Is Mad Cow Still With Us?

Letter to the Editor from 2005 about USDA and Mad Cow ( Bovine spongiform encephalopathy – BSE ) and its human cousin, Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease CJD. It was a big thing back then and there is no reason to believe is was defeated. I have to believe it was just downplayed until it was no longer front page fodder. Considering its connection to Alzheimers, a disease that has not let up, we should still be concerned.

From the letter:

In reference to a letter published in the paper that the USDA is doing such a great job dealing with Mad Cow’a great job with BSE (Mad Cow), I totally disagree, the USDA has taken a poor stance. While the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1996 had several recommendations, including extensive testing, the US is one of the few ( if only ) nations that paid little attention to them. Almost every nation that has followed the WHO recommendations for testing have discovered many more cases of BSE. Why have we not found as many cases? Don’t test, don’t find. The USDA planned to test 38000 cows in 2004 (from this 2003 source) which barely exceeds what Europe tests in a day. We need to be testing millions of cows a year, we need to test every single cow that is slaughtered for human consumption. There have been several meat processors that have tried to advertise complete testing of every animal, only to be informed by the USDA that they will lose their USDA certification if they do so. Many countries already test every animal, why can’t we. According to testimony, it would only add pennies to each pound of meat. Perhaps if the USDA were not so ‘involved’ with the industries we rely on them to protect us from, they could do their job. Maybe it’s the revolving door between the USDA and the industries it was created to regulate. Maybe it’s money … nah.

Despite assurances from the USDA that cows are no longer fed to cows, it is still ok to feed cow blood to cows and still ok to feed cows to chickens and pigs and then use those animals to feed cows. Plus the regulations to not feed cows to cows is voluntary by the millions of beef producers and judging by budget cuts, government oversight is not a high priority. Are we also watching all the imported beef? Many countries that have taken public health seriously are banning practices that are still commonplace in the US. It is time to ban any feeding of animal protein to livestock destined for human consumption and substantially increase the testing of healthy animals, not just downer cows. The supposed ‘firewall feed ban’ in the US to keep cattle from contracting this disease is a joke and it is putting the health of Americans at risk. How many happy cows out in the pasture do you see eating other animals? The USDA and the Meat industry need to stop treating this like a PR problem. ‘Public health is more important than profit’ should be the USDA’s motto. USDA, prove to us that your doing everything you can (by WHO standards). Prove to us that you’re not the tobacco industry of the 70’s, telling us it’s all just fine. C Everett Coop, where are you when we need you.

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