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The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) “is searching for possible offspring of a California dairy cow that contracted mad-cow disease, saying these animals also could have been infected with the brain-wasting ailment.”

USDA said earlier this week that a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), better known as mad cow disease, has been discovered in a single California dairy cow in the state’s Central Valley. It is the first confirmed case of BSE since 2006 to be found in the US. One was a Canadian-born cow in 2003, one was a Texas cow in 2005, and the third was an Alabama cow in 2006.

However, USDA officials said that the cow “was never presented for slaughter for human consumption, so at no time presented a risk to the food supply or human health.”

USDA Chief Veterinarian John Clifford said that a key to the investigation is finding out where the cow was born and then removing animals from the same herd for testing. Officials are trying to determine whether the BSE was transmitted to the cow by feed, or whether it was what is called a “rare spontaneous case.”

The Journal goes on to note that “some consumer advocates argue that the agency's testing is inadequate, pointing out that the number of cattle tested every year is now far below the number at the height of mad-cow concerns last decade. The USDA tests about 40,000 cattle a year, out of nearly 34 million cattle slaughtered in the U.S. annually.”

The Washington Post writes this morning that the new BSE case “reignited a long-running debate about what has been described as a weak link in the U.S. beef supply: the lack of a mandatory system to trace the path a cow takes from farm to fork ... The United States is one of the few beef-producing countries that does not have a mandatory animal identification system that enables it to trace a cow from birth through the slaughterhouse and beyond, though a proposal has been in the works for years.”

In other related new, the Associated Press reports that “Indonesia became the first country to suspend imports of U.S. beef Thursday following the discovery this week of an American dairy cow infected with mad cow disease.”
KC's View:
I believe that it is totally unacceptable that we do not as a nation have the kind of traceability system in place that would allow us to test far more cattle and have a much faster response to cases like there.

But I suspect that one won’t be coming along anytime soon. This does not strike me as the kind of thing that a lot of people in DC will want to fund.