STATEMENT BY DR. JOHN CLIFFORD REGARDING FURTHER ANALYSIS OF BSE INCONCLUSIVE TEST RESULTS
"Since the USDA enhanced surveillance program for BSE began in June 2004, more than 375,000 animals from the targeted cattle population have been tested for BSE using a rapid test. Three of these animals tested inconclusive and were subsequently subjected to immunohistochemistry, or IHC, testing. The IHC is an internationally recognized confirmatory test for BSE. All three inconclusive samples tested negative using IHC.
"Earlier this week, USDA's Office of the Inspector General (OIG), which has been partnering with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Food Safety and Inspection Service, and the Agricultural Research Service by impartially reviewing BSE-related activities and making recommendations for improvement, recommended that all three of these samples be subjected to a second internationally recognized confirmatory test, the OIE-recognized SAF immunoblot test, often referred to as the Western blot test. We received final results a short time ago. Of the three samples, two were negative, but the third came back reactive.
"Because of the conflicting results on the IHC and Western blot tests, a sample from this animal will be sent to the OIE-recognized reference laboratory for BSE in Weybridge, England. USDA will also be conducting further testing, which will take several days to complete.
"Regardless of the outcome, it is critical to note that USDA has in place a sound system of interlocking safeguards to protect human and animal health from BSE-including, most significantly, a ban on specified risk materials from the human food supply. In the case of this animal, it was a non-ambulatory (downer) animal and as such was banned from the food supply. It was processed at a facility that handles only animals unsuitable for human consumption, and the carcass was incinerated.
"USDA's enhanced surveillance program is designed to provide information about the level of prevalence of BSE in the United States. Since the inception of this program, we have fully anticipated the possibility that additional cases of BSE would be found. And, in fact, we are extremely gratified that to date, more than 375,000 animals have been tested for the disease and, with the exception of the conflicting results we have received on this one animal, all have ultimately proven to be negative for the disease.
"USDA is committed to ensuring that our BSE program is the best that it can be, keeping pace with science and international guidelines, and to considering recommendations made by OIG and others in this regard. We are committed to ensuring that we have the right protocols in place-ones that are solidly grounded in science and consistently followed. After we receive additional test results on this animal, we will determine what further steps need to be taken and what changes, if any, are warranted in our surveillance program."