CSPI Reaction to New Mad Cow Confirmation and Administration's "Faith-Based Mad Cow Policy"
Statement of CSPI Food Safety Director Caroline Smith DeWaal
June 24, 2005
It appears the animal that recently was confirmed as positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy did not enter the human food supply. But since the United States does not have a mandatory animal tracking system, USDA's strategy is basically to cross its fingers and hope that beef from a BSE-infected animal doesn't end up on Americans' dinner plates. Call it a faith-based mad cow policy.
In May, Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns put national animal identification on a slow boat and delayed implementation until 2009. Canada was able to move from a voluntary to a mandatory animal tracking system in one year. There's no reason why the United States can't implement a system just as good as Canada's just as quickly.
Happily, the risk of contracting the human form of mad cow disease is minuscule. But the benefits of a better system that allows traceability up and down the food chain is that it would allow other potentially infected cattle to be more easily found. In addition, it also would help public officials to more easily contain food-poisoning outbreaks due to E. coli 0157:H7 and other hazards, including bioterrorism.