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“Are you worried about all of the meteors that passed the earth last night while you were sleeping? Of course not,” Culler said. “Would you pay 90 percent of your salaries to set up all of the observatories on earth to watch for them? Of course not. It’s the same thing.”
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association said in a statement that “U.S. regulatory controls are effective, and that U.S fresh beef and beef products from cattle of all ages are safe and can be safely traded due to our interlocking safeguards.”
The infected cow was identified through an Agriculture Department surveillance program that tests about 40,000 cows a year for the fatal brain disease.
There have been three confirmed cases of BSE in cows in the United States — in a Canadian-born cow in 2003 in Washington state, in 2005 in Texas and in 2006 in Alabama.
Both the 2005 and 2006 cases were also atypical varieties of the disease, USDA officials said.
The mad cow cases that plagued England in the early 1990s were caused when livestock routinely were fed protein supplements that included ground cow spinal columns and brain tissue, which can harbor the disease.
The Agriculture Department is sharing its lab results with international animal health officials in Canada and England who will review the test results, Clifford said. Federal and California officials will further investigate the case. He said he did not expect the latest discovery to affect beef exports.
State and federal agriculture officials plan to test other cows that lived in the same feeding herd as the infected bovine, said Michael Marsh, chief executive of Western United Dairymen, who was briefed on the plan. They also plan to test cows born at around the same time the diseased cow was.
“Our members have meticulous records on their animals, so they can tell when the animal was born, the parents, and they can trace other animals to the same facility,” Marsh said.
For now, all of the other cows that arrived on the truck with the diseased one are still in cold storage at Baker’s transfer station, which sits in the middle of a wheat field.
Associated Press writers Lauran Neergaard and Sam Hananel contributed to this report from Washington, D.C.
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