USDA will expand BSE testing for one year

March 16, 2004, The U.S. will follow the advice of an international scientific review panel and expand its BSE surveillance program, U.S.agriculture secretary Ann Veneman announced. The panel, formed after the discovery of a BSE infected cow in Washington, had been asked to review the USDA’s investigation into the BSE find and provide recommendations for future actions.

It was the panel’s recommendation that the U.S. begin a one-year enhanced surveillance program targeting cattle from the populations considered at highest risk for the disease, as well as a random sampling of animals from the aged cattle population. The recommendation was submitted to the USDA last month.

“We are committed to ensuring that a robust U.S. surveillance program continues in this country,” said Veneman. “This one-time extensive surveillance plan reflects the recommendation of the international scientific review panel.”

The USDA’s BSE surveillance program has previously been focused on the cattle populations where it is most likely to be found, including those condemned at slaughter because of signs of central nervous system disorders, non-ambulatory cattle and those that die on farms.

Under the extended testing program, the USDA aims to test more than 200,000 animals per year, compared to the current target of 40,000 animals per year.

Veneman said that US$70m will be transferred from the USDA Commodity Credit Corporation to fund the enhanced program, which is expected to be ready to be implemented at the beginning of June this year.

The US is keen to resume beef exports to several of its key customers who halted shipments following the BSE case in December. Japan has said it will not resume imports of US beef unless the US tests 100% of beef cattle for BSE, a level of testing which the US sees as unworkable.

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