Meta-Blog

SEARCH QandO

Email:
Jon Henke
Bruce "McQ" McQuain
Dale Franks
Bryan Pick
Billy Hollis
Lance Paddock
MichaelW

BLOGROLL QandO

 
 
Recent Posts
The Ayers Resurrection Tour
Special Friends Get Special Breaks
One Hour
The Hope and Change Express - stalled in the slow lane
Michael Steele New RNC Chairman
Things that make you go "hmmmm"...
Oh yeah, that "rule of law" thing ...
Putting Dollar Signs in Front Of The AGW Hoax
Moving toward a 60 vote majority?
Do As I Say ....
 
 
QandO Newsroom

Newsroom Home Page

US News

US National News
Politics
Business
Science
Technology
Health
Entertainment
Sports
Opinion/Editorial

International News

Top World New
Iraq News
Mideast Conflict

Blogging

Blogpulse Daily Highlights
Daypop Top 40 Links

Regional

Regional News

Publications

News Publications

 
Setting the record straight: Mad Cow Disease
Posted by: McQ on Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Recently I took off after the Agriculture Department and the administration about their desire to block 100% BSE testing of cows at a small meat packing plant who desired to do so.

Robert Fulton dropped by yesterday and pointed out in an off-topic comment that the reason they were arguing as they were was because most cows don't develop BSE (mad cow disease) because the disease has a 5 year incubation period and most cows slaughtered here are 2 years old. So the possibility of any slaughtered cattle having BSE is, well, non-existent (if, as is obvious, they're below 5 years of age).

I did some checking, and, in the middle of it received an email which confirmed what Robert said, with links and all (HT: Stubborn Facts).

Robert was completely correct. I retract my criticism. I now understand the basis for the administration's argument, and while I still think Creekstone Farms Premium Beef should be able to test whatever they wish, in the case of BSE I really don't see the reason behind it, unless they're selling cattle within the threshold of the BSE incubation period.

Having caught AP in some whoppers previously, I should have been more wary of the report, but being a libertarian, it just seemed a perfect example of more government stupidity. Obviously there's plenty of that to uncover and highlight, but this, apparently wasn't one of those instances. I'll try to be a little more careful in the future and instead of being a duck that jumps on every June bug, try to take a closer look at them to ensure one of them isn't a stink bug like this one.
 
TrackBacks
Return to Main Blog Page
 
 

Previous Comments to this Post 

Comments
This was linked by Instapundit too. Really makes a convincing case for the govt being justified here.
 
Written By: ChrisB
URL: http://
Admirably retraction. You demonstrate just the right way to respond to new information.

On the other hand, perhaps just as things are not as simple as they first appear, they may not be as simple as they appear at second glance. The court, after all, found in favor of Creekstone. Here’s the document. Check the last note to see that
Of greater concern is the possibility that private testing could produce a false positive result, which might trigger
unnecessary public alarm. USDA has asserted this possibility as
a reason to avoid private testing.


If these tests are indeed worthless, why is the USDA doing the surveilance testing of whatever small percent it is testing?

The bottom line is that Creekstone Farms Premium Beef should be able to test whatever they wish, and the USDA opposed that. Their stated reasons for the opposition didn’t make any sense, which is why they lost. Maybe they’re just protecting their turf or maybe they are influenced by certain industry players who also oppose private testing. Let’s just give Bush’s guys the benefit of the doubt.
 
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
Well except as pointed out in the link to Stubborn Facts:
Contrary to the AP report, the government did not argue that this should not be allowed because of a concern for false positives, but because of a concern for false negatives.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Admirably (ed. Admirable) retraction. You demonstrate just the right way to respond to new information.
There is a lesson there for you that I doubt we will ever see in practice.
 
Written By: cap joe
URL: http://
bottom line is that Creekstone Farms Premium Beef should be able to test whatever they wish, and the USDA opposed that.
Actually I don’t think this is the correct way to summarize the argument. From my link,
The reason the government is "in the case to start with" is that Creekstone Farms filed a lawsuit against the Department of Agriculture.
as mcq says, they’re worried about false negatives. Again from my link:
The false negative argument was also made in a 2005 rule from the USDA, which found universal testing to lack any scientific justification

...

The USDA’s rule linked above, was upheld by the Ninth Circuit, in an opinion written by Clinton-appointed judge Wallace Tashima, and joined by Clinton appointee Richard Paez:
Still, is there justification for doing this?
Could the USDA have been worried about market protection despite the fact that its briefs never mentioned such a theory? Possibly, but again, if the USDA is right about the efficacy of the test, then this concern would have been rational. If a company uses a "worthless" test that will produce only "false negatives" (given the long latency period of the disease and the age at which cattle are slaughtered), then it would be false advertising for a company to claim that this worthless test made its beef any safer. Of course, that may be why the district judge said that this whole case may be more a matter for the FTC.
 
Written By: ChrisB
URL: http://
I should clarify, creekstone farms filed a lawsuit against the Dept of Ag because they, the USDA, own the test, and Creekstone is trying to buy tests from them, but their testing being "worthless", it violates USDA policy.
E. Under official USDA policy, "the sale of BSE test kits is restricted to laboratories approved by State and Federal animal health officials for use in APHIS’s program of BSE surveillance." This is why Creekstone had to ask permission from the USDA to buy BSE test kits in the first place.

F. But because so many false negatives would result from testing young animals, using tests in that way would be "worthless" under the statute.
 
Written By: ChrisB
URL: http://
These problems remain with Robert’s exposition, and with your apology, which I feel was over hasty.

I don’t think you have nearly as much to apologize for as you seem to.

1) The USDA is not the proper place for this objection to be raised, it’s with the FTC wrt false advertising.

For part two of my post, I should note my info is more comprehensive but may be out of date.

2) The BSE* disease is not solely transmitted by feed—the same protein folds improperly in all mammals that have it at a low rate. The genes involved in differentiating neural tissue also have protective mechanisms which generally deal effectively with endogenously arising prion diseases.

Usually, you die of old age before your accumulated misfolded proteins get you.

With BSE*, the defenses in cattle’s nervous systems are overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of prions entering their system in their feed—they develop the disease in proportion to the rapidity with which they take in tainted feed over time.

If they didn’t have the genes for this protein, then they can’t get or transmit it.


Among Europeans, especially Nordic types, the genes which code for the protein and handling misfolds mesh in such a way that I believe 25% of Norwegians can’t get BSE*.

There are persons who genetically have no defense against BSE*.

In the event a calf had a defective "BSE*/misfold handling" gene from conception AND it also randomly had misfolds early in its fetal development, then Creekside’s approach to testing is all that could find the disease before the animal tissue got into the human food supply.

In that sense, Creekside could say its beef is more safe, and that would be perfectly true.

*BSE, CJD, nvCJD...these are all the same disease seen in differing species and having differing causes—but the same protein misfolding.

In at least one SF soldier I have read of who served in Afghanistan, he ate the better part of a sheep’s brain at a local ceremony/feast. He expired of nvCJD 18 months later, and began showing symptoms in only six months.

The time to onset of symptoms does depend on the quantity of material eaten.

All of that being said and true, the example Mr. Fulton gave where he justified the USDA’s decision—some gobbledegook about how letting Creekside test as it wanted would encourage nanny-statism—that was just goofy.

Thank you, Tom Perkins
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
Sigh. You are correct, Mr. Perkins, it is goofy. If only we didn’t have the real world example of the liberal response to GW, which is also goofy.
 
Written By: Robert Fulton
URL: http://
If only we didn’t have the real world example of the liberal response to GW, which is also goofy.
Robert, the equivalent, relating to global warming and your example, is having the government ban the Prius because letting it out on the market might later cause the greenies to get the govt to ban all non-hybrids.

That may eventually happen.

It is no excuse to ban the Prius.

Yes, your example is goofy.

Tom Perkins, ml, mal, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
Nice Clarification there Chris B. Indeed the test used by the USDA (worthless or not) is the same Bio-Rad test that Creekstone was attempting to buy. Their importation and use of that test is what the USDA prevented. Thus the lawsuit. So the USDA opposed private testing is, in fact, an appropriate way to summarize the situation.

And while I saw the contention that false negatives were what concerned the USDA in your link’s text, I also saw the excerted language in the court’s own finding. The judge says in a note directly attached to the false-negative-misleading-the-public argument:
Of greater concern is the possibility that private testing could produce a false positive result, which might trigger unnecessary public alarm. USDA has asserted this possibility as a reason to avoid private testing.
bolding mine as the sentence seems to have escaped some people’s notice.
 
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
Mr. Perkins, let us get our "goofies" straight here. Yes, you are correct that yelling "Fire!" when your rowboat out on Lake Erie catches fire is Constitutionally protected free speech. I would say that my goofy in this case is the making same outcry in a crowded theater.

IOW, the "greenies" have not succeeded in getting liberals to eschew private jet transport and huge SUV transportation. Therefore, the danger that they will be able to spark them to achieve 100% hybrid use is ... arguable.

However, once a "fully-tested" mad-cow-free meat is advertised as being available to the rich and not the poor...? Just imagine how good it would make liberals feel to make this meat available to all? Irresistible.
 
Written By: Robert Fulton
URL: http://
A few points on BSE and how it has been approached in the US

Surveillance of the US cattle herd for the presence of BSE began in 1990.

BSE was spread in cattle by the feeding them ruminant animal meat and bone meal (MBM). The US banned this in 1997 and the chances of having any BSE in the US decline every year because of this ban.

Between the feed ban and the incubation period for BSE international food safety groups agree that the risk of BSE being present in US cattle under 30 months of age is exceedingly small.
 
Written By: TJIT
URL: http://
The test Creekstone wanted to use is only the first part of the testing process.

A provisional positive result at the creekstone plant would mean the sample would have to be sent to the USDA for further testing. USDA approved labs would do additional testing incuding immunohistochemistry (IHC). The results of these tests would determine if it was a true positive or a false positive.
 
Written By: TJIT
URL: http://
Here is a link to a report from the Harvard center for risk analysis that gives a detailed look at the surveillance program.

Comments on USDA(BSE) surveillance plan
In summary, we agree with USDA’s focus on testing high risk cattle. If there are additional BSE-infected animals in the U.S., the likely high false negative rate for laboratory detection of BSE in normal adults and juveniles (animals that do not yet show signs of disease) would make a focus on these populations inefficient.
 
Written By: TJIT
URL: http://
I’m reminded of so much criticism on any topic from Iraq to global warming to nationalized health care... it’s so easy to make a persuasive argument based on a handful of facts but without the full information and a real in-depth understanding of the subject you get people saying things like Saddam was never a threat or free health care is free.
 
Written By: abwtf
URL: http://abw.mee.nu
"because the disease has a 5 year incubation period and most cows slaughtered here are 2 years old."

I had some prime rib once that was so tough that if that animal was only two yrs. old, it must have been a rodeo bull. My jaw was sore for at least two days. Never order a prime rib special at a bar.

They said "most" cows. What happens to cows over 2 years old? Dairy cattle, for example.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Robert Fulton wrote:
However, once a "fully-tested" mad-cow-free meat is advertised as being available to the rich and not the poor...? Just imagine how good it would make liberals feel to make this meat available to all? Irresistible.
Currently, they are occupied with the prohibition of tobacco. I see no signs they are interested in your prospect yet—and it is still no argument for preventing Creekstone from making use of the test. I believe the equivalent in terms of tobacco use to your example would be the government compelling all restaurants/bars to permit smoking throughout their facilities in fear that any other policy might lead to the greenies eventually banning it everywhere.

The eventuation of the current result does not justify the government’s taking a preemptive coercive action.

I can see the point prohibiting false advertising, but even there, it is true that from the standpoint of false negatives, that Creekstone’s fully tested beef would be more safe than others’ beef, albeit a very low degree of extra safety.

To say that false negatives is a reason for Creekstone not to test it’s beef fully—since the same false negatives owing to slaughtering age and incubation time apply to regularly tested USDA beef—this reason simply does not hold water.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
Mr. Perkins you are tougher than timactual’s prime rib special. Actually, I agree with you. However, the issue in the original context was foggy enough to provide me with an excuse to do a riff on liberals (my favorite activity online). Let us rejoice that this is not an actual issue ripped from the front page of the NYT and proceed.
 
Written By: Robert Fulton
URL: http://
Well, tougher or more thick.

Your choice, really ;^)

TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://

 
Add Your Comment
  NOTICE: While we don't wish to censor your thoughts, we do blacklist certain terms of profanity or obscenity. This is not to muzzle you, but to ensure that the blog remains work-safe for our readers. If you wish to use profanity, simply insert asterisks (*) where the vowels usually go. Your meaning will still be clear, but our readers will be able to view the blog without worrying that content monitoring will get them in trouble when reading it.
Comments for this entry are closed.
Name:
Email:
URL:
HTML Tools:
Bold Italic Blockquote Hyperlink
Comment:
   
 
Vicious Capitalism

Divider

Buy Dale's Book!
Slackernomics by Dale Franks

Divider

Divider