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Audit slams USDA's mad cow plan

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A new federal audit says problems with the Agriculture Department's mad cow testing plan may have reduced the chances of detecting the deadly disease.

The report, conducted by the USDA's inspector general, cites problems throughout the agency's mad cow surveillance plan, such as failure to test the riskiest cows and lack of a program to test cows that die on farms.

The report concludes, The problems identified during our review, if not corrected, may negatively impact the effectiveness of USDA's overall (mad cow) surveillance program, impair its ability to perform risk assessments and program evaluations, and reduce the credibility of any assertion regarding the prevalence of (mad cow) in the United States.

Humans can contract a fatal, incurable brain illness known as variant Creutzfeldt Jakob disease from consuming meat infected with the mad cow pathogen.

Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman is expected to be asked about the report Wednesday during a joint hearing of the House Committees on Government Reform and Agriculture.

Copyright 2004 by United Press International

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