WASHINGTON— The US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) announced on Aug. 29 an atypical case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in a six-year-old mixed-breed beef cow in Florida.

The agency confirmed that the animal never entered the slaughter channels and does not present a risk to the food supply or human health in the US.

The Florida Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services said in their statement that it is working closely with the USDA on the next steps.

“This detection shows just how well our surveillance system works. We're grateful to our partners at the US Dept. of Agriculture who work alongside us day in and day out to conduct routine surveillance and protect consumers,” stated Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam.

There are two types of BSE – classical and atypical – neither of which is contagious. Atypical BSE generally is found in older cattle – usually 8 years or older. It occurs spontaneously, not a result of contaminated feed. Six atypical cases have been detected in the US. The first classical BSE case in the United States was discovered in December 2003 in Washington state. The case was linked to a cow imported to the US from Canada. 

According to USDA-APHIS, “Classical BSE is the form that occurred primarily in the United Kingdom, beginning in the late 1980’s, and it has been linked to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) in people. The primary source of infection for classical BSE is feed contaminated with the infectious prion agent, such as meat-and-bone meal containing protein derived from rendered infected cattle.”

The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) has labeled the United States as having a negligible risk for BSE. 

“As noted in the OIE guidelines for determining this status, atypical BSE cases do not impact official BSE risk status recognition as this form of the disease is believed to occur spontaneously in all cattle populations at a very low rate,” USDA-APHIS said. “Therefore, this finding of an atypical case will not change the negligible risk status of the United States and should not lead to any trade issues.”