France Begins Slaughterhouse
Testing For Mad Cow Disease
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PARIS - France is hoping to restore consumer confidence in beef by starting a testing program for mad cow disease.
Last month, ministers from the European Union met to decide what should be done to keep bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) from spreading in Europe.
Since then, the EU has decided that slaughterhouse tests of all cattle older than 30 months must be performed starting in July.
France has decided to begin the testing early. When the program is up and running France says it will be checking 20,000 animals a week. Any animal found to be infected will be destroyed.
Experts think older animals are more likely to have the disease, having eaten more meat and bonemeal-based feed that could be contaminated.
Consumers panicked last fall when infected meat may have been sold in supermarkets. Sales dropped to 40 per cent.
Eating contaminated meat could cause the human form of the disease, new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD).
About 90 people have died from vCJD, most of them in Britain, the hardest hit of any country. But cases have also been diagnosed in France.
While beef sales are slowly bouncing back, the French government hopes the new testing program will bring them back to normal.
But the tests cost about $100 per cow, which will be passed on to the consumer.
And history shows that more testing will turn up more cases something not likely to boost sales.
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