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US govt to cut mad cow disease testing in spite of consumer complains
www.chinaview.cn 2006-03-16 10:55:00

    Related news: 3rd case of mad cow disease confirmed in US

    BEIJING, March 16 (Xinhuanet)-- Despite the confirmation of a third mad cow disease in Alabama, the U.S. government intends to scale down testing for the brain-wasting disorder blamed for the deaths of more than 150 people in Europe.

Despite the confirmation of a third mad cow disease in Alabama, the U.S. government intends to scale down the enhanced testing program for the brain-wasting disorder. The enhanced testing program was launched in June 2004 after finding the first case of mad cow disease in Washington in 2003. A reduction in testing has been in the works for months. On Monday USDA offered the first hint of its plans on "the conclusion" of the program. Officials haven't finalized new levels but the department's budget proposal calls for 40,000 tests annually, or about 110 daily. Yet consumer groups argue more animals should be tested, not fewer, saying that any move to end or dramatically curb the program would send the wrong message to Americans and U.S. beef importers.

    This 2003 file photo shows dairy cows feeding at a ranch in Colorado, the United States. [Xinhua/AFP]
    The U.S. Agriculture Department (USDA) boosted its surveillance after finding the first case of mad cow disease in Washington in 2003.

    USDA launched an enhanced cattle testing program in June 2004 to look at animals seen at the highest risk for mad cow disease. From then on about 1,000 tests are run daily, up from about 55 daily in 2003.

    The enhanced testing program detected an infected cow in Alabama last week and further analysis confirmed Monday that the animal had mad cow disease, the third time the ailment has been found in the U.S. in the past 27 months.

    Still, a reduction in testing has been in the works for months. On Monday USDA offered the first hint of its plans on "the conclusion" of the program.

    "By any stretch of the imagination, we have proven we have a very low incidence," said Chuck Lambert, acting Undersecretary of USDA. He also said USDA would shift to a "maintenance" program that does not need so many tests.

    Officials haven't finalized new levels but the department's budget proposal calls for 40,000 tests annually, or about 110 daily.

    Yet consumer groups argue more animals should be tested, not fewer, saying that any move to end or dramatically curb the program would send the wrong message to Americans and U.S. beef importers.

    "It seems to be unwise to say you're going to ratchet it down right after you've had another positive," said Carol Tucker, Foreman of the Consumer Federation of America. "I don't know how you explain, either to American consumers or to people in Japan that we want to sell beef to, that you're going to stop looking for something because you found it." Enditem

    (Agencies)

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