Creekstone Farms Premium Beef LLC has questioned the US Department of Agriculture's decision to scale back BSE surveillance, suggesting that the move could damage the reputation of US beef internationally.

Stephanie Barr, Creekstone's director of marketing, told just-food that the company fears a reduction in levels of surveillance could damage its trade, both at home and abroad.

"Based on the feedback we are getting from our customers, I believe that the USDA decision to scale back BSE surveillance could damage our trade with Asia," she concluded.

Creekstone wants to test all of the beef it processes for BSE, a move that is being blocked by the USDA. "We would like to provide our customers and consumers with an increased level of confidence," Barr explained. "We want to conduct voluntary tests for BSE at our expense. We want to test 100% of the cattle we process - that is what our customers in Asia and other markets are asking for."

Creekstone has filed a lawsuit against the USDA, questioning the Department's right to refuse to allow the company to test cattle for BSE. USDA claims that it has the legal authority to control access to and the use of the "test kits" needed to perform BSE testing.

"We are challenging the 1913 Virus Serum Toxin Act which, the USDA says, gives it the power to control access to test kits," Barr said.

The company maintains that it believes US beef to be safe, but suggests that through increased levels of testing it can increase consumer confidence. "We are responding to consumer demand, we want to satisfy our customers," Barr concluded.