USDA Sees 'Little Benefit' In
Testing All Sick Cows (!)

By Randy Fabi

Note - Of course, they don't...just think of what they might FIND if all sick cattle were tested. This is getting to be more ridiculous
by the day. -ed
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. officials, faced with the first case of mad cow disease on American soil, said on Monday testing all injured or sick cattle for the brain-wasting disease would do little to strengthen food safety.
Kenneth Petersen of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service told reporters that increasing mad cow testing to cover all injured or sick cattle "doesn't appear to be prudent, from at least a food safety standpoint."
Some cattle arrive for slaughter with broken bones that are "extremely localized" and do not affect the quality of their meat, he said.
The USDA's enforcement of food safety regulations has come under scrutiny since it reported last week that a Washington state dairy cow had mad cow disease. The cow was unable to walk when it arrived for slaughter.
The industry has estimated there are about 195,000 downer cattle -- those unable to walk because of broken bones, disease or sickness -- out of a total 36 million cattle slaughtered in the United States each year.
The USDA this year tested more than 20,000 cattle brains for mad cow disease, and plans to nearly double that in 2004.
Note - More absurdity. 35 million cattle are slaughtered each year for food. So, the fabulous
USDA 'plans' to 'nearly double' the fly speck number of 20,000 they claim to test annually. What
a fabulous gesture of concern for the public welfare, eh? -ed.
McDonald's Corp. and Wendy's International Inc. prohibit the use of downer cattle in their hamburgers.
The Consumer Federation of America has endorsed mad cow testing of all downer cattle. So have the industry-funded Food Marketing Institute and the National Restaurant Association.
The White House has publicly defended the USDA's food safety procedures. Privately, Bush administration officials have said that if the U.S. case is linked to a Canadian herd in Alberta, where a mad cow case was discovered in May, there may be little or no need to make any regulatory changes.
However, USDA officials said they were "seriously considering" increased testing and a "test and hold" program for downer cattle to strengthen its mad cow safeguards.
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association, in a reversal of its previous views, has endorsed a "test and hold" program that segregates the carcasses of injured cattle from others until they could be tested for mad cow disease.
To increase mad cow testing, the USDA would probably have to switch to using rapid diagnostic test kits, industry officials said.
"My guess is that USDA would need to use one of the more rapid tests to be able to increase testing," said Rosemary Mucklow, the director of the National Meat Association.
Despite the existence of mad cow tests that take only a few hours, the USDA prefers to use what it calls a "gold standard" diagnostic test that can take as long as five days to complete. That, plus a one-week delay while the tissue sample sat in a laboratory, are why it took the USDA two weeks to determine that the Washington cow had contracted mad cow disease.
Sen. Thad Cochran, a Mississippi Republican who heads the Senate Agriculture Committee, is not pressing for any immediate changes in USDA procedures, a spokesman said. Adopting faster tests to detect mad cow disease could carry the potential for false positive results, he said.
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