Bay Area company lands hefty Japanese mad cow test contract |

Bay Area company lands hefty Japanese mad cow test contract


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Japan’s misfortunes with mad cow disease have led to a lucrative contract for a Bay Area biotech company.

Hercules-based Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc. makes kits that identify mad cow disease – bovine spongiform encephalopathy – in slaughtered cattle. Japanese officials confirmed the nation’s first mad cow case last month and on Thursday are to start nationwide testing of all cattle slaughtered for beef.

Bio-Rad is to supply each test needed for each slaughtered cow. Japanese annually slaughters 1.3 million cows for beef, though that number is expected to drop as consumers increasingly shun meat because of the outbreak.

The company already provides 65 percent of the test used in Europe ands has sold 3.2 million tests at about $18 a piece since January, said spokesman Brad Crutchfield. On Thursday, Japanese officials will begin using the kits at 117 centers throughout the country on every cow slaughtered for human consumption. The tests can be used only once.

Japanese authorities drew fire last week after a preliminary examination with a Bio-Rad test when they announced that a cow butchered at Tokyo’s central wholesale meat market was suspected of having the disease – only to tell the nation hours later that final tests on samples of the animal had proved negative.

To avoid similar false alarms when it begins nationwide testing on Thursday of all cattle that are slaughtered for beef, the Health Ministry will announce findings only after final tests confirm an infection, said Narihiko Kawamura, an official with the ministry’s Health Services Bureau.

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