Taiwan asks US to supply diagnostic report on mad cow disease


WASHINGTON — A Taiwanese delegation asked the United States to provide a diagnostic report on the latest mad cow disease case when the group visited the National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) Thursday. The delegation was received by Elizabeth Lautner, director of the NVSL in Ames, Iowa, which confirmed the mad cow disease case on April 24. Lautner and nine other experts at the laboratories briefed the delegation on the process of diagnosing mad cow disease and the method and techniques used to identify different types of the disease, known formally as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE. The delegation also exchanged views with the U.S. experts on the disease and the lab’s operations. They then discussed the latest mad cow disease case, which was determined to be L-type atypical mad cow disease, and the impact the infection could have.

The disease was discovered in a dead carcass in California that was about to be sent to a rendering facility. It was the fourth case of mad cow disease in the United States since 2003. Major buyers of U.S. beef, including Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, did not ban imports of the meat after the most recent case because it was “atypical” and could not have been passed on to humans. There was also no danger of the carcass being used in feed that would have been eaten by other cattle, according to U.S. authorities at the time. But the delegation still asked the U.S. side for a diagnostic report of the latest case and pictures of how the brain is affected by different types of mad cow disease. That information and other related data will be brought back to Taiwan for future reference to help the National Animal Health Institute under the Council of Agriculture develop techniques to identify different types of BSE. The delegation is scheduled to visit slaughterhouses in Nebraska and Colorado on Friday and Monday, respectively, accompanied by U.S. Department of Agriculture officials. Imports of U.S. beef have been a sore point in trade ties between Taipei and Washington for many years, largely because of past BSE cases. Taiwan first banned beef imports from the U.S. when a case of BSE was reported in the state of Washington in December 2003 and then re-opened its doors to imports of boneless U.S. beef from cattle under 30 months old in April 2005. It imposed another ban in June 2005 when a second U.S. case was reported at that time.

Imports of certain cuts of U.S. beef have since resumed, but Washington has been pressing for a wider opening, contending that there is no longer a threat from mad cow disease.

More recently, it has lobbied strongly for Taiwan to lift its ban on beef with ractopamine — a leanness-enhancing drug added to the feed of some cattle raised in the U.S.