The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced today that a dairy cow in central California tested positive for mad cow disease. This specific case was found in Kings County during a routine test after the animal died. This the 4th case of mad cow disease in the U.S. since 2003. Butte County Ag Commissioner Richard Price spoke with USDA officials this afternoon and says the public shouldn't be alarmed.
"I'd go home and eat a hamburger tonight. It's not a problem because it's definitely not entering the food chain. It's not posing a health risk for humans," says Price.
Mad Cow disease, also referred to as BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), is a neurological disorder among cattle that often causes nervous and aggressive behavior. It is fatal to cattle that contract the disease, and can be deadly to humans who eat tainted beef. However, dairy products are safe since the disease can't be transmitted through milk. Price says there are safeguards in place that prevent the disease from spreading to make sure it doesn't enter the food supply. One of those measures is a ban on specific parts of the cow that might carry the disease.
"In 2011 there were only 29 cases worldwide of BSE, a dramatic decline of 99% since the peak in 1992 of over 37,000 cases," he says.
USDA officials say this case of BSE is a rare form not generally associated with an animal consuming infected feed, and it is being investigated to find out whether additional cows are at risk.