Rounds’ message to consumers: Beef supply is safe

Rounds' message to consumers: Beef supply is safe Gov. Mike Rounds praised the USDA for educating consumers about the additional protections in place to prevent the spread of mad cow disease/BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy).

"I strongly support the recent actions of the USDA and the leadership of Secretary Ann Veneman in assuring that the South Dakota beef that is consumed around the world is safe," said Gov. Rounds.

On the multi-state call yesterday, Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota governors and/or their representatives expressed confidence in the actions taken by USDA and the Food and Drug Administration to prevent BSE in American cattle herds that have contributed to food safety and reduced the possibility for more cases of BSE.

"Beef production is important to South Dakota, and to the economies of other beef producting states," Gov. Rounds said. "Secretary Veneman also announced the creation of an animal identification system that will show consumers where and how cattle have been raised. This is directly in support of our efforts to establish a branded beef product in South Dakota."

In addition to the states on the call, New Mexico, Montana, Missouri and Minnesota have also joined this effort to assure consumers that our beef supply is safe. Governors from these 11 states are joining together in efforts to communicate confidence in the beef industry and continue to gain more information from USDA.

A letter is being sent to USDA on behalf of these governors supporting USDA efforts and requesting a weekly update on this issue. Cash receipts from sales of cattle and calves in these 11 states (for 2001) are $26.6 billion, which makes up nearly 67 percent of the United States total ($40 billion).

"In South Dakota, we have a number of programs that deal specifically with BSE," said Gov. Rounds. He credits the South Dakota animal Industry Board for their surveillance of animal disease as key to protecting South Dakota livestock. He also notes that the South Dakota Department of Agriculture has feed regulations that are more restrictive than those established by FDA, and that state meat inspectors at meat processing facilities do not allow into commerce any animal that presents a food safety concern.

The U.S. began its program to prevent any potential spread of BSE in 1989 when all cattle imports from countries with confirmed cases of BSE were banned. A surveillance system was initiated in 1990, making the U.S. the first country in the world without BSE to test cattle for the disease. Surveillance targets all cattle with any signs of neurological disorder, as well as those over 30 months of age and others considered at risk for the disease. The third firewall in the system is a 1997 Food and Drug Administration ban on feeding ruminant-derived meat and bone meal supplements to cattle. This is the component that will prevent the spread of BSE to other animals, since it does not spread from animal to animal, but only through feed sources.

"The firewalls we have in place give me confidence and peace of mind that American beef is safe," Gov. Rounds said, "and I will continue to include beef in my diet."

Gov. Rounds cited as fueling his resolve the many studies that indicate the BSE agent is found only in cattle brain, spinal column and central nervous system tissue, none of which is in muscle meats like steak and roast, and which USDA prohibits in ground beef.

Gov. Rounds also noted that USDA officials now believe that the Holstein cow diagnosed with BSE in Washington state originally came from Canada and that the animal likely was exposed to the BSE agent while still in that country.

More information about BSE can be found on the South Dakota Department of Agriculture Web site at www.state.sd.us and on the USDA Web site at www.usda.gov.

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