Monday, 30 April 2012

Analysis: U.S. mad cow find: lucky break or triumph of science?

By Charles Abbott

WASHINGTON, Apr. 25, 2012 (Reuters) — The discovery this week of the fourth U.S. case of mad cow disease was one of two things for food safety experts: a validation of a decade-long focused surveillance regime or a lucky break that highlights the need to revisit previously scrapped efforts for more comprehensive surveillance.

For now, calls for greater monitoring seem likely to go unheard, both because the "atypical" case appeared to be a one-in-a-million genetic mutation that officials said posed no threat to the food supply, and because of tightening budgets.

Funding for cattle health programs in the proposed 2013 budget is set to fall by 20 percent compared to two years earlier.

Discovery of the infected dairy cow at a rendering plant in central California may stoke an intensifying debate over food safety in the United States, already a major topic after the "pink slime" furor this spring, fungicide-tainted orange juice from Brazil and never-ending efforts to control disease in food caused by salmonella and e Coli bacteria.

While major importers from Japan to Canada pledged to maintain beef shipments and U.S. officials stressed that the "atypical" case had occurred in the cow spontaneously and was not in others animals, critics were quick to respond.

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