Scare is Real, Mad Cow or Not

Nov 19, 2004

By George Anderson

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investigating a possible case of an animal infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, AKA BSE or mad cow’s disease.

While the authorities may not have conclusive evidence one way or another for as much as another week, damage is already being done as stock prices of companies such as McDonald’s have taken a hit and the price of cattle futures has fallen.

Andrea Morgan, an associate deputy administrator with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, told the Associated Press, “USDA remains confident in the safety of the U.S. beef supply.

“The inconclusive result (of initial tests) does not mean we have found another case of BSE in this country. Inconclusive results are a normal component of screening tests, which are designed to be extremely sensitive so they will detect any sample that could possibly be positive,” she said.

Jay Truitt of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association cautioned against an overreaction, noting that tests on other animals that raised a flag ultimately were found not to be cases of BSE.

Moderator’s Comment: Is the American food supply as protected by the USDA as safe as it should be? Where, if anywhere,
does the agency need to improve in its oversight of the food supply?

The USDA has stepped up its program of testing, especially among animals deemed most at risk of contracting BSE, including older cattle, “downers,” those
showing symptoms associated with a neurological problem, dying livestock and those that have died.

The agency says it has tested 113,000 animals as part of that effort.

Last year, when a dairy cow in Washington state was found to have contracted BSE, it severely cut into the nation’s beef exports. The Bush administration
has recently begun to make headway with large importers such as Japan to open their markets for US beef again.

George Anderson – Moderator

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