updated 2/14/2004 10:23:47 AM ET 2004-02-14T15:23:47

A federal panel suggested that the U.S. government step up testing for mad cow disease to evaluate any risk to American consumers.

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Members of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration panel made the recommendation Friday at a meeting in Silver Spring, Md., The New York Times reported Saturday.

In December, a cow from a Mabton, Wash., dairy became the first U.S. animal to test positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease.

“We have to know what the risk is, and whether we could contain it or whether we could stop it,” said panelist Dr. Stephen DeArmond, a mad cow disease expert at the University of California, San Francisco, according to the newspaper.

The Department of Agriculture has said it has planned to test 40,000 out of 35 million cows to be slaughtered this year, with an emphasis on cows at high risk for the disease.

The panelists said testing a greater number of cows was necessary to determine whether cosmetics, dietary supplements, drugs and the blood supply are adequately protected from the disease.

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