July 25, 2024

USDA Lifts BSE Quarantine on California Dairies

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS) has lifted a quarantine placed on two California dairy farms after a cow was diagnosed positive for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), popularly known as “mad cow disease”, in April 2012.

CowsThe animal was the country’s fourth case of BSE. The USDA’s National Veterinary Services Labs tested the brain samples from the cow and sent them to the World Health Organization for Animal Health labs in England and Canada. Those labs confirmed the diagnosis of atypical BSE.

The government studied the feed records at the quarantined dairies and found no link between the animal feed and the disease. The USDA’s statement said that “audits of all the feed suppliers to the index premises have shown them to be in compliance with the regulations.”

The cow that tested positive for BSE had two offspring. One was stillborn; the second was euthanized and was found to be negative for BSE. The agency is still searching for ten to twelve cattle called “birth cohort cattle” or animals that are born on the same farm as the positive cow within the same year, that may still be alive. The other cattle born within that year have died.

The consumer advocacy group Consumeraffairs.com says that consumers can take extra steps to protect themselves against BSE if they want to, although experts state the risk of contracting it through food is extremely low. Simply do not eat brains, neck bones, beef cheeks, bone marrow, and cuts of beef that are sold on the bone. You may want to grind your own ground beef, or purchase ground beef that has been ground on a store’s premises to avoid bone mixed into the meat.


  1. OMG.. You are kidding right? Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is happening in this country. They/CDC simply calls it sporadic. You know what the difference between sporadic and new variant (mad cow version) is? I will tell you, pathologically speaking, nothing! They use age of the infected individual as a determining factor in diagnosis. So I guess if a bunch of 20 year olds came down with CJD, then maybe we’ll look closer? And just maybe we would then call it a case of nvCJD. What a bunch of nonsense! Sporadic simply means we don’t know where it came from.

    We need to test every animal in our food chain, plain and simple. Research, research, research, everything from chronic wasting disease to scrapie, to other forms of TSE’s. The research is already out there and it is extremely disturbing.

    And how did they determine they should lift the quarantine on these two farms? By looking at paper work? You have got to be kidding me! In the UK, they slaughtered entire herds of cows and for good reason. The infections were everywhere. With the US, we are testing a ridiculously small fraction of animals. Last I heard we test only 40,000 of the 35,000,000 cows in the US for slaughter. That is .001 percent. It is a statistical fluke that we even caught the 4 positive ones already. By the way, lab tests have shown that TSEs (transmissible spongiform encephalopathy) of all types including BSE can be transmitted through milk and blood. What they should have done with these farms was to take a very large sampling of cows, euthanize them, and test, test, test.

    This stuff scares the you know what out of me, and it should be cause for concern to everyone.


    • Linda Larsen says

      There are 200 cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease every year in this country. Unfortunately, as with many rare diseases, there just isn’t enough money spent on research and treatments. Rare, or orphan diseases, get little to no monetary support from the government.

      And I agree that the government should test more. But with the current environment in Washington, and with the FDA and USDA facing budget cuts, this is very, very unlikely. Unfortunately, some people don’t seem to place a high priority on safety in this country.

      • Agreed, they should test a much broader swath. The USDA also needs to stop road blocking the facilities that want to do their own testing. I could not believe the USDA blocked private meat companies from conducting their own testing. I don’t understand this deliberate avoidance when it cost the USDA nothing!

        Just wait until they tie Alzheimer’s in with all of this. In fact, I believe I have read a couple of research papers already referencing very disturbing similarities between CJD & Alzheimer’s both having a prion basis and both being mistaken for each other in infected individuals. I believe the US is number 1 in Alzheimer’s cases per capita world wide.

        Very disturbing…


  2. Dave Louthan says

    No. Statistical data when it comes to something you or your kids will eat is totally useless if you are the one that gets the foul produce. What you can do is realize there are dangers. At the very least instead of whisling in the dark and hoping, you can make educated choices based on knowledge not guess work. There will always be harmful bacteria. Heat kills germs. As far as animals go complete testing, though a pain in the ass to the producers is quite doable.

    • Linda Larsen says

      So how is your extrapolation, from your finding 1 case of BSE in 250 cows on one farm to 1 in 250 all cows have BSE, valid?

      That is exactly what we are doing here: helping making consumers make educated choices based on knowledge, not guess work.

      • Dave Louthan says

        It’s absolutely not valid. Their formula. Not mine. The only thing that random testing does is indicate the health of the animal being tested. Or the orange being tested. Or egg. Statistics, when testing food, are just governmental make work to give the appearance of regulation. You can’t test every orange. That would be impossible. But you CAN test every cow. Why do you suppose they stopped testing any animal likely to enter the food chain Linda? They went from testing downers to only testing farm deads and then only hand picked farm deads. No animals exhibiting symptems. Statistical averaging bit them in the ass.

        • Linda Larsen says

          I’m not quite sure what we’re arguing about. I do think that we should do more testing; in fact, I’m in favor of test-and-hold for pathogens and for BSE in all products, especially meat and poultry. It wouldn’t cost that much money; one study said it would be about $30 for every cow, or about 10 cents a pound for beef.

          But for dairy products, there’s no way to test. You can’t test a live animal for BSE; the test is done on the brain after the animal is dead.

  3. Dave Louthan says

    I killed the first mad cow in 2003 and I put it in the food supply. For me BSE is not a hypothetical issue. It’s a disease that we could detect and eradicate easily but instead allow to amplify and spread in the name of consumer confidence. The Dollar wins again.

    • Linda Larsen says

      There is no evidence that BSE is amplifying and spreading in cattle. BSE is not a hypothetical issue; we never said that it was. There was a real outbreak of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in England in the 1980s and 1990s that was caused by cattle being fed cattle meat and bones. That practice is no longer allowed. Atypical BSE, which is what that cow in California had, is a spontaneous mutation that occurs every now and then, because mutations are common in nature. I agree that government should do more testing for BSE in cattle. But the current surveillance used in this country is based on the probability of finding one diseased cow in 1 million.

      • Dave Louthan says

        I tested about 250 cows and i found one. If you apply the same probability and statistical analysis to then 1 in every 250 cows has it. As you can statistical guess work is not reliable. At all.

        • Linda Larsen says

          Well, no, that isn’t the way it works. You are using straight numbers for your claim. The tests the government has developed are based on statistical probability models.

          • Dave Louthan says

            That is absolutely how it works Linda. You test a certain number of animals and average in the number of positive tests. That is your subset. Then you correlate that number over the entire population and extrapolate number of mad cows per million. You know this.

          • Linda Larsen says

            So if I have 10 oranges, and 1 of them has Salmonella, I can categorically state that 10% of all oranges in the country are contaminated with Salmonella?

  4. Dave Louthan says

    I always thought milk was part of the food supply. My bad.

    • Linda Larsen says

      BSE is not transferred through milk. People were not buying food directly from those California farms where the BSE-positive cow was found. People WERE buying raw milk products directly from the farms that were selling milk contaminated with bacteria.

      • Dave Louthan says

        Well Linda, what test is used to determine that milk does not contains mutated protein?

        • Linda Larsen says

          The prions that cause BSE are “found in brain, spinal cord, retina, distal ileum, dorsal root ganglion, trigeminal ganglion and tonsil. In U.S. regulations, SRMs are defined as the brain, skull, eyes trigeminal ganglia, spinal cord, vertebral column (excluding the vertebrae of the tail, the transverse processes of the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae, and the wings of the sacrum) and dorsal root ganglia of cattle 30 months of age and older,” according to the USDA. How would these tissues end up in milk? I trust my sources.

          • Dave Louthan says

            It’s my experience Linda, when it comes to contamination and disease, trust makes very poor soup. I talked to Dr. Stanley Prusiner, the Nobel Prize winning discoverer of the prion, many times. I asked him about prions in milk. He said, and i quote, “Dave we just don’t know. I certainly would not want to drink milk from a diseased animal.”

  5. How come you didnt bother to mention the name of these 2 farms like you did Organic Pastures which has since been cleared of a much less dangerous threat to the public?
    BSE causes death, dosent the public deserve to know who these farms are? Oh, but its okay to jump on the Organic Pastures witch hunt isnt it? Campylobacter produces mild flu-like symptoms. We all know what Mad Cow disease does, yet you brush it off as no big deal, “the risk of contracting BSE is extremely low. Do not eat brains, neck bones, beef cheeks, bone marrow, and cuts of beef that are sold on the bone.” Go ahead and eat the “Mad Cow” beef anyway, but surely stay away from unpasteurized raw milk which may give you diarrhea. Wow! thats scientific
    You diligence in linking Organic Pastures to the 10 recent cases of illness in northern California and the ecoli outbreak in San Diego is quite curious because the state hasnt even confirmed it. Why arent you as diligent with the histories of these major conventional farms when you discuss quarantines and recalls.
    Your article shows a major bias on your part as BSE is much more of a threat to the public than campylobacter which can be found on just about any farm.

    • Linda Larsen says

      The names of the farms were not important because people were not buying beef from those farms; they produce dairy products. That cow was not in the food supply chain. Any farm that produces potentially dangerous food is a threat to the public. We don’t distinguish between threats from bacteria as being “more dangerous” or “less dangerous”. We just report them. We wrote a story yesterday about California lifting the quarantine on Organic Pastures.

      There has never been a single case of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in the United States linked to a cow with BSE. On the other hand, 142 people have been sickened in raw milk outbreaks in this country just since the beginning of January. That was proved with PFGE matching the bacteria found in raw milk and at the farms to cultures from the people who were sickened.

      And Campylobacter does not produce “mild, flu-like symptoms.” The complications from that bacteria include arthritis, blood poisoning, meningitis, heart attack, hemolytic uremic syndrome, Guillain-Barre syndrome, and gall bladder inflammation. One of the complications of Guillain-Barre syndrome is complete paralysis.

      And I do not brush off mad cow as “no big deal”. That disease is extremely serious and dangerous, and I wish the government would do more to test for it. We spoke to a food science professor at the University of Minnesota about this issue and he said that the risk is extremely low. And that is true because the government protects you from it.

      We did not link Organic Pastures to the illnesses in northern California or the E. coli outbreak in San Diego. There was a cluster of Campylobacter infections in people who drank Organic Pastures milk. That was reported by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. We did not make that up.

      We cover every foodborne illness outbreak in this country and we link all outbreaks to the sources when public health officials provide them to us.

      And you think that BSE is more of a threat to the public than Campylobacter? There are 845,000 illnesses, 8,400 hospitalizations, and 76 deaths in the United States every year from Campylobacter, but none from BSE. The cost of treating Campylobacter infections in the U.S. every year is one billion dollars.

      If people were dying from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease caused by beef in this country, the conspiracy to cover that up would make it the biggest, most massive conspiracy in history. It would literally be impossible.

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