Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bush goes to court to prevent mad cow testing

I was in Omaha, Nebraska this past weekend to celebrate my grandma's 100th birthday. I got to reconnect with family and meet some of my grandma's awesome neighbors in her town of 200 people.

I also got to read the Omaha World-Herald, which is actually a pretty decent paper. On Saturday morning I picked up the paper and read:

"The Bush Administration on Friday urged a federal appeals court to stop meatpackers from testing all of their animals for mad cow disease."

It was early morning so I had to rub my eyes to make sure I wasn't seeing things. I read on:

The government seeks to reverse a lower court ruling that allowed Kansas-based Creekstone Farms Premium Beef to conduct more comprehensive testing to satisfy demand from overseas customers in Japan and elsewhere.

Less than 1 percent of slaughtered cows are currently tested for the disease under Agriculture Department guidelines. The agency argues that more widespread testing does not guarantee food safety and could result in a false positive that scares consumers.

"They want to create false assurances," Justice Department attorney Eric Flesig-Greene told a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

But Creekstone attorney Russell Frye contended the Agriculture Department's regulations covering the treatment of domestic animals contain no prohibition against an individual company testing for mad cow disease, since the test is conducted only after a cow is slaughtered. He said the agency has no authority to prevent companies from using the test to reassure customers.

"This is the government telling the consumers, `You're not entitled to this information,'" Frye said.

Chief Judge David B. Sentelle seemed to agree with Creekstone's contention that the additional testing would not interfere with agency regulations governing the treatment of animals.

"All they want to do is create information," Sentelle said, noting that it's up to consumers to decide how to interpret the information.

Larger meatpackers have opposed Creekstone's push to allow wider testing out of fear that consumer pressure would force them to begin testing all animals too. Increased testing would raise the price of meat by a few cents per pound.

Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, can be fatal to humans who eat tainted beef. Three cases of mad cow disease have been discovered in the U.S. since 2003.

The district court's ruling last year in favor of Creekstone was supposed to take effect June 1, 2007, but the Agriculture Department's appeal has delayed the testing so far.

I stopped eating beef back in 2003 because the more you read about the food safety system in this country the more you realize there IS NO food safety system in this country. By contrast, Japan tests 100% of their cows for mad cow disease.

So in the last two weeks, the Bush administration has refused to keep rocket fuel out of our drinking water and gone to court to prevent responsible meat packers from trying to keep mad cow disease out of our hamburgers. Nice work guys.

Here's my question: does the Bush administration truly believe that they were elected with a mandate to force people to drink rocket fuel and eat mad cow infected meat or do they just not care anymore -- angry despots trying to squeeze every last cent out of the American people (on behalf of their corporate friends) in the waning days of their corrupt rule?

Interestingly, I checked both the NY Times and the LA Times and neither one of them seemed to have this story. Hat tip to John Amato at Crooks and Liars for flagging the AP version of the story on Yahoo (link -- definitely check out the comments below the C&L story too).

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