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WASHINGTON - U.S. and Canadian investigators are trying to determine if a cow in Washington state and another in Alberta shared a common source of feed before contracting the deadly mad cow disease, Reuters reports.
Since last week, when mad cow disease was detected in an animal in rural Washington state, cattle prices have dropped by nearly 20 percent.
Meanwhile the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced six preventative steps, including a ban on the use of sick or crippled "downer" cattle for human food, a measure long opposed by the meat industry.
The Food Marketing Institute applauded the new USDA safeguards against mad cow disease. "The USDA, acting together with the Food and Drug Administration, has adopted or even strengthened the high-priority recommendations we have made for improving our nation's BSE firewalls," said Tim Hammonds, president and c.e.o. of FMI. He cited, in particular, the ban on downer cows and withholding animals being tested for BSE from the human food chain until those tests prove to be negative.
Hammonds added, "We believe the new international scientific review panel will address any remaining issues in an appropriate manner. This quick and effective action should be a great comfort to our consumers and our trading partners."
U.S. Agriculture Department investigators said they hope to complete DNA testing early next week to confirm their suspicions that the infected Holstein cow was born in Alberta, Canada, in April 1997. Canada in 2003 reported a case of mad cow disease in a Black Angus cow, also from Alberta, the country's second case ever of mad cow disease and the first one involving an animal born in Canada.
Other developments in the first case of mad cow disease in the United States include:
-- U.S. officials will fly to Mexico City on Tuesday to urge Mexico to reopen its border to American beef. Mexico is the second-largest importer of U.S. beef.
-- The National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the American Meat Institute want the White House to make resumption of beef exports a top trade priority.
-- President Bush said this week that the government was "looking at different ways" to make sure U.S. beef is safe and preserve consumer trust in the food supply.
-- Public comments will be accepted until Monday on a rule proposed by the Agriculture Department that would limit imports to younger cattle. USDA wants to bar cattle more than 30 months old from import because mad cow disease appears in older animals.