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Mad Cow Concerns Spread to U.S., Asia, Eastern Europe

They also said they are confident existing regulations are adequate to protect the U.S. beef supply from the fatal disease that has spread across Europe.

“We believe the basic authority to enforce regulations is really bulletproof,” said Gary Weber, executive director of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, after meeting in Washington with officials from the Food and Drug Administration. “We want 100 percent compliance.”

A recent FDA study found that some U.S. feed mills were not complying fully with regulations banning so-called “animal recycling” — the use of bone meal and other animal products in commercial feeds.

Last week health officials quarantined 1,200 Texas cattle believed to have eaten processed feed from a Purina mill that may have contained bone meal and other prohibited animal products.

No cases of mad cow have been found in the U.S. so far, but the rapid spread of the disease across Europe has heightened concerns.

More than 80 people have died in Europe from the human form of the disease, known as new variant Creutzfeldt Jakob disease. The illness attacks the central nervous system, destroying brain tissue and eventually causing dementia and death. There is no known cure.

Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East

Meanwhile, officials in the European Union are struggling to cope with the rising cost of combating mad cow disease. Many nations are overwhelmed with supplies of unwanted beef, as well as a backlog of cattle headed for slaughter.

Farmers, ranchers are butchers are becoming increasingly desperate as sales drop and their inventories lose value. Beef consumption is down nearly 30 percent in the European Union — far greater than the 10 percent drop predicted by EU agriculture officials — and farmers are demanding compensation from the government.

“The crisis on the beef market goes further than one might think,” said EU farm bureau chief Franz Fischler. “The latest market indications are alarming.”

Testing cows for the disease costs about $100 per animal and will likely exhaust the $1 billion the EU has set aside. A six-month government “purchase for destruction” program pays farmers to have older cattle destroyed.

Elsewhere, nations around the world are heeding a call from the U.N. to act quickly to prevent the spread of mad cow disease.

Hungary, Ukraine, Croatia, Romania, India and Kuwait have slapped restrictions on imports of beef and animal products from Europe.

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