Mad Cow, Again!

U.S. officials have stumbled down a meandering trail of denials regarding the deadly, meat-borne Mad Cow disease. When first detected in British cattle, the official line was that the brain-destroying disease could not be transferred from cows to humans. So not to worry! Eat your burgers!

But when dozens of Brits began to die from eating the meat of contaminated cows, the line became: well, yes, in Britain; but not in the United States where we have regulatory firewalls to protect the public from cow madness. But oops, recently officials had to admit that a mad cow had been found here. Not to worry, said officials, for this was a Canadian cow; and it's only one cow, so eat your burgers! All is well.

Now we learn that all is definitely not well. Last November, U.S. Agriculture Department officials found another cow that appeared to have the disease. But : good news, they said : we applied our "gold standard" test and it was negative. So, all clear, and eat your burgers!

But watchdogs like Consumers Union demanded a more sophisticated test. When USDA's own internal watchdog agreed to order the extra test, the cow was found to have the disease. Well, shrugged Ag Secretary Mike Johanns, "Science is ever evolving." Yes, but our policy makers aren't. Johanns basically defended the status quo on behalf of beef industry giants, saying in essence: eat your burgers!

The denials and stalling must stop. All cows over 20 months old must be tested, and the industry must be banned from feeding any cow parts to cattle, including a ban on feeding cattle blood to calves.

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