Friday, January 30


Remember the stories shortly after the Mad Cow was found, saying "don't worry 'bout BSE - ordinary foodborne diseases are bigger threats!"? This is called a "false dichotomy" - it's not as though they're mutually exclusive or anything, as continued meat recalls show. In traditional Friday-recall mode, the USDA chose today to announce that the CDC is investigating an outbreak of 37 cases of salmonella linked to ground beef. And our own NBC10 reported Thursday that a local company recalling about 52,000 pounds - that's right, 26 tons - of lunch meat may have sold listeria-contaminated cold cuts to local grocery stores and delis. The meat was distributed throughout the eastern portion of the US, and "it's possible that some of that specific product code of meat was sold to our local supermarkets," said Bruce Belack, company vice president of sales at Vincent Giordano Corp. What!!?? Vince Giordano? Say it ain't so, Vince!


Testing has shown that 20 cows killed Saturday at a Boardman dairy were not infected with mad cow disease, agriculture officials said Thursday. That's great. No, really, it is. But here's the interesting thing:

Saturday = Jan. 24.

Thursday = Jan. 29.

Five days from killing to announcement of test results. So how come the one killed on 12/9 took nearly THREE TIMES that long before results were announced the night before Christmas Eve? Hmmm....

Thursday, January 29


A mysterious and precipitous plunge in the number of vultures in South Asia, which has pushed three species to the brink of extinction, is probably a result of inadvertent poisoning by a drug used widely in livestock to relieve fever and lameness, scientists reported yesterday in the journal Nature. Studies in Pakistan showed that the drug, diclofenac, caused acute kidney failure in vultures when they ate the carcasses of animals that had recently been treated with it. "I think what it actually says is that we really need to look systematically at the use of pharmaceuticals for veterinary purposes," said Thomas E. Lovejoy, president of the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment.


Despite the belated common-sense approach of the US in banning the feeding of cow blood to cows, Canada is not buying in, saying they don't think it's so risky. This, of course, makes the whole US ban virtually meaningless, unless we're going to close the US/Canadian border not only to cows but to feed of all kinds. Hey, the way things are going, you can't rule anything out.

Wednesday, January 28


As zoonotic diseases continue to rage across the ocean, the obvious problem and known cause - intensive animal agriculture - continues to be ignored while the preferred solution is killing and more killing. But some are suggesting this may do more harm than good. The Washington Post reports that health and agriculture officials are warning that the mass slaughter of chickens could inadvertently help turn the virus into a form far more threatening to humans. U.N. officials "say the contact between poultry and the people killing them poses a risk by creating more chances for avian influenza to hijack genes from ordinary human flu." Meanwhile, in the International Herald Tribune, Steven E. Sanderson says Killing civet cats is not the way to fight SARS: "Killing the messenger - literally - is not going to eliminate the need for a real health care plan for all the inhabitants of this planet. The time has long passed when we can ignore the connection between human health and wildlife health."

Tuesday, January 27


Yesterday, while the FDA put in place the long-awaited (and even longer-demanded) ban on cow blood in cattle feed, the USDA announced that it was pretty much giving up on finding out where any of the other cows went that ate the same contaminated feed as the one found in Washington. Yep, that's right, just giving up. Even though they're pretty sure, according to USDA's Ron DeHaven, that "many have already been slaughtered." And after that, who cares? It's not as if the people who ate them will show symptoms any time during the current election cycle, is it?

This morning, the Wall Street Journal (again with the America-hating from the WSJ!) reported that the Commodity Futures Exchange Commission is investigating possible insider-trading in the days before the finding of Mad Cow was announced. Apparently I'm not the only one who finds it remarkable that it took so long to come out with that news after the animal was tested.

UPDATE 1/29: More America-haters: SF Examiner: Mad cow safety measures not nearly enough and USA Today: Tighter U.S. beef regulations still too lax for comfort, which says "The new rules overlook two critical ways mad cow disease still can spread: 1) By feeding cattle parts to other animals. 2) By feeding other animal parts to cattle."


Yesterday, an unidentified USDA official told a Washington state TV station that the Mad Cow was, in fact, a downer, and Dave Louthan was wrong. Today, though, the Columnbia Basin Herald quotes a named USDA official, Nolan Lemon, as acknowledging that it was not, in fact, a downer. Referring to Louthan's version of events, "Lemon said this case proved the system does work. The cow in question was flagged because of its odd behavior, such as running around in its pen, he said. 'At the end of the day, the surveillance system worked. We did find that one-in-a-million case,' he said. Lemon added that the cow was probably marked as a downer by a veterinarian so as to alert authorities that it needed to be tested." Uh...huh. So it wasn't a downer, but was incorrectly marked as a downer because that was the only way to get it tested? Now there's a failsafe system.
UPDATE 1/28: Dave Louthan continues to make trouble for the USDA, proclaiming that slaughtering processes render muscle meat from BSE cows unsafe: He says "a band saw cuts right down the exact center of the spine, cutting the spinal cord in half the long way. There are hot water jets spraying on the blade at the guides to clean off the fat, blood and bone dust. As the blade cuts down through the spinal cords, little bits are torn out and mix with this hot water slurry, which runs all over the beef inside and out, totally contaminating the meat." But a USDA spokesman pooh-poohs the idea that an actual slaughterhouse worker would know what was going on with the different parts of the cow being slaughtered. The official assures us that "in some meat plants the spine is removed," but then is not certain of the procedures at the plant where the Mad Cow actually was slaughtered. Oh, OK.


That's the opinion of Dr Shigeru Omi, director of the WHO's Western Pacific office, who said that if the current drug-resistant Bird Flu strain afflicting Pacific Rim countries (and spreading) combines with another flu that's moving that way, "there is always potential that this kind of outbreak will result in serious global pandemic, which will involve not just hundreds, but will kill millions of people globally." Well, yeah, but chicken is just so tasty, ya know?

Monday, January 26


I'm sorry, I didn't quite hear you - what was that again? Oh yeah: Study Links High-Carbs and Weight Loss. Yes, once again a low-fat diet enables you to lose weight - if, as this one, it's mostly vegetarian. Funny to hear the fulminating against this notion of expending more calories while taking in the same amount - when that's exactly what Atkins has been claiming for at least three years. I dunno if it's true or not, or if it's really possible or not - but this study shows how easy the proof is to come by, either way.