No Halt of Imports as U.S. Confirms Mad Cow Disease

      April 26, 2012 12:38

      A customer shops for meat at a supermarket on Wednesday. The sign says the store is temporarily halting the sale of U.S. beef.

      The U.S. Department of Agriculture has confirmed a case of mad cow disease six years after the last case there, but major importers of U.S. beef including Korea, Japan and the EU said they would not ban imports.

      In a statement on Tuesday, the USDA said it "has confirmed the nation's fourth case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in a dairy cow from central California. The carcass of the animal is being held under state authority at a rendering facility in California and will be destroyed." The cow is older than 30 months, it added.

      "Confirmatory results using immunohistochemistry and western blot tests confirmed the animal was positive for atypical BSE, a very rare form of the disease not generally associated with an animal consuming infected feed," said Chief Veterinary Officer John Clifford. But the cause has not been determined yet.

      The disease is generally believed to be caused by recycling animal by-products as ingredient in animal feeds and severely contagious. But when it is due to natural factors such as genetic modification, the disease shows different symptoms and is not contagious.

      In a press conference later the same day, the Korean government said it "asked for the U.S. to send more information as to the latest case. The import of U.S. beef will not be halted until the final laboratory results come out." It will tighten inspection of imports and 10 percent instead of the current 3 percent of them will be sampled.

      When mad cow disease breaks out in another country, the government can boost inspections, stop imports or recall products, depending on the severity of the case. But halting imports would require scientific proof that they are hazardous to human health, or else it could lead to a trade dispute.

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