Friday, May 21


It's almost impossible to keep track of all the elements of the USDA's screwed-up Mad Cow strategy, though the federal investigations do help. The latest is into "allegations an agency supervisor in Texas violated federal policy and ordered that a suspect cow not be tested for mad cow disease." In his ongoing quest to rake the Mad Cow muck, Steve Mitchell also finds that at that same Texas facility, the USDA did not test any cows for mad cow disease in the past seven months. "The USDA also failed to test a single cow in 2002 at another Texas slaughterhouse that processes high-risk, downer cows." And this is getting to be a common refrain: "A woman at [the other slaughterhouse,] San Angelo Packing, who refused to identify herself, declined to comment, saying the president of the company, whom she also would not identify, was out of town."

Lack of information seems to be the main concept here, applied as liberally as the meatpackers and their lobbyists can get away with. In addition to the above stonewalling, the USDA "has failed to supply the number of cows exhibiting signs of a brain disorder it has tested for mad cow disease to Japanese authorities, who requested the information more than four months ago." Mitchell continues, quoting a Japanes official, that "the USDA has also failed to address other questions about how the agency is ensuring mad cow disease does not infect U.S. herds." Despite our attempts to bamboozle the Japanese into accepting our risky meat, this official saw the problem pretty clearly: "For some reason, this government can't do anything the big meat industry (opposes)," he said.

And as Ann Veneman's resignation is demanded over the department's breaking of its own rules in secretly importing Canadian beef, what's her rebuttal? "I didn't know." Come on, how's she supposed to keep track of every little life- and economy-threatening issue that's the biggest story her agency has faced in decades? Really, now. When "who knows?" is your organization's basic operating principle, you gotta expect a couple oddball developments here and there.

And speaking of developments, that's the trouble. BSE could still be developing in our herds as well as in our population. In our herds because the FDA is still doesn't have Mad Cow feed rules announced, much less in place and enforced, and can't even say when this will happen. So any feed that's "at risk" is still getting fed to cows right now, with potential consequences several years down the road. And according to British scientists, BSE is still developing in the human population, with up to 4,000 people over there unwittingly carrying it. (But none here, of course, since we have a Firewall against Mad Cow.) The concern is that these folks, even if they don't get Mad Cow symptoms, could still pose a risk to others as blood donors "or if they had an operation which involved instruments contacting infected tissue." It's being called a Mad Cow Time Bomb. But when it comes to the USDA, the key word is: Dud.

UPDATE 5/24: Veneman lied about not knowing, says Cattlemen's group, adding "there were numerous indications Veneman would have been aware" of the millions of pounds meat illegally crossing the border. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer puts it bluntly: "Don't trust USDA about mad cow." And the Wilmington Star-News both states outright that Veneman is a liar and accuses her of cronyism and profiteering.
ALSO: Mad Cow-type prions are discovered in sheep muscle, but don't worry, if sheep have Mad Cow, "it probably would be in very small amounts." And we all know it takes a huge amount of that stuff to infect anybody.

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