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For First Time Ever, Mad Cow Disease Found in California Cow

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Food Safety Resource Center page, Mad Cow page, and our California News page.

In an announcement that could raise new questions about food safety and result in economic setbacks to California's multibillion-dollar agricultural industry, the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday said that a case of mad cow disease has been found in a dairy cow in the Central Valley.

The incident represents the first time the disease has been found in California -- and the first case in the United States since 2006.

John Clifford, the USDA's chief veterinary officer, said the cow was discovered at a rendering company and that the animal's carcass is now being held there as part of an investigation. The public is not at risk from the animal, he said.

"It was never presented for slaughter for human consumption, so at no time presented a risk to the food supply or human health," Clifford said.

But many questions remained unanswered late Tuesday: Where did the cow come from? How did it get the disease? Were there other animals in the herd that might be infected? And was the meat from them sold for public consumption?

The cow tested positive at a transfer facility in Hanford, 15 miles west of Visalia in Kings County, operated by Baker Commodities, the company confirmed Tuesday. Baker has 21 plants across the United States that convert animal byproducts into pet food, poultry feed and tallow, used in soaps, paints and cosmetics. The company advertises that it provides "dead stock removal" for dairy cows and cattle.