Mad Cow Disease Resurfaces In California
Mad Cow disease has returned with a vengeance to America and this time, it has resurfaced in California, of all places. The immediate concern of US citizens is whether to worry or not to worry about what it would do to their beef supply. For the first time since December 2003, a case has been confirmed in Hanford, California, where workers were selecting random cow samples to check the disease. Unfortunately, it is still not known which farm the cow belongs to. However, more than anything, this has put a big question mark on the US meat and dairy supplies. Should you be worrying at all? Either wait for the White House to come good on its health safety promise or, well, read and find for yourself:
1) The Mad Cow in California
The first case of mad cow in six years was found to be in a dairy cow, which arrived April 18, 2012, at a Baker Commodities Inc. facility in Hanford. This is the place where dead livestock is kept before being sent to a rendering plant. In a statement, John Clifford, Chief Veterinarian, US Department of Agriculture, said, “The carcass was never presented for slaughter for human consumption, so at no time presented a risk to the food supply or human health.” However, that seems to be little consolation for importers as is evident from the fact that a major South Korean retailer, LotteMart, has decided to suspend the sale of American beef for now. It has also removed American beef packages from its store shelves. In a statement, LotteMart said, “Currently, the sale of US beef is temporarily suspended to ease our customers from anxiety.”
2) To Worry or Not To Worry
In absence of an effective animal identification program, it is becoming difficult for the government to keep track of this disease. Elisa Odabashian, Director of the West Coast office of Consumers Union, told media, “The USDA tests only about 40,000 of the 35 million cows that are killed every year. That’s just a tiny fraction…. They’re not looking very hard for mad cow disease, and so they’re not finding it very often.” As a result, the US government’s testing program is unable to confirm that the US beef is 100% safe. In its defense, the USDA, in a 2006 statement, had said that since the disease was difficult to diagnose in young cattle (which are the main source of beef in the country, there was no point in 100% testing of cattle. The statement said, “Recognizing the international scientific consensus that BSE (Mad Cow Disease) is a disease that is not detected in young animals, there isn't any nation in the world that requires 100-percent testing for BSE.”
3) A Major Blow
The fact that in 2010, South Korea ordered import of 125,000 tons of US beef (almost 100% increase from 2009), and now a major importer from the country has decided to stay away from American beef, together have put a question mark on the US beef market. However, that is not the end of the story. However, not everyone is running away though. Canada has said that even with the new case of mad cow disease in sight, it will not affect the trade between the two countries.
4) Is Everything Alright?
That is what a food safety attorney would have you believe. Sarah Klein, of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, opines, “A case of a single cow with BSE is not a reason for significant concern on the part of consumers, and there is no reason to believe the beef or milk supply is unsafe.” She also said that the consumers did not need to take any precautions. On its part, the California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross has dismissed the possibility that other cows may be at risk. She says, “Feed restrictions in place in California and around the country for the last 15 years minimize that risk to the greatest degree possible.” The Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, expressed confidence in the safety of the beef and dairy products as well as the health of the national herd. In his opinion, “This is an atypical case, which means it's not connected in any way, shape or form to feed. ... A very rare circumstance and situation. It can just sort of come up and pop up -- sometimes it's genetic.” In fact, to drive home the safety standards of US beef, Vilsack announced, “I am going home and I am having beef for dinner, and that is no lie.”
5) Risks of Mad Cow Disease
Although the government is trying hard to make the public believe that all is well, there may be some risk at all. Watch this video to know what mad cow disease may actually mean for you:
There are reports that say diagnosing that mad cow case in California was just a “stroke of luck.” But you cannot leave the safety of your health to luck. USDA has started tweeting food alerts recently but nothing has come out so far. Therefore, the best course to follow would be to exercise restraint in eating beef from unauthorized sources. Buy only USDA approved meat, from a known butcher and stay safe.
Video Courtesy: youtube.com