A move by a Kansas beef packer in 2006 to voluntarily test all of its beef so it could label the packages "BSE free," was thwarted by the USDA, which argued that it would create instability in the market. Creekstone Farms Premium Beef had challenged the USDA's position that it held legal authority to control access to the test kits.
In the current case, the USDA didn't elaborate on the cow's symptoms other than to say it was "humanely euthanized after it developed lameness and became recumbent." Outward symptoms of the disease can include unsteadiness and incoordination.
The unidentified Tulare County dairy where the cow died was not under obligation to report its suspicious behavior, according to state and federal agriculture officials, because the symptoms mimic other neurological diseases that can afflict cattle, said Dr. Richard Breitmeyer, director of the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory at UC Davis. The lab is the same one that performs mad cow tests for the USDA in the state.
"In reality (mad cow disease) is so rare in this country and there are just very little in the way of clinical signs specific to BSE alone," said Breitmeyer, who spent 17 years as California's state veterinarian.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.