Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE, or "Mad Cow Disease") in North America: A Chronology of Selected Events

This report provides a chronology of selected events leading up to and following the discoveries of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or "mad cow disease") in North America. These are primarily regulatory, legal, and congressional developments that are frequently referenced in the ongoing policy debate. The chronology generally does not contain entries for the introduction of the many BSE-related bills introduced into this or previous Congresses, except for those in recent years where committee or floor action has occurred. This report, which will be updated if significant developments ensue, is intended to be used alongside other CRS reports that provide more background and context for the BSE policy debate, and that cover many specific legislative proposals. The chronology begins in 1986, when BSE was first identified by a British laboratory. As the United Kingdom and others attempted to understand and contain BSE, the U.S. and Canadian governments were establishing panels to study the disease and began instituting a series of safeguards aimed at keeping it out of North America or stopping any spread if it should occur here. The chronology proceeds into May 2003, when Canada reported the first native case in North America; December 2003, when the United States reported finding a case in a U.S. herd; and most of 2004, when both countries worked to reassure consumers of the safety of North American cattle and beef and to reopen foreign markets blocking these exports. U.S. and Canadian officials since 2003 also have been strengthening various regulatory safeguards aimed at protecting the cattle herd and the food supply from BSE. The chronology continues with major events of 2004, 2005, and the first half of 2006, which have revolved around efforts to re-establish more open cattle and beef trade within North America, even while a handful of new cases of BSE have emerged here, and the steps being taken to regain the Japanese and Korean markets, which were until December 2003 two of the four leading foreign buyers of U.S. beef. Both were closed as of mid-2006 (although Japan appeared on the verge of reopening as of this writing). Congress can be expected to continue to play a role, holding oversight hearings, providing funding for BSE-related activities, and possibly considering legislative options to address one or more of the outstanding issues.

RL32932 -- Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE, or "Mad Cow Disease") in North America: A Chronology of Selected Events

Updated July 27, 2006



This report provides a chronology of selected events leading up to and following the discoveries of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or "mad cow disease") in North America. These are primarily regulatory, legal, and congressional developments that are frequently referenced in the ongoing policy debate. The chronology generally does not contain entries for the introduction of the many BSE-related bills introduced into this or previous Congresses, except for those in recent years where committee or floor action has occurred. This report, which will be updated if significant developments ensue, is intended to be used alongside other CRS reports that provide more background and context for the BSE policy debate, and that cover many specific legislative proposals.

The chronology begins in 1986, when BSE was first identified by a British laboratory. As the United Kingdom and others attempted to understand and contain BSE, the U.S. and Canadian governments were establishing panels to study the disease and began instituting a series of safeguards aimed at keeping it out of North America or stopping any spread if it should occur here. The chronology proceeds into May 2003, when Canada reported the first native case in North America; December 2003, when the United States reported finding a case in a U.S. herd; and most of 2004, when both countries worked to reassure consumers of the safety of North American cattle and beef and to reopen foreign markets blocking these exports. U.S. and Canadian officials since 2003 also have been strengthening various regulatory safeguards aimed at protecting the cattle herd and the food supply from BSE.

The chronology continues with major events of 2004, 2005, and the first half of 2006, which have revolved around efforts to re-establish more open cattle and beef trade within North America, even while a handful of new cases of BSE have emerged here, and the steps being taken to regain the Japanese and Korean markets, which were until December 2003 two of the four leading foreign buyers of U.S. beef. Both were closed as of mid-2006 (although Japan appeared on the verge of reopening as of this writing). Congress can be expected to continue to play a role, holding oversight hearings, providing funding for BSE-related activities, and possibly considering legislative options to address one or more of the outstanding issues.


This report provides a chronology of selected events leading up to and following the discoveries of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or "mad cow disease") in North America. As of this writing, 10 native cases have been confirmed on this continent, seven in Canada and three in the United States.(1) BSE is a degenerative disease that is fatal to cattle, affecting their nervous system, and it has been linked to a rare but fatal human form of the disease which has occurred primarily in the United Kingdom, where most BSE cases also have been reported.

The following chronology is not intended to be comprehensive. It is intended to be a timeline for selected regulatory, legal, and congressional developments that are frequently referenced in the ongoing policy debate. It does not contain entries for the introduction of the many BSE-related bills introduced into this or previous Congresses, except for those in recent years where committee or floor action has occurred or where markedly widespread attention has been focused. Nor does it cover a number of policy developments that are not directly BSE-related, but that nonetheless have arisen within the context of BSE debate, such as a universal animal identification (ID) program and country of original labeling (COOL) for meats and other commodities.

Other CRS reports may provide more background and context for this policy debate. These include:

  • CRS Report RL32414, The Private Testing of Mad Cow Disease: Legal Issues, by Stephen R. Viña;

  • CRS Report RS21709, Mad Cow Disease and U.S. Beef Trade, by Charles E. Hanrahan and [author name scrubbed]; and

  • CRS Report RL32199, Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE or "Mad Cow Disease"): Current and Proposed Safeguards, by [author name scrubbed] and Sarah A. Lister.

Unless noted, the sources for the entries in this chronology are the above reports, as well as various U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) press releases, fact sheets, and other publicly available materials, reports of hearings before the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, and for some entries, articles that appeared in leading food and agriculture trade periodicals including Food Chemical News, Feedstuffs, and Cattle Buyers Weekly.

Key to Acronyms

For an explanation of these and related BSE terms in this report, see the reports listed on the previous page, and also CRS Report 97-905, Agriculture: A Glossary of Terms, Programs, and Laws, 2005 Edition, by [author name scrubbed], coordinator.

AMR  Advanced meat recovery
AMS  USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service
APHIS  USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
BSE  Bovine spongiform encephalopathy ("mad cow disease")
CCC  USDA's Commodity Credit Corporation
CFIA  Canadian Food Inspection Agency
DHHS  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
FDA  U.S. Food and Drug Administration
EU  European Union
FSIS  USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service
GAO  U.S. Government Accountability Office
IHC  Immunohistochemistry
MBM  Meat and bone meal
SRM  Specified risk material
TSE  Transmissible spongiform encephalopathy
UK  United Kingdom
USDA  U.S. Department of Agriculture
vCJD  Variant Creutzfeld-Jakob disease

Early BSE Developments (1986-2002)

When BSE was first identified in 1986 in a British laboratory, relatively little was known about its character, its cause, or how to contain it. The United Kingdom (UK) has so far been the hardest-hit region, where reported cases affecting cattle continued to climb through the late 1980s and early 1990s to a peak of more than 37,000 in 1992. Cases have been declining each year since then. Several other countries, primarily in other parts of Europe, also reported hundreds of additional cases, according to the world animal health organization (OIE, its French acronym).

As the UK and other countries were coping with BSE, the U.S. and Canadian governments were establishing panels to study the disease and instituting a series of safeguards aimed at keeping it out of North America or stopping any spread if it should occur here. Prior to 2003, the only known case of BSE in North America was in Canada, where a non-native case was discovered in late 1993. This animal is believed to have been born in and imported from Great Britain in 1987.

November 1986 BSE is first identified by a British laboratory. BSE becomes a reportable disease in the United States.
1987  A BSE-infected cow is believed to have been imported into Canada from Great Britain.
December 15, 1987  Initial British epidemiological studies conclude that feeding of ruminant-derived meat and bone meal (MBM) is the "only viable hypothesis" for the cause of BSE.
1988  USDA establishes a BSE committee to review current science and recommend appropriate regulatory controls.
July 7, 1988  The British Government announces that all cattle at risk of BSE will be destroyed -- a number eventually reaching 3.7 million. Approximately 183,000 of these are confirmed as BSE-positive. Worldwide, about 4,000 additional BSE cases have since been diagnosed, mostly in Europe.
July 1989  USDA bans importation of live ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats, etc.) from the UK and other countries affected with BSE.
July 18, 1989  A UK ban on feeding meat and bone meal (MBM) to ruminants comes into force.
November 1989  USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) implements an emergency ban on the importation of high-risk products including MBM from countries with confirmed BSE cases.
November 13, 1989  England and Wales ban human consumption of certain bovine parts including brain, spinal cord, thymus, spleen, and tonsils.
1990  APHIS develops a BSE response plan intended to spell out step-by-step actions in case BSE is detected in the United States. FDA establishes a BSE task force.
May 1990  USDA initiates a surveillance program to examine brains of U.S. cattle for BSE.
1991  USDA conducts a BSE risk analysis, finding that conditions in the United States and UK differ regarding sheep rendered. (The disease may have jumped to cattle consuming sheep tissue containing Scrapie, another transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, or TSE.) This risk analysis would be updated several times in subsequent years.
December 6, 1991  USDA restricts the importation of ruminant meat and edible products and bans most byproducts of ruminant origin from countries known to have BSE; previously such products had been prohibited by not issuing import permits (see November 1989).
April 30, 1993  Surveillance is expanded to include random examination of brains from nonambulatory ("downer") cattle. (The target population already had included field cases of cattle exhibiting signs of neurologic disease, cattle condemned at slaughter for neurologic reasons, rabies-negative cattle submitted to public health laboratories, and neurologic cases submitted to veterinary diagnostic laboratories and teaching hospitals.)
December 1993  Canada reports its first BSE case; animal was not born in Canada but rather imported in 1987 from Great Britain.
August 29, 1994  FDA advises manufacturers of vaccines and other biologics not to use materials derived from cattle that were born, raised, or slaughtered in countries where BSE is known to exist.
March 1996  British authorities first announce a suspected causal link between BSE and a new form of a rare, fatal human illness, variant Creutzfeld-Jakob disease (vCJD), via consumption of beef from affected animals. Eventually about 150 vCJD cases occur, most of them in Great Britain.
March 29, 1996  The British Government imposes a total ban on the feeding of any mammalian meat and bone meal to any farm animals.
March 1997  A Black Angus cow, which later becomes the first native North American animal to test positive for BSE, is born on a Saskatchewan farm.
April 9, 1997  A Holstein cow is born on a farm in Calmar, Alberta, Canada. Om December 2003, it would test positive for BSE in Washington State, becoming the first U.S. case.
June 5, 1997  FDA publishes a final rule, effective August 7, to prohibit the feeding of most mammalian proteins to ruminants. Exempted from the ban are certain bovine by-products, such as blood, milk, gelatin and restaurant plate waste, on the premise that the exempted materials pose a minimal risk of transmission.
August 4, 1997  Canada institutes its own mammalian-to-ruminant feed ban (with the exception of pure porcine and equine meal; and milk, blood, gelatin and rendered animal fat from all species).
August 7, 1997  The U.S. FDA feed rule takes effect (see June 5, 1997).
December 12, 1997   USDA extends the ban on importation of live ruminants and most ruminant products to cover all countries in Europe.
April 24, 1998  USDA enters into a cooperative agreement with the Harvard University Center for Risk Analysis to evaluate the risk of BSE and U.S. prevention methods.
December 7, 2000  USDA begins to prohibit all imports of rendered animal protein products from Europe regardless of species, applying to all products originating, rendered, processed, or otherwise associated with European products.
September 2001  The Holstein cow born in Alberta in March 1997 that would test positive for BSE in December 2003 is moved to the United States along with 80 other cattle from the same dairy.
September 10, 2001  Japan reports a case of BSE, the first in Asia. (By May 2005, Japan will have reported 18 BSE cases.)
September 18, 2001  Japan first bans the use of all ruminant MBM in cattle feed.
September 30, 2001  Total U.S. cattle tested for BSE in FY2001 is 5,272, all negative.
October 4, 2001  Japan bans the use of animal protein products to be used in feed products, including swine and poultry feed, as well as in fertilizers.
October 18, 2001  Japan begins to test all cattle slaughtered for food for BSE.
November 30, 2001  USDA releases the Harvard risk analysis, a mathematical model which indicates that the risk of BSE in the U.S. is extremely low, that U.S. early protection measures have been largely responsible for keeping it low, and that such measures would minimize BSE's spread if it did gain entry.
January 17, 2002  USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) publishes in the Federal Register a Current Thinking Paper, requesting comment on possible new regulatory and policy actions such as whether to: designate such tissue as the brains and spinal cords of cattle 24 months and older as higher-risk material (SRMs) and thus ban them from human food; prohibit the use of vertebral column from nonambulatory cattle and from those 24 months and older in mechanical meat recovery systems, among other possible regulation of such higher-risk tissues; and increase enforcement and/or regulation of those who handle dead, dying, disabled, or diseased livestock or their parts that die other than by slaughter.
January 25, 2002  The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issues a report (GAO-02-183) criticizing the effectiveness of FDA's feed rules and enforcement.
August 23, 2002  A Black Angus cow born in Saskatchewan in March 1997 is purchased with 35 other cows and calves by a cattle producer in Wanham, Alberta. (It would test positive for BSE in May 2003.)
September 30, 2002  Total U.S. cattle tested for BSE in FY2002 is 19,990, all negative.
November 6, 2002  FDA publishes an advance notice of proposed rulemaking, stating that it is considering revising its feed regulation and seeking comments on five relevant topics: excluding from feed the brain and spinal cord from rendered animal products; using poultry litter in cattle feed; using pet food in ruminant feed; preventing cross-contamination; and eliminating the exemption for plate waste as a feed ingredient.
December 2, 2002  FSIS issues a directive instructing inspectors at beef establishments using vertebral columns as source materials in advanced meat recovery (AMR) systems to take routine regulatory samples to verify that spinal cord is not present in AMR product. If spinal cord tissue is present, then the product does not meet FSIS labeling and inspection requirements for meat.


The first native-born case of BSE in North America was confirmed in a cow in Alberta, Canada, in May 2003. The United States almost immediately halted the importation of virtually all ruminants and ruminant products, including live cattle and beef, from Canada. (An interim final rule was published in the May 29 Federal Register, retroactive to May 20.) In August, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture announced that the U.S. border would reopen to boneless beef from cattle under 30 months old and other items considered to be of low risk for BSE. Rather than issuing a proposed or interim rule, USDA claimed authority to proceed under a standing veterinary import permitting process.

In November, USDA proposed for comment a more extensive rule change that essentially would formalize and expand imports from Canada, to include among other things live cattle under 30 months old. Shortly thereafter, testing of a cow in Mabton, Washington, indicated the presence of the BSE agent. Confirmatory testing affirmed BSE, and the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture reported the findings on December 23. This became the first reported U.S. case, although investigators quickly determined that the animal was not native but rather was born in and imported from Canada.

USDA, cattlemen, and meat industry officials scrambled to reassure U.S. and foreign consumers that U.S. beef was safe and, as the year closed, the Secretary of Agriculture announced that she would take a number of major steps to strengthen existing U.S. BSE safeguards. Although domestic demand remained firm, most foreign countries closed their borders to U.S. beef and live ruminants including cattle.

January 2003 A federal interagency working group led by USDA, in response to a legislative mandate (in P.L. 107-9) provides information on the economic impacts and public health risks if BSE or related diseases (and an unrelated disease, Foot and Mouth Disease) were introduced into the United States, and information on federal prevention efforts and sufficiency of current legislative authority. The working group recommends a number of policy changes such as strengthening FDA authority to enforce its animal feed regulation and to control entry of imports that may risk bringing TSEs into the United States; an extended commitment of budgetary resources; and better interagency coordination, among other things.
January 21, 2003  In an advance notice of proposed rulemaking, APHIS solicits public comment to develop approaches to control the risk that dead stock and nonambulatory animals could serve as potential pathways for the spread of BSE, if that disease should ever be introduced into the United States. Comments were taken until March 24, 2003.
January 31, 2003  The Black Angus beef cow born in Saskatchewan in 1997, and now in Wanham, Alberta, shows signs of illness and is presented for slaughter. A government inspector declares it unfit for human food. Its head is frozen at a provincial laboratory for later routine testing, and its remains go for rendering into feed. It would later test positive for BSE.
February 20, 2003  The FY2003 omnibus appropriations act (P.L. 108-7) is signed into law, containing funding for USDA that includes $8 million for increased BSE surveillance and laboratory activities; FDA is reported to receive a total of $19 million for the fiscal year.
March 3, 2003  FSIS releases the results of the AMR survey it conducted in 2002; they show that approximately 35% of final product samples had "unacceptable" central nervous system tissue detected. It also announces the start of the regulatory sampling program (issued as a directive in December 2002) to ensure beef products derived from AMR systems are accurately labeled.
May 20, 2003  BSE is confirmed in the Canadian Black Angus cow, becoming the first native case reported in North America.
May 29, 2003  APHIS publishes an interim rule (retroactive to May 20, 2003) adding Canada to list of regions where BSE exists, prohibiting or restricting the importation of meat, meat products, and other products/byproducts of ruminants from Canada. Officials subsequently ask Harvard to reassess its BSE risk model.
June 26, 2003  Canada releases the report of an international review team (IRT) of BSE experts, which concludes that the most likely source of BSE would have been consumption of feed containing MBM of ruminant origin contaminated with the BSE prion before the US and Canada implemented a feed ban in August 1997. The original source of the BSE prion in MBM is likely to have been from a limited number of cattle imported directly into either Canada or the US from the UK in the 1980s, and it is likely that some of these animals were slaughtered or died and entered the animal feed system prior to a [Canadian] ban on further importations from the UK in 1990, the IRT reported. The team recommends a number of actions, including an immediate ban on SRMs (e.g., brain and spinal cord) believed to constitute a greater risk of disease, a review of animal feed regulations, strengthened tracking and tracing systems, and improved testing.
July 18, 2003  Canada announces a requirement that, effective August 23, 2003, SRMs must be removed from cattle destined for human food. SRMs are defined as including the skulls, brains, eyes, tonsils, and spinal cords of all cattle over 30 months, and the distal ileum (part of the small intestines) of all cattle.
August 8, 2003  The Secretary of Agriculture announces that, after a "thorough scientific analysis," the Department will begin accepting applications for import permits for certain "low risk" ruminant derived products from Canada. USDA said it will no longer prohibit importation of wild ruminant products intended for personal use (immediate), and will begin to accept applications for import permits for certain commercial products, including:
-- boneless sheep/goat meat from animals under 12 months;
-- boneless bovine meat from animals under 30 months;
-- boneless veal from calves under 36 weeks;
-- fresh or frozen bovine liver;
-- vaccines for veterinary medicine if for non-ruminants;
-- certain pet products and feed ingredients.
August 15, 2003  USDA posts an amended list of allowable Canadian products on its website as a clarification of the August 8 announcement. The list now includes "trim" from beef from cattle under 30 months of age and veal (including carcasses) from calves 36 weeks of age or under. Permit applications are subsequently submitted to APHIS for processed product made from allowable product. APHIS determines that processed product from trim and boneless beef from cattle under 30 months of age would be allowed, since processing would not increase the risk associated with the products.
August 23, 2003  The Canada SRM rule (see July 18, 2003) takes effect.
August 25, 2003  FSIS issues a revised directive intended to strengthen enforcement of measures to ensure that AMR systems do not introduce spinal cord into meat products. The directive notes that "Based on the first several months of regulatory ... sampling, FSIS has determined that some establishments are not adequately addressing the presence of spinal tissue in boneless comminuted [i.e., pulverized] beef."
August 27, 2003  APHIS issues the first permit for the importation of approved ground product from Canada. Subsequent permits allow the entry of other processed meat from cattle under 30 months of age, such as hot dogs, pepperoni pizza toppings, hamburger patties, smoked briskets, dry cured beef cuts, and soups and TV dinners containing beef.
September 4, 2003  The first Canadian veal imports reportedly resume.
September 11, 2003  USDA reports this as the day that the first Canadian beef imports resume.
September 30, 2003  Total U.S. cattle tested for BSE in FY2003 is 20,543, all negative.
October 3, 2003  APHIS expands the list of Canadian products permitted for entry into the United States to include processed products containing otherwise eligible beef (e.g., roast beef, ground beef, lasagna, frozen hamburger patties).
October 22, 2003  APHIS again expands the list of Canadian products permitted for entry into the United States to include edible beef lips, tongues, hearts, and kidneys.
October 31, 2003  USDA releases the findings of a second Harvard assessment of BSE risk since the Canada case. The report notes that a group of cattle imported into Canada from the UK in 1993 included one that was found to have BSE, and that if other animals in this group harbored the disease, and were slaughtered and rendered, infectivity may have been introduced into the Canadian and U.S. cattle feed supplies before the 1997 feed ban was implemented in both countries. Harvard observed that "Although the possible introduction of BSE into the U.S. from Canada cannot be dismissed," the likelihood is very low, and U.S. protective measures by now would have contained any possible spread.
  USDA also announces it will publish a proposed rule (see November 4, 2003) to amend its BSE regulations.
November 4, 2003  USDA publishes a proposed rule in the Federal Register that would amend its BSE regulations to establish a new category of regions that recognizes those that present a minimal risk of introducing BSE into the United States via the importation of certain low-risk live ruminants and ruminant products. (The rule, which is initially open for comments until January 5, 2004, will form the basis for the final rule that eventually will be published on January 4, 2005.) The proposed rule would add Canada to that risk category and would allow entry of certain commodities, including:
-- bovine animals for immediate or subsequent slaughter (under 30 months);
-- sheep/goats for immediate or subsequent slaughter (under 12 months);
-- cervids (deer, elk) for immediate slaughter;
-- fresh (chilled or frozen) meat and whole/half carcasses from bovines less than 30 months;
-- fresh (chilled or frozen) bovine liver;
-- fresh meat of sheep.
November 25, 2003  APHIS decides to allow Canadian facilities that receive and process bone-in beef from the United States, New Zealand, and Australia to export it to the United States.
December 9, 2003  The Holstein cow that was born in March 1997 in Alberta, Canada, arrives at Verns Moses Lake Meats slaughter plant in Washington State from a dairy in Mabton, Washington. The cow was reportedly nonambulatory, which was believed to be the result of complications from calving.
December 11, 2003  Samples from the Washington State Holstein cow arrive at the Ames, Iowa, laboratories. Because the animal had no neurological signs at slaughter, it is not considered to be a higher priority for BSE and the samples are placed in the normal queue for testing. On the same day, products (mainly ground beef) that later would be subject to recall are shipped to outlets, mainly restaurants and grocery stores.
December 22, 2003  Preliminary tests of the Holstein dairy cow in Washington are positive for BSE.
December 23, 2003  The Secretary of Agriculture announces a presumptive positive case of BSE in the Holstein cow (hereafter referred to as the "index" cow). APHIS quarantines the Mabton, Washington, herd where the cow had been, and begins its epidemiological investigations.
December 23, 2003  FSIS announces a Class II recall of 10,410 pounds of meat from the group of 20 animals slaughtered with the BSE cow on December 9, 2003, at Verns Moses Lake Meats.
December 24, 2003   Foreign countries, including Japan, Mexico, South Korea, and Canada, begin to ban imports of U.S. ruminants and ruminant products, which account for 90% of U.S. beef exports. (Canada, however, remains open to some lower-risk U.S. beef.)
December 29, 2003  FSIS determines that the recalled meat products were distributed to 42 locations from Interstate Meats and Willamette Valley Meats, with at least 80% of the products distributed to stores in Oregon and Washington.
December 30, 2003  The Secretary of Agriculture announces additional safeguards, primarily in slaughter plants, to bolster the U.S. protection system against BSE and to further protect public health. These and several other regulatory changes will be published in the January 12, 2004, Federal Register (see below for details). The Secretary also announces that a verifiable system of national animal identification will be expedited, and that BSE testing will be expanded.
December 31, 2003  The Secretary of Agriculture names an international review team of BSE experts (IRT, similar to the group that conducted such a review in Canada) to review USDA's BSE investigation and make national recommendations.


USDA moved to implement the new measures it had announced at the close of 2003, while at the same time it worked to restore full cross-border trade with Canada and Mexico. In the spring of 2004, however, a cattlemen's group successfully sued USDA to halt any further expansion of Canadian beef imports in a federal court. USDA then agreed to limit such beef imports to the types it began permitting in August 2003, until it promulgated a rule finalizing its November 4, 2003, proposal.

The enhanced BSE surveillance program began in earnest in June 2004; initial screening tests reported three possibly positive cases during the year (which USDA termed "inconclusives") that later were deemed to be negative for BSE. Nonetheless, cattle and beef markets reacted nervously to the reports; USDA was challenged sharply on the adequacy of their design and conduct of the testing program and how results were being reported prior to final confirmation. At FDA, where officials had promised early in 2004 to revise their animal feed rules to tighten controls over possible BSE contamination, deliberations over the rules continued through the end of the year.

Some countries, notably Canada and Mexico, were again accepting some U.S. beef in 2004, as were several smaller country markets. But Japan and South Korea, the other top two destinations for U.S. beef, remained closed, despite what appeared to be a hopeful joint announcement in October by the United States and Japan of a "framework" agreement for restarting U.S. exports there.

January 5, 2004 Initial closing date for public comments on the November 4, 2003, proposed rule on Canada cattle and beef imports (see above). This comment period will later be reopened.
January 12, 2004  The Secretary of Agriculture publishes a "declaration of extraordinary emergency" in the Federal Register, which "authorizes the Secretary to (1) hold, seize, treat, apply other remedial actions to, destroy (including preventative slaughter), or otherwise dispose of, any animal, article, facility, or means of conveyance if the Secretary determines the action is necessary to prevent the dissemination of BSE and (2) prohibit or restrict the movement or use within the State of Washington, or any portion of the State of Washington, of any animal or article, means of conveyance, or facility if the Secretary determines that the prohibition or restriction is necessary to prevent the dissemination of BSE."
January 12, 2004  FSIS also publishes several BSE-related actions in the Federal Register (many were announced December 30, 2003):
-- An interim final rule declaring that the skull, brain, eyes, vertebral column, spinal cord, and certain other parts of cattle 30 months of age or older, and the distal ileum of the small intestine of all cattle, are considered "specified risk materials" (SRM) and are prohibited in the human food supply. (Tonsils from all cattle were already prohibited.)
-- The above rule also requires that all non-ambulatory (disabled) cattle presented for slaughter be condemned.
-- An interim final rule articulating the criteria that the agency would use to ensure that AMR products can be represented as "meat" products and thus are not adulterated or misbranded (i.e., do not contain central nervous system tissues).
-- An interim final rule prohibiting the use of penetrative captive bolt stunning devices that deliberately inject air into the cranial cavity of cattle (known as "air injection stunning").
-- A notice announcing that FSIS inspectors will not mark ambulatory cattle that have been targeted for BSE surveillance testing as "inspected and passed" until negative test results are obtained.
January 21, 2004  The House Agriculture Committee holds the first congressional oversight hearing on the U.S. BSE crisis.
January 26, 2004  The Secretary of Health and Human Services announces coming changes in FDA feed rules (expected to be published within two months but which had not appeared as of late May 2005), which he says will:
-- Eliminate the exemption that allows mammalian blood and blood products to be fed to other ruminants as a protein source;
-- Ban the use in ruminant feed of "poultry litter,"which consists of bedding, spilled feed, feathers, and fecal matter;
-- Ban the use in ruminant feed of "plate waste," which consists of uneaten meat and other meat scraps that collected from restaurant operations and rendered into meat and bone meal;
-- Further minimize the possibility of cross-contamination of ruminant and non-ruminant animal feed by requiring equipment, facilities or production lines to be dedicated to non-ruminant animal feeds if they use protein that is prohibited in ruminant feed.
January 27, 2004  The Senate Agriculture Committee holds an oversight hearing on the BSE situation.
January 29, 2004  Agriculture Secretary Veneman announces that President Bush's FY2005 budget for USDA will include a $60 million request, or an increase of $47 million, to fund multi-agency efforts to enhance USDA's BSE prevention program.
February 4, 2004  USDA releases findings of the international panel of BSE experts (the IRT). The IRT observes that although the infected U.S. animal may be the only one from the 81-cow herd that survived to adulthood, and its birth cohorts "do not represent significant risk ... it is probable that other infected animals have been imported from Canada and possibly also from Europe. These animals have not been detected and therefore infective material has likely been rendered, fed to cattle, and amplified with the cattle population, so that cattle in the USA have also been indigenously infected." The IRT also states that:
-- Testing of all cattle for human consumption is "unjustified," but an intensive one-time surveillance effort to determine the extent, if any, of U.S. BSE, and that testing a random sample of healthy cattle over 30 months "should be strongly considered;"
-- The U.S. epidemiological investigation and the tracing and recall of meat and byproducts had conformed to international standards insofar as possible, but that implementation of an "appropriate" national ID system is needed;
-- Because downers are now being banned from the food supply, "it is imperative" for USDA to ensure that dead and non-ambulatory cattle are properly sampled and disposed of;
-- The United States should consider excluding all SRMs from both human and animal foods, including pet food, and unless "aggressive surveillance" proves the U.S. BSE risk to be minimal according to international standards, the SRM definition should be expanded to include the brain, spinal cord, skull, and vertebral column of all cattle over 12 months, and the entire intestine from all cattle;
-- The partial ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban now in place is "insufficient." A complete ban on the feeding of all mammalian and poultry byproducts to cows and other ruminants is justified due to the "practical difficulties of enforcement" and "... to the issues of cross-contamination as well as the current problems in differentiating mammalian and avian MBM."
February 9, 2004  An "FSIS Update of Recall Activities" states that the total amount of meat distributed that was subject to recall had been expanded to approximately 38,000 pounds affecting 578 establishments.
February 9, 2004  APHIS also announces that the field investigation of the case of BSE in a cow in the State of Washington is complete, with the following results:
-- The epidemiological tracing and DNA evidence proved that the BSE positive cow slaughtered in the State of Washington on December 9, 2003, was born on a dairy farm in Calmar, Alberta, Canada, on April 9, 1997.
-- The epidemiological investigation to find additional animals from the source herd led to a total of 189 investigations, leading to complete herd inventories of 75,000 animals on 51 premises in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. The inventories involved the examination of the identification on more than 75,000 animals.
-- A total of 255 "animals of interest" (those that could have been from the source herd in Alberta) were identified on 10 premises in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. All 255 were depopulated, and BSE testing was negative for all. The carcasses from all of the euthanized animals were properly disposed of in landfills. These 255 are in addition to the 449 animals slaughtered from the bull calf operation -- bringing total slaughtered for BSE investigatory purposes to 674 cattle.
-- Of the 255 animals of interest, 28 were positively identified back to the group of 80 cattle that entered the United States with the index cow, as well as seven heifers out of a group of 17 heifers which were also known to be from the source herd. It is not believed that all of these 17 entered the United States, but all of them would be considered minimal risk and not significant to the investigation.
-- International BSE guidelines state that animals born on a premises within one year before or after a BSE-affected animal should be considered of greater risk. USDA has focused on 25 of the 81 animals also born into the birth herd of the index animal. Based on normal culling practices of local dairies, APHIS estimated that the Agency would be able to locate approximately 11 of these animals. APHIS definitively located 13 of these animals, plus the index cow, for a total of 14.
-- USDA expressed confidence that the remaining (unlocated) animals represent very little risk.
-- Over 2,000 tons of meat and bone meal being held due to potential contamination with protein from the positive cow is on hold and will soon be properly disposed of in a landfill.
-- All 255 adult animals depopulated were sampled and tested for BSE. The 449 bull calves depopulated were not sampled because they were too young for the BSE agent to be detected.
February 23, 2004  USDA releases the response of its full animal disease advisory committee to the subcommittee's report, among other things commending U.S. authorities for their handling of the case. The full committee recommends that federal officials ask the Harvard Center to review the subcommittee report, particularly to resolve the "major discrepancy" between the IRT's finding that BSE continues to circulate here and findings in the earlier Harvard University risk assessment that appeared to be more qualified; and that USDA enhance surveillance and implement more quickly an animal ID program.
February 24, 2004  The Senate Appropriations Committee holds an oversight hearing specifically on the BSE situation.
March 3, 2004  The Secretary of Agriculture announces that Mexico has agreed to begin imports of some types of U.S. beef.
March 8, 2004  In light of the discovery of the first confirmed case of BSE in the United States, APHIS reopens the comment period for its November 2003 proposed rule (which, among other things, proposed that Canada be identified as a "minimal risk" region for BSE). Additional comments on the proposed rule were due by April 7, 2004.
March 15, 2004  USDA announces an expanded surveillance effort for BSE in the United States. Under the new program, to start on June 1, 2004, and expected to continue for 12 to 18 months, USDA says it wants to test as many as possible of a so-called higher-risk group of cattle (i.e., those which are nonambulatory, dead, or exhibiting signs of a central nervous system disorder or other BSE-associated signs). It estimates this target population to number 446,000.
April 7, 2004  FSIS publishes a notice in the Federal Register requesting comment on its preliminary regulatory impact analysis of the three interim final rules issued by the agency on January 12, 2004. FSIS also extends the comment period on the January 12 rules to coincide with the close of the comment period for the impact analysis (on May 7, 2004).
April 8, 2004  USDA denies the request of Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, a smaller packing company with markets in Japan, to test all of its cattle for BSE. USDA officials inform Creekstone that BSE tests have only been licensed for animal health "surveillance" purposes and "the test as proposed by Creekstone would have implied a consumer safety aspect that is not scientifically warranted."
April 18, 2004  A joint U.S.-Japanese press release states that the two sides will "actively engage in consultations" and "will respectively pursue domestic discussions and make efforts so as to reach a final conclusion by sometime around summer on the resumption of the importation of both American and Japanese beef."
April 19, 2004  USDA publishes on its website a memorandum and a new list of "Low Risk Canadian Products." The new list of "Low Risk Canadian Products" permits "bovine meat and meat products including boneless, bone-in, ground meat, and further processed bovine meat products."
April 22, 2004  A cattle producers' group (Ranchers Cattlemen Action Legal Fund-United Stockgrowers of America, or R-CALF USA) files a lawsuit seeking federal judicial review of USDA's actions on Canadian beef imports.
April 23, 2004  Canada announces rule changes to permit a broader range of meat and meat products to be imported from the United States.
April 26, 2004   In response to the R-CALF USA lawsuit, a U.S. District Judge in Montana issues a temporary restraining order blocking the expansion of importable Canadian products in the April 19 action. The judge specifically cites USDA statements indicating that any actions beyond those taken in August 2003 would be done through the rulemaking process.
May 5, 2004  The April 26 temporary restraining order is converted to a stipulation that expires five days after the plaintiff (R-CALF USA) is notified of final agency action on the November 2003 USDA rulemaking. While the stipulation is in effect, the only bovine meats that can be imported for human consumption are fresh or frozen bovine liver, all veal from calves 36 weeks of age or less, and fresh or frozen boneless meat from animals under 30 months of age, including trim/manufacturing trim derived from skeletal muscle with associated tissues -- but not including any ground meat, trim derived from mechanical separation processes including AMR or from vertebral columns (this is essentially the August 15, 2003, APHIS list). Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) verification that these products were subject to risk mitigation measures in Canada also is required.
May 2004  Conflicting information circulates throughout the month as to exactly what types and quantities of Canadian beef products had been improperly allowed to enter since USDA began to ease import restrictions. R-CALF USA asserts that 33 million pounds of processed beef, more than 3 million pounds of bone-in beef, and 440,000 pounds of beef tongue were imported improperly from September 2003 to April 2004. USDA's Under Secretary for Food Safety states at a press conference that what has come in from Canada that is not part of what was made eligible in August 2003 totals approximately 7.3 million pounds, and that all such products came from animals that were younger than 30 months of age.
June 1, 2004  The enhanced BSE surveillance program reportedly begins. Early in the month, APHIS begins to post on its website weekly reports on test results.
July 9, 2004  USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announce three actions to strengthen federal safeguards against BSE: (1) a joint FSIS, APHIS, and FDA advance notice of proposed rulemaking that asks for public comment on additional preventive actions being considered; (2) an interim final FDA rule that prohibits the use of certain cattle-derived materials in human food (including dietary supplements) and medicines; and (3) a proposed FDA rule on recordkeeping requirements for the interim final rule relating to this ban. Specifically, in the advance notice, FDA asks the public to comment on measures related to animal feed (e.g., removing SRM from all animal feed and prohibiting materials from non-ambulatory cattle and dead stock from use in all animal feed); APHIS asks for comments on the implementation of a national animal identification system; and FSIS seeks comments on whether a country's BSE status should be a factor when determining whether its meat inspection system is equivalent to U.S. regulations. The joint ANPR and FDA rules are published in the July 14, 2004, Federal Register.
July 14, 2004  The House Committee on Agriculture and the House Committee on Government Reform conduct a joint hearing to review USDA's expanded BSE cattle surveillance program. USDA's Inspector General testifies on a draft OIG report which cites a number of limitations in the department's expanded surveillance plan. The final OIG report, issued in late August 2004, generally paralleled the preliminary findings. USDA defends its testing program at and after the hearing.
August 4, 2004  APHIS announces changes in how it will announce inconclusive BSE tests, stating that it will not make such an announcement unless two screening tests (rather than one screening test) indicate other than a negative result for BSE. The change is made after two announced inconclusive tests caused market price disruptions earlier in the summer, even though they later were found to be negative upon confirmatory testing.
September 30, 2004  USDA is reported to have spent a total of $51 million for its BSE-related activities for the fiscal year just ended, $44 million of it for surveillance and testing. FDA is reported to have spent more than $21 million.
October 23, 2004  The United States and Japan announce jointly that they have reached agreement on a framework for resuming two-way beef trade. The statement includes the following elements:
-- Japanese beef would be permitted in the United States following relevant U.S. rulemaking procedures.
-- The United States would establish, with Japanese concurrence, an interim marketing program [a modified version of the Beef Export Verification (BEV) Program established by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) in 2003] that would enable a resumption of some U.S. beef exports to Japan, by certifying that all beef shipments are from cattle under 21 months old.
-- The United States would expand its definition of cattle parts having a higher risk of harboring BSE. These "specified risk materials" (SRMs) would include -- for cattle of all ages -- the entire head except tongues and cheek meat; tonsils; spinal cords; distal ileum; and part of the vertebral column. This is broader than the current U.S. SRM definition, which applies mainly to cattle over 30 months old.
-- The two countries would evaluate this interim marketing program by July 2005, based in part on a scientific evaluation by international health experts, and modify it if appropriate.
November 18, 2004  USDA announces that a U.S.-born, nonambulatory cow is "inconclusive" (possibly positive) for BSE in a screening test. The carcass is destroyed to prevent its use in the food or feed supply.
November 23, 2004  USDA announces that two confirmatory tests using the IHC method ("an internationally-recognized gold standard test for BSE," according to officials) both are negative for the disease. APHIS does not conduct a confirmatory "Western blot" test, another internationally recognized method, nor does it send the sample to the BSE World Reference Laboratory in Weybridge, England, for further examination.
December 8, 2004  The President signs into law the FY2005 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 108-447), which contains annual funding for USDA, including its BSE activities. Including funds it had transferred administratively from the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) earlier, USDA says it will spend a total of $123 million on BSE-related activities in FY2005, including $69 million for surveillance and testing and $49 million for animal ID work. The measure also contains nearly $30 million for FDA's BSE activities.
December 29, 2004  USDA unveils a new APHIS final rule (1) establishing a category of regions that present a minimal risk of introducing BSE into the United States from live ruminants and ruminant products, including the conditions that must be met to qualify as a minimal-risk region; and (2) accepting Canada as the first such region. The rule is published in the January 4, 2005, Federal Register, to take effect on March 7, 2005. The rule explicitly permits imports of, among other things, live Canadian cattle and other bovines for feeding and for immediate slaughter.
December 31, 2004  According to USDA, 176,468 cattle are tested for BSE in calendar (not fiscal) 2004, all negative for the disease. (A total of 17,152 head had been tested in FY2004 through May 31, when the special 12-18-month surveillance program was initiated.)


In early 2005, as USDA was unveiling its new rule for permitting Canadian imports, Canada was announcing two additional discoveries of BSE. This brought to four Canada's reported native-born cases (including the one found in the United States). U.S. officials expressed confidence in Canadian BSE safeguards but sent a team to confirm that feed controls there were effective.

R-CALF USA again sued USDA to halt Canadian beef and live cattle imports, winning a temporary injunction in early March against implementation of USDA's January 4, 2005, final rule. However, an appeals court ruled in July to stay (reverse) the lower court's ban. Younger Canadian cattle soon began crossing the border for the first time in more than two years.

As Japan was engaged in what many U.S. critics regarded as a needlessly slow regulatory process toward lifting its ban on U.S. beef imports, USDA reported, in June 2005, the second U.S. case of BSE, but the first to be confirmed in a native-born cow. The Texas animal initially had been sampled for BSE in November 2004. Screening tests at that time came back inconclusive (i.e., possibly positive) for the disease, but follow-up testing failed to confirm it, USDA said in announcing a negative result. However, at OIG's urging, department scientists re-tested samples in June 2005, and the results were positive for BSE. In Japan, the regulatory process along with continued consumer resistance there delayed the border opening until December, when some U.S. beef imports began to be accepted again.

In Congress, mounting frustration led to the introduction of several measures aimed at coercing Japan into moving more quickly to reopen its border. One such measure passed the Senate in September as an amendment to the pending USDA appropriation, but it was removed in conference. (The Senate had voted in early March to block the USDA rule permitting Canadian cattle to enter, but necessary House action did not occur.)

January 2, 2005 CFIA reports that BSE has been confirmed in an Alberta dairy cow born in October 1996, prior to the 1997 "feed ban" on use of prohibited mammalian material. Canadian officials say that preliminary testing first detected the presence of the disease in December 2004. No part of the animal entered the human food or animal feed supply, CFIA states.
January 4, 2005  APHIS publishes the final version of its November 4, 2003, proposed rule. In addition, because it is a "major" rule, it cannot take effect for 60 days from publication in the Federal Register or presentation to Congress (whichever is later), as provided for in the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996. This delay allows time for Congress to review the rule; Congress also has the option, for 60 legislative days, to pass a joint resolution overturning the rule.
January 10, 2005  R-CALF USA files another lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Montana to halt implementation of the January 4 rule, charging among other things that the rule is based on a faulty risk assessment not supported by scientific evidence.
January 11, 2005  CFIA reports that BSE has been confirmed in an Alberta beef cow born in March 1998, more than six months after Canada had announced its ban on feeding ruminant material back to ruminants. Canadian officials say they have launched investigations to ascertain the whereabouts of any other at-risk animals and to determine what the animal had consumed. They speculate that the cow may have consumed BSE-contaminated feed that had been manufactured either before the ban, or shortly afterward, before it had been fully implemented.
January 31, 2005  R-CALF requests a preliminary injunction in its lawsuit against USDA on the January 4 final rule.
February 3, 2005  The Senate Agriculture Committee holds an oversight hearing on the Canada BSE situation, where Secretary of Agriculture Johanns testifies that the Department intends to implement the rule on March 7 as scheduled.
February 7, 2005  The Administration releases its FY2006 budget proposal, which includes a request for $66 million for USDA's BSE activities and nearly $30 million for FDA's BSE activities.
February 14, 2005  USDA's OIG releases the results of its audit Oversight of the Importation of Beef Products from Canada. OIG finds that the Department's actions were sometimes arbitrary and undocumented, that policy decisions were poorly communicated to the public and between APHIS and FSIS, and that controls over the regulatory process were inadequate. USDA generally agrees to implement recommendations for improvement.
February 25, 2005  USDA releases its positive assessment of the effectiveness of the Canadian ban on feeding most ruminant materials back to ruminants.
February 25, 2005  GAO issues a report (GAO-05-101) concluding that FDA had made improvements in its management of the U.S. feed ban, but that program weaknesses continue to limit its effectiveness, placing U.S. cattle at risk of spreading BSE.
March 1, 2005  The House Agriculture Committee holds a hearing on the Canadian beef import rule, taking testimony from Secretary Johanns, two cattle producer groups, and two meat packers.
March 2, 2005  The U.S. district court in Montana issues a preliminary injunction to halt implementation of the January 4th rule and orders attorneys for both USDA and R-CALF to develop a proposed schedule for trial on the merits of whether a permanent injunction should be granted.
March 3, 2005  The full Senate votes, 52-46, to approve a resolution (S. J.Res. 4) providing for the disapproval of the January 4th USDA rule. However, House passage and the President's signature are required for the resolution to take effect, neither of which is considered a strong likelihood.
March 11, 2005  APHIS publishes a rule to delay until further notice the applicability of its January 4th rule on minimal risk regions.
March 17, 2005  USDA appeals the Montana U.S. district court judge's ruling to block the Canadian import rule to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
April 29, 2005  APHIS releases a summary of its epidemiological review of Canada's BSE cases, reporting that Canada's epidemiological efforts have exceeded levels recommended by an international team of BSE experts.
May 6, 2005  The Japanese Food Safety Commission (FSC) adopts a final report recommending that cattle under 21 months of age could be excluded from universal BSE testing, thus clearing the way for the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare (MHLW), and Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (MAFF) to begin promulgating changes in their domestic BSE testing rules. (A public comment period is scheduled for May 9 to June 9, 2005.)
May 26, 2005  The Japanese FSC initiates deliberations on the content of consultations with the Japanese MHLW and MAFF on conditions for resuming U.S. beef imports.
May 31, 2005  An expert subcommittee of the Japanese FSC begins deliberations on U.S. imports.
June 10, 2005  Agriculture Secretary Johanns announces the possibility of BSE in sample material from a U.S.-born cow that in November 2004 had tested negative for BSE. He adds that samples from the cow are being retested and also being sent to the BSE World Reference Laboratory in Weybridge, England, for further examination. The cow tested negative for BSE last year after an initial screening had indicated an "inconclusive" (i.e., possibly positive) result. The latest, possibly positive, result, occurred using a different test method (the so-called "Western blot," which, like the IHC method, also is OIE-recognized). The retest was conducted by USDA scientists at the request of the Office of Inspector General (OIG), not the Secretary.
June 24, 2005  The Secretary of Agriculture announces that more testing has confirmed the presence of BSE in a brain sample first taken from a U.S. beef cow in November 2004. This is the first confirmed case of BSE in a U.S.-born animal. The World Reference Laboratory in Weybridge, England, found after a series of tests that all except one detected BSE, including another IHC test. USDA and Weybridge officials explain that the positive IHC test by Weybridge used a different procedure than the one used in November 2004 by USDA at Ames, and that IHC methods differ and do not perform equally. USDA also reveals that a USDA laboratory had actually found possible BSE in the animal in 2004 when it applied an "experimental" version of the IHC test. But USDA asserts that the laboratory did not report this result because the test was not a proven one.
June 29, 2005  APHIS reports on its epidemiological investigation to determine the BSE animal's origin, movements, and herd mates. Officials state that the cow in question was a 12-year-old Brahma cross beef cow from a Texas farm, initially reported to be nonambulatory. The animal was sampled at a plant that renders dead, dying, diseased, or disabled animals for non-human uses such as pet food, but this animal's remains never entered the food or feed chain and were incinerated.
July 13, 2005  A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals conducts a hearing on USDA's appeal of the Montana court's preliminary injunction on the Canada import rule.
July 14, 2005  The appeals court rules to stay (reverse) the lower court's ban. The Secretary says the Department is taking immediate steps to resume the importation of Canadian cattle under 30 months of age.
July 18, 2005  The first load of Canadian cattle since May 2003 reportedly enters the United States.
July 25, 2005  The appeals court issues its opinion explaining reasons for reversing the district court's ban on the Canada import rule.
July 27, 2005  APHIS announces that a brain sample from an older cow taken in April but not tested until more recently produced a "non-definitive" result using the IHC test, so more testing is underway to determine whether BSE might be present.
August 1, 2005   Japan eases its rule requiring all cattle to be tested for BSE regardless of age; now, only cattle over 20 months of age must be tested. However, all local governments in Japan reportedly continue to test all cattle. (A separate rule change actually to permit U.S. beef imports is still under consideration.)
August 3, 2005  APHIS reports that further tests of the suspicious cow tissue (see July 27) are negative for BSE. Tests were conducted both by APHIS and the international reference laboratory for BSE at Weybridge, England.
August 18, 2005   APHIS publishes a proposed rule in the Federal Register to permit the importation of whole cuts of boneless beef from Japan, under specified conditions. The United States agreed to initiate such rulemaking as part the October 2004 beef trade framework with Japan.
August 30, 2005  USDA and FDA officials release final reports on their epidemiological investigations of the Texas BSE case (i.e., U.S.-born BSE cow which tested positive in June 2005), with the following results:
-- The animal was a cream-colored Brahma cross cow approximately 12 years old.
-- The animal was sold through a livestock sale in November 2004 and transported to a packing plant, where it was dead on arrival. It was then shipped to a pet food plant where it was sampled for BSE. The carcass was not used; it was destroyed in November 2004.
-- Sixty-seven herd mates were destroyed and tested for BSE, all negative. Of 200 adult animals of interest determined to have left the farm, APHIS officials concluded that 143 had gone to slaughter, two were found alive (one was determined not to be of interest because of its age and the other tested negative), 34 were presumed dead, one was known dead and 20 were classified as untraceable.
-- APHIS was looking for two calves born to the index animal. Due to record keeping and identification limitations, APHIS had to trace 213 calves. Of these 213 calves, 208 entered feeding and slaughter channels, four were presumed to have entered feeding and slaughter channels and one calf was untraceable.
-- FDA's feed history investigation identified 21 feeds or feed supplements used on the farm since 1990, which were purchased from three retail feed stores and manufactured at nine feed mills. No feed or feed supplements used on the farm since 1997 were formulated to contain prohibited mammalian protein. Due to this finding, FDA has concluded that the animal was most likely infected prior to the 1997 ruminant feed rule.
September 7, 2005  USDA and FDA each publish an interim rule in the Federal Register altering their separate rules on SRM in meat products, foods and cosmetics. This will permit companies, beginning October 7, 2005, to remove only the distal ileum of all cattle and to utilize the rest of the small intestine in food or cosmetics. Previously, they were required to remove the entire intestine to ensure that no distal ileum (the only part considered SRM) remained.
September 20, 2005  By a vote of 72 to 26, the Senate on September 20, 2005, approves an amendment to H.R. 2744, USDA's FY2006 appropriation, which would bar USDA implementation of a proposed rule enabling Japan to export beef to the United States, unless Japan has opened its own markets for U.S. beef and beef products. Conferees later remove this provision from the final version (H.Rept. 109-255).
September 30, 2005  USDA is reported to have spent an estimated $123 million for its BSE-related activities in FY2005, of which $69 million was for BSE testing (and most of that for the special surveillance program), $49 million to launch the animal ID effort, and $3 million for research. The FDA reportedly spends nearly $30 million on BSE in FY2005.
October 6, 2005  FDA publishes its long-awaited proposed rule to tighten animal feed controls in the Federal Register. The proposal, open for public comment until December 20, 2005, would ban, from all types of animal feeds (including pet food), the following materials that would be considered SRM:
-- brains and spinal cords of cattle 30 months of age and older;
-- brains and spinal cords of any cattle, regardless of age, if they were not inspected and passed for human consumption;
-- the entire carcass of any cattle not so inspected and passed if their brains and spinal cords have not been removed;
-- tallow from the above SRM if it contains more than 0.15% soluble impurities;
-- mechanically separated beef derived from such SRM.
October 31, 2005  A subcommittee of Japan's Food Safety Commission finalizes a draft report generally agreeing that U.S. beef which meets Japanese export requirements poses little more risk than Japanese-processed beef.
November 2, 2005  The Japan FSC decides to clear the draft report for public review and comment, for a period of approximately four weeks. After that, the government can take final steps to implement the U.S. beef import rule, officials there claim.
December 12, 2005  Japan officially announces that U.S. (and Canadian) beef is eligible for import, if it comes from cattle that can be verified to be younger than 21 months of age, if all SRMs are removed, and if it is boneless, among other requirements. Secretary Johanns states that even with these restrictions, the opening would account for 94% of the value of beef imported to Japan in 2003 before the market closed.
December 12, 2005  USDA-APHIS publishes a notice in the Federal Register to permit the importation of whole cuts of boneless beef from Japan.
December 19, 2005  U.S. beef reportedly begins to enter Japan and to appear in some Japanese restaurants and stores as the week progresses.
December 29, 2005  Secretary Johanns announces that Hong Kong, formerly the fifth-largest U.S. market with $90 million in 2003 beef an beef product purchases, has agreed to reopen its market to some beef. He asserts that at this point worldwide, the United States has recovered access to markets that were valued at more than $2.8 billion, or 74% of total 2003 export value.


Efforts to fully restore beef and cattle trade encountered several setbacks in 2006. First, Japan in January again halted all U.S. beef imports after finding some vertebral bones in a shipment of veal. U.S. and industry officials were forced to redouble their efforts, and agree to additional concessions, to regain market access, which Japan finally granted in late July. U.S. beef exports were expected to arrive there starting in August. However, an agreement on the terms for shipping beef and cattle to Korea continued to elude negotiators during the first half of 2006. These efforts were exacerbated somewhat by the confirmation in March 2006 of a second U.S.-born cow with BSE.

U.S. beef trade with Canada continued, despite that country's finding of four additional BSE-positive cattle. U.S. and Canadian officials stated that the new findings were not unexpected and still within the limits permitted under the OIE guidelines for trading with a country with some BSE. However, several of the animals had been born after Canada's 1997 ban on feeding mammalian protein to ruminants, raising concerns about the effectiveness and enforcement of the ban. Critics urged USDA to reconsider its proposed rules (now being reviewed prior to formal publication in the Federal Register) to permit the importation of older Canadian cattle and/or other ruminant products.

Meanwhile, USDA officials announced in July that the Department would soon scale back its massive BSE testing program, reverting to a lower level of ongoing surveillance, after determining that the potential level of the disease in the U.S. cattle herd is very low.

January 6, 2006 The cattle group R-CALF USA files a motion with the U.S. District Court in Montana for a hearing and final judgment on its lawsuit to block USDA's January 2005 rule permitting Canadian cattle and beef imports. (A federal appeals court had overturned the Montana court's temporary injunction; see July 14, 2005.)
January 20, 2006  Japan again halts all U.S. beef imports after finding vertebral column bones (a prohibited material) in several boxes of veal shipped by a New York processor.
January 22, 2006  Canada confirms its fourth case of BSE, in an approximately six-year-old crossbred cow born and raised in Alberta. CFIA states that no part of the animal entered the human food or animal feed systems. A subsequent investigation attempts to trace two of the affected animal's offspring and 156 cattle born on the farm of origin within 12 months before and after the affected animal's birth in April 2000. Not all are found, but those that are still alive are euthanized and test negative for BSE. BSE-contaminated feed consumed early in the cow's life is considered but not confirmed to be the most likely source. Critics express concern that the animal was born several years after Canada's feed ban, raising questions about its effectiveness.
March 10, 2006  A rapid screening test indicates the possibility of BSE in a non-ambulatory cow in Alabama, which had been euthanized, its brain sampled, and buried on the farm on February 28.
March 13, 2006  APHIS announces that a follow-up test (using the so-called Western blot method) has confirmed BSE in a non-ambulatory cow in Alabama, the third U.S. and second U.S.-born cow found with the disease. APHIS officials report that dentition examination indicates the cow was likely at least 10 years old, and born prior to implementation of the 1997 feed ban. The animal was buried on the farm and did not enter the human or animal food chains; an investigation of its whereabouts, herd cohorts, and offspring has been launched.
March 15, 2006  APHIS also confirms a positive BSE finding in the Alabama cow using the IHC method (both tests are now conducted whenever a rapid screening test is determined to be "inconclusive," although only one of the follow-up test methods must be positive to confirm BSE).
March 23, 2006  Creekstone Farms Premium Beef of Kansas files a lawsuit against USDA challenging its refusal to allow the company to test all its cattle for BSE to meet demands of customers like Japan.
April 6, 2006  The U.S. District Court in Montana denies the request by the cattle group R-CALF USA to permanently close the U.S. border to Canadian cattle and other ruminants.
April 16, 2006  Canada confirms its fifth case of BSE, in a six-year-old dairy cow in British Columbia. CFIA subsequently identifies 148 animals, including the affected animal's herdmates and recent offspring. From this group, 22 live animals are located, and all test negative for BSE. Not all others are located, but 15 had been exported to the United States. Investigators again believe contaminated feed is the cause; they also identify a feed ingredient supplier common to this case and Canada's fourth BSE animal, confirmed on January 22 (see above). This potential link suggests that all of Canada's BSE cases fall within the same geographic cluster, which is reflective of feed sourcing, production, and distribution patterns.
April 28, 2006  USDA releases the draft analysis of its enhanced surveillance program, including an estimate of the prevalence of BSE in the United States. After testing more than 690,000 higher-risk animals (more than 1,000 cattle per day from 5,700 farms, slaughter plants, renderers, and other locations), it determines (with 95% confidence level) that the most likely number of BSE cases present in the United States is between 4 and 7 animals out of a herd of 42 million adult cattle, a prevalence of less than 1 case per 1 million adult cattle. USDA states that it is submitting its analysis to a scientific peer review, after which it will determine what level of ongoing surveillance is appropriate. (Enhanced testing is to continue in the meantime.)
May 2, 2006  APHIS releases the final epidemiology report on the Alabama cow. It is determined to be a deep red, crossbred beef cow of at least 10 years. The farm with the cow had purchased it in December 2004 from another farm whose owner had died and which was liquidating the 26-head herd. However, despite a thorough investigation of these two farms that were known to contain the index cow, and 35 other farms that might have supplied the index cow, the investigators were unable to locate the herd of origin. The two most recent offspring of the index cow were located; one born in 2005 had died at a stockyard and went to a landfill; the other born in 2006 is retained for study.
May 9, 2006  Marking up the FY2007 USDA appropriation (H.R. 5384), the House Appropriation Committee votes not to approve a proposed amendment to permit meatpackers to test their own cattle for BSE.
June 21, 2006  U.S. officials announce they and Japan have agreed on the final steps necessary to reopen the market, including Japanese safety inspections in July of U.S. beef plants that USDA has certified as eligible for Japan.
June 22, 2006  The Senate Appropriations Committee reports the FY2007 USDA appropriation bill (H.R. 5384), containing a nonbinding amendment recommending that economic sanctions be taken if Japan does not open its market to U.S. beef.
June 26, 2006  Canada announces that, effective July 12, it is strengthening its BSE-related cattle feed rule of 1997 by banning, from all livestock feed, pet food and fertilizers, these SRMs: the skull, brain, trigeminal ganglia, eyes, tonsils, spinal cord, and dorsal root ganglia of cattle aged 30 months or older, and the distal ileum of cattle of all ages.
June 29, 2006  Canada announces that, effective immediately, all classes of U.S. cattle, including those for breeding after 1999, are eligible for entry under prescribed conditions; also eligible is beef from cattle over 30 months of age under prescribed conditions.
July 4, 2006  Canada confirms its sixth case of BSE, in a crossbred beef cow of at least 15 years of age in Manitoba, and begins investigations of the cow's whereabouts and feed.
July 12, 2006  Canada formally publishes its new feed rule (see June 26).
July 13, 2006  Canada confirms its seventh BSE case, in a 50-month-old dairy cow from Alberta, and begins investigations of the cow's whereabouts and feed. Agriculture Secretary Johanns states that the animal's age "does raise questions that must be answered."
July 20, 2006  The Secretary of Agriculture announces that USDA will end its special surveillance program, which since June 2004 has tested a total of more than 759,000 cattle (an average of approximately 5,000 weekly), and "transition" to the ongoing testing of approximately 40,000 animals per year. The Secretary states that this ongoing testing will continue to focus on cattle populations where the disease is most likely to be found, and will continue to far exceed the levels in OIE guidelines. The transition will occur as soon as late August 2006.
July 27, 2006  Japan announces that it will resume imports of U.S. beef from cattle 20 months and younger, following Japanese inspectors' July review of U.S. facilities. The Japanese reportedly clear 34 out of 35 U.S.-certified plants for their market. U.S. products are expected to begin entering the country in August.


At the time of this report, the Administration and many Members of Congress were continuing to focus on efforts to reopen more major foreign markets to U.S. beef, most notably Korea. They also were awaiting the restart of beef exports to Japan, which officials in that country had promised would begin shortly after a successful round of U.S. plant inspections in July 2006. At hearings and other venues, U.S. policymakers and industry officials had been expressing frustration with the pace of these market-opening efforts. Bills (such as S. 3364, S. 3538, and H.R. 5675) demanding trade sanctions against Japan have been introduced but likely will not be acted upon if the market does reopen as anticipated. (As noted, the pending Senate version of the FY2007 USDA appropriation, H.R. 5384, includes a committee-approved, nonbinding amendment recommending such sanctions.)

After more than two years of intensive surveillance, with more than 764,000 tests of higher-risk cattle, only two U.S.-born BSE cases have been confirmed, according to USDA. Yet some remain concerned about the disease and its potential threat to public health as well as trade, particularly in the wake of several additional findings of BSE in cattle. The age of several of the Canadian cattle -- that is, they were born after the implementation in 1997 of stronger cattle feed rules to protect against BSE -- has been cited as a worrisome development by some critics of North American BSE safeguards.

However, Canadian, USDA, and industry officials continue to argue that the overall North American risk profile is unchanged. They have long warned that several additional BSE-positive cattle might be found, but should be no cause for alarm. These officials have repeatedly attempted to reassure consumers and foreign buyers that U.S. cattle and beef are safe and pose no risk to animal health or to human food safety (although research into the numerous unknown aspects of the disease and of the TSE family of diseases, and consideration of additional regulatory safeguards, continues).

Few observers had expected the trade and economic issues to be resolved quickly. Nonetheless, frustrations continue to mount over the length of time it has taken to regain entry into the Japanese and Korean markets. Even after U.S. beef becomes eligible for Japanese importation, the industry faces the difficult task of both meeting restrictive Japanese requirements, and then regaining the market share there that other countries, notably Australia, have since captured.

Efforts to restore beef and cattle trade between the United States and Canada have been more fruitful, although some U.S. cattlemen continue to express concerns about the potential impacts on U.S. cattle health. Meanwhile, Congress can be expected to play a continued role, holding oversight hearings, providing funding for BSE-related activities, and possibly considering legislative options to address one or more of the problems at hand.


1. (back) Canada also reported a BSE case in 1993 involving an animal imported in 1987 from Great Britain.

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