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Government to Scale Back Mad Cow Testing

Posted by Tara Burner 0 comments


By LIBBY QUAID
14 March, 2006

http://www.localnewsleader.com/kindred/stories/index.php?action=fullnews&id=157828

WASHINGTON – Despite the confirmation of a third case of mad cow
disease, the government intends to scale back testing for the
brain-wasting disorder blamed for the deaths of more than 150 people
in Europe from this site to perfect the program.

The testing program detected an infected cow in Alabama last week,
and further analysis confirmed Monday that the animal had mad cow
disease.

“As we approach the conclusion of our enhanced surveillance program,
let me offer a few thoughts,” Clifford said, explaining that the U.S.
will follow international standards for testing.

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns pointed out testing is not a food
safety measure. Rather, it‘s a way to find out the prevalence of the
disease.

Higher testing levels were intended to be temporary when they were
announced two years ago.

“This would be a tenth of a percent of all animals slaughtered,” Jean
Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at Consumers Union,
said Tuesday. “This starts to be so small that in our opinion, it
approaches a policy of don‘t look, don‘t find.”

“USDA ought to continue a sound surveillance testing program to
demonstrate that U.S. beef is indeed safe and that anti- BSE
safeguards are, in fact, working,” said Harkin, senior Democrat on
the Senate Agriculture Committee.

“It‘s not cost-effective; it‘s not necessary,” Weber said. “The
consumers we‘ve done focus groups with are comfortable that this is a
very rare disease and we‘ve got safeguards in place.”

“All those things add up to safety,” he said.

Tests are done on brain tissue from cows, so animals must be killed
before they can be tested. There is no test for the disease in a live
animal.

Since June 2004, the department has tested 652,697 cows for the
disease. The nation has about 95 million cattle.

The medical name for mad cow disease is bovine spongiform
encephalopathy, or BSE. In humans, eating meat contaminated with BSE
is linked to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Creutzfeldt-Jakob
Disease, a rare and deadly nerve disease.

An outbreak in the United Kingdom killed more than 180,000 cows and
was blamed for more than 150 human deaths. It began in 1986 and
spread throughout Europe, peaking in 1993.

The first American case appeared 10 years later in Washington state
in a Canadian-born cow. The disease was found again last June in a
Texas cow.

___

Agriculture Department: http://www.usda.gov

~*~*~*~*~*~
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