Federal testing for mad cow disease a failure, law review editor says

gency and the beef industry from a public outcry that would take place if more cases of mad cow disease were found. "In its 93 years of existence, the Virus-Serum-Toxin Act has never been used or interpreted to regulate testing of any kind. Manipulating the act to include the BSE test perverts the statute's purpose."

Congress should pass legislation forcing the USDA to license BSE tests to ranchers and slaughterhouses. "The USDA should create standards for testing conditions and requirements, and promulgate an application process with objective criteria for private producers. A standard testing regime would enable private producers such as Creekstone to market their beef as 'tested for BSE.'"

Berlowitz cited news reports that the cost of such testing would add only 6 to 10 cents to a pound of beef.

His article further warns of poor oversight of cattle feed. In particular, the slaughterhouse practice of "rendering," or recycling dead cows and sheep into protein for cattle feed, is believed to be widespread.

Congress banned the practice in 1997 following evidence that feeding herbivorous cows the meat from dead animals can lead to the formation of abnormal proteins, or prions.

The prions attack a cow's brain tissue, causing holes to form. As the brain loses function, the cow becomes disoriented and clumsy. Eventually the animal loses all muscle control and is unable to walk or eat. No treatment is available.

Enforcement of cattle-feed restrictions was placed in the hands of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rather than the USDA, which has caused various bureaucratic snarls, including a lack of communication between the two agencies.

"The FDA is far behind on inspecting feed businesses subject to the feed ban, has no uniform plan to identify feed businesses, has no routine procedure for testing of cattle feed, does not require a notice about the ban to be placed on feed, and has repeatedly failed to noti

Contact: Mark Reutter, Business & Law Editor
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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