The American Meat Institute has said that the announcement last week that a cow has tested "inconclusive" for BSE should not cause consumer concern.

On Friday, deputy administrator Dr. John Clifford for the US Department of Agriculture's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service said he had been notified that an inconclusive BSE test result was received on a rapid screening test used as part of the country's enhanced BSE surveillance program.

"The inconclusive result does not mean we have found another case of BSE in this country. Inconclusive results are a normal component of most screening tests, which are designed to be extremely sensitive so they will detect any sample that could possibly be positive," said Clifford.

Tissue samples have been sent to the USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratories, which will run confirmatory testing. Results are expected back within four to seven days. The animal did not enter the human food chain nor the feed chain.

Clifford added that the USDA remains confident in the safety of the US beef supply, no matter what the results of the confirmatory tests are.

Patrick Boyle, president and CEO of the American Meat Institute said the announcement should not be interpreted as an indicator that the US meat supply was or is contaminated by mad cow disease but rather as proof that steps taken to stop the spread of the disease are working.