(AP) — A new case of mad cow disease has surfaced in a dairy cow in California, but the animal was not bound for the nation's food supply and posed no danger, says the Agriculture Department.
John Clifford, the department's chief veterinary officer, said the cow from central California did not enter the human food chain and that US meat and dairy supplies are safe.
It is the fourth such cow discovered in the United States since the government began inspecting for the disease to keep the food supply safe.
"There is really no cause for alarm here with regard to this animal," Clifford told reporters at a hastily convened press conference.
Clifford did not say when the disease was discovered or exactly where the cow was raised. He said the cow was at a rendering plant in Central California, when the case was discovered through regular USDA sample testing.
Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), can be fatal to humans who eat tainted beef.
The World Health Organisation has said that tests show that humans cannot be infected by drinking milk from BSE-infected animals.
The disease is always fatal in cattle, however. There have been three confirmed cases of BSE in the United States, in a Canadian-born cow in 2003 in Washington, in 2005 in Texas and in 2006 in Alabama.
Clifford said the Agriculture Department is sharing its lab results with international animal health officials in Canada and England.
He said the California cow is an atypical case in that it did not get the disease from eating infected cattle feed.