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A&M Tested Texas's Mad Cow

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The Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory did indeed run tests on a sample of the now-infamous cow determined to have Mad Cow Disease.

But the A&M-based lab says they went by the book, like with the thousands of other tests they run. Suspicions that there may be an issue first arose in November of last year.

Champion Pet Foods in Waco received the cow on November 15, and thought it might be diseased. They then sent a sample to the diagnostic lab at A&M. It was received on the 17th. That day, the lab conducted what's known as an optical density, or OD, test on that sample, and it showed the possibility of Mad Cow. Secondary testing confirmed the first results.

This lab has three options when it comes to designating a sample. First, they can not test it if the sample isn't proper and ask for a new one. Second, they can call it a negative if it reads below their OD cutoff levels.

But they can't say a sample is positive, only "inconclusive."

And that's what the A&M lab said for this particular sample, that the optical density levels were well above the cutoff point.

By federal law, only a USDA lab in Ames, Iowa can proclaim that a sample is positive for Mad Cow. So the next day, November 18th, this particular sample was sent to Iowa.

"They know our results," said Dr. Lelve Gayle, the executive director of the lab. "They know the OD values we got on the sample. They know the cutoff number. Once it leaves here, we don't have any portion of the sample left, and it's all in their hands."

And in their hands, the lab in Iowa ran a completely different test which came up negative. But six months later, the inspector general called for a re-test. That one came up positive, and a lab in England later confirmed the presence of Mad Cow.

And despite the discovery of the disease, those in the beef industry say it's business as usual.

According to Pat Shields at the Brazos County Livestock Commission, the market took a slight tumble for a day-and-a-half once Mad Cow was discovered. But there have been sales at the commission since then, and attendance has been normal.

Ruffino Meats and Food Services also report regular sales. The Fourth of July is one of the busiest times of the year for the industry, and they say sales are right on par with what they normally see.

"I realize that a lot of people around here are educated to the fact that our food source here in the United States is the most safe in the world," said Larry Ruffino, a co-owner of the company.

"We're consuming a lot of beef in the United States, and it's a safe product," said Shields. "The public doesn't know of any human being that's had the disease, and it doesn't carry a personal correlation."