USDA Pretends Beef Supply Is Safe
By Raymond Kwong

I sense that with every passing week, more people are concerned about this hot issue. This Sunday afternoon, so many have called to register for my meat & milk safety seminar that it will probably be packed, many driving from south and East bay. I have over 60 transparencies with information not reported by the mainstream media.
Ms. Harrison may well be a sincere person who feels she has the public's best interest at heart. Nonetheless, her effortless transition from the cattlemen's lobby to the Agriculture Department is a fine symbol of all that is wrong with America's food safety system. Right now you'd have a hard time finding a federal agency more completely dominated by the industry it was created to regulate. Dale Moore, Ms. Veneman's chief of staff, was previously the chief lobbyist for the cattlemen's association. Other veterans of that group have high-ranking jobs at the department, as do former meat-packing executives and a former president of the National Pork Producers Council.
The Agriculture Dept. has a dual conflict of interest. The USDA is by no means the first such body to be captured by industry groups. In Europe and Japan the spread of disease was facilitated by the repeated failure of government ministries to act on behalf of consumers.
In Britain, where mad cow disease was discovered, the ministry of agriculture misled the public about the risks of the disease from the very beginning. In December 1986, the first government memo on the new pathogen warned that it might have "severe repercussions to the export trade and possibly also for humans" and thus all news of it was not to be leaked to the media or public.
An investigation by the French Senate in 2001 found that the Agriculture Ministry minimized the threat of mad cow and "constantly sought to prevent or delay the introduction of precautionary measures" that "might have had an adverse effect on the competitiveness of the agri-foodstuffs industry." In Tokyo, a similar mad cow investigation in 2002 accused the Japanese Agriculture Ministry of "serious maladministration" and concluded that it had "always considered the immediate interests of producers in its policy judgments."
Instead of learning from the mistakes of other countries, America now seems to be repeating them. In the past weeks much has been made of the "firewall" now protecting American cattle from infection with mad cow disease - the ban on feeding rendered cattle meat or beef byproducts to cattle that was imposed by the FDA in 1997. That ban has been cited again and again by USDA and industry spokesmen as some sort of guarantee that mad cow has not taken hold here. Unfortunately, this firewall may have gaps big enough to let a herd of steer wander through it!
According to the report, more than a quarter of feed manufacturers in Colorado, one of the top beef-producing states, were not even aware of the F.D.A. measures to prevent mad cow disease, four years after their introduction! My!
A follow-up study by the accounting office in 2002 said that the F.D.A.'s "inspection database is so severely flawed" that "it should not be used to assess compliance" with the feed ban.
The Government-Media Complex has heavily relied on and quoted the work by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis to determine how much of a threat mad cow disease poses to the US. For the past week the USDA has emphasized the reassuring findings of these studies, but did anyone tell you that this outfit is funded heavily by the meat industry? Their computer model is flawed.
As of now all meat recalls are voluntary and remarkably ineffective at getting bad meat off supermarket shelves.
The latest "tougher ban" of cow blood and pig manure is welcome, but it does not go far enough. Time will tell whether it will be enforced with penalty.
Raymond Kwong



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