Monday, April 09, 2007

Independent Testing for Mad Cow Disease May Be Allowed

Remember last year when Creekstone Farms, a meatpacker in Kansas, wanted to test all of its cows for mad cow disease at its own expense. Then the Department of Agriculture, who currently administers the test to less than 1 percent of all slaughtered cows, threatened them with prosecution. It seems that larger meat companies were afraid that given the choice between tested beef and untested, the consumers might chose the safe beef.

Well, on Thursday, a federal judge ruled that the federal government must allow meatpackers to test their animals for mad cow disease if they so choose and does not have the authority to regulate the test. Robertson put his order on hold until the government can appeal. If the government does not appeal by June 1, he said the ruling would take effect.

Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is linked to more than 150 human deaths worldwide, mostly in Britain.There have been three cases of mad cow disease in the U.S. The first, in December 2003 in Washington state, was in a cow that had been imported from Canada. The second, in 2005, was in a Texas-born cow. The third was confirmed last year in an Alabama cow. After the first case of mad cow disease heightened concern about the disease, the department increased its testing for the disease to about 1,000 tests each day. Last July, the department cut its testing by about 90 percent.

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