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WASHINGTON -- For the third time in 27 months, mad cow disease has been detected in an animal on U.S. turf. The latest case involves an older Alabama cow that tested positive for BSE after advanced testing, a U.S. Department of Agriculture official said yesterday.
USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Chief Veterinary Officer John Clifford said the test was conducted in response to Friday's inconclusive bovine spongiform encephalopathy rapid screening test.
The animal was buried on the farm, and did not enter the animal or human food chains, he said in a statement. "We are now working with Alabama animal health officials to conduct an epidemiological investigation to gather any further information we can on the herd of origin of this animal. The animal had only resided on the most recent farm in Alabama for less than a year.
"We will be working to locate animals from this cow's birth cohort (animals born in the same herd within one year of the affected animal) and any offspring," noted Clifford. "We will also work with Food and Drug Administration officials to determine any feed history that may be relevant to the investigation. Experience worldwide has shown us that it is highly unusual to find BSE in more than one animal in a herd or in an affected animal's offspring. Nevertheless, all animals of interest will be tested for BSE."
Clifford stressed that the government agency remains "very confident in the safety of U.S. beef."
The attending veterinarian indicated that the sick cow was an older animal, quite possibly upwards of 10 years of age, he said. This would indicate that the animal would have been born prior to the implementation of the Food and Drug Administration's 1997 feed ban.
U.S. investigators have found two previous cases of mad cow disease. The first was in December 2003 in a Canadian-born cow in Washington state. The second was last June in a cow that was born and raised in Texas. In response to the latter case, USDA increased its level of testing for the disease. As of today, 650,000 of the nation's estimated 95 million head of cattle have been tested.
The United States has been working to revive beef exports to overseas markets that totaled $3.8 billion annually before mad cow was discovered. Beef exports in 2006 are estimated at 905 million pounds, down 64 percent from 2003, according to a Reuters report.