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
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