Talk Back at ANG Newspapers
P.O. Box 10367
Dear Sir or Madam:
The letter to the editor published in the Oakland Tribune June 10, 2003, entitled, “Don’t Go Mad, Go Meatless,” is a study in fallacy. Contrary to the author’s presumptions, the U.S. ban on Canadian ruminants is a clear testament to the efficacy of safeguards against BSE, commonly referred to as mad cow disease. The finding, rather than being an example of “too little, too late,” as the author purports, is proof that BSE prevention plans can indeed find a one in a million case.
The author of the letter feels that the testing of 20,000 cattle annually in the U.S. is the “too little” in the “too little, too late” criticism. In fact, testing plans have been designed to detect that one in a million case. The U.S. doubles the testing recommended by the Office International des Epizooties (OIE). The OIE is the world expert on BSE, the standard setting organization for animal health for 162 member nations. Under the international standard, a BSE-free country like the United States would be required to test only 433 head of cattle per year. The USDA is now testing 41 times that amount.
In addition to surveillance, OIE guidelines also require a risk analysis and management strategy, an education and awareness program and compulsory notification requirements in order for a country to claim that it is BSE free. The United States exceeds these criteria in all categories. “We’ve exceeded OIE surveillance standards for the last seven years and have doubled surveillance every year since 1999,” said Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman. “We continue to examine our BSE programs and examine additional measures to ensure strong regulatory and compliance systems.” “Too little” is just not an accurate label for the U.S. BSE testing program.
The author implies that because most cattle are slaughtered before the symptoms of mad cow disease develop, there is a flaw in the safeguard system. However, there is no evidence to show that consumption of meat from an animal that hasn’t developed BSE is a risk. There is no evidence that shows that animals that young can develop the disease at all.
Finally, in a highly crass fashion, the author advises that those in the cattle industry should seek out a “more predictable and socially redeeming career.” The social redemption of any career is subjective at best. I take great pride in representing American families working in one of the oldest industries in our nation. I’m proud to work daily in an industry that strives to improve upon innovations in food safety and produces the safest meat possible for our families at home and abroad.
National Meat Association