Lingle insists
isle beef is safe

Hawaii retailers say that
they do not get their meat
from the vendors in question

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service is still trying to determine whether any of 10,000 pounds of meat recalled due to mad cow disease fears reached Hawaii.

"It hasn't been verified by FSIS of the amount and location," said USDA spokesman Matt Baun. "We hope to have that information shortly."

The USDA announced Sunday that Hawaii, six other states and Guam may have received meat from a Holstein sick with mad cow disease but that the beef poses no health risk. The agency hoped to narrow its search by today.

Gov. Linda Lingle said yesterday there is no reason for isle consumers to be concerned.

"At this point there's a 99 percent chance there is no contamination in Hawaii," Lingle said.

Lingle said she expects it would be difficult for officials to track down the distribution pattern of the slaughtered meat; however, random testing is expected to occur at the retail level.

Officials from Hawaii's major grocery stores and fast-food restaurants said their beef products are safe and that they do not carry any meat from Vern's Moses Lake Meat Co. in Moses Lake, Wash., where the sick Holstein was slaughtered, or two Oregon-based suppliers -- Willamette Valley Meat and Interstate Meat -- that were sent the meat.

Teena Massingill, spokeswoman for Safeway stores in the Northern California Division that includes Hawaii, said a recall was limited to 15 Safeway stores in Oregon and four stores in southwestern Washington after beef products from the two Oregon-based suppliers were sent to those locations.

Massingill said those products stayed in those states and did not make their way to Hawaii.

"There has been no recall in Hawaii," and all beef products purchased at Safeway stores are safe, she said.

Meat sold at Times Super Market stores comes from cattle in Kansas and Nebraska, said Roger Godfrey, president of Times, adding that sales have not been affected.

Meat sales also remain stable at Star Market stores, said John Fujieki, chief executive and president of Star Markets Ltd. Beef products at all 10 Star Market stores are supplied by Unified Western Grocers in Southern California.

"We've been assured that we have nothing to worry about," said Fujieki.

When humans eat infected meat, they can contract variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a fatal brain illness. But federal officials reiterated that the recall is just a precaution and there is no health risk to humans, Baun said.

"Muscle tissue or cuts from meats are safe. Research shows that prion, which is that infectious agent that causes (mad cow), is not found in skeletal muscle tissue," said USDA chief veterinarian Dr. Ron DeHaven. "The infective agent is largely in the brain and spinal cord and a few other tissues not normally consumed by humans in this country."

Sheryl Toda, spokeswoman for Foodland Super Market Inc., said their beef products are supplied through Palama Meat Co. and Swift & Co. Palama purchases its meat in Hawaii, New Zealand and Australia.

Swift & Co., of Greely, Colo., also does not buy meat from the vendors in question, she said.

"They have not and do not source any boxed beef trimmings or any other raw material for processing from Washington state and have never conducted any business with the slaughter or packing houses identified by the USDA as being involved in this incident," Toda said.

Meat at Daiei stores comes from cattle in Kansas and Missouri, according to buyer Levi Maon.

Fast-food chain restaurants, such as McDonald's and Zippy's, have also stressed that their beef products are not from Oregon or Washington. A spokesman for Y. Hata & Co. Ltd., which distributes food to restaurants and the military, said suppliers have reassured the company that products have not come from the affected plants.

State agricultural officials are stepping up efforts to test 183 cattle in Hawaii for mad cow disease as part of a nationwide effort to increase surveillance next year, said Jason Moniz, branch chief of the state's Livestock Disease Control Branch. The nationwide effort was planned before the discovery of the infected cow.

Hawaii officials tested about 20 slaughtered cattle for the disease last year.

Moniz said testing occurs only on slaughtered cattle. Cattle tested must have been more than 2 years old, nonambulatory and display symptoms of a nervous system disorder.

Star-Bulletin reporters Sally Apgar and Nelson Daranciang contributed to this report.


Officials seek others
from herd of infected cow

WASHINGTON >> Authorities said yesterday they are looking for links between the Holstein infected with mad cow disease and a Canadian cow that was diagnosed with the deadly illness in May.

Repeating their insistence that the U.S. food supply is safe, agriculture officials also said they are searching for 81 Canadian-born cows from the same herd as the sick Holstein that records indicate entered the United States in late 2001.

Dr. Ron DeHaven, the Agriculture Department's chief veterinarian, said records from the Washington dairy farm that was the infected cow's last home, and in Canada, confirm that the animal was born in Alberta, Canada, in April 1997. Alberta also was the home of the infected Canadian cow.

More significant, both cows were born before the United States and Canada began banning from use in cattle feed brain and spinal cord tissue that is the primary means by which the ailment is transmitted. The ban, which took effect in August 1997, prohibits feeding the cattle protein to cattle, sheep and goats.

"No doubt, that will be a very important component of the investigation," DeHaven said, adding that it is premature to conclude there are any ties between the two diseased cows.

DeHaven said that DNA studies now under way would provide more evidence on the origin of the cow that was infected. They also are examining records of the herd that included the infected cow.

For their part, Canadian officials were awaiting results of DNA tests before acknowledging the cow's Canadian provenance. But Dr. Francine Lord, an animal health expert with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, said any link between the cases would mark an important advance in trying to find the source of the disease.

The Canadian case crippled that country's beef exports. So far, more than 30 countries accounting for more than 90 percent of U.S. beef exports have banned American beef products in the past week.

Lord said the tainted feed that is believed to be the source of the infection could have come from either country.

The Food and Drug Administration also has said that only 75 percent of animal feed producers were complying with the cattle-parts feed ban when it went into effect, but that compliance has improved to close to 100 percent.

The Canadian cow showed signs of the disease at slaughter, and Canadian officials prevented its meat from being sold for human consumption.

Not so with the case of the Washington state cow. Dr. Kenneth Petersen, a USDA veterinarian, said the department is continuing to monitor all efforts to trace and recall all products associated with the 10,000 pounds of meat that have been recalled. About 80 percent of the meat was distributed to Oregon and Washington, he said.

Matt Baun, a USDA spokesman, said that about 100 callers, mostly from Oregon and Washington, had called to say they had consumed recalled meat and were worried.

Baun said they were being told the meat was safe since it was muscle meat and not affected. "If it had been from the spinal column, it would have been different," he said.


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