"The positive identification of bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE, commonly known as "mad cow disease," in a Washington State cow in December of 2003 sparked a number of reactions from the federal government, the meat industry, and close to forty countries world-wide. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), for example, launched an extensive BSE sampling and surveillance program designed to test more high-risk cattle with the assistance of designated state and university diagnostic laboratories across the country. USDA implemented the new program in June of 2004, and uses USDA-approved "rapid" immunologic test kits. Most countries, however, quickly banned the importation of United States beef following the announcement. In an effort to meet new consumer demand, some private slaughterers propose to test 100% of their cattle using USDA approved "rapid test" kits. For example, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, a private specialty producer and processor of Black Angus Beef, sought approval from the USDA to conduct voluntary BSE rapid testing for all the cattle it processes in order to promote sales, especially exports. The USDA, however, rejected Creekstone's request primarily because the test had only been licensed for animal health "surveillance" purposes and "the test as proposed by Creekstone would have implied a consumer safety aspect that is not scientifically warranted."
CRS Report for Congress, RL32414
National Agricultural Law Center http://www.nationalaglawcenter.org/crs/