Wednesday, May 12


While one arm of the government reaffirms the trope that nobody could get Mad Cow in the U.S., more disturbing signs emerge from other branches:

Ann Veneman is casually softening us up for the next Mad Cow "discovery," saying the USDA "won't be surprised" if it turns up additional infected animals. "There is certainly a likelihood we will find more (diseased) cows," Veneman said Friday. And on the same day, the FDA announced it has "not yet finalized long-awaited rules to prohibit cattle blood and poultry litter from U.S. cattle feed as a precaution against mad cow disease. Remember, these are the rules that were supposed to be "published swiftly" in January so they could be implemented immediately.

Meanwhile, that Texas No-Test Downer case gets more and more suspicious: "The vet condemned the animal as unfit for human consumption and recommended to a regional director with the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in Austin that samples from the cow's brain be tested, Burley Smith, vice president of Lone Star Beef, said.  But the regional director told the vet not to test the cow, Smith said. Instead, it was taken a rendering plant where the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates rendering plants, approved it for use in swine feed." Steve Mitchell, as always, has much more: In addition to the departmental infighting reported in the above story, there was a May 6 e-mail order from the USDA "instructing its inspectors in Texas, where federal mad cow disease testing policies recently were violated, not to talk about the cattle disorder with outside parties." The USDA is facing possible legal action from the national inspectors union, which considers this a violation of inspectors' free speech rights and a breach of their labor agreement with the agency. Additionally, "Stanley Painter, chairman of the National Joint Council, said the USDA has sent out notices in the past stating inspectors cannot talk to reporters. 'It's an intimidation thing,' Painter told UPI." As always, spokesman Steve Cohen is on hand to be "not familiar with" whatever national-crisis document is being discussed on a given week.

Even the New York Times has started to remark on the man-behind-the-curtain stuff: "The federal Department of Agriculture is making it hard for anyone to feel confident that the nation is adequately protected against mad cow disease. At a time when the department should be bending over backward to reassure consumers, it keeps taking actions that suggest more concern with protecting the financial interests of the beef industry than with protecting public health." Well, yeah. That's why they keep reminding us that the 200,000-cow test plan is a "surveillance, not a food safety" plan.

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