The recent case of the mad cow disease or the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was found in the carcass of a cow at a Baker Commodities Inc. rendering facility in Hanford, California, according to Executive Vice President Dennis Luckey.
The company renders animal byproducts and the animals were selected randomly for the test, he said.
We are in the business of removing dead animals from dairies in the Central Valley, he told CNN in a telephone interview. As part of that program, we participate in the BSE surveillance program.
Although the disease is fatal and a cause of utmost worry, public health officials have announced that there is an extremely low risk to public.
Apparently, the infection was discovered before it could enter the human food chain. So it poses no threat to humans.
We're waiting now for USDA to tell us how to dispose of it, Luckey said.
Luckey added that the company tests around 2,000 animals every year, which is a a small percentage of the overall number of animals it renders.
The test prevented it from rendering and turning it into an element of various products, including chemicals or feed for poultry or livestock, he said.
But even if that particular cow had been rendered, the chances of the disease entering the human food chain were thin, since USDA regulations do not allow high-risk parts of the cow, such as brain and spinal cord to enter the food chain.
The carcass was never presented for slaughter for human consumption, so at no time presented a risk to the food supply or human health, John Clifford, US Department of Agriculture's chief veterinarian said in a statement at a briefing in Washington.
USDA remains confident in the health of the national herd and the safety of beef and dairy products, he added.
What does the mad cow disease do to the human brain?
Consumption of meat infected with BSE is thought to be the cause of the fatal brain disease in humans, which is called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, says a report in CNN.
The symptoms of the disease include psychiatric and behavioral changes, movement deficits, memory disturbances and cognitive impairments.
Also, BSE infected animals can display nervousness or aggression, difficulty in coordination and standing up, decreased milk production or loss of body weight, according to the agency.
There is hardly any reason for people to worry about the disease because, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the chances of a person contracting the disease are just one in 10 billion even after consuming a contaminated product.
Most other bacteria in meat-borne diseases such as E-Coli are killed during cooking. But that is not the case with the Mad Cow disease.
California Department of Public Health Director and Public Health Officer Dr. Ron Chapman have issued a statement asking residents to calm down, informing them that they do not need to take any specific precautions.
In case consumers do not want to run any kind of risk, they could follow the advice given out by the web-based consumer advocacy group Consumeraffairs.com. The website advises people to avoid consuming the brains, neck bones, beef cheeks, bone marrow and cuts of beef that are sold on the bone.
Sarah Klein, food safety attorney for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, says If the cow were exposed to the typical strain of BSE via animal feed -- and the government says that's not the case here -- that would have represented a significant failure, reported cnn.com.
She also added that it would have been a difficult task for the government to track down other cattle that may have eaten the same feed because the nation does not have an effective animal ID program.