- WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Agriculture
Department has rebuffed a meatpacker's plan to test every animal at its
Kansas slaughterhouse for mad cow disease.
- The refusal quiets a firestorm in the cattle industry
sparked by Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, a small Kentucky-based meatpacking
company that was seeking to privately test each animal at its Arkansas
City, Kan., plant.
- "We are looking at what the consensus of international
experts is when it comes to testing, and that consensus is that 100 percent
testing is not justified," Agriculture Department spokeswoman Alisa
Harrison said late Thursday. "That's why we feel at this time we cannot
grant Creekstone's requested timeline for a decision."
- The department is under pressure from some lawmakers
and consumer advocates to expand its testing program. Japan, the biggest
market for U.S. beef, is demanding that the United States test all 35 million
cattle that are slaughtered each year.
- Creekstone said its customers in Japan promised to buy
Creekstone beef again if the company tested for the brain wasting disease
in every animal processed at the plant.
- The company did not immediately return a phone call seeking
comment on the USDA decision.
- Scientists have said that testing each animal is excessive.
Plus, the American beef industry is worried about the cost of such testing.
They fear that any false-positive tests could potentially scare consumers
and cause beef sales to slide, and that Creekstone's plan would set a precedent
for trade negotiations.
- "We want a level playing field for all companies
based on science," said Gary Webber, director of regulatory affairs
for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
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