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"USDA & Harvard Announce Results of BSE Risk Assessment"

with Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman

Friday, November 30, 2001


Thank you for coming out today.  My name is Alisa Harrison.  I am the press secretary here at USDA.

We'll begin very shortly.  I just wanted to make a few requests of you.  When we begin the question and answer session, there are people listening in on a phone line, so we will have people with microphones, if you wait until the microphone gets to you to ask your question.  Also, we would request one question per reporter after we go around, to make sure we get everybody's first question first before we go on.

The information that you were handed today will be on the website.  In fact, it's live now.  And hard copies of the full risk assessment will be available right after the press conference.  For those of you who want the 500-page copy of the report, you can talk with Ed Curlett, with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and he'll be at the back of the room at the end of the session.

We'll begin shortly.


Good afternoon, everyone.  Thank you very much for being here.  It is a pleasure for me to be here today to present the long-awaited risk assessment on bovine spongiform encephalopathy—I'm not sure I said that quite right—or BSE, which was conducted by Harvard University.

We have here with us Dr. George Gray, who is the deputy director of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis and the director of the assessment, and he's going to give you some of the details of the report after I give a few opening comments.

In addition, to help answer some of the questions today, we have Bobby Acord, the administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; acting administrator for FSIS, the Food Safety Inspection Service, Maggie Glavin; Dr. Steve Sundlof, the director of the Food and Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine is here; and Linda Detwiler, the senior staff veterinarian at the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and one of our real gurus on this issue.  I also want to introduce our Under Secretary for Food Safety, Dr. Elsa Murano, who has been with us for a few months now.

Preventing BSE has been a top priority for government and industry since it was first discovered in Great Britain in 1986.  BSE has not been detected in the U.S., nor has there been a case of the human form, variant CJD, in the U.S.  We want to keep it that way, and this report is an important tool in gauging the effectiveness of our current program and identifying additional measures that we can take to strengthen our efforts.

In fact, one of my overriding goals since taking office has been to ensure strong food safety programs and to strengthen our pest and animal disease protection programs.

When we came into office here in January, we inherited good, solid programs, but we faced many issues this year; the threat of foot-and-mouth disease, which we dealt with all throughout the spring and into the summer.  Then came September 11th, and we've worked very hard to bolster critical infrastructure programs that protect us from pests and disease and protect the integrity of our food safety system.

This year we have invested more resources in our food safety and pest and disease prevention program.  Earlier this week, President Bush signed into law USDA's current budget, and that budget increased funding for both food safety and APHIS systems.

As well, this year, we have used our authority to approve emergency funds to enhance our protections by adding new personnel, inspectors, and resources for our ports of entry.  We have also begun critical modernization projects at some of our key laboratories, such as the ones in Ames, Iowa, and Plum Island.

Strong prevention, detection, and eradication programs are imperative to reduce potential threats to our food supply, and we must have solid relationships in coordination with other federal agencies, states, and our industry.  These partnerships are critical as we continue our vigilance.

Secretary Thompson and I have been working together to increase our coordination and cooperation between our two agencies. These efforts are helping USDA and HHS take responsible actions the prevent the introduction of BSE into the United States.  But the firewalls that have kept BSE out of our country began way before we arrived.  In 1989, USDA placed import restrictions on cattle meat, and bone meal, and certain beef products from countries with BSE.

In 1990, USDA began a comprehensive surveillance program to search for any signs of the disease in cattle.  And in 1997, as an additional preventative measure, the FDA prohibited the use of ruminant-derived protein in feed for cattle.  Throughout the 1990s, USDA expanded import restrictions while at the same time increasing the testing for BSE.

Both agencies also implemented aggressive education, training and outreach to veterinarians, cattle producers and the industry.  And this summer Secretary Thompson announced an action plan outlining additional new steps to improve scientific understanding of BSE that incorporates a comprehensive approach to further strengthen research, resources and existing inspection efforts.

All of these steps, we believe, have played an important role in the U.S. in preventing BSE.

In 1998, USDA entered into a cooperative agreement with Harvard University School of Public Health to conduct a risk assessment to evaluate the ways BSE could spread if it were ever introduced into the United States.  This study has allowed for a complete examination of the government's protection programs, and today Dr. Gray is here to share, in detail, those results.

I am pleased to report that using complex mathematical models, the study found that the risk of BSE entering this country is extremely low.  Harvard's analysis also found that if BSE were to enter the U.S., our safeguarding systems are strong and would prevent it from spreading.  These findings are important to consumers and to agriculture.  It shows that we are taking responsible and appropriate measures here in the U.S.  However, we cannot let down our guard, and we must continue to improve and strengthen our firewalls, and we are committed to do just that.

Now I'd like to turn the microphone over to Dr. Gray to present you with the highlights of the report.


Thank you, Secretary Veneman, and good afternoon.

To tell you about our report, I first want to tell you how we got started.  We had a lot to learn when it comes to BSE.  We spent 3 years learning about BSE, what causes it, how it spreads, what happened in Europe.  We studied the U.S. agriculture system to understand how it works.  We looked at government regulations, government rules, and the levels of compliance with those rules.  That led us, together with colleagues at Tuskegee University, who played an important role in our analysis, to build a model of the real world, as we know it today, so we could simulate what might happen if the disease were introduced—if BSE were introduced to the United States.

What we found is that the United States is very resistant to BSE.  As far as we know, it's not here now, but if it does get in, it can't become established.  Basically, with the measures that are already in place, even with imperfect compliance, the disease in the cattle herd dies out, and the potential for people to be exposed to infected cattle parts is tiny.

We ran dozens of scenarios and thousands of variations of each of those with our model, and we couldn't come up with a single situation where BSE could take hold or spread in any significant way.  In every case, the disease dies out, usually in about 20 years.

So here's what happens if BSE does get in.  We simulated the importation of a variety of a number of cows.  These are hypothetical scenarios, and in fact of course it's illegal to import cows into the United States from places that currently have BSE.  But we wanted to see what might happen.  So we ran scenarios with the importation of one cow, five cows, ten cows, all the way up to five hundred cows infected with BSE, brought into the United States without anyone knowing.  In every single scenario, the disease dies out.

There were, we predict, a few new cases of BSE.  Some American animals would become infected, but there would certainly not be an epidemic.  This happens largely because of the feed ban instituted by the Food and Drug Administration, although not perfect, breaks the loop that allows infected parts of a cow from a sick cow to get back to a healthy animal.

We also didn't just look at what's happening today.  We looked back into the past.  We looked at 334 animals that were imported from the United Kingdom into the United States between 1980 and the prohibition of that import that went into place in 1989.  We find that there is a small possibility, a very small possibility, that some amount of BSE could have entered the United States in those years.  But even if it did, it might not have caused disease, and if it did cause disease, the measures put in place subsequently have arrested the disease and begun its eradication.

So what do we know about human health?  Based on everything we know now about variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, variant CJD, the human form of what's known as mad cow disease, it's very unlikely that this will become a serious health problem in the United States.  And here's how we figured that out.

Under our scenarios, we calculated not only how many sick animals might arise, but what might happen to the infectious part of those animals.  We measured this in a unit called a cattle oral ID 50, and this is one of those complicated mathematical things that the Secretary alluded to.  What this is, is a measure.  It's a way of thinking about exposure of animals.  ID 50 is a unit that if a cow was to eat it, would make her sick with a 50-percent probability.  If she got more, she'd be more likely to get sick; if she got less, she'd be less likely to get sick.

This is important because this is the way we track the infectious part of a cow through the U.S. system.  In our worst-case scenario, the importation of 500 sick cows, the number of these ID 50s potentially getting into the human food supply is about 170 a year over 20 years.  We can't say what that might mean for human health.  But what we can do to try and understand its magnitude is to compare it to a situation that we know, and we can look at the United Kingdom.

Their estimates are there are over a million or in the neighborhood of a million sick animals in the course of their epidemic that likely put millions of these cattle Oral ID 50s potentially available for human consumption.  They've had roughly 100 cases of vCJD so far, and we don't know what will happen, but it helps us understand the magnitude of the potential, potential exposure, under a hypothetical situation of the importation of 500 animals in the United States.  Now that importation of 500 animals is pretty far-fetched, I think we would all agree on that.  In the scenario which has perhaps the greatest likelihood of occurring, the importation of one sick animal, an animal slips through.  We bring in a BSE-infected animal.  In that case we would have just six of these ID-50s for potential human consumption over 20 years, again comparing potentially millions that were in the United Kingdom.

Now to reduce the risk for cows, our analysis found the key is compliance with the FDA's feed ban.  Keeping the parts of animals that are potentially infectious from getting from a healthy—sick animal to a healthy one is the key.

Now, remember, one of the things that we've learned from Europe is that these ID-50s, these infectious parts of animals, are found only in a few parts of a sick cow, mostly in the brain, the spinal cord and some other parts of the central nervous system, and not, it's important to note, in meat, in milk, in fat, and in other parts of the animal that are usually eaten.

One of the important things for keeping the risk to humans low is keeping—is the way in which we handle these infectious tissues, brain and spinal cord, in processing plants for making human food.

Can we say that there won't be a case of BSE in the United States?  No.  We can't say that.  We can't say that there might not be a case of variant CJD in the United States, even when it can't be traced back to the United Kingdom or to Europe.  But what we can say, even in the absence of zero risk, we all know there's no such thing as zero risk.  What we can say after three years of study is we're confident that BSE is not going to become a major public health or animal health threat for the United States.

With that, I'll turn the podium back to Secretary Veneman.


Thank you very much, Dr. Gray.  I think you can all see that a tremendous amount of work has gone into this study to produce this model and this report, and I want to thank you and your colleagues, Dr. Gray, as well as recognize the contributions of those from Tuskegee University.  Some of the representatives are also with us today.

As Dr. Gray said, the risk of BSE being introduced into this country is very low, and that is very good news.  The report shows that early actions by the U.S. and years of vigilance have been successful.  But as I said earlier, we must maintain our vigilance and we must continue our work to strengthen our firewalls to keep BSE out of the United States.

This scientific study will be used to evaluate enhancements to our current protection systems and further reduce the risk of BSE, and based on our preliminary review of the report, we are now seeing a series of actions today aimed at bolstering our protection system.

First, the risk assessment will be peer-reviewed by a team of outside experts to validate its scientific integrity.

Second, surveillance is a critical part of our multifaceted strategy which is why we are announcing that this year we will more than double the amount of testing for BSE in the United States.  This increased testing will target more than 12,500 cattle samples, up from 5000 during fiscal year 2001.

Third, in the coming weeks USDA will announce in the Federal Register the availability of a policy options paper that will outline additional possible regulatory actions aimed at limiting the risk of BSE exposure in the United States.  To ensure these options are science-based, they will be tested using the computer model developed by Harvard to see what impact they would have on further reducing risk.  These options that will be included in the paper will include prohibiting the use of brain and spinal cord from specified cattle in human food; prohibiting the use of central nervous system tissues in boneless beef products, including meat from advanced meat recovery systems; and prohibiting the use of the vertebral column from certain categories of cattle, including downed animals, in the production of meat from advanced meat recovery systems.

USDA will invite public comment on the options, and then proceed, following those comments, with appropriate regulatory action.

Fourth, USDA will issue a proposed rule to prohibit the use of certain stunning devices used to immobilize cattle during slaughter.  Now while the industry has largely stopped using these specific devices, USDA is taking this action to ensure they are entirely eliminated as a proactive measure.

And finally, USDA will publish an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking, or an ANPR, as it's commonly referred to, to consider disposal options for dead stock from farms and ranches.  Such animals are considered a potential pathway for the spread of BSE in the animal chain.

We feel that these additional measures, when coupled with the strong firewalls that have been put in place throughout the past several years by both U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services, through the Food and Drug Administration, will continue to keep our BSE program strong.

Again, I want to personally thank everyone at Harvard and Tuskegee for all their hard work in developing this scientific risk assessment.  As well, a large thank you and acknowledgement of appreciation goes to all the employees of USDA and Health and Human Services, our states, our industry partners, and consumer groups, who continue to work diligently to protect America's food and agriculture system from this devastating disease.

This administration is committed to strong food safety and test and disease prevention programs.  Today's action, with our investments in these critical areas and the short time we've been in office, demonstrates that we are continuing to move in the right direction.  And the Harvard risk assessment allows us to move forward with our prevention efforts to maintain the solid reputation of America's food supply here and around the world.

Our future actions will continue to be based on the best available science and involves close coordination with our other Federal partners, states, industry and consumer interests.

Now we will be happy to take your questions, and answer any issues that you may have.  Thank you.


I wonder if you might just talk a little bit more about this feed ban that you talked about, and how the feed ban has been successful and would be successful in preventing this.  I don't fully understand what the feed ban is.  And then also if you could just help me define a little bit more the ID-50s.  I'm at a loss on this?


Okay.  In 1997, the Food and Drug Administration put in a regulation that prohibits the use of mammalian protein, with a few exceptions, being fed to ruminants.  What we learned from the United Kingdom is that the way BSE apparently spreads is when parts of an infected animal are rendered and used as a protein supplement in feed for other animals.  A cycle is set up.  That's the only way that these unusual tissues—in most cases, central nervous system tissues—won't get from one animal to another.  Learning from the experience in Europe, the Food and Drug Administration put a regulation in place to block that, to cut that loop.  That cycle cannot continue because there's a ban on the feeding of ruminant-derived protein back to ruminants.


Yes.  It was not used—it's not—it's not like that at all.  In fact, what's used is some parts are recycled and the animals are then—are recycled and it's used as a protein supplement.  It is no longer done in this country.  The FDA feed ban prohibits it and, in fact, we find that is perhaps the most significant measure in keeping the United States in a position where BSE cannot become established in this country.

QUESTION:  [Inaudible.]


ID-50s.  It's our currency that we use to keep track of the infectious parts of a cow.  You can think of it as sort of a measure that lets us know if a cow is kind of—could pass a lot of the disease to other animals, or only a little bit.  And when we think about human tissue or human exposure, let's just think about whether humans in the U.S. are exposed to a lot or a little compared to other places.

So it's just kind of a currency way of keeping track of things.  It lets us know if other animals will be infected, and there we find that in most cases we see very few new animals infected if we bring BSE to this country, and the amount of infectivity that parent—excuse me, that humans, people are exposed to is very low.  It lets us keep track of the size of the exposures.


David Brown from The Washington Post.  Secretary Veneman, the report says that if one eliminated animals that die on the farm from the rendering stream of animals, that would get rid of about 70 percent of the hypothetical exposure to human beings.  Did you consider just proposing immediately a ban of the use of those animals in the rendering stream and if not, why not?


Well, again, we do have among the proposals that I presented earlier a Federal Register notice that will go out to look at the various options for the downed animals that you're discussing.

We have looked at a number of options, but obviously we want to make sure that we do all of this based on sound science, and in order to do that, we need to make sure how this model interacts with the various actions that we are looking at as possibilities to take, and as well to look at the science and input that would be gained from putting this out to public comment and assessing the various options that may be available.


I'd just like to add a little bit more.  The elimination of dead stock, the reason that would be for an ANPR is you can imagine animals die on a farm.  That's going to happen.  And the options can be multi-fold and even regional on what you do.  The main thing is to break the cycle, so you might even still want to render them and then do something with the rendering.

We need to have an infrastructure in order to handle these carcasses, and by having an ANPR we throw open the options of having the industry, having farmers, having others help us in solutions.  And I think the thing is that there are multi-ways in order to do this safely.  But I think we just need a lot of options in looking at how to handle this, because we don't want to create a bigger problem with disposal by doing that, just start out thinking about it.


I'm Sally Schuff.  I'm with Feedstuffs.  My question is for Dr. Sundlof.  Sir, Secretary Veneman has described the future regulatory steps that USDA will take.  Could you discuss what future regulatory issues may be coming up with FDA?


Yes, thank you.  We—let me just before I talk about the future regulatory steps, let me just talk about what we are doing in terms of increasing compliance with the present feed rule.

We were fortunate this year that we had asked for funding to really step up the amount of inspections and enforcements that goes on not only within the United States, but also at our borders, our ports of entry, to prevent the feeding of the prohibited material of the ruminant protein back to cattle.

We were—the President just signed a budget for $15 million for the FDA.  Thirteen million of that is going specifically to inspection.  So we will inspect every company, every firm, commercial firm that deals with prohibited material on a yearly basis.  We will get around to every one of them every year.  So that's one of the things that we're doing.

We are also going to be testing samples.  We have developed some feed tests that we can actually take samples that may not have—they may say they don't have the prohibited protein in there, but we can actually test it, and we're going to be doing some of that as well.

So I think the actions that we're taking is very consistent with the message that we've gotten from the Harvard risk assessment.

In terms of the present regulation, we had a Part 15 hearing.  It's a public hearing, exactly one month ago today, in Kansas City, where we asked the question about the existing rule.  There are some exemptions to the rule, and we thought it would be a good idea at this time to reexamine those and see if there's still a scientific basis for exempting certain proteins that we do allow into cattle feed.

And so we will be going out also with an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking probably the—within the first part of next year, which lays out those questions again.  Certain things, especially the feeding of poultry litter.  I know you didn't like cattle, but cattle—cattle are allowed to consume recycled poultry litter.  But one of the things we know now is that that can actually have still feed in it which may contain ruminant protein.  So we're going to be look at that.

We're going to be looking at other things like plate waste, that there are other exemptions that we will look very closely at the Harvard risk assessment to try and determine if we changed any of those, what kind of impact that might have in reducing what is already a very small risk.  So that's what the FDA is doing.


Jill Carroll, Wall Street Journal.  [Inaudible.]  You said the best defense we have right now is the feed ban.  Would it make sense at all to just say no chickens, no pigs, nobody gets ruminant feed?  I know it would kind of create a storage problem, probably, but might that be a good solution to eliminate all risk and be super, super sure we're?


Well, it's certainly an option, and it's one that we are going to address in the advanced notice of proposed rulemaking.  I think as Linda Detwiler has expressed you can't just do that without building an infrastructure to be able to deal with the problem, because there's 50 billion pounds of animal protein that gets rendered every year, and that could be a tremendous environmental problem if there were not structures in place to be able to handle that material in an environmentally safe way.


This is for the Secretary.  Phil Brasher with The Associated Press.  This study identifies beef from advanced meat recovery systems as being by far the biggest single risk of human exposure.  And as I understand it, you all have told companies not to—or to take out nervous system material.  Why don't you simply prohibit it so that it can't get in—or can't be in meat at all?


Well, that is one of the options that we're looking at in the Federal Register notice.  I think I will have Meg Glavin address the specifics of your question.


We require plants through our inspection program to remove the spinal cord prior to putting bones into the advanced meat recovery system.  We regulate that both through our inspection, visual inspection, and through some testing of the end product.

What we're putting in the option paper is to put that into a final regulation to make it very—in regulation that that is prohibited.  But the practice today is that our inspectors are required to make sure that the spinal cord is not going in.


Do you guys have a dollar effect on the—how—if a mad-cow disease outbreak did happen here in the United States, what kind of impact that would have on the beef industry?  I don't know if you guys have a dollar amount of—you know, a range?


We don't have one for the United States, but we have some figures from out of the United Kingdom, at least indirect costs, and it's over $6 billion over the time, but that's on cost.  I think it's very hard to put a pencil to and come up with figures on indirect costs and other types of losses.  So I think that's one of those nebulous numbers.

I'd also like to say on this study for somebody who has talked to a lot of you in the room here over the years since I've been doing this for 12 years, is that, again, from a technical standpoint, for a country with low risk factors and unlikely—and we've been looking—put the mirror to ourselves three times now.  In 1990 the European Union did a risk assessment and now Harvard.  It's my experience on this and even around the world that for a country that has low risk factors and an unlikelihood, that, again, being very, very aggressive on this and that we're willing to take—and to show that we're willing to take even more measures to put more firewalls up.  And I don't know any other country in the same situation as the United States that has really put this kind of scrutiny through Harvard that they've done for three years.


Philip Brasser with AP again.  This is a question for Dr. Gray.  Did you assess the reduction in risk of increased testing of cattle?


No, we didn't, because if you think about it, testing doesn't change the likelihood of this disease spreading.  Testing is very important for us to identify whether the disease is here.  It helps us understand whether BSE could be in this country.  But the systems we have that protect us, that stop this cycle, that keep the disease from spreading, are passive.  We don't even need to know the disease is here to stop it from spreading.  That's the beauty of things like the feed ban.

So surveillance and looking for the disease is important for information to help us know the state we're in, but the measures that we have that are preventing the disease from spreading are out there and working, whether we know it's here or not.


David Brown from the Post.  For anyone, approximately how many animals die on the farm and need to be disposed of each year?  Is this a huge number or can they not just be buried on the farm?  In other words, why does an infrastructure need to be created to dispose of them?


It's very complex, and you can imagine in certain parts of the country.  I'm from New Jersey, and, you know, it's an urban state, and burial on the farm sometimes is not practical.  We have the Northern States like the New England States.  When it's winter, you know, the ground is frozen and you can't just bury on the farm.  So the rendering, structuring, the dead stock removal from public health, from animal health, is just an essential part of just animal health in the country in general.

So, again, it's not that simple, and the country and the regions are, you know, very different.  Water tables are different.  State regulations are different.  So it's something that you really need a lot of heads to come together on this option.


Ed Maxiner with Farm Progress News.  Just a question for any of USDA or FDA who wish to answer, but in perspective, we have a lot of diseases that come through the animal food chain, you know, that kill people regularly across the country.  My understanding of this report is that the danger of someone dying in this country is so close to zero it's almost indistinguishable.  So my question is:  Why the list of added resources going to something that has virtually no, you know, danger versus a lot of things probably that could use some more resources to prevent?


Well, I think Linda has a lot more history having worked with this for 12 years, but I think that one of the important things about BSE is that it is one of those animal disease issues that affects human health as well.  It is also a disease that very little has been known about.  We saw what happened in Europe with this disease.  We saw the impact on human health.  And I think that what the government has done in this instance is tried to take every path possible to determine how to make sure that we do not get this disease in the United States because of its severe impact on human health.

So I think the government's acted very responsibly, having a model like this with the risk assessment to really look at what are the pathways, what are the risk options, is different than a lot of the other diseases that we deal with, and the way it travels not much has been known about, so we really needed to look at the overall risk pathways.  How do we maintain a BSE-free country and maintain a safe food supply and maintain consumer confidence?  And I think, you know, while this study was commissioned three years ago, and it's taken a long time to complete, as Linda Detwiler says, it's one in a series of different actions that's been taken, and we want to make sure that we don't have any undue risks to the public because we haven't taken every possible option we can in this case.


Can I just add that we work every day to prevent all foodborne diseases.  We invest an enormous number of resources in preventing foodborne diseases.  What the Harvard study shows is that there are some obvious choke points for this disease that it makes sense to pay attention to.


Randy Fabi with Reuters.  This is a question for Dr. Gray.  With the breakdown of trade barriers and new mad-cow cases popping up in Japan and possibly throughout Europe, does your study indicate that if there was import of mad cow from other countries we don't know have the disease?


Well, that's a good question.  This question—trade is moving things around all over the world.  You've already heard about some of the measures that are in place by USDA that when a country is known to have BSE, keep animals and potentially risky materials out.

In some ways, we've learned from this model that it doesn't matter where the animals come from.  It doesn't matter where the BSE might come from.  We're looking for it.  USDA is trying to stop it.  But if it gets in, it can't spread.  That's the important thing.  We have a system in place that acts to check the growth of the disease if it's introduced and gradually eliminated.

So it does depend—it doesn't really depend where it might come from.  We've got a system that seems resilient.


I'm just going to—on the government standpoint, I think as you've seen in the past, we're constantly—one of the things, I think, that you've seen over 12 years, we're constantly modifying—you know, we put the ban on in '89, Europe on in '97, meat and bone meal in 2000, surveillance suggested over time with new techniques and new populations of surveillance.  And in this regard, we're in the process of working with Canada and Mexico because we realize we're North America.  We're not isolated here on this continent.  So we work with Canada and Mexico, and we're in the process of evaluating the world, the remaining countries of the world, that some of that's already been done to look at other risks and identify if there's more things that we need to be doing in regards to import restrictions.


I'm Judy Holland from Hearst Newspapers.  I'm just trying to visualize, Dr. Gray, exactly how you tested animals and people.  Did you do nose swabs?  I mean, what's the procedure for testing?


No, this is a situation—because, of course, BSE, as far as we know, is not in this country, we can't go out and find cases.  APHIS has a surveillance system where they're looking for animals.

Instead, what we did is we made computer cows and computer people that could be exposed, and we looked to see what would be—what would happen if BSE were introduced into this country and looked to see if more cows would get sick, if people might be exposed to infectious tissues.

What we did is entirely—it's a computer exercise, intended to reflect the way in which the world works today.


You want to know how they're tested? The only way to test in cows for BSE is to look at the brain tissue.  So we test animals that actually have signs of neurologic disease or ones that have—like the downed animals that may be masking those, and that's a population that we—we work, APHIS does, in cooperation with our state counterparts, the state animal health officials.  And the whole effort forward is this is done on the animal side but also with Food Safety Inspection Service and Health and Human Services.  It's kind of to animal health, food safety, and public health.  We do cooperative.


Thank you very much.  For technical follow-up questions, FSIS, APHIS, and FDA will be available.  Thank you for coming.

[Whereupon, the conference was concluded.]



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