Abbott Laboratories

(ABT) - Get Report

Wednesday said it had received federal approval for its rapid Enfer test to detect the deadly mad-cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

The U.S. experienced its first case of the disease, also known as BSE, in December of last year, which prompted many U.S. trading partners to bar imports of American beef.

Abbott said its test, which was approved by the Department of Agriculture, provides results within hours, is easy to use, and "has been successful in Europe and Japan, where large scale screening is mandatory."

The Illinois-based health care company entered into a marketing and distribution agreement in 2001 with Ireland-based

Enfer Scientific

, giving it the exclusive rights to sell the test anywhere in the world except Ireland.

Mad cow, which has been linked to a fatal human form of the disease, ravaged the U.K. beef industry during much of the 1990s and has also copped up in countries on the European continent.

Abbott shares fell 38 cents, or 1%, to $42.81.