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Federal testing for mad cow disease a failure, law review editor says

slaughtered and the BSE infection had not gotten into the food supply.

Last December, Japan partially lifted its ban, allowing meat only from the carcasses of young cows that have had their spinal cords, vertebrae, brains and bone marrow removed.

But the ban was re-imposed on January 20 after a U.S. shipment was found to contain meat with banned vertebral columns still attached.

It is widely believed that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is under pressure to lift the Japanese ban before his visit to the U.S. next month.

These incidents underscore the need for the USDA to end its head-in-the-sand approach and begin "a mix of mandatory and voluntary testing to ensure the largest possible number of cattle are tested, while working to open foreign markets for American beef on the basis of the reliability of that testing," Berlowitz said.

The law editor faulted the USDA's decision to test only downer cows, which constitute less than 2 percent of the animals slaughtered each year in the U.S. By contrast, Japan and England test all slaughtered meat for BSE, and most European nations test cattle 24 months and older before they are slaughtered.

Compounding USDA's lax practices has been its refusal to allow beef processors to independently test cattle for mad cow disease. In 2004, Creekstone Farms, a Kansas processor of black Angus beef with a large Japanese clientele, asked for permission to test its 300,000 cattle for BSE using a $500,000 testing site it had built to USDA specifications.

But the agency ruled that the BSE test was licensed only for "surveillance" of animal health, and rejected Creekstone's request because it implied "a consumer safety aspect" that was "not scientifically warranted."

The agency invoked the 1913 Virus-Serum-Toxin Act, intended to assure the safe supply of animal vaccines, as its authority for barring private testing.

Berlowitz called the action a ruse to protect the ag
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Source:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


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