USDA to deploy "mad cow" system

The Department of Agriculture today announced plans to develop an enterprise architecture for a national system for tracking animals, which would make it easier to cut off the spread of the potentially devastating mad cow disease.

USDA Secretary Ann Veneman said a series of new safety measures would be implemented immediately to make sure the disease is not spread in the U.S. food chain, including a ban on using certain animal tissue or sick cows for human consumption.

Among them is the development of an architecture plan to "implement a verifiable system throughout the United States," she said.

"We are going to continue an aggressive surveillance program and increase our surveillance considerably over what it's been over the last few years," Veneman said.

For the last 18 months, USDA has been working on an identification system for cattle and other animals. But the urgency for a national animal identification system erupted last week when a cow in Washington State was identified with having the disease, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

Dr. Ron DeHaven, USDA's chief veterinarian, said the department has been working with state agencies and private industry to develop a "comprehensive identification system that will focus on electronic identification entered into an electronic system that would very rapidly trace animals."

USDA ordered a recall of more than 10,000 pounds of meat from 20 cows slaughtered on the same day at the same Washington state company where the diseased cow was found. The recalled meat had been distributed to eight states and Guam.

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