WASHINGTON (AP) — A cow the Agriculture Department had suspected of carrying mad cow disease was declared free of the illness after follow-up tests, officials said yesterday. The announcement was a relief to the U.S. beef industry, which is still trying to recover from the nation’s first case of the disease last December.

Initial screenings last week had raised the possibility of a new case of the disease in the United States. But a more definitive test at the National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa, came back negative, the officials said.

After the initial screening, the Agriculture Department said it ran a “gold standard” test twice, on Monday and yesterday. Officials did not say where the cow came from or why it was suspected of being diseased.

Cattle futures trading ended yesterday at 87.25 cents per pound on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, just slightly below the 87.32 cents per pound it was at the end of Nov. 17, the day before the latest mad cow scare. In between, it had dipped to nearly 84.2 cents per pound.

“We saw the market sell off and then stabilize,” said Bill O’Grady, director of futures research for A.G. Edwards & Sons, Inc. in St. Louis. “The market had sort of expected that the odds were high this would end up being a false positive.”

O’Grady and Gregg Doud, chief economist of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said beef prices also were affected by the heavy rains and snow in parts of Texas. Doud said it was hard to say how much the mad cow scare alone had influenced the markets.

“We’re already back to where we were,” said Doud.


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