Wednesday, March 17


Even in a USDA-naysaying article on Common Dreams, the claim is baldly repeated that USDA "will test" 200,000 to 280,000 cows. At least there's a note that it's beginning in June and going for a year and a half, rather than the oft-heard timeline of "this year."

Meanwhile, though, Steve Mitchell is reading the fine print. His phrasing is: "USDA's plan, which aims to test as many high-risk animals as possible over a 12-18 month period, could involve screening more than 200,000 cows, including some 20,000 healthy, older animals." (My italics.) But he goes on to note that the 1-in-10-million concept "assumes all animals potentially infected with mad cow will be found among downers -- or animals unable to stand -- as well as dead animals and those showing symptoms of central nervous system disorders. Lurie noted, however, this is a faulty assumption, because hundreds of seemingly healthy cattle in Europe have tested positive for the disease. In addition, there are significantly more non-downers than downer and sick animals in .S. herds."

Also, this was interesting: "Robert LaBudde, president of Least Cost Formulation Ltd., a food industry consultancy in Virginia Beach, Va., said he thinks there are as many as 120 additional infected animals in the United States. Approximately half of those cases could be in animals with no apparent signs of disease."

Mitchell brings in critical views from different perspectives: "Consumer groups expressed concern about that specific aspect of USDA's plan, because the agency intends to allow rendering facilities to process downer and sick cattle before the results of the mad cow test are known, then dispose of the rendered product later if there is a positive test. Disposing of the infected material might not reduce the risk, however, because the rendering machinery will be contaminated."

And one more thing to think about comes from the GAO's Felicia Nestor, who's concerned now that the USDA has announced a start date, and has identified the 40 slaughtering facilities that will be screening healthy, older animals, "that ranchers and farmers will know to avoid those plants. They also could begin culling their herds of any older animals prior to the June start date."

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