USDA Secretary Mike Johanns announced yesterday his agency will soon begin transitioning to an ongoing BSE surveillance program that corresponds to the extremely low prevalence of the disease in the U.S.

"It's time that our surveillance efforts reflect what we now know is a very, very low level of BSE in the United States," Johanns says. He adds the surveillance program will exceed science-based international guidelines.

The ongoing BSE surveillance program will sample about 40,000 animals/year. Under the program, USDA will continue to collect samples from a variety of sites and the cattle populations where the disease is most likely to be detected, similar to the enhanced surveillance program procedures. USDA says the new program will not only comply with the science-based international guidelines set forth by the World Animal Health organization (OIE), it will provide testing at a level 10 times higher than the OIE recommended level.

USDA has an obligation to provide 30 days' notice of the change to contractors who are performing the sampling and testing, so the earliest the new surveillance program would begin is late August.

An outline of the ongoing BSE surveillance plan is available at
-- Clint Peck