WASHINGTON – A U.S. appeals court said Friday that the federal government can prohibit meat packers from testing their animals for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease.

The dispute was between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Kansas-based Creekstone Farms Premium Beef. The USDA tests about 1 percent of cows for BSE while Creekstone has been pushing to test all of its cattle.

The government has reportedly said the low level of testing reflected the rareness of the disease. Large meat processors had opposed the testing out of concern that if Creekstone advertised that its cows had been tested, other processors would be forced to follow suit.

A federal judge ruled last year that Creekstone must be allowed to conduct the test because the USDA can only regulate disease "treatment." Since there is no cure for mad cow disease and the test is performed on dead animals, the judge ruled, the test is not a treatment.

The appeals overturned that ruling, saying diagnosis can be considered part of treatment. The case was sent back to the district court, where Creekstone can make other arguments.


Source: Associated Press