Ron DeHaven, the department’s chief veterinarian, said the age of the infected cow as reflected in the records from the Washington dairy farm where it last lived now match Canadian records for a cow born in April 1997 in Alberta that is suspected of being the same infected animal. Alberta is also the province where scientists in May found a single cow infected with the illness.
DeHaven told reporters Saturday that investigators discovered the infected cow’s ear tag number matches that of a cow born in Canada that later entered the United States along with 73 other cows.
Investigators have also began to search for those 73 cows, along with eight more from that herd that were shipped to the United States at a later date.
DeHaven and Canadian officials said that DNA tests are necessary to confirm the cow’s origin. The USDA expects the results to be available within about a week.
Investigators are also trying to find the source of feed that was given to the cow.
“We’re going back to the establishment that we presume the cow came from in Canada, going back through all the records trying to determine where feed may have come from,” said Stephen Sundlof, director of the center for veterinary medicine at the Food and Drug Administration.
Meanwhile, the effort to recover meat from a cow afflicted with mad cow disease was expanded to eight states and Guam, the USDA said Sunday.
Dr. Kenneth Petersen, a department veterinarian, told reporters Monday that 80 percent of the recalled meat was distributed to Oregon and Washington state.
Meat from the infected dairy cow could have also reached retail markets in Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, California, Nevada and Montana and the territory of Guam.
Because the animal’s brain, spinal cord and other tissues that are known to spread mad cow disease were removed when the cow was slaughtered, the “recalled beef represents an essentially zero risk to consumers,” Petersen said.
The recall covers 10,000 pounds of meat from the infected animal and 19 other cows slaughtered Dec. 9 at Vern’s Moses Lake Meat Co. in Moses Lake, Wash.
Petersen said the slaughtered cow was deboned at Midway Meats in Centralia, Wash., and sent on Dec. 12 to two other plants, Willamette Valley Meat and Interstate Meat, both near Portland, Ore.
Albertsons supermarkets, Fred Meyer, Safeway and WinCo Foods have voluntarily removed ground beef products from the affected distributors. Safeway has said it will look for another supplier.
As effort to track down the recalled beef continued, the USDA also worked to convince other countries to lift the bans on U.S. beef that they imposed after discovery of the cow suffering from bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the technical name for mad cow, in Washington state.
During a meeting in Tokyo on Monday, Japan told a U.S. delegation that it was too soon to discuss lifting the ban on American beef.
Japan and South Korea, the two top buyers of U.S. beef, had halted imports soon after the case of mad cow was disclosed. Other countries, including Mexico, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Russia and South Africa, followed suit.
BSE attacks cows’ nervous systems, eventually eating holes in their brains. It sprang up in Britain in 1986 and spread through countries in Europe and Asia, prompting destruction of whole herds and decimating the European beef industry.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a human variant of mad cow, has been linked to over 100 human deaths. Its victims probably contracted the disease from eating infected meat products.