Beef in restaurants and stores on Guam bases is safe to eat, officials say
December 31, 2003
The following clarification relating to this story ran in the January 4 Pacific edition:
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, meat from the Washington state dairy cow that tested positive in December for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, otherwise known as mad cow disease, was butchered at Vern’s Moses Lake Meats in Moses Lake, Wash., deboned at Midway Meats in Centralia, Wash., and processed at Willamette Valley Meats and Interstate Meats in the Portland, Ore., area.
Todd Larimer, international sales manager of Washington Beef Co., says the company is “in no way” connected to the mad cow case in Washington state. Stories published Dec. 24 and Dec. 31 about beef from the affected cow did not fully explain the processing.
Commissary and military officials on Guam say beef available in stores and restaurants on U.S. bases is safe despite reports a commissary supplier processed a cow with mad cow disease.
U.S. agriculture officials said Sunday some recalled beef might have reached Guam but not U.S. bases there.
Military inspectors on Monday tested and passed meat at the Navy and Air Force base commissaries, said Bob Landon, Guam zone manager for the Defense Commissary Agency, or DECA.
The inspection was a precaution, Landon said. Meat currently in commissaries was processed before the diseased Washington state dairy cow was slaughtered. Meat can take three to four weeks in transit, he said, and any meat purchased since the cow was discovered will be tested when it arrives in port.
The first reported case of the disease in the United States was found Dec. 23 at a plant in Washington state, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture officials. The cow was slaughtered Dec. 9.
Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is passed to animals that ingest the spinal cord or brain matter of an infected animal. Humans who consume the material also could contract a similar brain-wasting illness blamed for 140 deaths worldwide, scientists say.
Washington Beef Co., a supplier for U.S. bases in South Korea and Guam, processed the infected cow, DECA officials said.
U.S. Forces Korea health officials said they will destroy all beef from that supplier but also said there probably is no risk to personnel.
Officials for Guam’s Army and Air Force Exchange Service, which oversees food court restaurants at Andersen Air Force Base, said they have not been directed by the U.S. surgeon general or Department of Defense Veterinary Services to take action regarding their beef supplies. Meat purchased for Andersen dining facilities and clubs is kept frozen and was purchased before the infected cow was discovered, said Tech. Sgt. Dale Yates, a base spokesman.
USDA officials said Sunday that meat from the infected cow was sold to eight U.S. states and to Guam. The agency recalled 10,000 pounds of meat processed the same day as the infected cow. Officials believe there is no danger from the meat but have recalled it for precaution.
“Because the meat … did not contain [spinal cord and brain] material, the recalled beef represents an essentially zero risk to consumers,” said Dr. Ken Petersen of USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service.
Beef sold on U.S. bases comes from different sources than beef sold on the rest of the island.
Landon said consumers can return meat for a refund if they are concerned. “We’ll give them their money back,” he said. “No questions asked.”