Mad Cow Rears Its Head


Photo of a downer, unmilked dairy cow destined for slaughter by Anne at CETFA.

First, a man in Texas died from mad cow disease, presumably this month. The CDC won’t divulge specifics on the victim or when he died. Mad cow disease (called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) in humans and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cows) is a fatal brain disease caused by eating the meat of infected cows.

Next, a meat processing firm in Missouri recalled over 4,000 pounds of fresh beef products, including bone-in ribeye roasts, over fears they could be contaminated with mad cow-diseased tissue. The meat had already been distributed to restaurants in New York City and Kansas City, and to a Whole Foods distribution center in Connecticut that services stores on the East Coast.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) wrote a letter to Acting Under Secretary for Food Safety Brian Ronholm about the recalled beef, asking for a briefing. She said she was “deeply troubled” and:

“I question why it took 10 months for this error to be discovered.”

The USDA’s food safety arm FSIS says they “have received no reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.” However, mad cow disease progresses slowly, over years. The first symptoms are nondescript … depression and loss of coordination. Later there is dementia, blindness, and finally death. This “no-adverse reactions reporting” when applied to mad cow disease is a vacant proclamation that offers no sense of security to the public.

The infectious agent, a prion, is not destroyed by cooking.

Why, as DeLauro asked, do these findings take so long to surface? The products are already sold and consumed at this point. (Maybe I have my answer.) And why do authorities, both government and private, use vacuous arguments to appease the public?

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