More countries have begun taking drastic measures to strengthen real or potential weak links that allow livestock disease to enter the global food chain. And for the first time, the United States is one of them. CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod reports.
The Dutch government recently confirmed the first cases of the highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease in the Netherlands, after France, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Argentina, and Britain had already done the same.
In the US, the current scare is over mad cow disease. Government agents have seized more than 200 sheep in Vermont, suspected of being infected with a similar illness.
"Our mission is to protect American agriculture. That's what we're doing here," says Ed Kerlett of the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The sheep were reportedly imported from Belgium and Holland, where it's possible they ate contaminated feed made from parts of diseased cattle. Tests on the flock revealed they had TSE, a class of illnesses that includes mad cow disease. The illness is just one variant of TSE. Another is called scrapie, which experts say cannot be spread to humans.
The sheep are now headed to federal labs in Iowa, where they'll be slaughtered and examined. Farmers are protesting the move.
"I can understand wanting to protect the American public, but this is not the way to do it," says the flocks owner, Larry Fallaice. "Killing a flock of perfectly healthy and valuable sheep is not the way to protect the American public and they know it."
Fallaice has disputed the lab test for 8 months, but so far to no avail.
All the imported sheep have been quarantined in Vermont farms since 1998.
©MMII CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed