Friday, January 23


While Wyoming ranchers have found even more to worry about as Brucellosis (which can sicken humans as well as cows) spreads in their state, the national Mad Cow crisis is bringing out even more unsettling facts about the USDA's mismanagement of the cattle industry - and its effects on Americans' safety.

A Sacramento Bee columnist decries the situation in California, where county health officials are forbidden from telling the public which stores sold meat from Washington's Mad Cow. Alameda County Public Health Officer Anthony Iton says "I was shocked. Here was critical public health information that I could get only if I signed a blood-oath not to give it to the public. That's what I do for a living. It doesn't make any sense." Columnist Marjie Lundstrom sums it up: "What it means is that you and I are clueless, cut out of the knowledge loop and left on our own to sort it out. Why? Because the federal government wants this kept secret. Because the USDA seems to think it's more important to coddle the meat industry and strong-arm disclosure-minded states than to give consumers basic health information. A Hartford Advocate columnist goes further: "If you're still eating American beef at this point, you're more optimistic than most of the rest of us. No one else on the planet is eating American beef. Surely you don't feel consoled by reassurances from Ann "Steak for Christmas!" Veneman, Bush's agriculture secretary. Come on. This is the same crew who said Saddam had "yellow cake," then said he had anthrax, then smallpox, then ... ad nauseum. ... You don't think other cows that have since entered the food chain had mad cow prions coursing through their cells? Do you still believe in the tooth fairy too?"

This would probably all seem like so much grandstanding if it weren't for a few troubling facts: One is a scientist opining that, due to the mysteries of how BSE works, "A negative test won't always mean a negative cow." Another is the fact that even if "99.9% of US feed mills are complying with FDA regulations," feed contaminated with bovine proteins is "inexplicably" entering the country from Canada, in violation of trade law. Shocking? Well, there's also this: Three more CJD cases have just been found in the same area of New Jersey where one citizen has been agitating for years for the CDC to investigate a possible cluster, and finally the CDC announced that they will investigate the cluster.

UPDATE 1/24: Another CJD cluster on the other coast has survivors there wondering about a BSE link and another U.S. state has problems with bovine-protein-contaminated feed. Something's spreading, anyway...
UPDATE 1/29: Another confirmed CJD case for the Cherry Hill cluster centering around the Garden State Racetrack: Former Camden city councilman Alfred Palumbo died Dec. 27, 1997, of what his doctors diagnosed as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, or CJD, his daughter-in-law Gina Palumbo said Tuesday after reading an earlier report about the cluster. OK, now will you get your ass in gear, CDC?

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