Fears unfounded?Industry, health experts say Miss-Lou beef safe from mad cow

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Miss-Lou consumers have nothing to fear from a mad cow scare after an infected Holstein was found in the northwest last week.

Meat from the cow &045;&045; whose brain stem was infected by the disease &045;&045; was not sold in Mississippi or Louisiana.

What’s more, said Barry Loy, retail operations manager for Natchez-based Supermarket Operations, the disease does not affect meat sold to consumers.

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Loy said it is hard to tell what impact the scare &045;&045; so far traced to eight Western states &045;&045; has had on meat sales at the grocery chain’s Miss-Lou stores.

&uot;It’s the holidays, and that’s not a big beef consumption time,&uot; Loy said. &uot;Plus, the week after the holiday is a slow time anyway.&uot;

One thing Loy does know for sure right now is the meat his stores buy &045;&045; which comes from vendor

Associated Grocers &045;&045; is not involved in the scare.

&uot;That’s not ever where our beef comes from,&uot; Loy said of the northwestern states.

Officials at the Natchez Wal-Mart SuperCenter would not talk about the mad cow scare on the record but said none of the beef there came from the area where the cow was found.

The infected cow &045;&045; traced to a dairy farm in Washington &045;&045; was born in Canada just months 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, according to The Associated Press.

More than 30 countries accounting for more than 90 percent of U.S. beef exports have banned American beef products in the past week.

But such moves could help lower beef prices in the United States, said Loy, who noted beef sales have been slightly down lately because of the higher prices.

&uot;That may drop the price a bit,&uot; Loy said.

For now, Loy and his stores are telling customers not to worry.

One customer shopping Monday afternoon at Vidalia Market, owned by Supermarket Operations, said she has read about the scare but wasn’t worried yet &045;&045; as evidenced by the steak in her hand as she browsed in the meat department.

&uot;I’ve read about it,&uot; she said, &uot;but not to the point that I’m concerned about it.&uot;

Meanwhile, Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom reassured Louisianians Monday their meat wasn’t contaminated by mad cow disease and said they should continue to eat beef with complete confidence.

&uot;In the face of the discovery of mad cow disease in one cow in Washington state we have gotten calls from Louisiana citizens concerning the safety of our meat,&uot; Odom said in a news release Monday.

&uot;To as near a certainty as humanly possible, we know the disease is not present in Louisiana livestock or in the meat being sold to Louisiana consumers,&uot; he said.

The infected cow detected in America was born in Canada and was part of a dairy farm in Washington.

Odom said Louisiana’s surveillance program in which veterinarians monitor sick animals has not detected mad cow disease in any sick animals.

He said he has inspectors canvassing the state to find any meat products that may have come into Louisiana from processing plants in Washington. The agriculture department’s veterinary division is checking dairy herds to determine if any dairy cows have been moved into Louisiana from herds in Washington or Canada.

Louisiana’s meat supply does not typically come from the far western states, according to the agriculture department.

Sammy Blossom, executive director of the Mississippi Beef Council, said last week the country’s beef supply is safe.

&uot;In the U.S., unlike other countries, we do not use those parts of beef containing spinal cord or brain for items like sausage or canned meat,&uot; Blossom said. &uot;The disease is not transmittable from muscle cuts of beef we eat in our country.&uot;