joe Gibbs, head of the National Institutes of Health's Laboratory for Central Nervous System Studies in Bethesda, Md. -- a now-defunct lab that conducted groundbreaking work on mad cow and similar disorders in humans.

"We didn't distrust the USDA lab on the first case ... but by this time we did," said Doi, who worked for USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service for nearly 30 years before retiring in December. "That's why we took our own sample."

The inspectors also videotaped the animal and UPI was shown the tape. It shows a cow lying down with its right eye pointing up. The animal did not respond to rapid hand motion in front of its eye or having its nose or ears tapped with a stick. The cow would not drink water and its hind legs seemed paralyzed. It also could not stand up.

Doi said new information discovered about the May case by UPI persuaded him that the cow was negative for BSE. He still wonders what type of disorder afflicted the August cow, but said it did not appear to be BSE.

In response to recent media accounts that have implied he was suggesting mad cow cases have been covered up by the USDA, Doi said, "I don't think you have enough to say that BSE is being covered up in the United States."

Gibbs, who died in 2001, said the cerebrospinal-fluid test came back positive. However, Michael Hansen, a biologist with the Consumers Union, told UPI that Gibbs later informed him the CSF sample was contaminated with blood -- which would cause the test to turn positive, whether the cow was infected with mad cow disease or not.

An entry in a logbook kept by Gibbs, in which the CSF sample was noted, was obtained by UPI. In that entry, the sample is described as "bloody."

Gibbs decided to look into the issue anyway and contacted Linda Detwiler, a veterinarian and head of the USDA's BSE surveillance program at the time. Gibbs knew Detwiler and asked her if the cow had been tested for BSE by the USDA.

Detwiler confirmed to UPI that Gibbs had called her and informed her of the positive CSF result, but she said the result was a false positive, because the sample was obtained after the animal died and it contained blood.

Michael Harrington, a scientist with the Huntington Medical Research Institute in Pasadena, Calif., told UPI that both conditions -- blood contamination and being obtained after death -- would cause the CSF test to produce a positive whether or not the animal was infected with mad cow. The problem with blood in the sample is the CSF test detects a protein called 14-3-3 that can be an indication of brain damage, but the protein also is found in blood.

Harrington, who helped develop the CSF test, said the problem with a sample taken after death is it "would always be positive in my experience and there would be no way to distinguish it from any disease."

The cow in question already had undergone one type of mad cow test at the USDA, a test called immunohistochemistry. This came back negative for any signs of BSE.

Detwiler said in response to the phone call from Gibbs that she asked the USDA lab to pull the sample from the animal and retest it using another test called Western blot. This test also failed to find any evidence of BSE.

Detwiler's account is confirmed in USDA testing records obtained by UPI through the Freedom of Information Act.

A report in USDA's testing records notes that a histopathological examination -- a rudimentary test considered unreliable for excluding mad cow cases -- was "of questionable validity because it is unknown whether" the tissue being examined included the obex region.

The report went on to state the examination "revealed no combination of lesions which is consistent with ... bovine spongiform encephalopathy."

Based on all the evidence in the case, the USDA officials at the lab concluded, "No evidence of infection by any agent which is known to cause a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy was found."

Elizabeth Mumford, a veterinarian and BSE expert at Safe Food Solutions in Bern, Switzerland, a company that provides advice on reducing mad cow risk to industry and governments, reviewed the records of the case for UPI and said, " I think actually they did a good job."

Mumford said her colleagues in Switzerland had also looked at the documents and they agreed there was nothing to indicate this cow might have been positive.

"There's no alarm bells ringing over on this side of pond," she said.

Detwiler, who is now retired from the USDA but still is respected by BSE experts and has a reputation for being forthright, told UPI, "I didn't have any doubt then or now that it wasn't BSE."

Steve Mitchell is UPI's Medical Correspondent. E-mail: [email protected]
 

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