Mad Cow: US Learned Nothing from UK Experience

One of the most famous images of the UK's incompetence over its Mad Cow infestation was the early pronouncement by then Agriculture Minister John Selwyn Gummer that all British beef was safe. It wasn't. Now this: US Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman,

assured Americans: “The risk of spreading is low based on the safeguards and controls we have put in place.” She said the risk of the disease entering the human food chain was minimal. “I plan to serve beef for my Christmas dinner and we remain confident in our food supply,” Ms Veneman said, in an echo of the then British agriculture minister John Selwyn Gummer's ill-fated ploy to have his young daughter eat a hamburger on behalf of British beef in 1990.

And, it seems that the US assurance is worth as little as the earlier British one: As Probe of Infected Cow Spreads, So Does Worry (talk about headlines that leave out the main point—the administration simply lied (again)!):

Cattle in other states may have eaten the same contaminated feed that infected a Washington state Holstein with mad cow disease, but investigators who want to track the infection to its source are being confounded by the lack of an organized system that would lead them to the herd where the cow was born, officials said yesterday.

The lack of a reliable tracking system, and a complex trail of clues, rumors and false leads, mean it could be days or months — or never — before all the links are fully explored, officials said.

Which is what one would suspect from the speed with which the phony 'assurance' was issued….

So, the US failed to put into place all the safeguards it should, it failed to have a decent tracking system, and it failed to level with the American people. In the UK many people on the left call the Tory party “the stupid party”; while perhaps unfair on economic matters, it was certainly fair on the Mad Cow issue.

How sad to see history repeating itself. Let's hope it's just farce and not tragedy.

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4 Responses to Mad Cow: US Learned Nothing from UK Experience

  1. Brett Bellmore says:

    Excuse me, but we actually know how this cow got infected? (Through contaminated feed.) News to me.Last I heard, we didn’t even know whether it was just one cow, or several.

    One of the more unusual traits of prion diseases is that you can get them in three ways: By infection. By inheritance. And spontaneously Yup, even a perfect system won’t stop all cases. Contaminated feed might be the more likely of the posibilities, but it’s not the only.

  2. Michael says:

    Judging from the news reports, I don’t think we know much of anything yet — but in order to determine the scope of the danger, we need to be able to ‘walk back the cat’ — go back and investigate the health of other animals that had the same feed. My main point was that the US govt, like the UK before it, reacted initially by giving assurances that were not justified given the state of our ignorance.


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