DECA waits for mad cow instructions
December 26, 2003
Commissaries will stop selling beef and recall beef products if required to do so by the U.S. Department of Agriculture due to the recently reported case of mad cow disease in the United States, a spokeswoman said.
Florence I. Dunn of the Defense Commissary Agency, also know as DECA, said in a written response to Stars and Stripes that DECA was awaiting instructions from the government on how to react to the discovery of a cow in Washington state with mad cow disease.
“DECA follows all USDA requirements,” Dunn said. “If the USDA imposes a recall, this agency will follow through with those instructions.
“All notices sent out by the USDA will be available to our customers through our DECA Web site.”
The USDA was scheduled to hold a press conference Friday on the subject. On Wednesday, a Washington state slaughterhouse voluntarily recalled more than 10,000 pounds of meat it processed on the same day as the infected cow.
“Currently we have a [contract] with Washington Beef Company to supply fresh beef to our Korea and Guam commissaries,” Dunn said. “The company has to provide DECA with a letter stating that all its products meet or exceed the USDA requirements that have been established.
“DECA is continuing to evaluate all of its suppliers to see what action should be taken, as required by the USDA.”
Dunn said DECA uses many suppliers for its fresh meat program. Some are small local processors and some are large national suppliers. DECA has formal contracts with Tyson Foods, National Beef and Swift Fresh Meats.
Worldwide, there are nearly 280 commissaries — grocery stores on military bases and used by military members, Department of Defense employees and their families.
Dunn said beef sold at commissaries is inspected by the USDA and is routinely tested for a variety of bacteria and diseases. The food supply is safe as stated by the USDA, Dunn said.
Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, causes spongy degeneration of the brain in cows and is fatal within weeks to months of its onset. Humans can get varient Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which is incurable and fatal, from eating infected beef — specifically tissue from the infected cow’s brain and spinal cord. Scientists say that only the nerve tissue carries BSE and most meats, such as steaks, roasts and hamburger from labled cuts, as well as dairy products, are safe.
Cows get the disease by eating food that is infected with it. This month’s discovery of a cow with the disease on a farm near Yakima, Wash., marked the first time the disease was discovered in the United States.
Mad cow disease surfaced in Great Britain in 1986, resulting in the slaughter of millions of cattle throughout Europe. About 150 people are known to have died from the disease, most of them in the United Kingdom.
DECA’s Web site is www.commissaries.com.