USDA extends BSE testing in Washington

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Dec 20, 2007
by WLJ
The only bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) testing laboratory in the Pacific Northwest will remain open for another six months, but officials insist it isn’t because of increased fears of the chronic brain-wasting disease in the region.

The USDA contract for testing at Washington State University’s (WSU) College of Veterinary Medicine expired March 1 as part of the agency’s efforts to scale back monitoring for BSE. USDA has extended the contract through Sept. 30, with the option for further extensions, WSU officials said.

“Reports circulated in the media a few months ago that stated the WSU laboratory was shutting down,” said Terry McElwain, executive director of the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory at WSU. “The USDA was simply scaling back the amount of testing being done but was intent on maintaining the capacity and ability to ramp up BSE testing in a moment’s notice.”

The WSU lab was opened after the nation’s first BSE case in the Yakima Valley in December 2003 prompted some new safeguards. Since then, it has processed more than 46,000 samples sent from packing plants in five Northwest states.

It takes less than eight hours to test for BSE at the lab, which has the capacity to test several hundred samples a day.