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April 10, 2004

The Jungle

There is no logical reason on God's green earth for the Dept. of Agriculture to ban a beef producer from testing all of its cattle for mad cow disease.

The Agriculture Department's undersecretary for marketing and regulation, Bill Hawks, said in a statement Friday that the rapid tests, which are used in Japan and Europe, were licensed for surveillance of animal health -- while Creekstone's use would have ``implied a consumer safety aspect that is not scientifically warranted.''

Whether such a test is scientifically warranted also doesn't matter. The only question the Dept. of Ag should have is whether the proposed test is scientifically valid or not, which it apparently is.

If you'd like to contact Bill Hawks to let him know this, here's his contact information. If you'd like to say the same thing to the Head of the USDA, Ann Veneman, here's hers.

The agency's authority in the matter was established as part of the 1913 Virus, Serum and Toxin Act, which states that anyone conducting tests without USDA. could face a year in jail and a $1,000 fine--peanuts if Creekstone is losing $40,000 a day as it claims.

Why is the USDA turning down Creekstone? Because it would make other beef producers look bad--something that has absolutely nothing to do with keeping the nation's food supply safe.

The director of regulatory affairs at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, which represents beef ranchers, both praised the Creekstone decision.

Gary Weber of the cattlemen's association called 100 percent testing "misleading to consumers" because it creates a false impression that untested beef is not safe.

No, it would create the true impression that some beef was untested, potentially costing the companies who marketed it money when a consumer was presented with a choice between their beef and Creekstone's. Non-innumerates and those after a deal would still buy their product, and others could pay more for Creekstone beef, just as they already do for meat that's been labeled "organic."

If a company wishes to sell a product that's warranted free of mad cow, ebola, smallpox, herpes or shingles, then it should be allowed to do so, and the market should decide whether or not such a product is viable--not government bureaucrats at the beck and call of the industry they are supposed to be regulating.

Posted by Bigwig at April 10, 2004 01:13 PM | TrackBack
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Could it be the USDA is scared of what the results might bring to light?

PS. Sorry about the blank comment-- paws don't work well on keyboards...

Posted by: Yellow Dog '04 at April 10, 2004 05:54 PM

I think they may be interested in keeping the public health hysteria aspects of Mad Cow - so far a disease linked to Canadian cows vacationing in the U.S. - under control.

"New Creekstone Beef. Unlike all the rest, we test for Mad Cow, Syphillis, Bovine AIDS, Dropsy, Eyelid Cancer and the Common Cow Cold, not to mention other dread diseases. Creekstone Beef - because you'd rather not watch your family members, especially your beloved four year old daughter and dear old dad die a screaming miserable death bleeding from their eyeballs because of the tainted hamburger you served them, because you were too cheap to by Creekstone beef you miserable prick."

Posted by: Blackavar at April 10, 2004 06:32 PM

There is also the legal liability issue. In using tests that nobody else in the industry uses, it would advance the "state of the art", meaning everybody else would face product liability suits for faulty products. Basically, liability would be guaranteed if somebody got mad cow, and you could probably do it on an "industry liability" theory - "well, Uncle Bob ate beef from these five companies... so let's sue them." In a heavily regulated industry, where the government is concerned with keeping the cost as low as possible, this is a valid concern.

Posted by: Blackavar at April 10, 2004 06:34 PM

I sent letters, and added that calling their decision "scientific" when it is political was also reprehensible.

It is time and past time that the US tested cattle before selling them to any food-processing business.


Posted by: Scorpio at April 11, 2004 12:40 AM

As one who works in the public health field, I am pretty close to 100% sure that there is no justifiable reason (in public health terms) to test each and every cow in the US for BSE.

However, as a market libertarian, I don't see what the big deal is. If consumers are willing to spend more for something that makes them feel better but doesn't make them significantly safer, then it's their money. The market will sort it out.

After all, that's basically what they are doing when they buy "certified organic" foods.

Posted by: Captain Holly at April 11, 2004 09:17 AM

I don't think you should give short shrift to the government's interest in keeping beef (and other foods for that matter) affordable. This is a public health issue, in a fairly regulated industry, where a government mandated rating system determines the quality, health and price of the product. I know where Creekstone is going with their plan and I don't like it.

Might as well let Safeway advertise, "All our employees are tested for Ebola - not like those filthy, possibly infected bastards over at Harris Teeter. We have no way of knowing whether they have Ebola or not."

On other issues, I'd feel fine; but I get the feeling Creekstone wants to capitalize on a minor public health scare, blow it up, and then really cash in on the resulting big public health scare.

Posted by: Blackavar at April 12, 2004 07:44 AM
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