The USDA has announced that the U.S. cow that tested positive for Mad Cow Disease does not actually have the disease, according to a second test. But a food industry spokesman says there could be over 100 cases of Mad Cow in U.S. herds right now.

Steve Mitchell writes that food consultant Robert LaBudde says that about half of the Mad Cow cases will go undetected and the meat will be sold for human consumption. He says, “There is no question that we will be seeing a dozen or more?possibly 100 or more?cases of BSE-positive cattle in our national herd.”

LaBudde bases his prediction on the one positive case detected so far, compared to the number of downers (which are at greater risk for Mad Cow) in U.S. herds, which are estimated at about 250,000 cows. The same percentage of infected cows would equal about 68 cases of Mad Cow Disease. In Europe, the number of cases of Mad Cow among animals that seem healthy has been about half the amount seen in downers, so that adds another 34 cases, for a total of 102.

Because many infected cows show no symptoms, LaBudde thinks that only half of the cases will be detected. This is based on Europe, where half the cows that test positive have no symptoms of infection. However, in many parts of Europe?as well as in Japan?all the cows sold for meat are tested, so no infected meat can slip through and get into grocery stores. In the U.S., only a fraction of cattle are tested, although more are being tested now that Mad Cow was found in a cow imported from Canada last December. But mostly cows with obvious signs of the disease, such as staggering and the inability to stand, will be tested. Only a small percentage of healthy-appearing animals will be tested, while LaBudde thinks all cows over age 5 should be tested for Mad Cow, regardless of their health. He called the USDA’s failure to do that “negligent.” He says, “It’s much like a car company taking the ‘insurable risk’ and letting the gas tanks explode under certain types of rear-end collisions.”

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