Jim Rogers (202) 690-4755
STATEMENT BY DR. RON DEHAVEN, APHIS ADMINISTRATOR, REGARDING OFFICE OF INSEPCTOR GENERAL REPORT ON BOVINE SPONGIFORM ENCEPHALOPATHY ENHANCED SURVEILLANCE PROGRAM.
WASHINGTON Feb. 02, 2006—“The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General released today a review of the Department’s bovine spongiform encephalopathy enhanced surveillance program, which has tested more than 605,000 cattle to date.
USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and its Food Safety and Inspection Service, which regulates slaughterhouses and on-site testing protocols, appreciate the recommendations presented in the OIG report and have already taken steps to implement a number of suggestions that will help to improve processes. We are very pleased that OIG has concurred with the policy and operational actions proposed by APHIS for addressing their recommendations. APHIS is in the process of analyzing data from the enhanced surveillance effort to determine what appropriate conclusions can be drawn about BSE prevalence. The final analysis will undergo a scientific peer review before it is released.
This is the largest BSE surveillance effort the United States has ever undertaken. In a matter of just a few short months back in 2004, USDA, the States, and industry ramped up a national network of laboratories and sample collection sites and increased by more than eight times the number of samples that were tested for BSE in 2003. This has been an extraordinary cooperative effort and has succeeded because of a shared spirit of dedication on the part of all partners in the effort.
The testing program was launched by APHIS in June 2004 with the simple and straightforward goal to test as many cattle from the targeted high-risk population as possible in order to determine the prevalence of BSE in the United States.
We’re proud to say that through the on-going dedication of USDA employees as well as industry and an investment of about $1 million a week since the program began--this effort has been more successful and informative than even we predicted when we started more than 19 months ago. On average, we test nearly 1,000 high-risk cattle a day for BSE and only 1 out of more than 605,000 animals has tested positive for the disease. While our formal review of the program, which will determine what statistical conclusions we can draw about the prevalence of BSE is still pending, certainly it would not be premature to say that by any measure the incidence of BSE in the United States is extremely low.
As with any on-going program, and particularly one of this magnitude that was scaled up in such a short timeframe, it’s vitally important to continually evaluate protocols and conduct quality assurance efforts, and to make changes as science evolves or more efficient approaches are identified. We’ve done that since the enhanced program was first established and we’ll continue to do that as we move forward.
At the beginning of its report, OIG affirms that USDA has made significant efforts to implement the enhanced surveillance program, including developing the necessary infrastructure, processes and controls, in a short amount of time. The report also acknowledges the Department’s efforts to coordinate with other government agencies, industry and laboratory and veterinary networks to carry out the program.
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