- The Washington Times - Monday, January 26, 2004

The United States has lifted quarantines on five farms under investigation for links to the country’s first case of mad cow disease, Ron DeHaven, chief veterinary officer for the U.S. Agriculture Department said yesterday.

Animals from the farms in Washington state and Oregon that might have been tied to mad cow disease were killed and tested negative for the disease, indicating that it has not spread, Dr. DeHaven said.

In a related development, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tightened restrictions on cattle feed to help prevent the spread of mad cow disease.

The agency will ban the use of blood and blood products, table scraps and poultry waste — such as bedding, spilled feed, feathers and fecal matter — in feed. It also will increase inspections of feed mills and rendering plants, the FDA said in a statement.

The agency also said it would ban from human food, dietary supplements and cosmetics any materials from dead or so-called downer cattle, which are too sick or injured to walk, or other high-risk material such as nervous tissue.

Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman announced a case of mad cow disease in a single animal in Mabton, Wash., on Dec. 23. Formally called bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, mad cow is a chronic, degenerative disorder that attacks the central nervous system of cattle and has been linked to a fatal brain-wasting disease in humans.

The United States immediately quarantined the Mabton dairy and began to track the origin the infected cow. The investigation led to a farm in Alberta, Canada, that in 2001 sold and shipped 81 head of cattle to the United States.

Because those 81 animals probably shared the same feed — the most likely source and quickest way to spread mad cow disease — U.S. officials traced them and located some at facilities in three states. A calf birthed by the infected cow also was followed to a Washington farm, and that facility was quarantined.

Veterinary officials have discovered the whereabouts of 28 of those 81 animals and have euthanized those that are positively identified or cannot be eliminated as a possible member of that herd.

So far, 131 animals from Mabton and 39 from Mattawa, Wash., have been killed and tested negative for mad cow disease, Mr. DeHaven said. Fifteen animals from Connell, Wash., and 20 from Boardman, Ore., have been slaughtered, and test results are pending.

Another operation in Sunnyside, Wash., where a calf from the infected cow was shipped, saw 449 animals slaughtered. They were too young to be tested effectively for the disease.

“We have removed from those herds any of the animals of interest and have either tested them negative or have test results that are pending, and because of that have released the hold orders on all of those,” Dr. Dehaven said in a conference call.

Animals also have been tracked to Burley, Idaho; Tenino, Wash.; and Quincy, Wash.; where facilities are under at least partial quarantine.

The beef industry and government officials hope the investigation and other efforts will help assure countries that U.S. beef is safe.

Japan, Mexico and South Korea — the three biggest overseas markets for American beef — and 49 other markets worth more than $3 billion annually have restricted U.S. exports.

Trade teams have visited those countries but have not reopened any of the biggest markets.

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