US cattle: mad cow disease is suspected

A package with a tiny amount of brain from a U.S. animal suspected of mad cow disease was hand-delivered on Thursday to England, where scientists will carry out a battery of tests to confirm if the animal was infected, the &to=http:// ' target=_blank>U.S. Agriculture Department said. Nearly a week after announcing a possible second U.S. case of the deadly disease, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns unveiled an elaborate testing plan to determine if the animal was sick.

However, the USDA refused to say when it may have a final result in the case that has rattled U.S. cattle markets and raised questions about the government's testing procedures, tells Reuters.

On Monday Taiwan, which had resumed imports of American beef two months ago, and South Korea, which had been negotiating to restart them, expressed concern about the new case. Taiwanese officials said that if a final round of testing confirmed the disease that it would cease importing American beef. The news helped sink cattle future prices to their lowest level in 13 months.

But beef prices recovered slightly on Tuesday after Japanese officials said the latest discovery would not derail plans to restart &to=http:// ' target=_blank>exports to Japan, which imported $1.4 billion worth of American beef in 2003, or 36 percent of all American exports.

"This incident will not have any impact on our process," Shin Yokoyama, Japan's agriculture counselor to the United States, said in an interview about the negotiations. Mr. Yokoyama said his government was not bothered by the discovery because the animal was older than 20 months, the cutoff age for accepting beef into Japan.

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