As yet unaffected by BSE, the highly infectious ‘mad cow disease,’ the US is stepping up efforts to prevent the disease entering the country.

Health and Human Services secretary Tommy Thompson yesterday announced increased funding into BSE research and vCJD, the human variant of BSE, which is believed to have killed over 100 UK citizens who ate the meat of infected cattle.

“The basic facts about BSE and other TSEs are not well understood, so it’s important for us to learn more as quickly as we can,” Thompson said. “And at the same time, we must continue to carry out effective steps to keep BSE out of the American food supply.”

Thompson outlined four key areas on which the new plan will centre: surveillance, protection, research and oversight.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, working with state and local governments, will enhance its efforts to investigate possible cases of vCJD, Thompson said. The CDC will also provide technical assistance to state and local health departments, expand laboratory capacity to support these investigations, and strengthen its collaboration with the National Prion Disease Pathology Surveillance Center at Case Western Reserve University.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), working with the US Department of Agriculture, will expand its inspection of both imported food and animal feed.