WASHINGTON – A cow in Alabama has tested positive for mad cow disease, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Monday, confirming the third U.S. case of the brain-wasting ailment.
The cow did not enter the food supply for people or animals, officials said. The animal, unable to walk, was killed by a local veterinarian and buried on the farm.
“We remain very confident in the safety of U.S. beef,” said the USDA’s chief veterinarian, John Clifford.
Authorities said the farm is under an informal quarantine but would not say where it is located.
“We will not release this information until we complete our investigation, and that could take a few days,” said Alabama agriculture commissioner Ron Sparks.
The cow had spent less than a year at the farm before it died, officials said.
Federal and state investigators are working to determine the cow’s age – possibly more than 10 years – and where it was born and raised and also locate its herd mates and offspring. Sparks said there are no other suspect animals on the farm.
Clifford said the cow was a Santa Gertrudis breed, a red-colored animal that thrives in hotter weather in the southern United States.
The news came as the Bush administration worked to reassure Japan and other foreign customers of American beef. Japan halted U.S. beef shipments in January after finding veal cuts with backbone – cuts that are eaten in the United States but not in Asia.
Japan was the top customer of American beef until the first U.S. case of mad cow disease prompted a ban that Japan had lifted only recently.
“We would not anticipate that this would impact our ongoing negotiations,” Clifford said. “Our product is safe. We’ve got a number of interlocking safeguards. And Japan themselves have had 20-plus cases of BSE.”
“Mad cow disease” is the common name for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE.
The first U.S. case of mad cow disease appeared in 2003 and involved a Canadian-born cow in Washington state. The disease was found last June in a cow that was born and raised in Texas.