'Mad cows' may have reached Midwest

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The Independent US

Alarm is growing in the United States that the efforts of the past decade to guard against the import of mad cow disease may not have been successful.

Alarm is growing in the United States that the efforts of the past decade to guard against the import of mad cow disease may not have been successful.

The deaths of scores of captive mink at 11 farms in the Midwest have added to the concern. The animals died from a form of mad cow disease after being fed meat from so-called "downer cows", which died from unknown causes. The fear is the cows could have been cases of BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy).

No clear cases of BSE have been recorded in America. Nor has the new form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the illness it causes in humans, been detected. Since 1991, the US has taken measures to protect itself from the problem, including banning imports of British beef and animal feeds.

However, various bovine bi-products, used to make vaccines and other medicines, are still legal. The Federal Drug Administration has warned that many animal feed manufacturers are not complying with import restrictions.

* The Italian Farm Minister, Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, said yesterday that more cases of mad cow disease could be uncovered, after Italy detected its first suspected case since 1994. He said: "We are a country that imports many animals, so we cannot exclude finding cases of BSE."

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