Post by Rita
I began reading about this mad cow thing today, and
wondered why a sick cow was sent to slaughter to be
processed for meat. The first info I read said that if the
cow could not walk, then it had to be checked for mad
cow disease but it did not say it would not be slaughtered
for meat to sell. So I was confused.
Agriculture Department officials told a briefing the cow was culled from its
herd and slaughtered Dec. 9, after she became paralyzed, apparently as a result
of calving. Preliminary tests showed the cow, believed to about 5 years old, had
mad cow disease.
So was this meat processed and sold or not?
Politically, Democrats jumped on Republicans who earlier this month removed from
a massive agriculture spending bill a ban on processing meat from "downed"
animals, those that are ill when they reach the plant. USDA
officials have said
Post by Rita
the Holstein in Washington state was a downer.
Now I ask the group, who among you wants to eat meat from "downed"
animals, those that are ill?
I want to know more about this. How common is this practice and is it
used with other animals than cows -- pork, lamb, etc.
I don't know. But my guess is the practice is widespread. It's
but if you think about it, the take of wild carnivores is often the
The problem, IMV, is inadequate testing for mad cow disease.
I read the NY Times article on this. It was based on the Agriculture
PR, and was "reassuring" in tone. Somehow I came away very
What I gathered, interpreting the article, is that testing for mad cow
is spotty. Consumer groups have pressed for testing all downed cattle
the disease, but that was resisted by the beef industry and the Ag
Let me say it if nobody else does, the Agriculture Department is a
government front for the agricultural industry -- it represents their
interests, NOT the citizen's. If anybody disagrees with me, please
speak up now.
Let me put it more strongly. Our political leaders have sold us
down the river. I would like to hear disagreements.
My guess is, mad cow disease has been present in the US for some
time. We just haven't noticed because our officials
scarcely test for it, and the disease's gestation in humans is years.
There must be a small number of people who contracted mad cow
disease several years ago, but we won't know it for some time yet.
Here is the article with Ag Dept "reassurances" that alarmed me:
December 23, 2003
U.S. Discovers Its First Suspected Case of Mad Cow Disease
By MATTHEW L. WALD and ERIC LICHTBLAU
WASHINGTON, Dec. 23 - A sick cow slaughtered about two weeks ago near
Yakima, Wash., has tested positive for mad cow disease in early
results, the first such case in the United States, the secretary of
agriculture said on Tuesday.
Agriculture officials are likely to announce as early as Wednesday a
voluntary recall on beef they hope to trace to the plants where the
cow was slaughtered and processed, said Dr. Elsa Murano, the under
secretary for food safety.
"We are considering if we need to take that step, but it's likely to
happen," Dr. Murano said in an interview.
Federal officials did not say where the meat is now, but the
secretary, Ann M. Veneman, said that the meat supply was safe because
precautions taken over the last decade to keep the nerve tissue of
slaughtered beef out of the food supply. Only the brain, spinal cord
and related parts can spread the disease to humans, Ms. Veneman said,
and she added that she intended to serve beef to her family at
"This finding, while unfortunate, does not pose any kind of
risk to the human food chain," she said at a news briefing here
While agriculture officials urged the public not to overreact to the
discovery, Dr. W. Ron DeHaven, the chief veterinary officer for the
Agriculture Department, said: "This is certainly a big concern. We now
have evidence of a disease that we didn't have before in the U.S."
Agriculture officials and leaders of the beef industry were
concerned about the impact on domestic sales and beef exports. When a
single case of mad cow disease, known formally as bovine spongiform
encephalopathy, was found in Alberta, Canada, in May, a number of
including the United States, banned the import of Canadian beef. The
has been eased somewhat, and beef imports, of boneless cuts and from
cattle younger than 30 months, have resumed.
No cases have turned up in people.
According to federal officials, the cow in the Washington case,
a Holstein, was traced back to a farm in Mabton, about 40 miles
southeast of Yakima. The farm has been quarantined, Dr. Veneman
The sample was taken on Dec. 9, the same day the cow was slaughtered.
Inspectors took a sample because the cow was a "downer animal," which
Ms. Veneman said meant "non-ambulatory."
Nerve tissue from the cow was tested at a government laboratory in
Iowa, establishing a "presumptive" diagnosis, she said, and a military
jet is flying a sample to a laboratory in England for a definitive
No result is expected for several days, but the government was
as if the finding was conclusive, she said.
The development is likely to be a serious blow for ranchers, feed-lot
operators and slaughterhouses. Shortly after the announcement, Japan
and South Korea announced that they were banning imports of American
beef. About 10 percent of American beef production is exported,
McDonald's and Wal-Mart Stores quickly said they did not believe they
had received meat from the animal.
And almost as soon as Ms. Veneman finished her news conference,
of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association began a conference call
seek to reassure consumers. Terry Stokes, the chief executive officer
the group, referred to a "triple firewall" to prevent the introduction
spread of the disease.
Mr. Stokes said these safeguards consisted of testing animals that
at slaughterhouses unable to walk, forbidding imports of cattle and
products from countries where the disease is present, banning as food
cows material derived from cows. That is meant to prevent the transfer
aberrant proteins, called prions, which are believed to cause the
Investigators are still trying to determine how and when the cow was
"First we have to determine where the stuff went. That will determine
how big the recall is," with officials hoping to recall any Washington
beef that may have become mixed with and contaminated by the diseased
cow, Dr. Murano said.
Dr. Murano said it was possible that the contaminated beef had already
been distributed and eaten, but she said that even in that case she
not believe it posed a risk to consumers because the processed parts
did not include the tissue that has been shown to carry the disease.
Or the beef could have been frozen "and it may all be sitting in a
warehouse somewhere," she said.
Dr. Murano said she expected the recall to be a "Class 2," the middle
grade in the three-tiered system the U.S.D.A. uses to rank the
of the health risk. "This is a voluntary thing out of an abundance of
caution," she said.
Despite the evident failure of the system to prevent the case
in Washington, Mr. Stokes said that consumers should have
confidence in the food supply, because there is no evidence
that the disease is transmissible through muslcle meat. Such a
reassurance is critical since Agriculture Department officials
said that meat from the infected animal, but not tissue from its
central nervous system, had been sent to at least two other
Critics say that the safeguards are not perfect. Among the problems,
they say, is that machines that strip meat scraps from carcasses can
contaminate the meat with tissue from the nervous system. Critics also
say that regulations to prevent contamination of cattle food with
tissue are unevenly enforced.
"We put a number of measures in place that we thought would
substantially reduce our chance of seeing mad cow disease in this
country, but clearly those methods fell short of perfect," said
Dr. Fred Cohen, a professor of pharmacology at the University of
California in San Francisco and a leading expert on ways to treat
Still, Dr. Cohen said the risk was low.
"One can derive a fair bit of comfort from statistics and
he said. "Put the question into context. When there were 60,000 to
infected cows in the U.K., approximately 150 people out of 60 million
developed the disease," he said. "One cow is not likely to be
into any cases" in the United States, he said.
The disease makes brain tissue spongy and full of holes. Sheep, deer
and elk can also get spongiform encephalopothies. The human form is
called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and kills about 250 Americans a
In most cases the cause is unknown.
Agriculture inspectors at the slaughterhouse in Mabton learned of the
possibility of the disease when they tested the meat of a cow that had
been unable to walk, a symptom of mad cow disease. A fraction of all
cows in slaughterhouses that cannot walk on their own are tested for
The possibility of an infected cow renewed calls to end the slaughter
of animals that cannot walk. Wayne Pacelle, the vice president of the
Humane Society of the United States, said that such animals are pushed
by bulldozers or dragged by chains, and are a threat to the food
He said that the Senate had approved an amendment to the Agriculture
Department's appropriations bill for the current fiscal year that
have forbidden such slaughter, but that the House had narrowly
it and a conference committee had left it out of the current version.
The bill is part of the omnibus appropriations bill that Congress will
face in January.
Ms. Veneman said in the news conference that her department had tested
20,526 head of cattle for mad cow disease this year, triple the level
of last year.
The diagnosis in Washington State came just a week after a federal
appeals court in New York resuscitated a lawsuit brought by an animal
rights group that believes the Agriculture Department has not done
enough to protect consumers from mad cow disease.
The group, Farm Sanctuary, maintained in a 1998 lawsuit that the
government's policy of allowing the slaughter of animals that cannot
walk poses a significant health risk to consumers. A judge threw out
the lawsuit, saying the danger was remote, but the Court of Appeals
for the Second Circuit overturned that decision last week and revived
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