Mad Cow Disease: Testing America's food supply

FRESNO, Calif.

Just south of the town of Tulare off the 99 sits UC Davis' Diagnostic Lab. "Our primary function is to look for foreign animal diseases just like BSE and to find them early before they spread," said Dr. Patricia Blanchard, a veterinarian pathologist at the lab.

BSE, better known as "/*Mad Cow Disease*/" is not tested here but Dr. Blanchard was trained to detect it both clinically and microscopically during the U.K. outbreak in the 90s. "These are samples of brain here and then we look at those samples underneath the microscope to see if there are any abnormalities," said Blanchard.

The recent discovery of a Tulare County dairy cow infected with the fatal brain disorder is the first case of "Mad Cow" in California. But the facility tests for other diseases in livestock and checks the cause of death of animals. "We do slaughter surveillance for Tuberculosis. If at slaughter they see something wrong, they send it to us," said Blanchard.

While the UC Davis lab in Tulare County does not test for "Mad Cow Disease," the animal infected was confirmed out of their main lab in Davis. UC Davis is just one of 6 laboratories in the country approved to conduct BSE testing. The USDA lab in Iowa confirms all "Mad Cow" samples - as was the case with the latest diagnosis.

Dr. Blanchard hasn't come across a case of the disease in Tulare but says there are safeguards in place to keep the food chain safe and the public healthy.

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