Monday, March 27, 2006
Ag Dept.: "Test for Mad Cow, Go to Jail"
Let me get this straight. Your government, funded by your money, threatens to prosecute a meatpacker that wants to ensure it isn't selling mad cow infested beef?
Currently, according to the article, mad cow testing in the U.S. is controlled by the department, which tests about 1 percent of the 35 million cattle slaughtered each year and that level is slated for reduction.
As the article continued, "Department officials say they oppose 100 percent testing because it does not ensure food safety. The disease is difficult to detect in younger animals, which are the source of most beef. Larger meatpackers worry that insistence from Japanese buyers would force them to do testing and that a suspect result might scare consumers away from eating beef."
Testing would cost "about $20 per animal", and yet, despite the fact that the third case of mad cow disease in the U.S. was discovered last week in Alabama, "larger meatpackers worry that insistence from Japanese buyers would force them to do testing and that a suspect result might scare consumers away from eating beef."
In short, we test one of every 100 cows, we threaten companies who want to do more testing than this with criminal prosecution, and we worry about the effect of a "suspect" test on "large meatpackers."
So who's the Ag Department concerned about, large meatpackers or consumers? When you threaten to criminally prosecute a meatpacker that wants to follow consumer demands, it's hard to claim you're pro-consumer.
It sounds to me like when Mike Johanns had to choose between protecting consumers or protecting meatpackers against possible "suspect" tests, he chose the meatpackers. Risking the spread of mad cow disease to stave off a possible scare that hurts meatpackers is bad public policy.
Maybe I won't stop and pickup that hamburger on the way home...