America’s dairy farmers are encouraged that the on-going surveillance and inspections performed by federal authorities continue to ensure that bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, does not enter the U.S. food supply.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced Tuesday that a BSE-infected animal was detected in California, in a dairy cow that was presented at a rendering plant. Three previous cases of BSE have been discovered in the U.S. in the past nine years.

Although details about the age and origins of the animal are being withheld pending further investigation, NMPF offered the following points about the issue:

• Milk and dairy products do not contain or transmit BSE, and animals do not transmit the disease through cattle-to-human contact. The infectious prions that transmit BSE are found in neurological tissues, such as brains and spinal cords.

• The United States put regulations in place in 1997 to prohibit ruminant protein from being used in animal feed. This applies to all cattle, dairy and beef alike.

• Non-ambulatory animals — those that cannot walk — are not allowed to be processed at facilities where meat animals are handled. This regulation helps ensure that animals that are unwell are not entered into the food supply.

For more background on BSE and the dairy sector, visit the NMPF website.

The USDA also has an FAQ on BSE on its website.