Release No. 0435.03
Tele-News Conference Briefing
Updating Presumptive Positive BSE Case
Washington D.C. December 24, 2003
SECRETARY VENEMAN: Good morning everyone and thank you for your con
tinuing interest in this issue. This is the first of our technical brief
ings I will not normally be a part of these technical briefings but we t
hought it was important this morning that I at least begin this process
following the press conference that we had yesterday.
We have with us here, Dr. Ron DeHaven, who is the USDA Chief Veteri
narian, works for the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Da
n Englejohn the FSIS Director of Quality Analysis, Dr. Sundlof from the
Food and Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine, Keith Colli
ns, who is our Chief Economist as well as other officials from USDA who
were here to answer the technical questions.
Again I am not going to repeat the information we went over yesterd
ay that is available on our website, the entire transcript. We will also
make transcripts from the morning shows that I Participated in this mor
APHIS and state animal health authorities have begun their extensiv
e epidemiological investigation into the presumptive positive case ob BS
E. We have obtained the following information overnight through this inv
estigation. First the farm involved is a large dairy operation. It invol
ves two premises in Southern Washington, totaling about 4,000 cows on th
e two premises.
The animal we know that is in question was purchased into this herd
in October of 2001, and we are tracing back the herd of residence prior
to this purchase the animal was culled from the herd due to complicatio
ns after calving. We are working together very closely with our colleagu
es in state and federal agencies as part of this investigation. In addit
ion we have had several offers of assistance from our trading partners i
ncluding Canada who just experienced this to assist with the investigati
on as well and we will be working with those experts.
We have explored the option—I think I mentioned yesterday of
sending samples to England by military transport—we’ve now actual
ly put a sample on a commercial aircraft going to England. It should arr
ive in a few hours. It will take about three to five days for confirmato
Verns Moses Lake Meats of Moses Lake Washington establishment is vo
luntarily recalling approximately 10,410 pounds of raw beef that may hav
e been exposed to tissues containing the infectious agent that causes BS
E. The beef subject to this Class II recall, which is 20 carcasses, was
produced on December 9th. It was then shipped to Midway Meats in Central
ia , Washington and several establishments where it was further processed
. And we can get you the information on those from the technical experts
FSIS has enforcement, investigative and analytic officers at the 3
facilities and they are identifying and verifying the distribution of th
e product. FSIS is continuing its investigation to ensure that all distr
ibution of beef products is correctly identified. FIS has designated the
recall as Class II due to extremely low likelihood that the beef being
recalled contains any infectious agent that causes BSE. According to sci
entific evidence the tissues of highest infectivity are the brain, the s
pinal cord and the distal ileum which were removed from the rest of the
carcass at slaughter therefore meat produced are cuts that would not be
expected to be infected or have an adverse public health impact but are
being recalled out of an abundance of caution.
Consumers with other food safety questions call can our toll free m
eat and poultry Hotline at 1-888-MP-Hotline. The Hotline is available in
English and in Spanish and can be reached from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Eastern time, Monday through Friday. Recorded food safety messages are a
vailable on that line 24-hours a day. We will as I said continue to hold
regular technical briefings but unless otherwise notified we will not h
old one tomorrow on Christmas Day but will hold one the following day on
Friday at 11:00 a.m. using the same number you used today. We will send
out an advisory with the specifics later today.
I’ve also been in the process of talking with my counterparts in o
ther countries as I said they’ve offered to help and I again want to re
iterate that our investigation is ongoing but we believe that our BSE re
sponse plan that we started in 1990 and continued to update has provided
us a strong scientific basis upon which to control this situation and w
e continue to believe that the risks to human health from this situation
is extremely low and people should continue to feel very confident in t
he safety of our meat supply. At this point I will turn it over to Dr. D
eHaven and the other people in this room for your questions. Thank you v
DR. DeHaven: I think Secretary Veneman has done a very good job of
summarizing this situation, as it exists. I would only add that we have
assembled a team of both state and federal officials in the state of Was
hington to initiate our investigation and that work is ongoing as we spe
ak. With that operator I would pause and open it up for questions.
QUESTION: Yes, this is Seth Warenstein, Knight-Ridder newspapers. I
n terms of tracking down the feed and how this cow got infected. How far
back are you going? I guess when was this cow culled from the herd due
to complications, a month ago, a year ago. And I guess how massive was t
he feeding operation of potentially other cows that would have fed from
the same food source?
DR. DeHaven: We are still very early in this investigation. We asse
mbled our team late yesterday. They are just hitting the ground now and
becoming active and as I mentioned we have both state and federal offici
als on the investigation that of course would include officials from the
Food and Drug Administration who would be investigating the feed compon
ent of that. Let me go back to the second part of your question though.
She was culled from the herd on December 9 and she was culled because of
paralysis that resulted from an apparent complication when she was calv
ing. So she was culled from the herd on December 9 of this year. She was
a purchased addition into this herd in October of 2001. Much of our inv
estigation right now is finding all of the premises this animal could ha
ve resided on from the time she was born until she came to this herd, ag
ain, in October of 2001. She’s been there about two years. She came int
o the herd as a two-year old animal, calved shortly after arriving and w
ould have been approximately on her third calf at the time she was sent
As is indicated by the question we know that the source of infectio
n, the way that this disease spreads is through consumption of feed that
has been contaminated by protein from an infected animal so the epidemi
ological investigation on the feed would coincide with the time this ani
mal entered into the herd from which she was sent to slaughter but more
importantly would focus on the feeding practices of the birth herd from
where this animal was born. I want to pause a moment and turn the microp
hone over to Mr. Steve Sundlof of FDA for any additional comments.
STEVE SUNDLOF: Ron pretty much summarized that before we can begin
in earnest an investigation of where the feed may potentially have origi
nated from we need to find out where the animal originated from. The inc
ubation period in cattle is on the order of 4 to 5 years. Therefore in a
ll likelihood the animal consumer contaminated feed sometime back in a d
ifferent herd than the one it was culled from. We do have people on the
ground right now in Washington, some of our field investigators and our
state investigators who are trying to track down some of this informatio
n right now. But right now we just don’t have much to go on.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on this?
MS. HARRISON: One follow up question.
QUESTION: If you don’t know where this cow came from the question
is then and the contamination likely came from the birth herd how seriou
s of it is an issue that you’ve got all this beef out there that could
be contaminated at the same time and you don’t know where.
RON DeHaven: We have found as has been found in the situations in C
anada as well as Europe, even in those countries where the prevalence of
the disease has been very high, its not uncommon at all in fact more co
mmon, that the number of animals that are infected within any herd is ve
ry small and very often just one animal within a herd is found to be inf
ected. So that would likely be the case here, having said, that more imp
ortantly we have in place the measures that would protect both the publi
c health and the animal health in that—as was the case with this a
nimal that was down. Any infectious tissues would have gone to rendering
and would not have gone to the human food chain and any of the tissues
that would have gone for human consumption would be safe tissues even if
they came from an infected animal. And as far as protecting animal heal
th we have had in place in this country since August 1997 a feed ban tha
t would prohibit the feeding of protein from cattle back to other cattle
so we think measures have been in place to ensure the safety of both th
e public and animals.
MS. HARRISON: Operator next question.
OPERATOR: Randy Fabi you have the next question.
QUESTION: this is Randy Fabi with Reuters. An industry official is
already kind of questioning the timing that the news came out saying tha
t this is coming so close to the Christmas holiday that to ease the cons
umer backlash and attention to it. My question is walk me through the De
c. 9 sampling and why it took two weeks for all of these tests to come b
ack and I heard there’s three tests. Walk me through each day that you
got the tests back.
Dr. DeHaven: Randy, Id’ be happy to do that to the extent that we
know that information right now. The animal was sent to slaughter on Dec
ember 9 and that is when the samples would have been collected. Those sa
mples as a matter of routine now all go to our national Veterinary Servi
ces Laboratory in
—this is our national laboratory and t Ames, Iowa
hat is where we have been conducting all of our testing. Because of the
volume we have been doing we have not gone to any of the rapid screening
tests that typically you can run in a matter of hour. We’ve been using
strictly the “gold standard” test, the immuno-histo-chemistry or IHC
test for all of these samples. Once those samples are set up it is typic
ally a five day turn around from the time the samples are received until
the results are available. So I don’t know at this point from the time
the tissues were collected to the exact day they were received in the l
aboratory, actually we know that they were received at the laboratory at
NVSL on December 11, two days later and then just because of the volume
of tests that we run and again it is typically a five day turn around t
hat would suggest that these samples would have been set up on about the
16th or 17th of December and results initially available to us on the 2
2nd of December. Once we had the positive we obviously ran some other te
sts that are more rapid and so by the next day we had some additional te
st results also showing confirmed positive. So there was no delay here o
ther than the normal process and the fact we are testing tens of thousan
ds of samples a year at laboratories.
MS. HARRISON: This is Alisa Harrison; I guess I would just add to t
hat that the suggestion that anyone at the Department of Agriculture tim
ed this is completely false. I can assure you that there are a lot of tr
avel plans and vacation plans that have been changed so we can handle th
is issue and so we can continue to provide the public with the informati
on that they need and so we can expedite the investigation so that we ca
n get the answers that we need. So with that operator we will go to the
QUESTION: Hi, I’m Andy Martin from the Chicago Tribune. What becom
es of the cows on this dairy farm? I know that they are quarantined but
ultimately what will be the disposition of these cows?
DR. DeHaven: No determination has been made yet. The cows are curre
ntly located two premises but in effect they are all part of the same la
rge herd. The state of Washington has imposed a quarantine or hold order
on all of those animals and I think until we know more about our epidem
iological investigation it would be premature to speculate on what might
be the final disposition of those animals. So I think it would be prema
ture for us to make that determination but until we do suffice it to say
no animals will be leaving either of those premises.
QUESTION: One quick follow. This animal calved does the disease typ
ically spread to calves?
DR. DeHaven: The only known way this disease is known to be transmi
tted is through consumption of contaminated feed, feed that is contamina
ted with protein from an infected animal. There is no scientific evidenc
e to suggest that the disease is transmitted from mother to offspring. H
aving said that, just as a precaution, it is common practice in countrie
s that have BSE to sacrifice and test offspring of known infected animal
s. And that would be part of our epidemiological investigation. But agai
n it is premature to make any determination about what might happen to t
QUESTION: (inaudible) of the Nightly Business Report. Can you comme
nt on the economic impact of this? How much trade are we talking about t
hat is going to be shut off, and also a consumer group is saying while m
uscle meat may be safer, hot dogs and hamburger are made with a process
that I frankly don’t understand where scour the carcass and that could
lead to infected tissue going into the food supply.
DR. DeHaven: Let have Dr. Collins our Chief Economist answer the fi
rst part of your question.
DR. COLLINS: This is Keith Collins. As Dr. DeHaven has pointed out
we are at the very early stages of this investigation so what’s going t
o happen in the marketplace, the economic effects is really going to hin
ge on how this investigation turns out. Your questions specifically rela
ted to exports—we do know that a number of countries suspended imp
orts of U.S. beef products and some of those are very sizeable trading p
artners. Overall, our exports of beef for 2002 were $2.6 billion. Most o
f that trade goes to four countries, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, as well
as Canada, and as we know right now Japan and South Korea, as well as H
ong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Russia, and South Africa, have su
spended imports of U.S. products.
A sizeable market such as
, which takes about a fifth of our Mexico
which takes about a tenth of our beef, have not so acte Canada
All in all, our total beef exports account for about 10 percent of
our beef production in the
. United States
So the suspension of sales by those major trading partners, which a
t this point would account for roughly 60 to 70 percent of our exports i
s going to have a market effect. Where the market will settle out, it's
too early to say.
We do know that this morning's futures market traded the limit down
, the daily limit on cattle is $1.50 per 100 pounds. That limit can incr
ease over time, if the market stays limit down, and we'll see if that tr
This is the time of year when cash market trading for cattle is ver
y, very light. We expected very little cash trading this week because of
the holidays, and so we probably really are not going to get a test on
what happens with cattle prices until we get into next week and we start
to see the normal resumption of cash market trading and see if the futu
res continues to limit down.
QUESTION: I'm sorry. You said 2002 was $2.6 billion?
DR. COLLINS: $2.6 billion. That accounts for about 10 percent of ou
r beef production.
DR. DeHaven: For the second part of your question on the relative s
afety of meat cuts
versus some process product like hot dogs, let me refer you to Dr. Ken P
etersen with our Food Safety and Inspection Service.
DR. PETERSEN: Okay. Good morning. Regarding the safety of the meat,
as the Secretary indicated, this was what we call a Class 2 recall, mea
ning that it has a remote probability of any health risk, and we took th
is recall based on an abundance of caution.
The global experience with BSE of course is not new and the researc
h tells us, as well as our Harvard risk assessment, informs us that the
high-risk material--brain, spinal cord and certain parts of the intestin
es are the most infective tissues.
Those tissues did not make their way into the food supply. The meat
from this animal, again, guided by the Harvard risk assessment and the
international experience, tells us that the meat is safe and we have no
reason to believe that the BSE agent is in the meat.
Nevertheless, we recalled the product from this day to maintain the
confidence in the food supply.
MS. HARRISON: With that operator, let's go to the next question, pl
MODERATOR: The next question comes from Gary Wergen.
QUESTION: Thank you. Good morning. Question. The ban on feed has be
en in place since August of 1997. This is a third calf cow. The window,
it would seem, for her to have reserved these byproducts would have been
nonexistent or very [audio goes out.]
MS. HARRISON :
MODERATOR: One moment, ma'am.
[inaudible] Kranac [ph], you may ask your question.
QUESTION: Yes. I have a couple basic questions and I have a request
. I'm from CNN. My request would be that when you have several people sp
eaking on these telephone interviews, if you could spell their names at
the beginning and then have each person maybe say their name before they
MS. HARRISON: We'll do that.
QUESTION: Okay. Otherwise they all just kind a blend together and--
and then I have a very basic question then. I've heard this supposedly t
ainted beef described in different ways. Is it suspected mad cow, does i
t have suspected mad cow disease, or should we say apparent? Or does it
I know you're waiting for some confirmation from
DR. DeHaven: This is Dr. DeHaven with Animal and Plant Health Inspe
ction Service. In answer to that question, the disease technically is ca
lled bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE. In lay terms, that's also
what's called mad cow disease. So we're talking about the same disease.
That is bovine, b-o-v-i-n-e, spongiform, s-p-o-n-g-i-f-o-r-m, meani
ng a spongy appearance, and then encephalopathy, e-n-c-e-p-h-a-l-o-p-a-t
-h-y. And I'm going to do my spelling bee contest right after this call-
in. There's a reason why we refer to it as BSE. [LAUGHTER.]
So what we're saying, even though us bureaucrats do love our acrony
ms, in this case it's very important that we have them.
So in layman's terms, that is now mad cow disease. We are calling t
his a presumptive positive.
The reason we're doing is that because while we have extreme faith
in our national veterinary services laboratory, there are recognized, in
ternationally, some world reference laboratories, one of which is the la
boratory in Weybridge, England, and so we are sending duplicate samples
as well as some of our own samples that we ran tests on to this laborato
ry in England for confirmatory testing.
It is our assumption and we are proceeding on the assumption that w
e will get positive confirmation that this is positive, and we are obvio
usly actively engaged, now, in the investigation to try and locate where
all this animal might have been in, most importantly, the birth herd an
d the location of the birth herd of this animal.
So we are saying that at this point we have a presumptive positive
BSE case in the
. United States
QUESTION: Thank you.
Dr. DeHaven: Operator, I think we had a question coming from somebo
dy by the name of
and he got cut off. I'm wondering if we can go ba Gary
MS. HARRISON : Gary Wergen.
DR. DeHaven: Gary Wergen.
MODERATOR: Yes; one moment, please.
Our next question come from Heather Rothman.
QUESTION: Hi. This is Heather Rothman from BNA. Just a quick questi
on. I'm wondering why did we ban the Canadian beef due to their one case
but now we're saying that it's safe to go ahead and eat U.S. beef.
DR. DeHaven: This is Dr. DeHaven, and let me for your benefit spell
my last name. It's capital d small e, capital H-a-v as in Victor -e-n.
Up until the single case of BSE in
, the international reacti Canada
on to a country reporting a case of BSE has been to completely shut off
and ban products of bovine origin from that country.
We were part and party to that as was virtually every other trading
country in the world, and we did so even though there was an internatio
nal standard based on science, that would suggest that there are certain
products that can safely be traded from a country that has the disease.
Recognizing that with the Canadian situation, we then implemented a
process where we, as you know, are now allowing the importation of mini
mal risk products, most notably beef products, meat products, cuts of me
at into the United States from Canada, and we have published a proposed
rule that would consider allowing the importation from Canada into the U
.S. of live animals, and we are currently in the middle of comment proce
ss on that.
So, in summary, the import restrictions that existed before the sit
, were based on public health concerns or, excuse me, pu Canada
blic perception concerns and not based on the science.
We are working at changing that international standard, making that
standard based on the existing science, make it more consistent with th
e current international standards as we also are currently working with
that international organization, the OIE, to update those existing stand
ards in hopes that we will again base trade in the future on the science
and not on public perception.
QUESTION: Thank you.
DR. DeHaven: Next question, Operator.
MODERATOR: Gary Wergen, please restate your question.
QUESTION: Can you hear me this time?
DR. DeHaven: We can; yes.
QUESTION: Great. Question. First off, you said the ban has been in
place on ruminant feeding since August of '97, given the fact this is ap
parently a third calf cow. It would seem the window would be very small,
if it existed at all, for her to have received byproducts from animals
Also is there an opportunity for regionalizing this situation to pe
rmit cattle from, say, the
Midwest, to be marketed on the world trade?
DR. DeHaven: For the first part of your question, I'm going to turn
that over to Dr. Steve Sundlof from the Center for Veterinary Medicine
within the FDA. Steve?
DR. SUNDLOF: I'll spell my name too. It's Stephen, S-t-e-p-h-e-n. L
ast name is Sundlof, S-u-n-d-l-o-f as in Frank.
The answer to your question is that we are looking into trying to t
race back, once we determine what the birth of herd was of this animal,
to try and trace back where they may have acquired their feed. We do ins
pect every firm that handles what we're calling, what we're referring to
as prohibited material, but what that means is protein that's derived f
rom cattle or sheep or goats, basically.
We do inspect, again, we inspect all of these facilities once a yea
r, and we'll have to go back, and once we determine definitively what th
e age of the animal was, when it might have gotten the feed, we can look
into that more closely.
I'll just tell you, though, that the compliance rate is extremely h
igh, it has been increasing since the ban went into place in 1997.
At that time we had about 75 percent of the firms were in complianc
e with that, with our feed ban. Since then, we've achieved a level of 99
percent compliance with the beef ban. So the compliance has improved dr
amatically during that time.
DR. DeHaven: This is Dr. DeHaven again. To the second part of your
question about the possibility of regionalizing the United States for tr
ade purposes, certainly that is a process and a principle well-recognize
d in international trade but it would be premature for us to speculate o
n whether or not that would be possible with this particular disease in
this particular situation.
We need to know more about the epidemiology of this particular situ
ation, specifically, where did this animal come from, what were the feed
sources, where have animals moved out of this herd? et cetera. So we wo
uld certainly consider regionalization if, upon completion of our invest
igation, there would be information to suggest that any movement that wo
uld be associated with this animal or this herd would be limited to a ce
rtain part of the country, then that would be something that we could co
nsider at that time.
But it would be premature to speculate on whether or not that would
be possible at this point.
Operator, next question, please.
MODERATOR: Aaron Zentner [ph], you may ask your question.
QUESTION: Yeah. Aaron Zentner. I'm with the Los Angeles Times. Firs
t, a quick thing before I ask my question. It sounds like you are unsure
of the age of the calf. We don't know exactly how old this animal was?
DR. SUNDLOF: What we know about the age of this animal is that she
was purchased as a 2-year-old in October of 2001. She was having her fir
st calf, which normally happens at about the age of two years. So in the
industry, she would be referred to as a springer. So if she was two yea
rs old at the time of purchase in October of 2001, that would make her r
oughly four to four and a half years old at the time of slaughter.
QUESTION: Can we go over--thank you for that--the recall today. Is
Verns's, the deboner, the 10,000 pounds in question, is that all of thei
r product on that day? In other words, can I just get a better idea of w
hat kind of net--what kind of ground that net covers, to have that 10,00
0 pounds? What, you know, what days, what, you know, what's that intende
d to capture?
DR. DeHaven: I have Dr. Petersen from Food Safety Inspection Servic
e answer that.
DR. PETERSEN: This is Dr. Kenneth Peterson, P-e-t-e-r-s-e-n, with F
As I indicated, the animal was one of twenty that completed inspect
ion on December 9th at Vern's Moses Lake Meats in Moses Lake, Washington
. Those twenty carcasses are what added up to the 10,410 pounds that wer
e recalled this morning at
That's the entire day's production, and we know that on or about Decembe
r 11th, those 20 carcasses were shipped to a separate firm, and as the S
ecretary indicated, I have enforcement and investigations officers on si
te at four separate facilities where we believe may have received this p
roduct, and one of which was--one of them is the location that we recall
ed last night. The second location is the one that received the 20 carca
sses and then there are two locations that received the meat from that p
And those enforcement and investigations officers are, as we speak,
looking at production records to identify when the carcasses were proce
ssed, what was done with them, and we're gathering that information righ
QUESTION: And so am I to conclude, that just because we have a reca
ll doesn't mean that we've identified all the 10,000 pounds in question.
That's the work that has to go on now?
DR. PETERSEN: Well, we have recalled everything that was produced o
n that day and as we always do with a recall, we know that products get
distributed, we go look for them and make decisions on what further acti
on we need to take on those products.
DR. DeHaven: Operator, next question, please.
MODERATOR: Our next question comes from Christie Flagg [ph].
QUESTION: Hi there. It's Christie Flagg from CNN. I have two questi
ons. The first one is are diseased cows, like this one you said was para
lyzed after delivering--are diseased cows often sent to the slaughterhou
se? Is that standard practices?
And the second question is if the test results weren't back yet, wh
y was the meat sent to processing plants? Why not wait for the results?
DR. DeHaven: This is Dr. DeHaven. It's not uncommon practice for an
imals that are no longer economically profitable, to send them to slaugh
ter. Whether this animal was down at the time that she actually left the
farm or had regained ambulation, and then went to slaughter, at this po
int we don't honestly know that information. And I'll let Dr. Petersen,
again, from FSIS, address the inspection process that they go through to
ensure that these animals are appropriate for human consumption, but, i
ndeed, that is part of the inspection process. Dr. Petersen.
DR. PETERSEN: This animal was received at the plant and our USDA ve
terinarian did an ante mortem inspection on the animal. There was nothin
g particularly remarkable about his findings. In fact they were consiste
nt with a birthing injury, and so he passed that animal for slaughter, w
hich is perfectly within the norms of how these things happen. The anima
l was acceptable.
Then the animal went to slaughter and again it was inspected by the
USDA veterinarian, and his findings were entirely consistent with a bir
thing injury, some inflammation and hemorrhage in the pelvic canal. That
's what he found, and nothing beyond that, and so, again, the animal, th
ose tissues were removed and the animal, as would be typically done, was
passed for slaughter.
This sample was collected as part of our routine surveillance progr
am and so there was no indication at the time, that there was any reason
to retain this animal pending the results from APHIS.
QUESTION: So a follow-up if I may. The animal was considered a down
er cow because of the birthing injury and all of those animals like that
are tested for mad cow just as standard operating procedures?
DR. DeHaven: That would be--that is a correct statement.
QUESTION: Thank you.
DR. DeHaven: I should clarify that our surveillance system that we
have in place now, and those animals that we target for our surveillance
are those animals, first and foremost, that are showing signs of nervou
s system disorder, but also we target animals that are nonambulatory, th
e downed animals, if you will.
So this animal was picked up as part of our routine surveillance. L
ast year we tested over 20,000. The exact number is 20,526 were tested l
ast year, our fiscal year 03. Obviously all of them were negative.
I think it's also important to point out, in this particular case,
consistent with a policy within the Food Inspection Service, Food Safety
Inspection Service, is that the risk materials, the specified risk mate
rials are those tissues that--are the tissues that would be the ones tha
t would contain any infectious agent, were removed and did not go into t
he human food chain.
So even though the carcass was not retained, only those tissues, th
e meat, if you will, that is safe for human consumption, went into the h
uman food chain.
Operator, next question, please.
MODERATOR: Our next question comes from Don Franko.
QUESTION: Yes. I was trying to correlate whether or not the departm
ent is considering other potential causes like they're doing [audio out]
DR. DeHaven: I'm sorry, Don. Could you repeat that.
MODERATOR: One moment.
MS. HARRISON: Operator, this Alisa Harrison. As I said before, this
briefing is for reporters, so we really want to try to keep the questio
ns from the reporters. So if we could go to the next question. Thank you
MODERATOR: Seth Bornstein, you may ask your question.
QUESTION: Yes. Seth Bornstein at Knight Ridder again. You said that
there was nine--in 1997, there was 75 percent compliance on the feed ba
n and now 99 percent. Doing the math, you're talking about the years of
suspicion being 1999 through 2001.
Can you tell us what the compliance was in those years, whether the comp
liance was worse in certain regions, and what kind of enforcement action
was done in places that did not comply, found not in compliance?
DR. DeHaven: We'll have Steve Sundlof from FDA answer that question
DR. SUNDLOF: I don't have those figures in front of me. We do have
the information. If you would like, we can provide that information to y
QUESTION: Okay. Then can I follow up with a different question. Oth
er countries don't--you put downed animals, regardless, into the food ch
ain, food supply. Are you looking at tightening the downed animals, not
putting them in the food supply? Even if it's not BSE, there's some peop
le already saying, well, why are we eating animals that were sick? Can y
ou comment on the nature of using downed animals in the food supply.
DR. DeHaven: This is Dr. DeHaven. Let me give a preface comment and
then defer to Dr. Petersen again from Food Safety Inspection Service.
We feel that we've had, from a BSE perspective, a good program in p
lace, again to protect public health and animal health as well, recogniz
ing that from downed animals, those tissues that would harbor an infecti
ous agent have been removed, don't go into the food chain. Any that coul
d end up in animal feed chain then would be subject to the feed ban and
those materials shouldn't be fed back to animals.
But let me defer to Dr. Petersen for a more substantive answer.
DR. PETERSEN: Okay. Dr. Petersen with FSIS. This animal, what we kn
ow and from what we found at postmortem, does appear to be a very acute
injury, something that happened in a very short period of time, and so t
hat animal made its way to slaughter.
Whenever we have a downer animal, those are always inspected by a U
SDA veterinarian before they go to slaughter. So I have my most highly-t
rained individuals making the decisions on whether those animals are fit
for slaughter, and that's what happened in this case.
MS. HARRISON: Operator, this is Alisa again. We have time for two more q
MODERATOR: Our next question comes from Dan Goldstein.
QUESTION: Hi. Dan Goldstein, Bloomberg News. This question also is
for the gentleman from the FDA. I was looking at the report from last ye
ar from the GAO and how the FDA apparently missed several firms that had
been feeding back basically this high-risk feed that was used with grou
nd-up CNS elements in it, and that these firms had not been taken--no en
forcement had been taken against them.
Dr. Sundlof, can you comment on that? Has the FDA improved after th
DR. SUNDLOF: Yes. This is Steve Sundlof. Yeah. In fact we had impro
ved well before that report came out. I think that was May 2001. As I in
dicated early on, the compliance rate was at--right after the time that
the rule was passed in 1997, the compliance rate was around 75 percent.
We recognized that that was not sufficient and that we needed to do a lo
t to get it up to what we expected was a 100 percent compliance with the
We basically talked to GAO and told them, you know, where the probl
ems were and what we were trying to do to resolve those, and GAO wrote i
n their report exactly what we told them basically.
There were some issues mainly regarding the database that was used
to collect the data, and that there were redundancies and some left-out
information. Those have all been taken care of now and we've done I thin
k somewhere around--there are 1826 firms currently that handle this proh
ibited material. There are two firms, right now, that are not in complia
QUESTION: What would you say is the compliance rate now? Is it abov
e 90 percent? Where would you put it? How close are we to 100 percent?
DR. SUNDLOF: Well, divide two by 1,826 and—
QUESTION: So those are it?
DR. SUNDLOF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Those are the only two.
DR. SUNDLOF: Yes.
MS. HARRISON: Operator, we'll take our last question.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Our final question comes from Richard Cohen.
QUESTION: Hi. It's Richard Cowan from Reuters. Can you tell us--you
say you're trying to find out what the birth herd is.
What kind of record keeping do you have on that? For example, will
it be on the tag of the animal? How long could it take to establish that
and could it have come from an area far from the second herd?
DR. DeHaven: This is Dr. DeHaven. You're technically asking us to s
peculate on information that we are in the process of gathering, but let
me first of all, just in terms of background, we have a very cooperativ
e herd owner who has good records and they have made those records avail
able to us.
We know that this particular animal was purchased at one of two loc
ations and we are in the process of going back to those locations. Again
, we do know at least one of the livestock markets in question has very
The animal in question did have some identification on her, which s
hould hopefully help us in doing that traceback. We are hopeful that wit
hin the next day or two we will have the information from those two pote
ntial sources of this animal, and if everything goes perfectly, we shoul
d be able to trace back to the birth herd within a day or two.
Having said that, again, we don't know what records we might be abl
e to find or not find, so it's be premature to speculate, but hopefully
we'll have as much relevant information in that regard within a matter o
f a day or two.
QUESTION: And can you say what those other locations are, and once
you establish the birth herd location, do you then have to trace every a
nimal that was in that herd and possibly quarantine?
DR. DeHaven: All of these premises are located within the State of
and for purposes of ensuring privacy of those individuals and Washington
organizations, we'll not divulge that information at this point.
Once we have the birth herd, however, our epidemiological investiga
tion will extend to that herd. We'll want to know what animals have come
into that herd and from where, where animals have left that herd, what
the feeding practices were and all of the relevant information associate
d with that.
MS. HARRISON: Thank you, Dr. DeHaven, Dr. Sundlof and Dr. Petersen.
As well as Dr. Collins. We have lots of doctors with us today. As t
he Secretary said in her opening remarks, unless you hear otherwise from
us, we will not brief tomorrow, on Christmas day, but we will brief at
11:00 a.m. on Friday, and as she said that information, that reminder wi
ll be going out here very shortly.
We wish everyone a merry Christmas, happy holidays, and we will tal
k to you on Friday.
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