Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman announced earlier this week details for an expanded surveillance effort for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in the United States.

$70 million will be transferred from the USDA Commodity Credit Corporation to fund the enhanced program. The goal is to test as many cattle as possible in the high-risk population as well as to test a sampling of the normal, aged cattle population over a 12 to 18 month time frame.

“We are committed to ensuring that a robust U.S. surveillance program continues in this country,” said Veneman. “This one-time extensive surveillance plan reflects the recommendation of the international scientific review panel.”

The enhanced surveillance plan incorporates recommendations from an international scientific review panel and the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis; both have reviewed and support the plan.

In the past, USDA’s BSE surveillance program has focused on the cattle populations where it is most likely to be found, including those condemned at slaughter because of signs of central nervous system disorders, non-ambulatory cattle and those that die on farms. In fiscal year 2004, USDA sampled 20,543 animals — a sample size designed to detect the disease if it occurred in one animal per million adult cattle with a 95 percent confidence level, which is 47 times the international standard for low-risk countries.

Under the enhanced program, using statistically geographic modeling, sampling some 268,000 animals would allow for the detection of BSE at a rate of 1 positive in 10 million adult cattle with a 99 percent confidence level. In other words, the enhanced program could detect BSE even if there were only five positive animals in the entire country. Sampling some 201,000 animals would allow for the detection of BSE at the same rate at a 95 percent confidence level.

The sampling of apparently normal animals will come from the 40 U.S. slaughter plants that handle 86 percent of the aged cattle processed for human consumption each year in the United States. The carcasses from these animals will be held and not allowed to enter the human food chain until test results show the samples are negative for BSE.

USDA will begin immediately to prepare for the increased testing, with the plan to fully implement it by June 1, 2004. In the meantime, BSE testing will continue at the current rate, which is based on a plan to test 40,000 animals in fiscal year 2004.

USDA is also working to approve rapid tests for use in the testing program. USDA will help defray costs incurred by industries participating in the surveillance program for such items as transportation, disposal and storage, and carcasses being tested.

Detailed information on the surveillance plan can be found at www.usda.gov.

USDA