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LAG Tries Misleading Scare Tactics Again PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Thursday, 20 July 2006
AFF Sentinel Vol.3 #17

LAG 1 allies Carol Tucker Foreman and Bill Bullard joined with a Connecticut Democratic Congresswoman in voicing scare tactics regarding BSE cattle testing.

USDA, having tested many more cattle for a longer period than initially planned, has announced it will scale back its high-level Enhanced Surveillance BSE cattle monitoring program -- to a robust 10X higher than international standards.

Even before the official announcement, Carol Tucker Foreman was quoted in a Reuter's story:2

"Why would you announce that you're going to be less cautious and take fewer precautions for animal and public health where there is no reason to believe that public confidence has been regained?" Foreman said.

Let's examine this LAG leader's statements, in reverse order:

First, the public - rightly so - never lost their overwhelming confidence in USDA's stewardship of consumer safety on the BSE issue. Surveys documented consumer confidence in beef and USDA. Only activists who needed to create a threatening cloud of uncertainty like Foreman and Bill Bullard of R- CALF ever thought there was a crisis of confidence, even though they tried to create one. Representatives of R-CALF, CFA and CU stood on stage together and did their best to scare everyone.

Secondly, use of the term "public health" is incorrect. The BSE testing program is a cattle surveillance program to determine and monitor levels of a non-contagious, animal disease. It does not, nor could it, have any direct impact on human health or food safety, because it is not a human health program.

Thirdly, "less cautious and take fewer precautions." The "abundance of caution" approach USDA has taken all along has established beyond a shadow of a doubt that the U.S. cattle herd has an extremely low incidence of BSE. Testing a huge proportion of cattle is no longer scientifically justified, USDA Secretary Mike Johanns said. He noted that outside scientific experts, who reviewed the plan, concurred.

Foreman also charged that changing the surveillance levels sends the "wrong message" to Americans and meat importers such as Japan and South Korea. Johanns bluntly answered that question in his news conference.

"People who are telling consumers that BSE testing protects consumers [regarding food safety] are misleading consumers." And from another angle:

"Those who are trying to convince consumers that 100 percent testing of animals solves the problem are misleading people," he said. Specified Risk Material (SRM) removal is the safeguard that protects consumers from a human health standpoint, he said.

Questioned about Canada's testing program, APHIS Administrator Ron DeHaven D.V.M, noted that on a proportion to herd size, Canada's testing level equals or exceeds the U.S. program, ten times the international recommendation.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D.-CT.) was quoted in the same Reuter's story that since Canada recently found another BSE case, the U.S. should be increasing its testing levels. We're not sure how DeLauro thinks changing the testing levels in the U.S. herd is going to find any possible BSE cows in Canada. We assume she knows that Canada is not a part of the U.S. If she has trouble with that, we're sure she would struggle with the intervention step of SRM removal and how that assures consumers a very minimal risk is reduced to about zero at slaughter.

In fact, Johanns mentioned that a review of all the data and the results of the Enhanced Surveillance programs, by people both inside and outside USDA, decided that the probable range of total BSE cases in the U.S. adult herd was four to seven cases.

DeLauro was joined by someone else who has attempted to confuse the world about animal health issues vs. human food safety non-issues. Reuters quoted R-CALF's Bill Bullard as saying he was unable to determine if the USDA's testing program met international standards, as USDA doesn't break out animals tested by category. Of course, extensive regulations which spell out exactly how animals are to be categorized and which classes are to be tested under what conditions don't seem to meet Bullard's approval. Neither does OIE (World Organization for Animal Health) approval of the USDA testing program. Producers and veterinarians will continue to monitor herd health.

Why is R-CALF never satisfied with the BSE program? Because apparently they cannot achieve their objective -- blocking imports from Canada -- unless consumers fear eating beef. They are willing to sacrifice consumer confidence in beef from both countries on the alter of their opposition to imports.

It seems fair to say that those who felt science and data all along indicated an infinitesimal level of BSE in the U.S. have been vindicated by the huge volume of testing results.

But the LAG - R-CALF in particular -- won't give up on their efforts to attack consumer confidence in beef. Whose side is R-CALF really on? It would seem neither consumers or the beef industry.


1 Liberal Activist Groups (LAG) like Consumer Federation of America, Nader's Public Citizen and Organization for Competitive Markets, Consumer's Union, R-CALF and other radical activist groups opposing mainstream American agriculture.

2 "U.S. To Scale Back Mad Cow Surveillance Program," Reuters, Christopher Doering, 07/19/06.

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Last Updated ( Friday, 01 September 2006 )
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