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From: TSS ()
Subject: Re: THE HONORABLE PHYLLIS FONG AND HER Rocky Mountain oysters should be given a medal
Date: June 29, 2005 at 8:40 am PST

In Reply to: THE HONORABLE PHYLLIS FONG AND HER Rocky Mountain oysters should be given a medal posted by TSS on June 29, 2005 at 5:55 am:

The Lufkin Daily News

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Thank God for people like Phyllis Fong.

She's the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Agriculture who ordered the test that determined that a cow cleared by the USDA, did in fact have bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease.

And thank God as well that she didn't notify Agricultural Secretary Mike Johanns before she did it.

Hours before a British lab confirmed that the cow did have BSE, Johanns told the Associated Press that he was "disappointed" that Fong didn't consult him before ordering a test that would have confirmed a diagnosis.

The first test on the animal had come back positive. The second, performed by the USDA, came back negative.

Despite the diametrically opposed results, and requests from consumer groups to have another test run to determine which one was correct, the department said there was no need.

‘‘We are confident in the expertise of USDA's laboratory technicians in conducting BSE testing,'' wrote Jere Dick, an associate deputy administrator.

While BSE is not a serious threat to human life – about 150 people worldwide have died from the disease – it is a most serious threat to the beef industry. In Nacogdoches County, it's a $28 million per year industry.

Dozens of countries banned U.S. beef imports after a cow was diagnosed in 2003, costing the industry billions.

Japan, formerly one of the country's biggest customers, had shown signs of ending its ban. According to the AP, the Japanese Food Safety Commission recommended that mad cow disease tests be waived for domestic cattle under 21 months old. They had asked that the United States test all cattle before slaughter, as Japan does – a request Washington rejected as too costly.

It appears to us that it is Washington's testing technique that will prove even more costly to the beef industry.

How could anyone accept with confidence that the USDA and the Department of Agriculture are seriously dedicated to ensuring the safety of the food supply with the attitude reflected by Johanns and Dick?

As one former cattle producer told the AP, "Our credibility around the world is almost zero."

After Monday's revelation, it's no doubt a few degrees below zero.

The beef industry has taken steps to keep sick cows out of the food supply, but that is just one part of the equation. Without the assurance of strictly enforced government oversight, that means little, if anything.

The cow was suspected of disease last November. We are getting a confirmation of that eight months later. Were it up to Dick and Johanns, we'd all be "blissfully ignorant" – until the next outbreak of mad cow disease.

Johanns and Dick should resign, and we'd suggest that the letter asking for those resignations come from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.


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