- EDMONTON - A former American
government packing plant veterinarian says the United States government
is hiding cases of mad cow disease.
- Dr. Lester Friedlander said Wednesday that colleagues
with the United States Department of Agriculture have told him of cases
that the USDA has chosen not to announce.
- Friedlander, who has been invited to speak to Parliament's
agriculture committee next week on proposed changes to Canadian inspection
legislation, refused to give details. He said the USDA employees are close
to retirement and risk losing their pensions.
- He has previously spoken out, however, about a Texas
cow that had mad cow symptoms and went untested to a rendering plant after
a USDA veterinarian condemned it at a packing plant in San Angelo.
- MAD COW CASES IN U.S.
- There have been U.S. news reports that just three cows
processed by the plant were tested for bovine spongiform encephalopathy
over two years. The plant, Lone Star Beef, processes older dairy cows considered
at higher risk of carrying BSE.
- Friedlander said it's not credible that the USDA has
found just one BSE case and only in a cow that entered the United States
from Alberta rather than being raised in the U.S.
- "You've found four cases (including a cow from Alberta
discovered in Washington state with the disease) out of 12 million cattle
and the United States has found none out of 120 million," Friedlander
said in an interview during a speaking visit to Edmonton.
- He said production practices in the two countries are
similar enough that the USDA should be finding more BSE cases.
- NEW AGENCY NEEDED
- Friedlander was in charge of meat inspectors at the largest
U.S. culled-cow packing plant, in Pennsylvania, until 1995. He lost his
job for, in his words, "doing too good a job."
- He has since become a public speaker on food and animal
safety issues. He was in Edmonton as a guest of the Edmonton Friends of
the North Environmental Society.
- The USDA's record looks worse than the Canadian Food
Inspection Agency's but Canada needs a new "consumer" agency
to oversee packing plant inspections, he added. He said the USDA and CFIA
both suffer from having too much influence from politicians eager to please
the food industry. His proposed consumer agency would be a government body
but would have more safeguards against political influence.
- Marc Richard, speaking from Ottawa for the CFIA, said
the agency enforces rules set by Parliament and does its job well.
- He said it reports to Agriculture Minister Andrew Mitchell
and a replacement government agency would have to do the same.
- Friedlander also warned against intensive livestock operations,
such as cattle feedlots and large hog operations. He said they are ideal
breeding grounds for bacteria and disease, and authorities have tended
to react slowly when there's an outbreak.
- Delayed reaction to avian flu last year at a British
Columbia poultry operation led to a large and costly outbreak, he said.
- John Feddes, an agricultural engineer at the University
of Alberta, said the province's confined feeding operations are generally
run well, under stringent rules. Large hog operations, Feddes said, are
- "Just because they're large doesn't mean they're
going to be out of control."
- Dr. Gerald Ollis, Alberta Agriculture's chief veterinarian,
said confined feeding ops tend to have well-educated people in charge and
are big enough that they can have vets visit more often than at smaller
- Ollis added that his experience of CFIA inspections is
that they are done well.
- He was not aware of reports of limited BSE testing at
the Texas packing plant, but said the USDA is concentrating its tests at
- © The Edmonton Journal 2005