BSE in California, Salmonella Linked to Dog Food

By Tina Caparella

A fourth case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the United States was confirmed on April 24, 2012, in a dairy cow in California. The animal, determined to be 10 years and seven months of age, had been collected from a dairy farm by Baker Commodities for disposal at its rendering plant. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the animal had been humanely euthanized on the farm after it developed lameness and became recumbent. Baker sampled the animal for the disease under USDA’s targeted ongoing surveillance program and it was later confirmed to have an atypical case of BSE, a rare spontaneous form of the disease that is not well understood. World Organization for Animal Health, or OIE, laboratories subsequently confirmed the atypical test results. About 60 cases of atypical BSE have been identified worldwide, USDA stated.

The animal’s carcass was destroyed and never presented to slaughter for human consumption or entered the feed system, so at no time presented a risk to the food supply or human or animal health. USDA and the Food and Drug Administration emphasized that scientific evidence shows BSE cannot be transmitted through cow’s milk and milk products. As part of the investigation, the USDA established the whereabouts of the cow’s offspring from the past two years. One calf was stillborn and the other was located at an unidentified dairy farm in another state, purchased by USDA, euthanized, and tested for BSE, which was confirmed to be negative.

“Evidence shows that our systems and safeguards to prevent BSE are working, as are similar actions taken by countries around the world,” stated USDA Chief Veterinary Office John Clifford. “In 2011, there were only 29 worldwide cases of BSE, a dramatic decline and 99 percent reduction since the peak in 1992 of 37,311 cases. This is directly attributable to the impact and effectiveness of feed bans as a primary control measure for the disease.

“We [the United States] test for BSE at levels 10 times greater than World Organization for Animal Health standards,” he added. “We take samples from approximately 40,000 animals each year, focusing on groups where the disease is more likely to be found. The targeted population for ongoing surveillance includes cattle exhibiting signs of central nervous disorders or signs associated with BSE, nonambulatory animals, and dead cattle. The samples come from locations like farms, veterinary diagnostic laboratories, public health laboratories, slaughter facilities, veterinary clinics, and livestock markets.”

Clifford also pointed out that a mammalian-to-mammalian feed ban in place since 1997 and the removal of specified risk material from slaughtered cattle make it highly unlikely cattle could contract BSE from feed.

Most US international trading partners did not overreact to the news. A delegation from South Korea met with USDA officials, toured the BSE testing laboratory in Ames, IA, and met with state and federal officials in California as reassurance of the safety of US meat products.

However, Indonesia immediately placed a “temporary” ban on imports of US meat and bone meal. The National Renderers Association is working with USDA and other government officials to get this market reopened as soon as possible. Indonesia imported nearly 400,000 metric tons of meat and bone meal in 2011.

Salmonella Linked to Dry Dog Food

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention has reported that 15 people in the United States and one in Quebec, Canada, have been sickened with Salmonella infantis infections as of May 11, 2012, including at least five that were hospitalized, in a nine-state outbreak linked to dry dog food.

The CDC reported that multiple brands of Diamond Pet Foods dry dog food, including at least 11 that have been recalled, are linked to the human illnesses, which could be transmitted either through contact with the contaminated pet food or through handling an animal that has eaten the contaminated dog food. 

According to the CDC, routine tests by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development first detected Salmonella in an unopened bag of Diamond Pet Foods Naturals Lamb Meal and Rice dry dog food on April 2, 2012, though the company has since expanded the recall to include other formulas produced at the same South Carolina manufacturing plant.

PulseNet, the national surveillance system for foodborne illnesses, then identified several cases of human Salmonella infantis infections with a genetic fingerprint identical to that found in the dog food, the CDC reported. The number of confirmed human cases of Salmonella in the United States includes three in Missouri, three in North Carolina, two in Ohio, two in Pennsylvania, and one case each in Alabama, Connecticut, Michigan, New Jersey, and Virginia. Of outbreak victims interviewed, seven of 10 said they had contact with a dog during the week before they became ill and four out of five people who could remember the type of dog food they handled said it was a Diamond Pet Foods brand, CDC stated.

“PulseNet is critical to our food safety system,” said Dr. Casey Barton Behravesh, who leads the Outbreak Response Team at CDC. “It’s a very important way for us to detect these big, multi-state outbreaks. There may be only one or two cases per state, but if you can look across the country and add them up, the need for an investigation becomes much more apparent.”

Diamond Pet Foods has stated there were no dog illnesses associated with the recall. However, according to both the CDC and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, state and federal agencies don’t track pet illnesses. The groups said the fact that no dog illnesses have been reported does not mean no dog illnesses have occurred, but rather there is just no system in place to confirm them.

June 2012 RENDER | back