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Teaching Workshop: Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) Overview and Awareness Meetings

Definition of BSE

  • Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy:
    • A chronic degenerative disease affecting the central nervous system (CNS) of cattle
    • Commonly called "mad cow disease"

History of BSE

  • First diagnosed in Great Britain in 1986
  • Worldwide there have been more than 180,000 cases
    • 95% have been in the United Kingdom
    • In 22 countries, including the first positive in the U.S.

BSE Symptoms in Cattle

  • Changes in temperament such as nervousness or aggression
  • Abnormal posture
  • Incoordination and difficulty in rising
  • Decreased milk production
  • Loss of body condition despite continued appetite

BSE in Cattle

  • No treatment
  • No test to diagnose BSE in live animal
  • Infective agent
    • Most accepted theory is that it is a prion, an abnormal form of a normal protein known as a cellular prion protein
  • Data suggest that the cause may be animal feed containing contaminated meat and bone meal

First BSE Positive in United States

  • Presumptive positive on December 23, 2003
  • Confirmed positive on December 25, 2003

BSE Positive in U.S. - Timeline

  • December 9, 2003
    • A non-ambulatory Holstein dairy cow arrives at Vern's Moses Lake Meats, in Moses Lake, Washington
    • Animal's condition attributed to complications from calving
    • Samples taken for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) BSE surveillance testing program
  • December 11
    • Samples arrive at USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa
  • December 22
    • Preliminary test results are positive
  • December 23
    • Further test results are positive
    • Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman announces a "presumptive positive"
    • APHIS begins epidemiological investigation and places quarantine on herd where cow last resided in Mabton, Washington
  • December 24
    • FSIS initiates Class II recall of all meat (10,410 pounds) from group of 20 animals slaughtered at plant on December 9
    • APHIS determines disposition of three calves from the infected cow
  • December 25
    • World reference laboratory in Weybridge, England confirms BSE positive
  • December 27 - Traceback of infected cow indicates:
    • It was imported from Canada in 2001
    • Was likely 6 ½ years old, instead of the 4 ½ years the last owner's records indicated
    • Investigative efforts involve Canadian officials
  • December 29
    • USDA identifies 8 more cows from the same herd in Canada that may have entered the U.S.
  • December 30
    • Agriculture Secretary Veneman announces additional safeguards against BSE
  • January 5
    • USDA announces decision to depopulate the bull calf operation in Sunnyside, Washington, that includes a calf born to the infected cow
  • January 6
    • DNA evidence helps to verify, with a high degree of certainty, that the BSE positive cow originated from a dairy farm in Alberta, Canada
  • January 12
    • FSIS publishes 3 rules and a notice which take effect immediately

Close Working Relationships

  • Throughout this process, FSIS has worked closely with APHIS, state officials in affected states, and the Canadian Government.

FSIS Regulatory Authority

  • Under the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) (21 U.S.C. 601 et seq.)
    • FSIS issues regulations governing the production of meat and meat food products prepared for distribution in commerce.
    • A meat food product is adulterated if, among other circumstances, it bears or contains any poisonous or deleterious substance that may render it injurious to health (21 U.S.C. 601(m) (1) or if it is for any reason unsound, unhealthful, unwholesome, or unfit for human food (21 U.S.C. 601 (m) (3)).

Published Following BSE Positive

  • Published in Federal Register January 12, 2004:
    • Interim final rules with request for comments:
      • Prohibition of the Use of Specified Risk Materials for Human Food and Requirements for the Disposition of Non-Ambulatory Disabled Cattle
      • Advanced Meat Recovery (AMR) Systems
      • Prohibition of the use of air-injection stunning devices
    • Notice on BSE Surveillance Program

Awareness Meetings

  • FSIS inspection program personnel held awareness meetings:
    • In all plants that slaughter cattle or process bone-in parts of cattle carcasses.
    • At the first weekly PBIS meeting after receipt of the awareness meetings notice.
    • To explain the new requirements.
    • To review 4 checklists with plant management.

Awareness Meetings

  • FSIS inspection program personnel informed plant management:
    • Of the need to reassess the hazard analysis and determine what steps were necessary to ensure that the plant's products did not contain materials which might transmit BSE.
    • That if plants did not address procedures and controls, a Notice of Intended Enforcement (NOIE) was to be issued.

Documenting the Awareness Meeting

  • Inspection program personnel documented the original awareness meetings in a memorandum of interview. It included:
    • Who was present.
    • Date and time the meeting was held.
    • What was discussed.
    • Any documents that were shared with plant management.

Awareness Meetings

  • By the second weekly PBIS meeting:
    • FSIS inspection program personnel began verifying that the plant had incorporated appropriate procedures and controls into its:
      • Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) Plan;
      • Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (Sanitation SOPs);
      • Or prerequisite programs.
  • After the second weekly PBIS meeting,
    • Inspection program personnel verified that the requirements were being met utilizing the HACCP or the Sanitation SOPs procedure,
    • and documented noncompliance accordingly.

For More Information on BSE

  • Log onto the FSIS website at
    • http://www.fsis.usda.gov/
      • Extensive USDA information
      • Links to other BSE websites
  • FSIS Technical Service Center (TSC)
    • Phone 1-800-233-3935
Last Modified Dec 30, 2016