USDA To Meatpackers: You Have No Right To Test For Deadly Diseases

The USDA has vowed to safeguard your meat by fighting reckless meatpackers that want to test their dead cattle for mad cow disease. The USDA’s current policy of testing less than 1% of cows is clearly succeeding since none of you have caught Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human variant of mad cow disease.

The issue landed in court after Creekstone Farms offended the USDA by constructing a state of the art facility to test for mad cow. The USDA fears that testing will reveal too many ‘false positives,’ scaring the hell out of consumers and threatening the financial health of the nation’s meat industry.

The USDA sued Creekstone in U.S. District Court, where they lost. Judge James Robinson ruled that the USDA: “lacks authority to prohibit the private use of BSE test kits, which are not used in the treatment of BSE, but are used on cattle that are already dead to see if they had significant levels of BSE infection.”

This is not over. The USDA won’t stop fighting to protect the health of consumers the meat industry, and has vowed to appeal. Until the appeal is resolved, meatpackers won’t be able to test their stock for mad cow diesease. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER

Government to restrain meatpackers from testing for mad cow disease [AP] (Thanks to Scott)
(Photo: destinelee)


Edit Your Comment

  1. lowlight69 says:

    that’s just insane… i wish i could think of something better to say than that… i should hope the USDA loses their appeal, i can’t see why people should not be able to test their product…..

  2. capturedshadow says:

    False positives are a public relations disaster. When I worked testing drinking water, every system needed two positive tests before they took action. Otherwise everyone in the US would be boiling their drinking water every other week. I don’t know how sensitive the BSE test is, but BSE is so rare that I imagine the number of false positives greatly exceeds the number of real positives so Creekstone will waste a lot of good beef. People ignorant of statistics will be alarmed, so maybe the price of beef will go down. (just like people think that bottled water is safer)

  3. TechnoDestructo says:


  4. Notsewfast says:

    “The USDA’s current policy of testing less than 1% of cows is clearly succeeding since none of you have caught Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human variant of mad cow disease.”

    Homer Simpson: Not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol must be working like a charm.
    Lisa Simpson: That’s specious reasoning, Dad.
    Homer: Thank you, dear.
    Lisa: By your logic I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.
    Homer: Oh, how does it work?
    Lisa: It doesn’t work.
    Homer: Uh-huh.
    Lisa: It’s just a stupid rock.
    Homer: Uh-huh.
    Lisa: But I don’t see any tigers around, do you?
    [Homer thinks of this, then pulls out some money]
    Homer: Lisa, I want to buy your rock.
    [Lisa refuses at first, then takes the exchange]

  5. strathmeyer says:

    Why do you think they would waste beef? Why wouldn’t they just test it twice like you said? Obviously the test is cheap enough.

  6. Jon Mason says:

    @capturedshadow – while not disagreeing that false positives could be alarming, its hardly a good reason not to test. I hate to bring up on overused (and cliche) analogy but imagine cutting down on security screenings at airports because there’s too many ‘false positives’. The whole reason for doing so many tests is that the actual cases are so rare you have to check a good percentage of the beef to actually have any chance of catching it.

    For example, if 10 cows in the country were infected but you only checked 1% of cows – the chances of actually finding any cows with BSE would be astronomical…

  7. It’s also worth mentioning that testing does catch cases that would have otherwise been missed. From a different article:

    Japan had insisted for a long time that the US test each and all cattle for mad cow disease, but later yielded to the pressure from Washington agreeing that beef products from animals under certain age may be allowed into the Japanese market without mad cow testing.

    The Japanese concern about the beef safety is not something just imaginary. The Japanese government has claimed that if Japan followed the US testing protocol, the country would have missed at least six mad cow cases.For comparison’s sake, there have only been three known cases of angry cows in the U.S.

  8. Hawkins says:

    This is just plain disgusting behavior.

    Governmental policy must strike a balance between keeping consumers and workers safe, on the one hand, and refraining from unnecessarily restraining business, on the other.

    Clearly, it’s a delicate balance. But the current administration appears to come down almost exclusively on the side of large corporations.


  9. Tallanvor says:

    @Hawkins: “But the current administration appears to come down almost exclusively on the side of large corporations.”

    Bingo. If you really haven’t figured it out yet, Bush and his cronies don’t care about us “normal” people. They only care about the really rich people and the companies they run, no matter how many people are hurt, or killed as a result.

  10. plim says:

    i don’t understand this. if meatpackers want to scare their customers from buying their product and potentially adversely affect their own bottom line, why does the usda care? that’d be like phillip morris paying money for studies that illustrate that smoking causes lung cancer. is the fda going to prevent phillip morris from hampering its business?

  11. bricko says:

    I live next door to this Creekstone place. It is a very small specialty meat operation. It can test all its meat since it only sends out a small amount of meat and most of it goes to Japan. Its expensive and is not in your local market.

    The size of operations needed for the mass market supermarkets would dwarf this operation. This operation has 2 people that do the testing….

    To do a large packing plant would be a nightmare.

    And the scare issue with the number of FALSE POSITIVES that would be incurred in a large testing lab would have the entire opertion shut down on a weekly basis. With the large amount of cattle passing through these large operations you would invariable have large amounts of false positives that would be picked up on by the media demanding all the meat be recalled …for no reason.

    Your meat is already on a fast price rise up due to the foolishness of us now burning our foodstuffs for fuel, ie the Ethanol scam.

    Wait till moms get to paying 2-3 times for their milk and bread and meat.

    Here in the Midwest Im hearing they have come up with Ethanol plants that can now use Wheat. That means your Bread will now likely double in price, along with anything that uses flour, starch, gluten etc.

    Any one that thought burning your own foodstores in your car should be whipped like a petulant child.

  12. oldhat says:

    @plim: You said it. A private company is going to pay for private tests on it’s private cattle, and the government comes in and days that they can’t do it?


    Often, there are issues that are hazy but this is cut-and-dry: they can do whatever they want to their dead cows as long as it doesn’t poison the public.

    Now, the USDA can fight them for releasing the testing data, or for not letting the USDA re-test and analyze the results, etc. That makes sense. So you don’t start mass hysteria.

    But to stop the actual testing? This is a perfect example of outright government corruption and I’m liking the Chinese technique of public execution more and more every day.

    In the meantime…don’t eat beef…obviously you can’t trust the USDA worth a spit.

  13. karmagirl1976 says:

    I’d rather pay a little extra for peace of mind than get a good deal on something that could end up killing me.

  14. gundark says:

    Yeah, I dont see what the fuss is about. If they want to, and can, run some test, who the hell would want to prevent them (accpet for people serving their own interests).
    Besides, it isnt like they are going to publish to everyone on the planet every time they get a positive, they will likely just test it again and move on with life. Whats the big deal? Government needs to protect the people, not the corporations.

  15. tcabeen says:

    Cow is supposed to be licking its lips??

    Looks like a bloody nose!

  16. Ponygirl says:

    Plim, the USDA cares because only a few Meat Packers want to do this testing and the USDA feels (or rather the expenisive lobbists that tell the USDA what to feel) that if Creekstone started testing then consumers would start buying their meat and the sales would drop for the very large meat producers who do not care about public safety and do not want to spend the money on testing.

  17. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    Why does it matter what a company wants to do to its own dead cattle with their own money and their own time? It’s not like Creekstone is asking for a grant for testing….and by the way, EVERY cow that enters our food supply SHOULD be tested for Mad Cow and a host of other diseases.

  18. Trai_Dep says:

    Despite what the FREEPERS here are saying, testing ALL cows for BSE would result in a price increase of a couple pennies per pound. Ask moms – or yourself – if you’re worth 1/4 of a couple pennies the next time you’re yearning for a burger. I’d bet (hope?!) you’d say, “Yes!”

    FREEPERS: this is called the Magic of the Marketplace. Someone brings a desired innovation to the market and people vote with their pocketbooks. Stop your yammering.

  19. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    Uh I’d still want ALL cows to be tested even if it DOUBLED the price of beef. Because my health is worth that.

  20. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @trai_dep: What the hell is a freeper? For that matter, what the hell is your problem? Most of the people here already said they wouldn’t mind paying more for safer meat. Try reading the thread next time.

  21. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    A Freeper is a wing-nut that normally posts right wing crap to the Free Republic site forums.
    All Freepers are insane, they think that Bush, Cheney, Gonzo and all the rest of the thieves currently destroying the country are the greatest thing since sliced bread!

  22. anthonyls says:

    In Germany 100% of meat is tested and in most of the EU this is the case too.

    Does anyone really believe there is no Mad Cow disease in the US? There is just no political will to do this. Very disgusting!

    Why do people keep on tolerating this in this country? “Everything is OK – keep shopping”

  23. asherchang says:

    And these are the guys who made our food pyramid.

  24. informer says:

    I love eating beef and other meats, so please don’t confuse me with the crazy vegans at PETA, but the danger of BSE infection could be greatly reduced if the meat industry would stop feeding cattle the left-over body parts and feces of other animals.

  25. comedian says:
  26. aikoto says:

    They must be taking pointers from the FDA and the FTC.

  27. larry_y says:

    BSE testing is just a side issue. The real solution is traceability: tracking the beef from “farm to fork”.

  28. Trackback says:

    mental_floss reminds us that Mister Rogers was too good for this planet; AM, Then FM pays a visit to the Southside, draws the line between Steppenwolf and Superfly, then breaks into Dad’s record collection; Ickmusic goes insane — here’s some Kermit Ruffins, there’s some…