Brazil continues to downplay its first and belated report of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or Mad Cow Disease, and its strategy may be working. Except for Japan, Brazil’s 2010 Mad Cow incident is not resulting in trade bans against its beef.
To make sure it stays that way, the government in Brasilia Tuesday said it was sending 20 trade missions out to countries that buy its beef to make sure there are no Mad Cow worries regarding beef from Brazil. The country is currently the world’s second largest beef exporter and home of the world’s biggest beef producer, JBS, SA.
And Brazil gets a vote of confidence from the powerful World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), which has put a note on the incident report saying that “Brazil is still recognized by the OIE as having a negligible BSE risk in accordance with Chapter 11.5. of the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code.” Beyond that OIE has not issued its own report or addressed why it took so long for Brazil to get the word out on this 2010 incident when the agency requires immediate reporting.
Nor is it likely that Brazil will lose, from this single incident, its status as one of 19 countries where the BSE risk is “negligible,” a determination made by OIE’s governing body. Meanwhile, the U.S. is one of 30 countries with a BSE risk that is only “controlled.”
Brazil, in a Dec. 7 dispatch to the OIE, reported what it said was its first occurrence of the listed disease, a sub-clinical infection of the prion responsible for BSE. The report stemmed from an incident on a farm in the State of Parana on Dec. 18 and 19, 2010, involving the death of a 13-year-old beef breeding cow from a herd of 148.
“On 18 December 2010, the Official Veterinary Services (OVS) were informed by the owner of a holding in the municipality of Sertanópolis (State of Paraná) on a recumbent bovine showing limb stiffness which was detected during routine inspection,” Brazil’s report to OIE says.
“Next day, when the OVS were going to visit the holding, they were informed by the stockman that the animal was dead. The OVS went to the holding to collect information and samples for the diagnosis of the cause of the death, “ it continued. “As it is an area where rabies is present in herbivores, samples were taken for the diagnosis of this disease and for differential diagnosis, as recommended by the national protocol.”
“The animal was properly buried on site. The animal was a beef breeding cow almost 13 years old at the time of death, according to information obtained during the epidemiological investigations,“ said Brazilian health officials in the dispatch.
According to routine procedure when neurological diseases is suspected, the sample was tested for rabies, and the results came back negative.
“As it was an adult animal negative for rabies, the sample was sent for laboratory analysis within the surveillance system for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). On 11 April 2011, a negative histopathological result for BSE was obtained in a laboratory accredited by the OVS.”
The sample was also sent to the National Reference Laboratory, National Agricultural Laboratory (LANAGRO-PE), Recife and Pernambuco, for BSE diagnosis. It tested positive on June 15, 2012 by immunohistochemical test.
“The delay between the two tests was caused by an incident occurred in one of the laboratories of the accredited network for the diagnosis of BSE,” said the Brazilian report. “That led to overload the system and to prioritize the diagnosis of samples which met BSE-risk characteristics, as established by the OIE.
The sample was in the category of “fallen stock” in the age group “over 9 years,” a classification that led to the sample being marked with a low diagnosis priority level, “which resulted in a longer than expected delay from histopathological to immunohistochemical tests,” said the report.
The sample was then sent to the OIE Reference Laboratory for BSE — Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) — in Weybridge, United Kingdom, where it tested positive on December 6, 2012. However, officials say the animal’s death did not appear to be due to its disease.
“The epidemiological investigation shows that the animal’s death was not caused by BSE and suggests that it may be an atypical case of the disease occurring in the oldest animals. Information collected during the epidemiological investigation shows also that the animal was reared in an extensive system on grazing.”
The Montana-based national cattlemen’s group, R-CALF USA, has asked Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to immediately suspend imports of ruminants and ruminant products from Brazil, but USDA has been silent on the issue.
R-CALF says Brazil must now be listed as a country where BSE is known to exist, meaning the South American country should no longer be able to export ruminants to the U.S.
According to OIE, “The occurrence of a new BSE case implies a re-assessment of the official risk status only in the event of a change in the epidemiological situation indicating failure of the BSE risk mitigating measures in place.”
After OIE’s Scientific Committee conducts an investigations, it advises the OIE Director General, and then a decision is adopted by the organization’s World Assembly by resolution each May.© Food Safety News