Mad Cow Mess
By George Anderson
The Wall Street Journal reports that an error in diagnosis by government scientists caused a seven-month delay in notifying consumers about the latest case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease found in the U.S.
The cow found to be infected with BSE was discovered in a preliminary test in November. After further testing at a USDA lab in Iowa, the animal was cleared.
The USDA’s Inspector General Phyllis Fong and her staff still had some questions about the animal and had it retested with a method used in Europe. This and an additional test done in Europe concluded the animal was infected.
As a result, USDA Secretary Mike Johanns announced several changes the government is making in its testing for BSE. “Science is ever evolving…. And as we learn more, we apply the knowledge,” he said.
The new system will require the department to run two additional tests for BSE if the first proves inconclusive. “I want to make sure we continue to give consumers every reason to be confident in the health of our cattle herd,” said Mr. Johanns.
Critics of the U.S. system point out that a small percentage of the nation’s cattle are tested for BSE (approximately two percent of the animals slaughtered) and mistakes, as in the recent case, can happen.
Terry Stokes, CEO of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, pointed out that, while some mistakes were made in this case, “the animal did not enter the human food or animal feed supply.”
“The bottom line for consumers remains the same: Your beef is safe. Scientists, medical professionals and government officials agree that BSE is not a public health risk in the United States. BSE infectivity has not been found in beef, including steaks, roasts and ground beef.”
Moderator’s Comment: What effect, if any, will the
latest case of mad cow have on the perceived safety of the nation’s supply of
beef domestically and abroad? Is the USDA’s revised testing plan for BSE enough
to overcome other nations’ concerns about U.S. beef? –
George Anderson – Moderator
in Latest Mad-Cow Case Was Delayed by a Misdiagnosis – The Wall Street
scare tests US on cow-feed policies – The Christian Science Monitor
- NCBA Statement on USDA
Announcement of BSE Case – National Cattlemen’s Beef Association