Thanks for the Help, MSM

Well, thanks a hell of a lot, mainstream media, for doing such a good job of delivering the facts.   QandO, in discussing the issues behind my earlier post on testing for mad-cow disease (BSE) helpfully includes this link to the EU's BSE testing site (the home of the testing program supposedly so much more enlightened than ours):

No method will detect BSE early in the infection. BSE has an average incubation period of 4-6 years. Therefore the EU testing programmes are targeted at animals over 30 months. The PrPres has not been detected in bovine brain or other nervous tissue very early in the disease and infectivity has not been shown either. In experimental infection where very high doses were administered, infectivity has been found in the ileum, part of the intestine. This has not been detected in natural infections.

Robert Fulton, via QandO, supplies the one other missing fact:  Most US cows are slaughtered as two-year-olds.  So they can't have BSE, because you can't have a five-year incubation disease in a 2-year-old animal.  And further, even if the animal has latent BSE infection, which has never been shown to harm humans, it can't be detected by current technology!  Even those superior Euros only test at 30 months.  This is an issue for aging dairy cows sent to slaughter, not for most of the US beef supply.

Well, those facts certainly would have been good to know, though in reading at least 20 mad cow articles in the MSM over the years, I have never seen it mentioned.  And it certainly hasn't been mentioned in the current testing brouhaha. 

I stand by my statement that private companies should be allowed to compete on full testing if they wish.  Hell, most of the stuff that is labeled "organic" and sells at a premium price is probably no safer than normal stuff, but companies are welcome to try to profit from the public's perceived need for organic stuff.

Assuming this is the reason behind the administration's decision to test only 1%, for which they have been chastised for years, it is yet another example of Bush's ham-handedness on communication.  Why not change the policy from "1% of all steers" to "100% of all beef from cattle over 36 months old." The latter would not represent much more testing, but would sure calm people a lot more than the other statement.


  1. TJIT:

    This report by the Harvard center for risk analysis might be helpful to those of us who are chewing on these issues.

    Comments on USDA(BSE) surveillance plan

    In summary, we agree with USDA’s focus on testing high risk cattle. If there are additional BSE-infected animals in the U.S., the likely high false negative rate for laboratory detection of BSE in normal adults and juveniles (animals that do not yet show signs of disease) would make a focus on these populations inefficient.

  2. David:

    Now if someone can just explain to me why after living in Germany 20 years ago I still can't give blood because of BSE.

  3. markm:

    "Assuming this is the reason behind the administration's decision to test only 1%, for which they have been chastised for years, it is yet another example of Bush's ham-handedness on communication."

    Bush's??? The President doesn't write USDA press releases, or have much to do with their policy decisions. It's some faceless bureaucrat behind this.

    Also brainless, I think. It seems like their position is, "We cannot detect BSE in 2 year old cows, so we'll test 1% of them. We'll also only test 1% of old slaughtered cows where BSE could be detected."

    Makes me wonder if their worst fear isn't missing a BSE-infected cow, but finding one - after we've been eating her children for 5 years...

  4. Mesa EconoGuy:

    Journalists are bred to distort or ignore facts. How is this story any different?

    Perhaps we should invent IJD – Ignorant Journalist Disease [redundant].

    Instant epidemic.