Thursday, March 16, 2006

mad cow (non-)testing

The government tells us that we are safe from mad cow disease in this country because it is so rare.  But how do we know it’s so?  Testing is voluntary.  So,  we are only testing a small portion of our cattle. Only about 650,000 of the total US herd (some 35 million slaughtered annually) have been tested (1.86%) - a rate far lower than the percentage tested in Europe (25%)or Japan (100%).  In fact, they outlaw independent testing of cows in this country. They won't let companies run their own mad cow tests. It is ILLEGAL for a rancher to test his own cows for this disease.  In the case last fall, the first USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) test was positive.  So, they ordered another test by the USDA, which turned up negative.  They then sent a sample to England, which confirmed that it was positive for mad cow disease.  A few years ago, I read of a small farmer who was having all his cattle test, because that allowed him to sell the meat overseas for a higher price.  He was ordered to stop by the U.S. government!  And the USDA budget calls for only 40,000 tests annually.

No human cases have been reported in this country, but that of course, there may be cases that were attributed to other causes.  We have no way of knowing.

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