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US to Scale Back Mad Cow Surveillance Program
Published on Thursday, July 20, 2006 by Reuters
US to Scale Back Mad Cow Surveillance Program
 

The United States Agriculture Department will announce on Thursday plans to scale back its mad cow surveillance program, a source briefed by the department told Reuters.

The USDA is "lowering it to reflect the low level of BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) in the United States," the source said. "It is lower, but keep in mind it will still be testing at a level 10 times higher than" international recommended standards.

The first case of mad cow disease in the United States was found in Washington state in 2003. USDA launched an enhanced cattle-testing program in June 2004 to gauge the prevalence of mad cow disease in the United States.

The enhanced program, which was to run for 12 to 18 months, has tested more than 759,000 animals -- far more than initially planned -- and was responsible for finding two of the three cases of the brain-wasting cattle ailment in the United States.

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said in April that mad cow disease hits fewer than one in 1 million U.S. adult cattle, giving the United States a low occurrence of the disease which is likely to decline.

But U.S. consumer groups have urged the government to continue its enhanced testing program for mad cow disease, saying any move to end or dramatically curb the program would send the wrong message to Americans and U.S. beef importers.

Many countries shut their markets to U.S. beef in 2003 after America's first case of mad cow disease was discovered. Despite intense lobbying by the Bush administration, top export markets like Japan and South Korea remain closed.

Copyright © 2006 Reuters Limited

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