July 17, 2004 – A government investigation found that despite worldwide concern over mad cow disease, the US still does not test the majority of high-risk cows. The USDAâ€™s Inspector General found that the agency does not test adult cattle that die on the farm before being sent to a slaughter plant. Also, inspectors did not test hundreds of cattle killed by a possible central nervous system disorder, a symptom of many diseases including bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as mad cow disease.
The department has tested only about 15,000 cattle this year, but hopes to test more than 220,000 cattle by the end of 2005. About 35 million cattle are slaughtered annually. Officials agreed to expand the testing only after the first known case of mad cow disease in the US was discovered last December.
"The problems identified during our review, if not corrected, may... reduce the credibility of any assertion regarding the prevalence of BSE in the United States," the USDA's Office of the Inspector General told reporters.
Japan, previously the top consumer of US beef exports, continues to ban US beef and live cattle and has demanded that all slaughtered cattle be tested before it lifts the ban.