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Government tests for possible mad cow case

By Associated Press
Published November 19, 2004

WASHINGTON - The government is checking a possible new case of mad cow disease, officials said Thursday, rattling the nation's cattle industry, food processors and beef-oriented restaurant chains.

Additional checks are being conducted after initial testing proved inconclusive on the suspect brain tissue. Officials said the animal never entered the food or feed chain.

The Agriculture Department gave no information on the location or origin of the slaughtered animal and said results from advanced tests were not expected before four to seven days.

Ranches and businesses dependent on beef still feel financial effects from the nation's only confirmed case of the fatal brain-wasting disease in December.

Thursday's announcement sent cattle prices tumbling on fears that foreign markets would remain closed to U.S. beef. Shares of McDonald's, Wendy's and other restaurant chains that feature hamburgers also slumped, as did those of U.S. meat producers.

Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, attacks an animal's nervous system. People who eat food contaminated with BSE can contract a rare disease that is nearly always fatal, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

"The inconclusive result does not mean we have found another case of BSE in this country," said Andrea Morgan, associate deputy administrator of the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

The "inconclusive result" was the same term the agency used in June when two potential cases turned out to be false alarms.

"USDA remains confident in the safety of the U.S. beef supply," Morgan said.

[Last modified November 18, 2004, 23:59:17]


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