America can eat meat without fear: mad cow tests proved negative

The results of the mad cow examination turned out to be negative. The tests got long applause on the side of U.S. beleaguered beef industry.

U.S. beef exports plummeted after the first US case of the brain-destroying disease, in a dairy cow, in December 2003. While Americans are eating more beef than ever, major export customers such as Japan and South Korea still ban US beef.

The Agriculture Department said conclusive tests at its animal disease laboratory in Ames, Iowa, and a respected British lab in Weybridge, England, showed the animal did not have mad cow disease. The cow had trouble calving and died in April.

"It certainly lifts a cloud off the current situation,"Richard Fritz of the US Meat Export Federation was quoted as saying by Reuters.

"This helps the perception [among export customers] that we're transparent and willing to look at new tests and send it to Weybridge right away," Fritz added.

The American Meat Institute, a trade group for meatpackers, also welcomed the results and applauded the US Department of Agriculture's decision to ask British specialists to run a conclusive set of tests as well.

There have been two confirmed U.S. cases of mad cow: a Texas cow in June and a Canadian-born cow in Washington state in 2003, Xinhua reminds.

Scientists say the brain-destroying disease is caused by malformed proteins called prions. People can acquire a human version of the malady by eating contaminated beef products.

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