McD’s Wants Government to Tighten Up BSE Safeguards

Discussion
Jan 05, 2006
George Anderson

By George Anderson


A group that includes McDonald’s is calling on the government to do more to protect animals and people from bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as mad cow disease.


According to the group, made up of seven scientists, McDonald’s and a pharmaceutical supplier, Serologicals Corp., new safeguards put into place by the government two months ago fall “woefully short” in keeping potentially infected animal feed away from cattle.


Saying it was not possible to “overstate the dangers from the insidious threat from these diseases,” McDonald’s company vice president Dick Crawford has asked the government to “take further action to reduce this risk.”


According to Reuters, the biggest concern of those critical of the government’s policy “is that tissue from dead animals would be allowed in the feed chain if brains and spinal cords have been removed.”


While brains and spinal cords are known to carry mad-cow disease, cattle found to be infected with BSE have had the disease spread to other tissues as well, say those seeking even stronger controls.


The American Meat Institute (AMI) Foundation does not share McDonald’s concerns and is supportive of the new FDA rules.


“To take out the most potentially infected material, and that would be brains and spinal cords, that removes about 90% of the potential infectivity that is in an animal – if it’s infected,” said Jim Hodges, AMI Foundation president. 


Moderator’s Comment: Do the FDA’s rules for safeguarding the meat supply from possible BSE infection go far enough? Do stories such as this and those
talking about the potential risks of the Avian flu, etc. undermine consumers’ confidence in the safety of the food supply?

George Anderson – Moderator

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11 Comments on "McD’s Wants Government to Tighten Up BSE Safeguards"


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Kai Clarke
Guest
15 years 1 month ago

McD’s is only doing what is in their best interest: safeguarding themselves from unnecessary liability. Japan has 100% testing and conformity for their beef. The US should have the same requirements. Anything less, is placing ourselves at undue risk. McD’s doesn’t want this, and the US government shouldn’t want this. However, there is a greater cost to bear, and this is the truth behind the story. Who will pay for this? The FDA’s requirements only reflect their abilities to enforce and support the new standards. They would not pass standards which are not enforceable under their budgetary constraints. Consequently, we are left with the watered-down position which the FDA is in right now. For there to be change, McD’s has to require this of their suppliers, and the suppliers have to incorporate this into their beef requirements. Without this, the industry will continue to perform to FDA guidelines, despite their inadequacy.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 1 month ago
Ryan got there before me, as he usually does, with the hint that perhaps McDonald’s was making their statement for PR reasons. Heaven forbid. BUT that does not take away from the fact that there are still risks and we have to decide to what extent they can be minimised vs. how often that little boy can get away with crying wolf. I’ve been looking at meat, amongst other products, in my recent visit to S Cal stores and have found that unless you ask a lot of questions and find someone in the store who happens to be sufficiently well informed to give trustworthy answers, consumer confidence must be based on marketing and label claims. Is USDA approved enough to convince people that quality is assured? Is traceability possible and do consumers really even care? Is Ranchers Reserve really better because both producer and retailer (Safeway, yeah!!!) say so? If I was living and shopping here I would want far more information than I can instantly see in-store before making my purchase. One more… Read more »
Stephan Kouzomis
Guest
Stephan Kouzomis
15 years 1 month ago

McDonald’s should put as much heat on the FDA as it desires. If my business relied as much on beef, I would be lobbying 1000%.

Oh, bad word today, lobbying. Let’s say, making one’s point without paying large sums of whatever (is offered), to get Congress to respond, favorably.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 1 month ago

The BSE issue caused the destruction of 3,700,000 UK cattle. Yes, very few people died, but the BSE controversy destroyed thousands of farmers’ livelihoods in the UK and Canada. If there is another major breakout of BSE controversy, it could cause the destruction of millions more cattle and thousands of American farmers’ livelihoods. Given that risk, if you don’t believe the human death risk is substantial, why not follow the Japanese procedures, which are completely thorough? And if 139 lives are not significant, why is the whole country transfixed over the fate of 12 miners?

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 1 month ago

Kai Clarke said it well, I think: “The FDA’s requirements only reflect their abilities to enforce and support the new standards.” But here’s a newsflash, even the old FDA rules regarding BSE prevention were often unenforced, let alone the new rules. U.S. meat inspectors have been met with resistance and flim-flammery in some meat processing plants for decades. So, perhaps the FDA’s requirements are actually designed to exceed — by a bit — their ability to enforce them. It’s going to take someone with the clout of McD’s to shine a light on and encourage the necessary enforcement upgrades.

Tim Duthie
Guest
Tim Duthie
15 years 1 month ago

As of late last year, 139 people in the ENTIRE world have EVER died from the result of vCJD. (Click here for source) That’s it, 139 out of 6.5 billion people! Are we focused on the most important issue in regards to food supply? I don’t think so.

If McD’s is going for publicity, they are taking a dangerous route, the longer BSE stays in the media, the more it feeds the public’s fears and has the potential to damage their business.

Along with TimM, I am tired of the effect BSE over-hype has had on our industry in Canada and family’s livelihoods. I have no problem with ensuring the safety of food, but let’s focus on bigger risks.

Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 1 month ago

I’m a cynic who also believes McDonald’s is acting responsibly. In conversations I’ve had with Canadian and Japanese meat company execs, they believe that our government is way too lax, and hypocritical. Suffice it to say that their remarks had the ring of authenticity to me. McDonald’s may be partially motivated by PR, to be sure, but where there’s smoke…

timothy Martin
Guest
timothy Martin
15 years 1 month ago

In Canada, our beef producing industry suffered untold damage from press and U.S. lobby hysteria related to one single cow which had BSE and, in fact, the cow originally came from the US.

Security of food supply is obviously very important and the whole supply chain needs to address it. One way is through “Track and Trace” technologies where a retailer such as McD’s or a grocery store can know the origin of their meat right down to the herd or individual cow.

Retailers and packers have to be more careful at their cutting and wrapping stations to ensure no cross-contamination as well.

Government can help set the standards and provide enforcement, but the whole industry must pro-actively address this to protect the consumer.

The press and vested interests, through sensational headlines only hurt honest producers inflict needless damage.

Art Williams
Guest
Art Williams
15 years 1 month ago

We have been worried for a long time that our government is not doing anywhere near enough to protect our beef supply from Mad Cow disease. It is refreshing to hear that McDonalds is also voicing concerns about this. I really don’t care if their concerns are about potential liability or purely worried about the safety of the food supply for all of us, I welcome a strong commercial spokesman for improved controls.

One can only assume that the government is responding to pressure from the beef industry and ignoring the safety of our food. Common sense would seem to dictate that we do much more than we have so far.

Steve Young-Burns
Guest
Steve Young-Burns
15 years 1 month ago

Ummm…not to sound too much like my daughters, but “heLOOO?!” McDonald’s is the tail that wags the food industry dog. If they want more enforcement all they have to do is demand it. Furthermore, if McD’s demands it, every other fast food operator will follow along, and the eating public will be safer!

Ryan Mathews
Guest
15 years 1 month ago

One assumes that McDonald’s risk analysts blessed the idea of a tighter standard. Now, if a major beef purveyor is arguing for a tougher standard, it might be logical to assume that FDA is being too lax, unless you’re a cynic in which case you might think McDonald’s is just running a PR campaign at the expense of their competition.

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