April 24, 2012
Consumers Union is seriously concerned by the announcement today of a new case of mad cow disease in a cow from Central California. This raises three important questions about the safety of US beef.
First, the USDA testing program for mad cow disease is way too small. USDA only tests some 40,000 cows a year of the millions slaughtered annually. So we really don’t know if this is an isolated unusual event or whether there are more cases in US beef. Our monitoring program is just too small.
Second, detection of BSE is needlessly hindered by the fact that USDA prohibits private companies from testing their own beef. Private testing could augment USDA testing and provide an extra measure of monitoring and assurance of safety to consumers. USDA only tests cattle that are sent to the renderer and doesn’t test at slaughterhouses. We find it hard to understand why USDA prohibits private companies from testing.
Third, the ruminant to ruminant feed ban in the US to prevent spread of mad cow disease is inadequate. Cows can’t be fed to other cows, which is a good thing. But remains of cows can be fed to pigs and chickens, and pig and chicken remains can be fed back to cows. We believe this could allow for the spread of mad cow disease.
Food Policy Media Consultant