Saturday, June 25, 2005
Seven months after suspicions were first raised, United States Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns confirmed that a second American cow has tested positive for BSE (also known as ‘mad cow disease’), as determined by a lab in Weybridge, England. The department believes that this cow was born in the United States.
The delay in confirmation followed two conflicting test results from last November. The “Western blot” test, which is a more sophisticated test, could have helped reach a final determination, but the U.S. refused to perform it in November. The department’s inspector general, Phyllis Fong, ordered the Western blot test in June without advising Johanns and by the time Johanns found out about it, the testing was under way.
Johanns was annoyed that the round of testing which confirmed “Mad Cow” had been ordered without him being consulted first.”I was asked by the Senate and the president to operate the department,” Johanns said. “I believe, in this area, very clearly, the secretary should be consulted, whoever the secretary is, before testing is undertaken. From my standpoint, I believe I was put there to operate the department and was very disappointed.”
Johanns reassured Americans that they should not be afraid of eating beef, saying: “This animal was blocked from entering the food supply because of the firewalls we have in place. Americans have every reason to continue to be confident in the safety of our beef.”
On June 17, the Associated Press reported: “American cattle are eating chicken litter, cattle blood and restaurant leftovers that could help transmit mad cow disease — a gap in the U.S. defense that the Bush administration promised to close nearly 18 months ago.”
John Stauber, co-author of “Mad Cow USA: Could the Nightmare Happen Here?” said: “Once the cameras were turned off and the media coverage dissipated, then it’s been business as usual, no real reform, just keep feeding slaughterhouse waste. The entire U.S. policy is designed to protect the livestock industry’s access to slaughterhouse waste as cheap feed.”
Critics of the U.S. testing regimen said the fumbles this time increase their concerns about America’s screening process.
“How can we be sure they were really negative?” Craig Culp, a spokesman for the Center for Food Safety asked; “After all, (here is a cow that was) negative in November that is positive in June.”
The companies which render slaughter waste say new restrictions are not warranted. “We process about 50 billion pounds of product annually — in visual terms, that is a convoy of semi trucks, four lanes wide, running from New York to L.A. every year,” said Jim Hodges, president of the American Meat Institute Foundation.