Mad cow disease found in animal in the U.S.

In disturbing news this week, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said a U.S. animal has tested positive for mad cow disease.

Apparently a British laboratory will perform additional tests to confirm the results.

Johanns says the meat of the animal that tested positive did not get into the food or feed chain, and there just is no risk involved.

Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), has had only one confirmed case of the disease in the U.S., found in December 2003 in a Washington state dairy cow.

The latest suspect animal had previously been tested for mad cow disease and the test results were negative.

The USDA's Inspector General in reviewing the department's mad cow testing program, requested that three previous suspect animals be tested again using a different technology, and one came back positive.

John Clifford, the USDA Chief Veterinarian, says they have not confirmed a case of BSE in the United States at present.

He has described the suspicious animal as a beef breed that was quite old and could not stand. He has offered no other details about location or age.

Clifford says additional testing will be required to determine if this is BSE, and a sample of the suspect animal's brain tissue will be sent to a laboratory in Weybridge, England.

The discovery of the suspect animal is bad timing and comes as USDA officials are pressurising Japan and Korea to resume purchases of American beef. Both nations were major buyers of U.S. beef until they suspended purchases in December 2003.

Johanns however does not believe the incident will have any impact on U.S. international trading partners.

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