Uhhh, What Happened To Protecting the American People?

As Liss mentioned below, the Bush administration is taking legal action to prevent a small meatpacking company in Kansas from testing its entire herd for mad cow disease. WTF, you say? Oh, don’t worry. They have a good reason: They want to protect the giant meatpackers from consumer pressure to test their cows [my emphasis]:

The Agriculture Department tests fewer than 1 percent of slaughtered cows for the disease, which can be fatal to humans who eat tainted beef. A beef producer in the western state of Kansas, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, wants to test all of its cows.

Larger meat companies feared that move because, if Creekstone should test its meat and advertised it as safe, they might have to perform the expensive tests on their larger herds as well.

The Agriculture Department regulates the test and argued that widespread testing could lead to a false positive that would harm the meat industry.

A federal judge ruled in March that such tests must be allowed. U.S. District Judge James Robertson noted that Creekstone sought to use the same test the government relies on and said the government didn’t have the authority to restrict it. – A federal judge ruled in March that such tests must be allowed. The ruling was scheduled to take effect June 1, but the Agriculture Department said Tuesday it would appeal, effectively delaying the testing until the court challenge has played out.

Rick Perlstein at Campaign for America’s Future [bolds are Rick’s]:

Offered without comment. What is there possibly to say?

Oh, all right. One small comment. First, observe the contempt for liberty. When E. coli conservatives say self-regulation is preferable to government, they’re even lying about that. Second, observe the contempt for small business. When a small company want to – voluntarily! – hold its product to a higher standard, the government blocks it, in part because bigger companies have to be protected from the competition, in part because a theoretical threat to the bottom line (false positives) trumps protection against a deadly disease.

There’s your conservatism, America: not extremism in defense of liberty. State socialism in defense of Mad Cow.

Steve Benen:

This is just bizarre. In this case, a business wants to go above and beyond what’s required by law, and test all of its cows for mad cow disease. The Bush administration won’t allow it.

What’s more, a federal judge ruled a couple of months ago that these voluntary industry tests must be allowed, and the ruling was set to take effect on Friday, prompting the Agriculture Department to announce today that it would appeal the ruling. In the interim, Creekstone can’t do the tests it wants to guarantee food safety.

Bush administration officials couldn’t possibly be that afraid of “false positives.” Shouldn’t public health be the greater concern?

Silly Steve. Not when public health conflicts with profits! On the other hand, if public health and safety can be used as a cover story to justify a policy that brings in huge profits, then go for it.

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “Uhhh, What Happened To Protecting the American People?

  1. Chief

    My understanding is that the prions that cause the brain wasting in humans occurs only in brain and spinal cord tissue. And I recall only in animals over 30 months old. Most beef cows are slaughtered when they are about 18 months old. But, and a big but, is that it takes 20 years or so for Mad Cow to manifest itself in humans.

    Don’t know how much the test costs to run but the more tests one buys, the unit costt should go down.

    What is the American Beef Cattleman’s Association really scared of? ? ?

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  3. Bitty

    What is the American Beef Cattleman’s Association really scared of? ? ?

    Oprah for one, as I recall.

  4. Arkades

    This is just bizarre. In this case, a business wants to go above and beyond what’s required by law, and test all of its cows for mad cow disease. The Bush administration won’t allow it.

    How, exactly, can they prevent it? If the company wants its cows to be tested, and they privately pay a private lab to run the tests, on what grounds does the state intervene? What is the state’s compelling interest that would give it authority to limit the company’s testing?

  5. My understanding is that the prions that cause the brain wasting in humans occurs only in brain and spinal cord tissue. And I recall only in animals over 30 months old.

    As I recall, they told us that you could not catch herpies if there were no active sores….

    I refuse to eat any beef that I have not personally grown, or that has not been tested. Needless to say, I’ve not eaten beef for years.

  6. How, exactly, can they prevent it?

    The court said that they can’t, but the most recent development is an announcement that the government will do all it can to tie the case up in the courts in order to create a de facto ban on testing their cattle.

    What is the American Beef Cattleman’s Association really scared of?

    It isn’t the false positives they claim, it’s the real positives that might be found. One or two would generate enough of a media storm to take the bottom out of the beef market that is already hurting big time because of cholesterol and heart disease concerns. Given a choice between fixing the problem and pretending the problem doesn’t exist, those outside the reality-based community try the tinkerbell strategy yet again — the one that worked so well in Iraq and New Orleans.

  7. Jamie

    Uhhh — What happened to the free market? I thought that the bushies were looovvveedddd the free market? If one small company forces the bigger ones to test their product for safety, isn’t that a good thing? Isn’t that why were supposed to be all against government regulation and mandatory safety tests and government inspections — because the free market will protect us?

    Oh — the free market is only good when there’s a profit to be made.

    I haven’t eaten beef in over 10 years.

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  9. Stuart Buck

    I would suggest that before rushing out with stories like this, journalists should take care to be minimally accurate (which the AP story was not).

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