Skip to comments.U.S. Slashes Testing for Mad Cow Disease, Citing Low Infection Rate
Posted on 07/20/2006 10:41:40 PM PDT by neverdem
The Agriculture Department said yesterday that it would scale back testing for mad cow disease by about 90 percent, saying the number of infected animals was far too low to justify the current level of surveillance.
Its time that our surveillance efforts reflect what we now know is a very, very low level of B.S.E. in the United States, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said as he announced the new testing program for the disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
After the disease was found in a Canadian-born dairy cow in Washington in December 2003, the department tested more than 759,000 animals over 18 months from 2004 to 2006 and found only two infected cows.
In a report issued in April, the department concluded that fewer than one in a million adult cattle was infected, which Mr. Johanns called an extraordinarily low prevalence.
We think this is just absurd, said Michael K. Hansen, an expert on the disease at Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports, and a frequent critic of the Agriculture Department. Theyre playing Russian roulette with public health.
Because the department gives few details about animals that are tested, Mr. Hansen said, it was impossible to tell how many truly high-risk animals those with unsteadiness, aggressiveness and other symptoms of the brain disease had been screened. Most of the animals were described only as dead on farms or arriving dead at slaughterhouses, from unknown causes.
Also, Mr. Hansen said, Canada has had seven cases, some of them in cattle born after a ban on feed containing protein from other ruminants. Because years of lively cross-border trade preceded the first cases, he and other department critics have argued that risk should be assessed in North America as a whole.
This year, the Agriculture Departments inspector general found serious flaws in...
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...
This is unbelievable. The government actually abandoning a wasteful program. What is this world coming to.
The USDA sees the light! Considering the Billions of pounds of beef consumed by the WORLD on a daily basis and only a handful of cases of BSE in recorded history. I can't believe a bureaucracy shows intelligence for once!
Aw Geez! I may have to go shopping for a new tagline now! sigh...
Is it true or urban legend that the USDA has banned private testing of cows for mad cow by producers? I don;t have any problem if the USDA cuts the program as long as private testing isn't prohibited.
I just want to say one thing.
THERE ARE MILLIONS OF JAPANESE MEN CONTEMPLATING SUICIDE BECAUSE AMERICAN BEEF IS NOT DELIVERED TO YOSHINOYA!
Section7 will get it.
It's true. The most prominent producer that wanted to do testing and fought the USDA on this policy was Creekstone Farms.
Here's their March 2006 press release:
Creekstone Farms Premium Beef Files Lawsuit Challenging
USDAs Ban on
Voluntary BSE Testing
Washington - Creekstone Farms ® Premium Beef, LLC, an innovative market leader producing award winning Black Angus Beef, filed a lawsuit today against the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Creekstone has sued USDA for refusing to allow the company to voluntarily test cattle for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) at its Arkansas City, Kansas facility. Creekstones complaint was filed this morning in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
Creekstone is challenging USDAs claim that it has the legal authority to control access to and the use of the test kits needed to perform BSE testing. Over the past two years, USDA has repeatedly denied Creekstones requests to conduct voluntary BSE testing. Creekstone Farms has publicly stated that it believes U.S. beef is safe. Nevertheless, Creekstones customers, as well as other beef consumers around the world, want beef from BSE tested cattle. For example, a December 2005 poll by the Kyodo News Service found that more than half of Japanese consumers want U.S. beef to be tested for BSE. Creekstone simply wants to satisfy its customers.
We produce the highest quality beef available in America in our state-of-the art processing facility. Our customers support our brand for the many points of difference we provide. If BSE testing is an additional attribute that our customers want, free enterprise should allow us to provide this additional element. In a country where free enterprise, satisfying consumers, and building businesses through thoughtful marketing and innovation are encouraged, I find it very difficult to understand why our government would not be supportive of this important effort, said John Stewart, CEO and Founder of Creekstone Farms.
Creekstone Farms® Premium Beef, LLC was founded more than a decade ago with the goal of providing superior quality food products to satisfy the most discerning of palates. Today, the Creekstone Farms Premium Black Angus Beef program is one of a few branded programs certified by the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). Creekstone supplies many of the nations top grocers and restaurants with quality Black Angus Beef products, ranging from high quality Prime grade beef to premium value added consumer Heat & Serve entrees. Additionally, the company exports its premium quality products to Europe, Latin America and Asia. Creekstone is co-owned by Sun Capital Partners, one of Americas largest private investment companies and John Stewart, CEO and Founder of the company.
Sun Capital Partners, Inc. is a leading private investment firm focused on leveraged buyouts, equity, debt, and other investments in market-leading companies that can benefit from its in-house operating professionals and experience. Sun Capital affiliates have invested in and managed more than 110 companies worldwide with combined sales in excess of $27.0 billion since Sun Capitals inception in 1995. Sun Capital has offices in Boca Raton, Los Angeles, New York, London, and Shenzhen.
It appears that the link is broken on their webpage to the more well-known 2004 press release.
You can find many more references on this webpage at Creekstone Farms.
Jolley: Creekstone Farms Takes Off The Gloves
Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, bloodied two years ago by a USDA decision that crushed their bid to do BSE testing on every animal they process, took off the gloves, fitted its corporate fist with brass knuckles and threw a haymaker at USDA Secretary Mike Johanns.
After Creekstones chief exec, John Stewart, journeyed to the USDAs front door in Washington, D.C. on March 23 to announce the suit, he immediately threw a second punch. Within hours, he had backed up a press release sent to every conceivable news source with personal visits to international news service CNN, financial news site Bloomberg.com and the major U.S. newspapers to plead his case. It was a well-orchestrated public relations attack that gave him the upper hand for a few days as the feds scramble to respond.
Referring to BSE testing in a press release announcing the suit, Stewart said, "Our customers, particularly our Asian customers, have requested it over and over again. We feel strongly that if customers are asking for tested beef, we should be allowed to provide that."
The Japanese ban in 2003 cost Creekstone nearly one-third of its sales and caused the company to slash production and lay off about 150 people, Stewart said.
The USDA and large meat packers oppose comprehensive testing, saying it cannot assure food safety. The big four packers, possibly more concerned with the potential cost of widespread testing than the lingering effects of consumer distrust in export markets, insist the result of such a move might be to create even more distrust and scare consumers away from beef.
Creekstone needs government certification to test each animal. The USDA refused their request in 2004, claiming it had the exclusive right to do testing and quoted an obscure century old law in their defense. Stewarts suit calls into question the validity of that claim.
Patrick Boyle, president of the American Meat Institute which represents the largest North American packers, said the existing U.S. testing program should reassure customers inside and outside the United States. "The U.S. risk of BSE is miniscule and declining, our proactive prevention strategies have worked and the safety of American beef is assured."
On the other side of a ten-wire electric fence sat R-CALF USA, an organization of several thousand cattlemen. The group quickly issued a press release supporting Creekstone. R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard said voluntary testing for BSE would help reopen and maintain certain export markets for U.S. beef, which in turn, would certainly benefit the thousands of independent cattle producers this organization represents.
Instead of thwarting innovation, USDA should be applauding and facilitating Creekstones entrepreneurial spirit, Bullard asserted. Creekstone is leading the beef-processing industry into a new era one that is predicated on meeting the needs and wants of its customers, and in so doing, Creekstone has discovered a reasonable, efficient, and timely means for resuming export trade with Japan. Other like-minded meat processors are sure to follow if Creekstones efforts attract financial rewards.
Japanese Ag Minister Shoichi Nakagawa was unimpressed, however. In a Friday press conference he said, Beef trade rules between Japan and the United States won't be affected by a lawsuit filed by a U.S. firm against the U.S. government over mad cow testing.
Nakagawa said he understands Creekstone's eagerness to regain access to the Japanese market, but Japan cannot give preferential treatment to the company as the Japanese and U.S. governments have already set beef trade rules that do not require Washington to conduct universal testing of slaughter cattle for BSE. "We don't deny their efforts to adapt themselves to the Japanese system at a high cost, but how can we make exceptions of them?" Nakagawa asked.
During a Sunday evening conversation, Stewart said he wasnt concerned with Nakagawas comment. We never wanted the suit to get in the way of the trade negotiations, he said. We want to make BSE testing available to everyone.
Weve never said U.S. beef wasnt safe. Thats not why we want to test every animal. What weve said all along is our consumers have asked us to do it.
Hes concerned about the length of time its taken to get this far. After two years of waiting, hes anxious to get to the end of this rock-strewn trail. Although a Federal judge has already been assigned to the case, the trial date hasnt been established. It could happen within a month or take as long as six to nine months, he said.
When I asked him why it took so long to file the suit, he said Creekstone was always negotiating in good faith with the USDA. We had several meetings with Anne Veneman and her staff. It was very late in that process before we knew she wasnt going to give. We wanted to give her successor, Mike Johanns, a chance to react before we went to court.
Reaction to the suit has been curiously mixed. The AMI and R-CALF issued predictable statements. The National Cattlemens Beef Association, which came down solidly against Creekstones position in 2004, hasnt commented so far. Stewart suspects the organizations membership may be shifting.
With the cattle production cycle on the upswing, their members will need access to Asian markets to be profitable next year, he said. Testing every animal will help reopen those markets. I know quite a few packers, some much larger than us, would like to start a testing program, too.
He thinks regaining lost markets might take a lot longer than many expect. The longer were out of Japan, the longer it will take to get back to where we were three or four years ago, said Stewart. Australian beef might be priced a little high but theyve served the market well. The Japanese appreciate that.
It could take years to win back the market. Creekstone has a brand awareness in the Japanese market that should help us but others will have a problem.
Creekstone also announced an initiative to begin marketing more beef to the European Union raising this question: Was putting a greater emphasis on the E.U. market designed to offset the continued and maybe long term loss of Japanese sales?
When asked the question, Stewart responded by saying, Part of our overall business model is to have a world wide presence. The Europeans dont have corn-fed beef and only two U.S. plants have approval documentation. Theres a big, underserved demand and were in a good position to supply it.
I have no personal experience.
I don't know, I have more faith in Consumer Reports than I do the agriculture dept. I think the beef industry continued strength is due mainly because of the testing that's being done.
Is it the testing itself, or the advertising of the tested beef as tested, that is banned? If the cattle farms test but do not tell anybody about it, they might as well have not tested at all for all the good it does them in the market.
It's the testing itself. The ban is based on a 1913 law that has been contorted by the USDA to cover this case:
Mad cow testing dispute featuressome crazy bureaucratic logic
Last Updated: May 8, 2006, 05:00:10 AM PDT
A ranching and meat-processing company in Kansas wants to test all its cattle for mad cow disease at its own expense.
The Bush administration won't let the firm do it. Oh, but that's not all. If the company tries to buy the $20 testing kits, the feds will treat such a transaction as an illegal purchase of a controlled substance.
We wish we were making this up, but we're not. Talk about mad cow, this is crazy people. It's also an intrusive government abusing an old law.
In 1913, when cholera was decimating hog herds, scam artists were selling fake serums to farmers. Congress responded with the Viruses, Serums, Toxins, Anti-Toxins and Analogous Products Act. It gave the federal government authority to regulate diagnostic testing devices for farm animals.
The Bush administration rediscovered this law when the Kansas company, Creekstone Farms, announced plans to test its entire herd for mad cow disease. The company was willing to go far and beyond the government's test regimen to reassure its customers in places such as Japan.
Private companies make these test kits and there is nothing dangerous about them. Still, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says ranchers such as Creekstone Farms can't buy them.
Creekstone Farms is a victim of a much larger debate over the nation's limited testing of its beef supply. The USDA tests about 1 percent of the nation's beef cattle for mad cow disease. That sampling, the government and large meatpacking companies say, is plenty. Many other nations, especially those that import our beef, test a far greater percentage of their herds. Japan requires 100percent testing.
Creekstone Farms once sold its high-end Angus beef (no growth hormones, no antibiotics) to Japan. Now it can't because of this mad cow disease testing dispute between Japan and the Bush administration. Nor can Creekstone Farms voluntarily test 100percent of its cattle, because the USDA has cut off the supply of thetest kits.
In business, the customer is always right. The Bush administration is wrong to deny Creekstone's customers whether in Topeka or in Tokyo access to tested beef. So, Creekstone is suing the USDA.
The administration likes to tout "free market" solutions to big problems. Creekstone came up with a good one. It's crazy not to let the firm pursue it.
Source can be found here.
If they can't bring the test kit to the cattle, could they bring the cattle to the test kit (i.e. send blood samples to the manufacturer).
I don't know. However, I think Creekstone Farms has been very reasonable in its approach during this period (especially considering how much money it has cost this small family-owned business) so if that were seen as a possibility I think that they would have pursued that avenue.
"The USDA sees the light! Considering the Billions of pounds of beef consumed by the WORLD on a daily basis and only a handful of cases of BSE in recorded history. I can't believe a bureaucracy shows intelligence for once!"
Nothing "intelligent" about it. You need to do some more research into NAIS. :(