Iowa Public Television


USDA Under Pressure to Test Healthy Cows for BSE

posted on August 12, 2005

The Food and Drug Administration still has made NO changes to its mad cow safeguard policy some 18 months after announcing it needed to be strengthened. But that soon may change.

The review of public comments is now finished on FDA's proposed changes to the livestock feeding ban. And a new rule is being considered for publication.

FDA is in charge of regulating animal feed. Since it's widely believed mad cow disease is spread through feed containing infected material, the new rule could be significant for producers.

As the federal response to mad cow evolves, other government agencies must regulate the testing protocol for the disease. But not everyone is satisfied the current protocol is effective, or even being adhered to.

USDA Under Pressure to Test Healthy Cows for BSE

According to Dow Jones, the USDA is under pressure to keep its promise to test for mad cow disease in 20,000 older cattle that appear healthy.

Some of the pressure to test the cows came from Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, who wanted to know why plans to test the healthy-looking cows were scrapped.

An unnamed senior USDA source told Dow Jones the department was reluctant to test the healthy-looking cows because it was believed it, quote, "would tell us absolutely nothing" and did not "make scientific sense," end quote. But the official said testing might begin if there was enough outside pressure on the department.

Meanwhile, DTN is reporting USDA denied, for a second time, a privately owned beef producer and processor the authority to operate its own testing system for mad cow.

The Kentucky-based Creekstone Farms received their first denial in February, 2004 from the former USDA secretary, Ann Veneman. Creekstone argued the test is needed to satisfy their export customers.

The company was equipped to verify the ages of 1,000 cows processed daily using three different methods. Without the testing, Creekstone estimates the closed export market costs the company $400 per head, per day, in lost revenue.


Tags: agriculture animals beef diseases food safety government livestock Mad Cow meat news USDA