Mad Cow Followup- Consumers Union to USDA: What’s going on?

There’s much to this letter from the Consumers Union to the USDA in regard to the BSE issue: The lack of transparency by the USDA; the fact the the cattle industry seems to be involved in all discussions with the USDA, but no one advocating for the consumer; all of these are issues that the USDA needs to address, and it should be done with a level of transparency that involves the public.

However, the opening paragraph contains a bit of misinformation. In the letter, the Consumers Union writes:

We are writing to request that you convene and chair public hearings on the risk from Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy. As part of this forum, we ask that you outline the steps the U.S. government has taken to control this disease, and to assure that Americans are not subjected to an increased risk of variant Crueztfeld-Jacob disease.

The phrase I’m parsing here is “we ask that you outline the steps the U.S. government has taken to control this disease”.

We do not know that BSE is an out of control disease in our cattle population. No benchline metrics exist, that I’m aware of, that state x percentage of cattle have been in contact with other cattle with BSE. This is the issue that needs to be addressed. Our cattle population may have no issue with BSE aside from the 2 cattle discovered so far. On the other hand, it may be running rampant. We just don’t know. Let’s not infer that BSE is out of control, when it may not be at all.

Seriously, here’s what needs to be done by the USDA:

  • - Get a significant statistical sampling of the cattle population to test for patterns (a 300,000+ sampling out of a population of 100 million is not significant in my opinion).
  • - Share results with Canada and ask them to do the same (since the cattle borders between our two countries just opened).
  • - THEN make a plan on how to control AND prevent further outbreaks.

To do this in any other way is simply guess work.

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