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Texas Cattle Remained Quarantined for Potential Mad Cow DiseaseAired January 26, 2001 - 2:21 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Now to a story we are following out of Texas. A Texas rancher has quarantined a heard of cattle because of the potential of Mad Cow disease. We want to stress: None of the animals or any U.S. resident has been diagnosed with the illness, which can viciously cripple the brain and central nervous system.
CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen explains now why there's so much concern about these animals.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There's never been a case of mad cow disease in the United States. And health officials would like to keep it that way. More than 1,200 head of cattle are now quarantined in Texas.
In addition, the carcasses of 48 cows that were intended for market are being held at the slaughterhouse. The problem: The animals may have eaten feed that contained rendered body parts from other animals, illegal in the U.S. since 1997 because of fear it could spread mad cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
Purina Mills, the company that manufactured the feed, told CNN it discovered a what it called a "variance in the formula" of its animal feed. The company says the feed was shipped to just one customer, who was then notified. The customer then initiated the quarantine. Purina says the remaining feed was successfully recalled and destroyed.
(on camera): Feed samples will be tested to see if there was any contamination. And officials say there's no cause for alarm and that the system worked. Animal health experts say that the chances that the feed could cause mad cow disease are extremely small because the feed was produced in the United States. So far, only feed from Europe has been found to be contaminated.
(voice-over): The U.S. Department of Agriculture has had a surveillance program in place for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, for more than 10 years.
DR. LINDA DETWILER, AGRICULTURE DEPARTMENT: We have checked close to 12,000 brains of the highest-risk population of cattle in the United States, found no evidence at all of BSE or even another form of these diseases in cattle.
COHEN: Still, concern that feed companies aren't doing as much as much as they should: The federal government has ramped up its efforts in recent weeks to help insure mad cow disease is kept out of the United States.
Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Atlanta.
ALLEN: Dr. Max Coats is with the Texas Animal Health Commission. He joins us now from Austin.
Dr. Coats, are you satisfied that there was no harm done, but that this was a potentially dangerous mistake?
DR. MAX COATS, TEXAS ANIMAL HEALTH COMMISSION: I think the important -- there are two or three important things I think to remember: first of all, that this isn't a disease situation. This is a possible error in feed formulation and contamination or adulteration of an animal feed.
The system, we feel, shows every evidence of having worked. The producer of the product became aware of the potential error, reported it promptly both to FDA and to the recipient customer. The customer immediately suspended the use of the feed product and voluntarily is holding all of the animals on his premises until the investigation is completed and the laboratory analyses that are currently under way on the feed itself are completed.
Those laboratory analyses are expected to be completed by Monday afternoon. And I'm told by Food and Drug officials that they expect to make the final decision on how to manage this situation by January 31.
ALLEN: So it's great that all of this seems to -- all the checks and balances were there. But does it point out any vulnerability as far as how mad cow disease could slip into the United States?
COATS: Well, I think that this is main thing: The disease is not present here. And the ban that was instituted by the Food and Drug on feeding of mammalian protein-to-ruminants, instituted in 1997, was strictly a preemptive and precautionary measure put in place to avoid the disease being spread around should it ever gain access to the U.S.
ALLEN: And, Doctor, finally, there are cases that mad cow disease continues to spread in Europe: the United Kingdom, a case in France, a case in Ireland. Why is it spreading instead of being eradicated there?
COATS: Well, there's many reasons been offered for the continued appearance of the disease. I think that the disease in Europe may well have been due to widespread use of this mammalian protein derived from cattle in the U.K during the height of the outbreak. There was not perhaps as effective a control of that product in Europe as there might have been.
ALLEN: But you feel the control is ample here in the United States.
COATS: The process is in place. And I think the controls are adequate. Any program put in place is certainly not foolproof. And both Food and Drug and other players are working very hard to make sure that all of the carefully thought-out provisions of this preemptive and precautionary ban are enforced and are followed.
ALLEN: Dr. Coats, thank you so much -- Dr. Max Coats from Austin. We will continue to follow that story.
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