WASHINGTON — The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) cut mad cow testing in the country by 90 percent, starting last month.
The move, announced in July, responds to the agency's conclusion that bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease,
is "extremely rare." USDA previously tested 1,000 animals a day, costing the government roughly $1 million a week — a practice
instituted after the first U.S. BSE case was discovered in 2003. Testing has since turned up two additional cases of cows
with the brain-wasting disease.
USDA now tests 110 animals daily, officials say.
In April, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns released a government analysis of testing data, saying mad cow disease incidence
in the country "is extraordinarily low." While consumer advocacy groups criticize the move, the National Cattlemen's Beef
Association (NCBA) applauds the decision, calling relaxed inspection levels "scientifically justified."
"The new level of BSE surveillance is rigorous and exceeds international guidelines by 10 times," NCBA officials say. "In
addition, our food supply remains safe from BSE thanks to extensive protective measures already in place."