The testing program will increase surveillance testing more than tenfold over BSE screenings in 2003.

June 1 marked the start of USDA’s plan to test at least 220,000 animals nationwide for bovine spongiform encephalopathy over the next 12 to 18 months.

The $70 million effort is expected to screen less than 1 percent of all cattle slaughtered, but will increase surveillance more than tenfold over BSE screenings conducted in 2003. Using new rapid tests, the intensive strategy will target animals most likely to carry the disease, those more than 30 months of age.

Agency officials say they will not be surprised if the tests detect a small number of animals infected with BSE.

The Washington Post