Sunday, August 31, 2008

Food testing prohibited?!?

Barbara told me this, but I didn't believe she heard right. Now that I see it, it's worse than she said.

You may recall that about a year ago, we buried her sister who had Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a close cousin of Mad Cow Disease. They both turn your brain into swiss cheese, which is why they are classed as a "transmissable spongiform encephalopathy". We also personally knew a woman in our neighborhood, the mother of Barbara's son's ex-girlfriend, who died some years back from the actual Mad Cow Disease (she picked it up in England). These diseases are caused by inanimate proteins called prions, which never die and cannot be sterilized; once they're in the world, all they do is spread by turning other proteins they touch into more prions. Since then, we've seen the whistleblower videos of cattle too sick to walk being physically dragged into the slaughterhouse to become part of our food supply. As I previously reported, we don't eat beef around here anymore.

So imagine my surprise when Barbara told me the current administration's USDA has decided that beef doesn't have to be inspected. Actually, it's far worse. They actually *blocked* one beef exporter (Kansas-based Creekstone Farms Premium Beef exporters) who wanted to test all their beef, on the grounds that:
Larger meat packers opposed such testing. If Creekstone Farms Premium Beef began advertising that its cows have all been tested, other companies fear they too will have to conduct the expensive tests.
Creekstone spent about a half-million dollars to build the testing lab, and hired the staff. In 2004, however, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which controls the sale of testing kits, refused to sell Creekstone enough to test all of its cows. Naturally after all that investment, and with righteous conviction, Creekstone took the USDA to court, but a US federal appeals court ruled that the USDA has the authority to stop meatpackers from testing more than 1% of its cattle. And remember, many other nations around the world refuse to buy American beef because they see our food safety standards about the same way we see China's. Creekstone actually tried to test all their beef before selling it, helping to restore confidence in American exports (not to mention helping safeguard American lives), and rather than being helped, they were blocked.

The president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association told the Washington Post that "If testing is allowed at Creekstone, we think it would become the international standard and the domestic standard, too." Creekstone Farms says tests cost about $20 per animal, increasing the cost of beef by about 10 cents per pound. (a price I'd gladly pay, given the chance)

What possible conclusions can we draw from this disgrace? I've drawn mine, let's hear yours.

Links: AP Reuters Slashdot Google

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