USDA on Mad Cow: 'Don't Look, Don't Find'

The United States' 'don't look, don't find' policy on mad cow disease is beginning to crumble under the weight of the international boycott of US beef. AP, UPI and here the New York Times are all reporting that "a beef producer in Kansas has proposed testing all its
cattle for mad cow disease so it can resume exports to
Japan, but it is encountering resistance from the
Agriculture Department and other beef producers. American beef exports have plummeted since Dec. 23 when a
cow in Washington State was diagnosed with [mad cow disease], a fatal disease that
can be passed to humans who eat infected cattle tissue. To assure the safety of its meat, the company, Creekstone ... wants to use rapid diagnostic
tests that are routinely used in Japan and many European
nations." This is potentially great news for American farmers and consumers if other companies break ranks with USDA and the meat lobby and test their cattle. However, any private testing regime must use the most sensitive tests and
publicly report any mad cows discovered to have credibility. The two
Canadian and US mad cows found so far are the tip of an iceberg of unknown size; only testing of millions of cattle will reveal the extent of this crisis.