WASHINGTON – The US Department of Agriculture has agreed to buy and destroy cattle that may have eaten feed contaminated with human matter following an industrial accident. At least 5,000 feedlot cattle in Wyoming and Montana may be affected.

The accident occurred Jan. 4 at a Lovell, Wyo.-based sugar and molasses manufacturing facility run by the Western Sugar Cooperative. A 28-year-old woman was killed after falling into machinery used to move sugar beets into the processing factory, according to local news reports. Western Sugar closed the plant while the woman's body was recovered.

The Food and Drug Administration said in a statement that from Jan. 4 to Jan. 16, Western Sugar had produced beet by-products (beet pulp, beet pellets and tailings) for animal consumption. Some of the beet pulp and tailings were distributed to local feedlots and may have been fed to cattle. Western Sugar announced a voluntary recall of its beet pulp and tailings, and FDA is monitoring the recall.

Meanwhile, FDA found that the beet by-products were adulterated, but noted there were no known human or animal health risk. Nevertheless, USDA agreed to buy any cattle that ate recalled feed "that are imminently scheduled for slaughter", the agency said in a statement.

"This additional step is being taken to help ensure consumer confidence. USDA is working closely with FDA, as well as the States of Wyoming and Montana. These states will work with producers to identify and certify the animals that are eligible for purchase."

At least 5,000 head of cattle were fed the contaminated beet pulp in Montana, according to news reports.
In Wyoming, state and federal agencies have been involved in the investigation at Western Sugar. The Wyoming Department of Agriculture said in a statement that no products intended for human consumption were distributed.

“The health and safety of the public is paramount to all involved - the Lovell community, Wyoming’s ag community, the local producers, the company and our state. The cooperative effort involving federal agencies in the wake of this tragedy has been professional and effective at protecting the public,” said Jason Fearneyhough, director of the Wyoming Department of Agriculture.