The second U.S. cow to test potentially positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as “mad cow disease,” is creating concern about how the U.S. Department of Agriculture is protecting the U.S. food supply. In fact, this incident should be seen as the exception that proves the rule.
In 1997 the USDA outlawed the use of ruminant parts in the feed of ruminant animals in order to eliminate the possibility of eating brain matter from an infected animal, thought to be the cause of this fatal brain wasting disease.
While 20 countries, led by the United Kingdom, have experienced epidemics of this disease, the United States has not. In December 2003, an infected cow was found in the U.S.; it proved to have been raised in Canada. We do not yet know the source of this present cow, which initially tested negative in November 2004 but was recently retested with a more sensitive test.
In any case, since the Canadian cow was found rules were instituted to keep out of the food supply any cows that cannot walk. The current cow in question was one such cow.
While the cow in question may or may not be found to have had BSE before it was destroyed last fall, it should be considered the exception that proves the rule: USDA is doing a great job protecting America’s food supply.
Jay Lehr, Ph.D.
Jay Lehr, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is science director for the Chicago-based Heartland Institute.