“The USDA is playing Russian Roulette with public health,” Hansen said, calling for more cattle to be tested than the sampling the agency currently performs.
Senator Max Baucus of Montana, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said he needs to know more before coming to a determination on what ought to be done.
“Where’d this cow come from? What’s its feed?” he asked.
Tom Talbot, chairman of the Washington-based National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s cattle health committee, said the discovery poses no risk to human health.
“All U.S. beef is safe,” he said.
U.S. beef exports plunged 82 percent to 460.3 million pounds in the year following the discovery of the country’s first mad cow case in December 2003, as dozens of countries closed their borders to exports, government data show. Losses to livestock producers and meat packers including Tyson Foods Inc. and Cargill Inc. ranged from $2.5 billion to $3.1 billion annually from 2004 through 2007, the International Trade Commission has said.
Nations including Japan and China have maintained some restrictions on U.S. beef imports ever since.
“The systems and safeguards in place to protect animal and human health worked as planned to identify this case quickly, and will ensure that it presents no risk to the food supply or to human health,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement.
“I am going home and I am having beef for dinner, and that is no lie,” Vilsack said in an interview on CNN.
--With assistance from Jeff Plungis, Stephanie Armour and Derek Wallbank in Washington, Jack Kaskey in Houston, Elizabeth Campbell and Shruti Singh in Chicago, Simon Casey in New York, Angela Zimm in Boston and Michael B. Marois in Sacramento. Editors: Daniel Enoch, Jon Morgan