Skip to main content Skip to navigation

WSU Meat Prof Assures Beef Safety

PULLMAN, Wash. — Consumers can have confidence that the beef they eat is safe, a Washington State University meat professor said here today.

USDA Secretary Ann Veneman announced Tuesday afternoon that a single case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as BSE or “mad cow disease” has been presumptively diagnosed in a Washington State dairy cow.

WSU’s Jan Busboom said all research studies have shown that the BSE infectious agent has not been found in beef muscle meat or milk.

“I believe the chance of a human being infected in the United States is extremely remote,” Busboom said.

The scientist predicted American consumers “will make intelligent decisions about eating beef. They will look at this pretty rationally, as they usually do.”

Busboom said:

  • The BSE agent is not found in meat like steaks and roasts. It is found in central nervous system tissue such as brain and spinal cord.
  • All U.S. cattle are inspected by a USDA inspector or veterinarian before going to slaughter. Animals with any signs of neurological disorder are tested for BSE.
  • BSE affects older cattle, typically over 30 months of age. The vast majority of the cattle going to market in the U.S. are less than 24 months old.
  • The U.S. began a surveillance program for BSE in 1990 and was the first country without the disease within its borders to test cattle for the disease. The surveillance system targets all cattle with any signs of neurological disorder as well as those over 30 months of age and animals that are non- ambulatory.
  • The U.S. banned imports of cattle and bovine products from countries with BSE beginning in 1989.
  • The research seems to show that the only way BSE spreads is through contaminated feed. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration in 1997 instituted a ban on feeding ruminant-derived meat and bone meal supplements to cattle.

“This should stop the spread of BSE to other animals if it were present in the U.S.,” Busboom said.

– 30 –

Media Contacts

Jan Busboom, WSU meat professor, 509-335-2880
Val Hillers, WSU extension food safety specialist, 360-678-5201