Great Britain had a much different situation than we do and did here in the United States, in that they had literally thousands of infected animals with human health risks. Their infectivity in this disease happened before very much was known about it.
I’m confident that we have measures in place. And the additional measures that we announced yesterday will be even more protective of our food supply in this country.
We are doing everything we can to protect the food supply. And I can tell you that we’re making decisions based upon sound science and good public policy, given the circumstances that we are now in.
This was a dairy cow, and dairy cows have IDs on them. The ID was traced back to the farm in Washington. It’s a dairy farm. And that farm now has been quarantined, and the owners have been very cooperative in doing that.
The cows have ID numbers. And we should be able, throughout the investigation, which is ongoing as we speak, to be able to track that cow back to where it came from initially.
But the fact of the matter is that all scientific evidence would show, based upon what we know about this disease, that muscle cuts – that is, the meat of the animal itself – should not cause any risk to human health.
I think it’s important that, as a matter of course, the brain and spinal column were removed from this cow, and that would be the material that would cause concern in terms of human health. And therefore we’re confident in the safety of the food supply.
The demand for beef in Canada remains strong because I think people in America, in North America, know that we have a very strong food safety system and that our food is safe to eat.
I think that’s unjustified criticism. We have had a number of measures in place in this country for several years to mitigate the possibility of mad cow spreading in this country. We have found a single case.
We’ve had risk assessments performed by Harvard University, which said that even if we did have a small number of cases in this country that the likelihood of it spreading or getting into any kind of human health problem is very, very small.
We’ve all learned about this disease since it was first discovered several years ago in Europe. And so I think we’ve learned from the European experience.
We had a single find of BSE in this country. And we believe that what we’re doing is appropriate action taken in an abundance of caution under the circumstances. And I believe it’s the right thing to do.
I also believe that it’s the right thing to do, to maintain strong consumer confidence in our food systems. And I believe that the consumer should have strong confidence in our food systems.
It’s been studied to the point where we know that the impact on humans would be from consuming the most infected parts of the cow; that is, the brain and the spinal cord.
I have to say that in this particular cow that we’re dealing with, those parts of the cow were removed, and so we don’t think there’s any risk or very negligible risk to human health with this particular incident.
Actually, in this instance we do have probably a better tracking system than was the instance in Canada. Because this is a dairy cow, they’re all individually tagged.
I think it’s a little early to tell what the economic impact will be. This year our cattle prices have been particularly high. The demand for beef has remained strong in this country, even though there was the single find in Canada earlier this year.
Now, the impact on export markets – we export about 10 percent of what we produce, so obviously that will probably have some impact on the market. At this point it’s too early to determine how much.