"USDA & Harvard Announce Results of BSE Risk
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
First, the risk
assessment will be peer-reviewed by a team of outside experts to validate its
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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?
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?
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
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?
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
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.]