Monday, September 15, 2008

Federal Court Allows USDA to Block Private Testing for Mad Cow Disease

Private US Meatpacker wants to test every cow, USDA says "no," Meatpacker files suit against USDA to allow private testing, Court rules in favor of USDA, bars meatpacker from testing for mad cow; what are they trying to hide?

By Charles Abbott
Reuters, August 29, 2008
Straight to the Source

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Agriculture Department is within bounds to
bar meatpackers from testing slaughter cattle for mad cow disease, a
U.S. Court of Appeals panel said in a 2-1 ruling on Friday.

Creekstone Farms Premium Beef LLC, a small Arkansas packer, filed
suit on March 23, 2006, to gain access to mad-cow test kits. It said
it wanted to test every animal at its plant to assure foreign buyers
that the meat was safe to eat.

Three U.S. cases of mad cow disease, a fatal neurological infection,
have been reported, the last in March 2006. People can contract a
human version of the disease by eating infected meats. Most nations
banned U.S. beef after the first case, in December 2003, but trade
has been restored for the most part.

In a 25-page ruling, Appellate Judges Karen Henderson and Judith
Rogers said USDA has authority under the 1913 Virus-Serum-Toxin Act
to prevent sale of mad-cow test kits to meatpackers. USDA interprets
the law to control products for "prevention, diagnosis, management or
care of diseases of animals."

David Sentelle, chief judge of the District of Columbia appeals
circuit, dissented from the decision. He said USDA "exceeds the
bounds of reasonableness" for a law enacted to prevent the sale of
ineffective animal medicine.

USDA allows the mad-cow test kits to be sold only to laboratories
that it approves. It says the tests should not be used as a marketing
tool and the cattle that comprise the bulk of the meat supply are too
young to be tested reliably.

Two large export markets, Japan and South Korea, accept beef only
from younger U.S. cattle. Mad cow is found mostly in older cattle.
Its incubation period is two to eight years.

Creekstone said it lost $200,000 a day due to reduced U.S. beef
exports when it filed its lawsuit.

In its lawsuit, Creekstone argued the 1913 law could not be invoked
to prevent use of products like "rapid test" kits for mad cow disease
and the kits were not a "treatment" for livestock.

U.S. District Judge James Robinson had ruled in March 2007 that USDA
could not control mad cow tests because they are not a treatment for

The United States applies a number of safeguards against mad cow,
formally named bovine spongiform encephalopathy. They include a ban
on using cattle parts in feed and requirements for packers to remove
at slaughter the materials most likely to carry the mad-cow agent --
the brain, spinal column and nervous system tissue.

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