mad cow

Discussion in 'Meat' started by nimh, Jan 14, 2005.

  1. nimh

    nimh ~foodie~

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    From the green guide online, i'm copying this over while the article is free (meh, pay for information sites, bleh)


    Mad Cow, Madder Food System

    by Mindy Pennybacker and P. W. McRandle
    January 12, 2005 Update: Since January 2, Canada has seen two new confirmed cases of cattle from Alberta afflicted with "mad cow" disease. Even more disturbing, the second cow contracted the disease after new feed regulations designed to prevent its spread were put in place in 1997. This comes at a time when the U.S. Department of Agriculture is considering allowing young Canadian cattle to be sold again in America this March. And in the US, we learned in December that meat plants have allowed brains and spinal material to enter the food supply in violation of USDA mad cow regulations. Read on for more on the risks of mad cow and see the sidebar for our downloadable Grilling Guide for the healthiest choices.

    After the December discovery of the first U.S. case of bovine spongiform encephalophy (BSE), known as "mad cow" disease, more than two dozen countries stopped importing our beef. In the 1990s, 137 Britons died of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, contracted by eating BSE-contaminated beef.

    Now American consumers want to know: How did this happen, and are we in danger if we eat U.S. beef?

    The quick answer: It is safest to eat beef from cows that were not given conventional feed, which may contain contaminated animal parts. Look for certified organic or grass-fed labels (see box at right). Because the disease is spread by warped proteins that accumulate in the brain and nervous system, the riskiest conventional beef products are brains, neck bones and ground beef, hot dogs and sausage that may use meat mechanically stripped from bones. More than ever, it's important for consumers to know where our food comes from and how it was produced. But we also need better protection than we're getting from a government food safety system that allows contaminated foods to come to market.

    The System's Failures

    By Christmas Eve, 10,000 pounds of beef had been recalled from markets that might have received the meat of the sick cow—too late for those who might have eaten it, as the cow had been slaughtered on December 9. The USDA then announced changes intended to bolster consumer confidence: keeping meat from sick- or lame-looking cows, and head and spinal tissue from cattle older than 30 months, out of the food supply and stopping slaughterhouse practices that could allow meat to be contaminated. USDA also tried to place the blame elsewhere: The infected cow had come from Canada, which had had its own mad cow scare in May 2003. In that year alone, however, the U.S. imported 1.7 million cattle from Canada.

    USDA further reminded consumers that it had since 1997 banned the feeding of ruminant (cattle, sheep or deer) protein to ruminants, a practice that spreads BSE. However, cattle blood could still be fed to young calves until January 26, 2004, when the FDA banned this practice, along with that of including chicken coop and restaurant-plate waste in cattle feed.

    Should our confidence be restored? Not yet. For one thing, cattle parts can still be fed to pigs and poultry, which can in turn be fed back to cows. In February an international panel advising USDA recommended that all animal protein be banned from cattle feed. The experts also said that nervous-system tissue from cattle as young as one year should not be eaten by humans. Another problem is inadequate enforcement. "There's no on-farm, on-ranch enforcement mechanism to ensure compliance" with feed bans, says John Stauber, coauthor of Mad Cow USA. And, as recently as 2001, one fifth of American feed and rendering companies were not taking measures to prevent prohibited materials from entering feed, Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, reported in a New York Timesop-ed January 2.

    As Schlosser documents in Fast Food Nation, there is not enough inspection in U.S. slaughterhouses and meat-packing factories to prevent contamination of all sorts. And the government lacks the power to compel the recall of tainted food from supermarket shelves, relying instead on voluntary industry action.

    Stauber says he also doubts whether the "downer [lame] cow" regulations will be effectively enforced, and worries about U.S. lack of thorough BSE testing. While Japan tests every cow to be slaughtered and the EU tests 70 percent, the U.S. average is .06 percent. The USDA advisory panel urged that testing be increased here. "They're closing the barn door after the cow's got out, and they haven't addressed the problem of traceability," says Dr. Marion Nestle, author of Safe Food and professor of public health at New York University.

    Solutions:Traceable Meat

    The "Certified Organic" label assures that an animal has eaten only grass or organic feed, which cannot contain animal matter. Just as importantly, every stage of organic production is recorded so that cows can be traced. "These records are reviewed at least annually by an inspector representing a USDA-accredited certification agency," says James Riddle, organic policy specialist for of the Rodale Institute.

    While the "Grass-Fed" label is not yet third-party certified or defined by a federal rule, many grass-fed producers provide documentation that their animals eat exclusively vegetarian diets.

    Some Reliable Producers:

    Niman Ranch Beef, 510-808-0340

    Organic Valley Farms Beef, 888-444-6455

    American Grass Fed Beef, 866-255-5002

    For a list U.S. grass-fed cattle farms: Eat Wild

    For a complete list, see "Meat Product Report" and our downloadable Smart Shopper's Guide to Beef and Pork
  2. jim_w

    jim_w Member

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    Buy british beef! None better, none safer.
  3. HippyLove

    HippyLove Visitor

    this kinda has nothing to do with anything but it does relate to mad cow.....
    b/c i was out of the US for from '85-89 (in scotland- dad was marines) I can't give blood b/c I 'could spread mad cow disease'
    is that not the stupidest thing you ever heard??? i think so
  4. jim_w

    jim_w Member

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    that's weird... do you have a link to a website or something? I'd love to print that out and show it to my scottish cattle-farming family! My grandfather died from cjd (human form of bse), and that means I can't give blood in the uk. :) we have something in common!
  5. HippyLove

    HippyLove Visitor

    i don't where it would be on the internet thats what i was told when i tried to give blood last year. After i filled out the form thingy they were like 'oh well since you were out of the US you can't give blood.. you could spread mad cow disease everywhere!' i was like 'umm i really don't think i have it' and they still said no.

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