Saturday, Dec. 16

Gov. Blagojevich announces additional funds for mad cow disease surveillance

Illinois to continue on-farm inspections of cattle feed          Send a link to a friend

[DEC. 16, 2006]  SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich announced Friday that Illinois will receive additional federal funds to continue important on-farm inspections for "mad cow" disease. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration renewed a cooperative agreement with Illinois that provides $233,528 for the Illinois Department of Agriculture to ensure cattle feed produced on Illinois farms does not contain ingredients that could transmit the rare brain-wasting disease.

"Continuing to survey our beef supply will help make sure that food is safe to eat, as well as protect the economic interests of our important agriculture industry," Blagojevich said.

Under terms of the two-year-old agreement, the Department of Agriculture will conduct 150 farm inspections and analyze 500 feed samples. It will also inspect 50 agribusinesses that either sell, blend or transport cattle feed, to make sure no prohibited ingredients are present in their products.

"We've always inspected Illinois feed mills and are confident our commercial cattle feed is wholesome," Agriculture Director Chuck Hartke added. "This cooperative agreement has enabled us to expand our surveillance and conduct similar inspections on cattle and dairy farms, providing additional assurance to both consumers and our agricultural trading partners that Illinois beef is safe to eat."

Feed contaminated with tissue from the nervous system of infected cattle is believed to spread mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Therefore, the FDA has prohibited the use of ruminant protein in feed for cattle and other ruminant animals since 1997. The Department of Agriculture enforces this prohibition in Illinois through regular inspections of the state's 338 feed mills and 17 rendering plants and random sampling of retail feed products.

The expanded BSE surveillance is one in a series of agriculture-related safety measures that have been implemented to protect Illinois consumers and farmers.

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Other safety measures:

  • Providing specialized training in the diagnosis of emerging foreign animal diseases to local veterinarians, who frequently are the first to respond to an animal disease outbreak. The goal of the Illinois Veterinary Emergency Response Team program is to provide the training to at least one veterinarian in every Illinois county.

  • Establishing an online premise identification registry to identify every farm, feedlot, sales barn and slaughter facility in the state that handles food animals. The registry is the first step toward implementation of a national animal identification system that will enable livestock and poultry to be rapidly traced from the farm to the dinner fork.

  • Requiring a permit for all livestock imported into the state for production or exhibition. The requirement gives state agriculture officials advance notice of farm animals entering Illinois and allows for faster tracing if diseased animals enter the state.

  • Funding the development of a geographic information system to track agricultural assets such as farms, grain elevators and food processing plants. Once completed, the first-of-its-kind system will contain a valuable database of information to identify sensitive resources and aid decision-making during emergencies.

  • Organizing meetings with neighboring states to develop regional communications plans and guidelines for tracing and controlling the movement of livestock in an emergency.

[News release from the governor's office]

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