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Mad Cow: Is America Next?

11 April 2007

US - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced in March it was reducing its national Mad Cow testing and tracking programs by 90 percent. The USDA will reduce its cattle-testing level to 40,000 cattle per year down from an average of about 360,000 cattle. The reduced testing level will cost $8 million a year. USDA said it will focus on the "most at-risk animals" that show demonstrated signs of the disease.

The decision on whether to cut back on tests was made after experts reviewed a draft analysis of data on almost 700,000 animals screened since June 2004. During that same time span, the United States slaughtered approximately 100 million cattle.

"It's as though the USDA was designing a 'don't look, don't find' system,"

Michael Hansen, staff scientist for consumer control.

Currently, the U.S. government tests only 1 percent of the roughly 100,000 cattle slaughtered daily while the USDA's revised plan calls for testing only 0.11 percent. Many European countries and Japan are testing all slaughtered cattle. Additionally, the agency has backed off plans for a mandatory animal-tracking system, which can help identify the source of an infection and other animals at risk, and now says the program will be voluntary.

Commenting on the news, Dr. Tony Milici Chairman & CEO of GeneThera noted, "The USDA decision to greatly reduce testing for Mad Cow Disease is a matter of great concern. Despite the USDA reassuring statements about the safety of the US beef, it is far from clear, at the present time, what is the real impact of Mad Cow Disease on the cattle population in this country. Several issues also exist about the accuracy of the technology that has been used to test for Mad Cow Disease. Present techniques may not be able to detect the presence of the disease in all infected animals especially in the early stages of infection."

USDA's inspector general has criticized the USDA's testing program, saying it could have missed the highest-risk animals. The expanded system was voluntary, so it might not have captured a representative sample of the nation's herd. "It's as though the USDA was designing a 'don't look, don't find' system," said Michael Hansen, staff scientist for Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports. Consumers Union thinks 100 percent of livestock should be tested.

"If you do testing of 100 percent of your animals, any ones that test positive never go into the food chain," said Michael Hansen. The agriculture secretary responded by saying that the people who are saying 100 percent testing "somehow solves the problem really are misleading you. Consumers should feel better than ever about the meat that they are buying."

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Source: Web Services Journal


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