Song in my head: Don't it always seem to go.............Joni Mitchell
Mad Cow Update
It's been awhile since I have had the energy to sit down and form a cohesive thought. Pain and fatigue prevent a daily blogging schedule. So lets pick off where I left off and see if our beef supply is safe yet. Last week a downer cow in Texas was not sampled for BSE. Woops! And the NYT writes a scathing editorial....
More mad cow mischief
The federal Department of Agriculture is, according to this editorial making it hard for anyone to feel confident that the nation is adequately protected against mad cow disease. At a time when the department should be bending over backward to reassure consumers, it keeps taking actions that suggest more concern with protecting the financial interests of the beef industry than with protecting public health.
and a new book asks:
Do burgers fry your brain?
Dying for a Hamburger:Modern Meat Processing and the Epidemic of Alzheimer's Disease
Ingeborg Boyens, who has written extensively about food and agriculture and whose most recent book is Another Season's Promise writes in this review that in Dying for a Hamburger, Murray Waldman and Marjorie Lamb propose the case that Alzheimer's is an epidemic that will turn retirement for many Baby Boomers into a dead zone of dementia and that the blame for this lies at the feet of a meat industry that has encouraged the spread of a prion-triggered illness similar to mad cow disease. |Link|
And this interesting article explains how Californian health officials weren't notified for a week that mad cow tainted meat might have been shipped to their state. Woops!
Beef recall confusion frustrates California health officials
Jeff Farrar, who heads the California Food Safety Section of the state Department of Health Services, was cited as saying he thought it took more than two weeks for him to find out that beef potentially tainted with mad cow disease made its way into California, and that wasn't the way it was supposed to be.
It turned out, the story says, that Farrar, was wrong. Still, DHS officials learned a week late, Dec. 29, that meat from an infected Holstein in Washington state, which was recalled Dec. 23, might have been shipped to California grocery stores and restaurants.
But the slow communication between state officials and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which handles all food recalls, was the first of several frustrations for state health officials who, according to documents obtained by The Bee, tried to get recall details but sometimes received incomplete responses—or no response at all.
The story says that the experience has left DHS officials wondering about the terms of an agreement they signed with the USDA to keep beef recall details from the public in exchange for information about where the meat went and how much was sold, consumed or returned.
USDA spokesman Steve Cohen on Friday was cited as acknowledging it took a week for the department to notify California officials of the recall, but, he said, it wasn't for lack of trying, adding, "California wasn't notified until December 29. It was around the holidays, and I don't think anybody was in their offices. We tried to reach them." (article from FSNet listserv, by subscription)
Senator Harkin (D-Iowa) does not like the proposed USDA testing plan for BSE.
Harkin challenges USDA's BSE testing plan
Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) challenged Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman Monday to prove that USDA's plan to test for bovine spongiform encephalopathy is statistically valid.
In a letter sent to Veneman's office Tuesday, Harkin cited concerns about both the scope and efficacy of USDA's proposed new testing system for BSE, spurred, in part, by the department's recent failure to test a suspect cow in Texas for BSE.
"The Texas cow case calls into question the effectiveness and reliability of USDA's current and proposed surveillance system," Harkin said. "Despite this cow showing symptoms raising concerns about BSE, USDA allowed this animal to be shoved out the back door. USDA needs to correct this immediately to protect American consumers and cattle herds and to restore confidence in our BSE safeguards. We simply cannot tolerate a BSE testing system that fails to give valid answers to critical questions for U.S. consumers and foreign customers." (link from FSNet listserv)
And finally, it looks like the inspectors need inspecting....
USDA issues 'gag order' to inspectors after Texas BSE testing problem
The Agriculture Department has issued an order to inspectors in Texas not to talk to outside parties about bovine spongiform encephalopathy after BSE testing policies in the state were violated, United Press International reported.
UPI said it had obtained the order, which was sent by e-mail on May 6 by Ijaz Qazi, circuit supervisor for USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service's Dallas district, which covers all of Texas.
The order said: "All BSE inquiries MUST be directed to Congressional Public Affairs Phone #202-720-9113 attention Rob Larew OR Steve Khon. This is an urgent message. Any question contact me. Ijaz Qazi."
The National Joint Council of Food Inspection Locals, the national inspectors union, said the "gag order" is a violation of inspector's free speech rights and said it is considering legal action against USDA for breaching the labor agreement they have with the agency, according to the report.
USDA officials did not immediately return a phone call for comment. UPI reported that Qazi said the order was not issued in conjunction with the Texas case, and that it was a routine agency practice to refer reporters to the Washington office.
Both the USDA and its Inspector General have opened up investigations into the Texas case amid allegations that an offsite supervisor overruled an inspector at Lone Star Beef in San Angelo, Texas, who wanted to have an animal displaying signs of the brain wasting disorder tested for BSE.