Consumers worldwide benefit from more than 10 years of aggressive, coordinated government and industry efforts that have kept the U.S. cattle herd free of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), better known as ‘mad cow’ disease, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) said today.

“While the European Union suffers through crippling consumer concerns and behind-the-curve government efforts to deal with the current European mad cow disease scare, no cases of BSE have been found in the United States, said NCBA CEO Charles P. Schroeder. ”And we believe our continued prevention efforts resulted in the October scientific report by the U.S.-based Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) that found a very low risk for U.S. occurrence of BSE.

“In today’s global marketplace, producers and consumers worldwide have an interest in a safe global beef supply and confidence among world consumers,” said Schroeder. “We stand willing to offer any assistance to help Europe eradicate this disease and restore consumer confidence. The United States has had great success in preventing and eradicating animal diseases and our scientific-based systems could prove useful to EU government officials and beef producers.”

Schroeder explained that the U.S. began an aggressive BSE surveillance program in May 1990 to ensure timely detection and quick response in the event BSE was ever introduced into the United States. The surveillance program involves several government agencies and more than 250 federal and state regulatory veterinarians who have been trained to diagnose foreign animal diseases including BSE.

The cooperation cited in the CAST report, both within the industry and between the industry and the government, is a hallmark of the U.S. BSE program and a major reason for our success in preventing this disease, according to Schroeder.

“An example of swift response and cooperation was the U.S. industry’s reaction to information that feed which included meat and bone meal might have caused the spread of BSE in England,” Schroeder said. “Within a couple of weeks following the March 20, 1996, British announcement that BSE might be related to a human disease, the U.S. cattle industry implemented a voluntary ban on use of these supplements in cattle feed.”

In addition, Schroeder said the NCBA also urged the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine to review the science and develop regulations regarding use of meat and bone meal in feeds for ruminants (cud-chewing animals such as cattle, goats, camels and deer that have a four-chambered stomach).

Even prior to instituting the surveillance program in 1990, U.S. government response to the BSE issue was decisive and aggressive. With U.S. cattle industry support, in July 1989, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) instituted a ban prohibiting importation of ruminant animals from countries with confirmed cases of BSE. This was followed in November 1989 by an additional ban on most ruminant products from those countries.

While the EU is only now beginning to impose wide scale bans on use of animal-derived protein supplements in cattle feed, the U.S. took that step more than three years ago, Schroeder says. In June of 1997, the FDA issued a regulation banning the use of most mammalian protein in ruminant feeds. And in December of 1997, USDA/APHIS took a major step by banning imports of all live ruminants and most ruminant products from all European countries until risk factors associated with BSE were more fully examined.