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December 23, 2003 3:17 PM   Subscribe

The USDA has announced the first 'presumptive positive' result of a test of a cow for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, in Washington state. CNN hasn't caught up yet, but USDA themselves have a page on the issue, as do the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the EU, and the World Health Organization. My advice? Buy Chik-fil-A; sell Burger King. :-)
posted by baylink (73 comments total)

 
The CNN first lead is up now, and Marketplace reports that the Chicago Board of Trade is saying that cattle futures, corn and soy are expected to open sharply lower tomorrow.
posted by baylink at 3:30 PM on December 23, 2003


And why, you may be asking yourself, do I give a crap about this?

Because BSE is transmissible: mad cows can cause mad people.
posted by baylink at 3:33 PM on December 23, 2003


At the urging of White House officials and the large meat-packing cartel, there appears to be an agreement that will effectively kill the new country-of-origin labeling law," said Daschle. "This is a very thinly disguised proposal to kill COOL. I don’t think the American people will be fooled.

from here.

/obvious
posted by lescour at 3:39 PM on December 23, 2003


What will be interesting is if there are a few more cases of these, what the Red Cross will do; you can't donate blood if you've sampled beef in the UK in the last ten years at the moment- if they follow their own stringent rules, anybody who's chugged a burger in the US is now ineligible to donate.
posted by headspace at 3:42 PM on December 23, 2003


Yeah. The West Wing enumerated the possibilities in an episode last year's C-plot; it won't be pretty.

From a trackback:

What if it happened in the US? (Atlantic Monthly, Sep 98; thanks to Ben Hammersly, who has some other good linkage, too.)
posted by baylink at 3:50 PM on December 23, 2003


I do enjoy the local news coverage, though:

"This incident is not terrorist-related," Veneman said Tuesday. "I cannot stress this point strongly enough."

posted by NsJen at 3:57 PM on December 23, 2003


BSE was a big problem in the UK before they started monitoring in the late 80s since then the number of cases has been less than a thousand. So long as the USA remains tough on testing I suspect the number of transmission cases to humans is nothing to be worried about.
posted by stbalbach at 3:58 PM on December 23, 2003


> "This incident is not terrorist-related," Veneman said Tuesday. "I cannot stress this point strongly enough."

The worst part is that there's no way in hell he can guarantee it. They *love* big nasty's; this certainly is one.

Has no one read Executive_Orders?

Except the terrorists, I mean?
posted by baylink at 4:03 PM on December 23, 2003


headspace - you can't donate blood if you've sampled beef in the UK in the last ten years at the moment

Do you have any citations for that?

cattle futures, corn and soy are expected to open sharply lower tomorrow..

How odd, I woulda thought soy products may even be boosted.
posted by dash_slot- at 4:06 PM on December 23, 2003


This is a terrible blow to beef producers in the United States.

In Canada we had one case of BSE, and it cost the industry C$3.3 billion. And before any of you smirky, militant, vegetarian types start rubbing your hands together with glee, remember the impact that has on small farmers, truckers, and assorted industries in rural areas.
posted by pooligan at 4:08 PM on December 23, 2003


Dear America,

Ha ha.

-- canada
posted by Space Coyote at 4:10 PM on December 23, 2003


dash-slot: Something like 50% of soy and corn is used for animal feed. If the beef industry goes south for a season, soy and corn usually take a hit as well.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:17 PM on December 23, 2003


headspace - you can't donate blood if you've sampled beef in the UK in the last ten years at the moment

Do you have any citations for that?


I'm British and was told my blood wasn't welcome when I tried to donate after living in the US for a few years.
posted by normy at 4:17 PM on December 23, 2003


McDonalds down 3.5% in after hours trading.
posted by machaus at 4:19 PM on December 23, 2003


This site - The (UK) National Blood Service - has a flash animation which asks all sorts of possibly dubious questions which are designed to protect health - none of them mention eating beef in the last 10 years.

normy - I thought the meaning was 'you can't donate blood in the UK if you've sampled beef in the UK in the last ten years at the moment'

I guess I misundercomprehended that.

pooligan: one militant veggie here, not rubbing his hands with glee at the distress which may be caused to dumb animals by stupid feed practices designed by humans. Thanks for the troll.
posted by dash_slot- at 4:21 PM on December 23, 2003


baylink, Veneman is not a he.
posted by alms at 4:22 PM on December 23, 2003


dash_slot - My wording wasn't the best, either. Just to be clear: My blood was refused in the US, because I had previously lived in the UK.
posted by normy at 4:25 PM on December 23, 2003


Maybe this will now stop them from feeding the cows groundup pieces of other animals? just maybe?
posted by amberglow at 4:30 PM on December 23, 2003


Thanks, Alms... I was insufficiently careful.
posted by baylink at 4:32 PM on December 23, 2003


It was only a matter of time. What's surprising is that it took this long.

In other news, Colorado biologists are considering reintroducing the plains wolf to kill chronic wasting disease infected animals in game herds.
posted by raaka at 4:36 PM on December 23, 2003


finally time for americans (and folks worldwide) to start consuming locally produced organic beef? at my local farmers market in st. paul - the family farm organic, range fed, beef producers there ... have long said they would never eat beef not produced by themselves or someone they know.
posted by specialk420 at 4:50 PM on December 23, 2003


amberglow, on NPR on the way home, they mentioned that that practice has been banned in the US for years, which is why this might not turn out to be as bad as it has been in other countries.
posted by crawl at 4:56 PM on December 23, 2003


cool--i thought we did what other countries did. That's excellent news, crawl--thanks!
posted by amberglow at 5:00 PM on December 23, 2003


from CNN -

The sick animal came from a farm in Mabton, Washington, about 40 miles southeast of Yakima. It was a so-called "downer" animal, meaning it was unable to walk when it reached the slaughterhouse, which under USDA rules triggers automatic testing.

ugh. I'm with specialk420, talk to your local butcher, never buy a pound of hamburger from a national chain again. Consumers have the power to change this sickening system.
posted by pejamo at 5:22 PM on December 23, 2003


I knew I should not have flown drunk to england, picked up a cow, and flew it back to washington.
posted by Keyser Soze at 5:22 PM on December 23, 2003


A good book to read regarding the slaughter of 'downed' cows, and the meatpacking industry in general is Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation.
posted by Keyser Soze at 5:24 PM on December 23, 2003


baylink, knock it off with the FUD you're peddling regarding the impossibility of ruling out BSE as bioterror. The disease, as is pretty widely known, has an incubation period of two to eight years.

It's not known to travel horizontally (i.e. what we would refer to even in other contexts as "virally"); rather, BSE is what is known as a "common source" disease - i.e. all cattle who later come down with BSE can be tracked to a given contaminated feed source. Unless Osama bin Feedlot was *very assiduously* strewing chunks of contaminated tissue through the Pacific Northwest in the mid-Nineties, I think we can reasonably rule out bioterrorism.

What is far more likely, and IMO far scarier, is that BSE or some rough equivalent is virtually certain to arise in contemporary cattle populations as a consequence of the economics of large-scale ranching, feeding, slaughtering and processing. In other words, capitalism of the brutal cut-every-corner variety is to blame, not terrorism.
posted by adamgreenfield at 5:25 PM on December 23, 2003


The Meatrix.
posted by homunculus at 5:26 PM on December 23, 2003


Oh, and I know you were trying to be flip, but mad cows do not "cause mad people." Ingestion of certain types of bovine offal is the presumptive culprit to blame for ten cases of variant Creuzfeldt-Jakob Disease in the UK, yes, which would definitely make me think twice about eating beef were I not already a vegetarian. But it's not as if a zombie army of former McDonalds patrons is in the offing...as pleasing as such a spectacle might be.
posted by adamgreenfield at 5:29 PM on December 23, 2003


My family has around 80 head of cattle about 20 miles from the farm that this cow was found, (sigh.) [this is bad]
posted by Tenuki at 5:44 PM on December 23, 2003


I wonder if the US will open its border to Canada beef again.

No, I am not gloating. My family has been farming for generations (I'm their token city freak) so I am well aware that there are going to be families losing their livelihood from this.
posted by orange swan at 6:07 PM on December 23, 2003




"...as pleasing as such a spectacle might be."

I don't get it. Why do some vegetarians/vegans (and I'm not saying this applies to you, adamgreenfield) talk as if non-veggies are scum that deserve to get a horrible disease?

Isn't the point of vegetarianism to decrease the suffering of animals and improve health to humans? Why then take delight in the possible suffering of humans?

Is this some elaborate inside joke my vCJD-riddled brain cannot fathom?

posted by spazzm at 6:10 PM on December 23, 2003


Cite; Red Cross. I was being a bit hyperbolic, but considering most US citizens have lived in the US for more than 3 months, one assumes the rule would apply.
posted by headspace at 6:10 PM on December 23, 2003


And before any of you smirky, militant, vegetarian types start rubbing your hands together with glee

I don't know what to say, other than: *rubs hands together with glee*.

I'm not by any means a preachy vegetarian, but it's times like these that I'm certainly glad I'm a vegetarian.
posted by item at 6:17 PM on December 23, 2003


item, what about the Hep A green onions recently? Or that sprouts are a leading cause of food sickness.

never eat beef not produced by themselves or someone they know.

exactly. It's really that simple. Support your local farmers who are clued.
posted by stbalbach at 7:00 PM on December 23, 2003


wow, Japan and S. Korea are already halting imports.
posted by machaus at 7:07 PM on December 23, 2003


"...as pleasing as such a spectacle might be."

I don't get it. Why do some vegetarians/vegans (and I'm not saying this applies to you, adamgreenfield) talk as if non-veggies are scum that deserve to get a horrible disease?


Isn't the point of vegetarianism to decrease the suffering of animals and improve health to humans? Why then take delight in the possible suffering of humans?


I can't speak for all vegetarians, since different people have different reasons for being vegetarian. If you're a vegetarian for ethical reasons, though, it's hard to feel sympathetic to problems caused by meat consumption. I don't feel too strongly about this myself, since I'm not completely consistent in my behavior - I wear leather shoes, for example - but if you do feel strongly that eating other animals is abhorrent, you may well feel that the people behaving abhorrently deserve whatever bad things happen to them.
posted by me & my monkey at 7:30 PM on December 23, 2003


Amberglow, Crawl; read the Atlantic piece -- you'll be less confident.

As for adamgreenfield, note that FUD implies motive, and I'm not all that pleased with your implication.

And my *point* was that a sufficiently motivated and clever terrorist might *switch samples in the diagnostic stream*. *Word getting out* that there's BSE in the US is the terroristic act here.

So, think it through before you snipe, eh?
posted by baylink at 7:30 PM on December 23, 2003


Interesting that the Japanese would be closing their beef markets. Pot, kettle, black?

I recall reading a statement from the rancher involved with the Alberta mad cow outbreak (if one animal so far can be called an outbreak) claiming he bought the cow in question in Montana. Google ain't helpin' me on this one, folks, but it seems that before the US closed their borders, cattle & feed were traded pretty freely, so I'm not surprised that the US has the same problem as Canada.

Then again, the whole thing might be down to dodgy feed practices and high-density feedlots. I grew up in small-town Alberta, true, but my farming knowledge is pretty much at a city slicker level. Anyone with more of a clue care to comment?
posted by arto at 7:56 PM on December 23, 2003


stbalbach, it's my understanding that contracting hep A from vegetables can be prevented by simply washing said vegetables, while you can't exactly wash off the 'mad' part of the cow.
posted by item at 8:22 PM on December 23, 2003


IIRC, the "mad" part of the cow wouldn't be much of a problem if they weren't killed by firing a bolt into their brains in such a way that brain matter is spattered deep within the animal's bodily flesh.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:35 PM on December 23, 2003


When I researched this about 2-3 years ago, the most startling finding was that the US tested 2000 head a year for BSE, while France tested 40,000. Given those numbers, my evaluation was that the beef producers defense of "it's never been found in the US" was largely due to the fact that they were trying really hard not to find it. Which is why we've only eaten (wildly expensive imported) New Zealand beef for the past couple of years.
posted by ehintz at 8:55 PM on December 23, 2003


Wow. I postulated that this was imminent when I heard that a "US Beef Delegation" was heading to Europe to study "a post-BSE cattle industry," but I didn't really think of "imminent" as "next week." I'm going to go ahead and self-link, which I never do otherwise, because this is pretty momentous and there are a bunch of good links there I don't want to spend time copying.

Considering that this is getting out just in time for the Christmas Eve news cycle, which is like the Friday-afternoon news cycle to the nth power, I'd have to assume they sat on this for a few days. No matter how you try to spin it, this is a major blow to the US cattle industry on many fronts, and they may still be hoping they can minimize it using old-media methods, but in today's blog-saturated world I don't think that'll work.

I seriously doubt we'll find that this is the only case in the US. The USDA has long relied on the circular logic that they didn't need to test more than a couple thousand animals because there wasn't any Mad Cow in the country. (ehintz, they have increased it from 2000, but I think at last count it was still under 10,000 a year.) Now if only to save face they're going to have to seriously increase testing and I'd be surprised if they don't find at least a few more in time.

A further ramification of this is that the CDC may have to get serious about examining the clusters of CJD that have occurred in the US and been classified as "sporadic," and therefore non-Mad-Cow related. Once they start requiring autopsies on people with brain-degenerative diseases, we may find that Mad Cow has been here for a while. And that's not gonna play very well with meat eaters.

Please note that it was vegetarians who have been fighting in federal court to stop 'downer' animals from entering your food supply specifically because of the BSE threat. For the record, I'm not exactly rubbing my hands with glee. It's more like exhaling, finally. I'm glad to see the bozos at the USDA have to eat their words, but I take no pleasure in anyone losing their family fortune. That's always bad. But if this causes people to realize right here and now that the whole enterprise is ultimately doomed and they should bail as soon as possible, I think that's a good thing. As Howard Lyman said publicly in 1998 to all those who were still in his old profession, cattle ranching, "Get out now while the getting out is good."

Good to see stbalbach jumping in to do damage control. But of course sprouts can't even hope to compete with meat for foodborne illness numbers, and they can only be carriers of diseases created by meat (very rarely by human contamination). Additionally, any food product can become contaminated with a foreign material, e.g. Tyson's 20,000 pounds of chicken patties containing metal shards, or the 14,000 pounds of meat dumplings with pieces of glass that have been recalled in the past few weeks. But meat processing has a different order of problem in generating its own wide variety of contaminants, and it's something our country needs to get serious about right away, IMHO.
posted by soyjoy at 9:45 PM on December 23, 2003


adamgreenfield: Unless Osama bin Feedlot was *very assiduously* strewing chunks of contaminated tissue through the Pacific Northwest in the mid-Nineties, I think we can reasonably rule out bioterrorism.

Osama's network is hardly the only terrorist organization out there. Wackos like the Aum Supreme Truth cult (Tokyo Sarin Subway attack) are well funded and are capable of amazingly long term planning. Targets don't always make sense to people not involved in the conspiracy.

I'm not saying this was a terrorist attack. Occam's razor would say this is a simple infection; however, a terrorist plot is at least possible. How likely makes for a fun discussion.

Looks like Canada is going to be a little more restrained then the US was on closing the border to imports.
posted by Mitheral at 10:08 PM on December 23, 2003


(ehintz, they have increased it from 2000, but I think at last count it was still under 10,000 a year.)
Better than 2k I guess, but still woefully inadequate. If France has a beef industry that's a fraction of the US, but still tests anything from 4-20 times the animals, the only logical conclusion is that the US industry doesn't want to find it so they're trying hard to not look. I expect you're right, this will result in things getting better(finally). The question is how many of these buggers have already cycled through the food chain while they played this criminal game of see no evil.

Before Whole Foods started carrying the NZ beef I was actually getting it from Turner New Zealand, and paying $30+ per steak. Painful. Now that I'm living in NZ, these problems are a thing of the past, I'm stoked about being able to frequent steakhouses again with a reasonable level of confidence in the quality control.
posted by ehintz at 10:31 PM on December 23, 2003


"[...] if you do feel strongly that eating other animals is abhorrent, you may well feel that the people behaving abhorrently deserve whatever bad things happen to them."

I see your point - a disease is seen as just punishment for amoral behavior. But why do they not feel that animals that behave abhorrently (i.e. eats other animals) deserve painful and deadly diseases as well?

I'm terribly sorry to carry on this offtopic discussion, and I in no way mean any disrespect to veggies or carnivores of any kind, but I'm just curious.
posted by spazzm at 11:02 PM on December 23, 2003


I work in a gourmet meat and seafood department in a grocery store in Salem, Oregon; this was big news today. Before you run out and return your holiday rib roast, please read this:

(note: I haven't read the comments yet and my information is accurate as of 4:30 pm PST when I got a memo from my corporate supervisor who had just finished talking to our beef suppliers)

The infected cow was an old Holstein dairy cow. Important- "dairy cow". Dairy animals are never processed as meat for human consumption. Also, "Cow" is an industry term that denotes an age of greater than 30 months, BSE has only ever been discovered in beef that is older than 30 months. The processing facilities that supply our beef only process beef that is less than 30 months old- no possibility for contamination (I imagine such is true for others, but I have no information at the present to confirm or deny this).

More important, however, is that the farm where this occurred was using material in their feeds which have been banned for 10 years, explicitly to prevent the transmission of BSE. Natural* beef products are completely safe, as the feed does not contain animal by-products.

SO! A conclusion- if you're concerned about your safety, ask this at the meat counter:

1. What was the age of the animal? (sub-30 months = absolutely fine)
2. What are the animals fed? (only grains, no animal by-products = absolutely fine)

I have now exhausted my current information. My supervisor says he'll have an update in the morning. Current word is you're safe. Happy holidays!

*USDA defines natural only as "Minimally processed and free of artificial ingredients." However, most producers go the extra mile and cut out hormone and antibiotic injections and also feed the cattle strictly grains; in this case, I mean such. Ask what your beef was fed if you have concerns.

**this information is brought to you by the boyfriend of this account-owner, who currently smells like fish from a long day at work, I'll try to answer questions.
posted by evilbeck at 11:18 PM on December 23, 2003


The processing facilities that supply our beef only process beef that is less than 30 months old- no possibility for contamination

also the feed is prohibited from containing certain animal parts that might spread mad cow.

oh wait.
posted by lescour at 11:42 PM on December 23, 2003


Important- "dairy cow". Dairy animals are never processed as meat for human consumption.

Hmm. From this link:

"Dairy producers ship milk; however, they are in the beef business too! Dairy cows represent a major source of beef. Cows marketed to slaughter can represent up to 15% of a dairy’s income and in the western states alone, over 800,000 dairy cows worth about $500 million are marketed to slaughter every year."
posted by lisa g at 11:54 PM on December 23, 2003


also the feed is prohibited from containing certain animal parts that might spread mad cow.

Brain and spinal cord tissue will spread mad cow disease. I don't feed the animals so I can't verify that they don't eat that. I might be guilty of bias as my company only sells the higher grades and qualities of beef- Certified Angus Beef Brand and Painted Hills Natural Beef.

Do you really think people in this industry would not realize the grave effect on their jobs, their friends' jobs, and the economy that an outbreak would cause?

I would think they do, but maybe I'm just too naive.

this link:

Ok, I'm wrong about that. I should have said that meat from dairy cows is never sold through any of our distributors. (the "never for human consumption" bit came from a co-worker, not my supervisor)
posted by evilbeck at 12:07 AM on December 24, 2003


way back to donating blood: in canada, people who may have been exposed to CJD or vCJD are permanently deferred from donating blood.

according to the canadian blood services guidelines, anyone who has spent three or more months in england or france, or five or more years in western europe since 1980 is not eligible to donate blood in canada.
posted by lumiere at 12:11 AM on December 24, 2003


More to share:

The Winco stores in town have recalled their hamburger. Call your local Winco to ask about hamburger if you have purchased it recently.

The USDA says there is no possible way for a muscle-cut of beef to pass on BSE. Unfortunately, T-Bone steaks might still have the spinal cord connected, any tissue connected in the "round notch" of the bone in such a steak should be removed and not eaten. Ask your butcher to remove this, if he already hasn't.

(Goodnight! I'll answer replies and have updated info to share, if necessary, tomorrow night around 6pm pacific)
posted by evilbeck at 12:24 AM on December 24, 2003


It's my opinion that in the past, the the U.S. have used the spectre of BSE to reinforce trade barriers. They've done this when there was no scientific reason to do it and they've done this even with cuts of meat which were known not to be infected. It's not proveable, but I'd say that they've done it when they've known about (and quietened) BSE outbreaks in herds in the US.

As much as I hate to say it, I'm with the Canadian contingent .
Ha - Ha.

I know it's going to mean the devastation of an industry, the loss of countless thousands of jobs and an increase in the taxes paid by Good American Citizens (tm), but I really, really hope that the rest of the world bans the import of American Beef.
posted by seanyboy at 2:40 AM on December 24, 2003


Looks like another mad cow has been identified.

Happy Holidays everyone!
posted by nofundy at 5:02 AM on December 24, 2003


The McShitburger may become the American equivalent of fugu-fish sashimi, but scraping out any tainted taste of art or finesse or discretion, and adding the special sauces Slow, Stupid and Drive-Through.

That's perfect. I'd paint a picture, you know, if I painted.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:04 AM on December 24, 2003


It should be noted that while this occurred in a dairy cow, most ground beef sold in stores is from dairy cows.
posted by bshort at 5:24 AM on December 24, 2003


PETA must be goign ape-shit right about now.
posted by CrazyJub at 5:32 AM on December 24, 2003


For months, USDA has been stonewalling reporters seeking mad cow testing records.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:38 AM on December 24, 2003


"[...] if you do feel strongly that eating other animals is abhorrent, you may well feel that the people behaving abhorrently deserve whatever bad things happen to them."
I see your point - a disease is seen as just punishment for amoral behavior.

Despite my vitriol in the PETA thread, and while I also don't have a lot of sympathy for meat-borne or transmitted disease or illness, I feel the need to object to this characterization.

Conceptualizing it as "punishment" is no idelogically different than viewing AIDS as punishment for some "amoral" behavior. As a vegetarian, I don't think of this as punishment, I just simply don't have a lot of sympathy. People should be well-educated enough to know what risks they're taking. And that education is their own responsibility.
posted by tr33hggr at 7:00 AM on December 24, 2003


evilbeck - or evilbeck's boyfriend - I appreciate that you're trying to help by providing insider info on this, but sources like your co-worker and supervisor may not be as unimpeachable as you think, so I'd be careful about making any more absolute pronouncements before checking them out more thoroughly. Not only are dairy cattle routinely slaughtered for beef, but the "sub-30 months = absolutely fine" equation is also false. This was believed to be the case up until October of this year, when Japan found BSE in a 23-month-old bull. It's also recently been shown that the killer proteins that cause BSE and CJD can be found in tissue outside the central nervous system, so the reassurance that only spinal-cord meat was vulnerable is also outmoded.

"The USDA says there is no possible way for a muscle-cut of beef to pass on BSE" is almost Stockholm-syndromesque in its naivete. The freakin' USDA up to yesterday afternoon said there was No Mad Cow in the USA, and no way there could be because our industry safeguards were so strong Anyone who takes what those ass-coverers say as gospel is already behaving as though infected by CJD.

The bottom line is, there is no true reassurance possible unless you've been raising a cow yourself and have personally tracked the origin of all of its feed. Every "this particular scenario couldn't happen" pronouncement is "valid" right up to the point that it happens once, and then it gets added to the pile of dead reassurances.

As a side note, what is it about UPI and Mad Cow? I cringed adding a UPI link to my own blog considering its present owner, but the rest of the American media has been pretty much asleep at the switch on this, and the facts presented in these stories do (eventually) check out. Do you suppose there is still a contingent of Helen Thomas proteges there fighting for the facts, or does Moon have some particular interest in seeing the US Beef industry fail?
posted by soyjoy at 7:31 AM on December 24, 2003


it's my understanding that contracting hep A from vegetables can be prevented by simply washing said vegetables

Nope, you've got to cook 'em.
posted by hyperizer at 7:49 AM on December 24, 2003


What about all the other beef-product containing comestibles that even many vegetarians unknowingly eat, such as gel caps, gummy candies, cheeses, etc? Doctors of my acquaintance who know prions from close up, take pains not to ingest these things, when they are of European origin.
posted by Faze at 8:18 AM on December 24, 2003


In the end, this will be an overall Good Thing. It's going to force the industrial meat sector to clean up their act.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:54 AM on December 24, 2003


Even Altoids contain gelatin....
posted by hyperizer at 8:55 AM on December 24, 2003


... and most vegetarians I know don't eat gelatin.
posted by item at 9:11 AM on December 24, 2003


I think most vegetarians know that gelatin (being collagen from ground-up cattle or pig bones and skin) isn't vegetarian. I avoid everything from certain brands of yogurt to Mentos, due to this. (And yep, Altoids -- made in the U.K.)

Cheeses, however ... in recent years I've been buying cheese that says "No animal rennet," though I know I didn't always in the past. (And yes, I know where traditional rennet enzymes typically come from-- newborn calf stomachs.) Yuck, though -- given that it involves very young animals and hopefully no brains or spinal cords -- I don't think this is too much of a BSE hazard. (Though again, yuck.)
posted by lisa g at 9:12 AM on December 24, 2003


My understanding is that Altoids contain kosher gelatin - i.e., nonanimal sourced.
posted by adamgreenfield at 10:09 AM on December 24, 2003


Correction: that is directly the opposite of the case. Altoids contain not merely animal gelatin, but pork-derived gelatin. Yuck, and way unkosher if you care about that.
posted by adamgreenfield at 10:11 AM on December 24, 2003


Vegetarians have other problems to worry about.
posted by destro at 11:37 AM on December 24, 2003


Marketplace (on PRI) reported that the beef industry (which, at $180US billion a year is the largest part of the ag sector) had a website ready to go in case this ever happened.

They also said that, as predicted "any commodity sector even remotely related to the beef industry has dropped sharply", and that fast food stocks are off.
posted by baylink at 3:08 PM on December 24, 2003


Also, strange that this announcement came right near the holiday break for the stock exchange. Y'know, let people mull it over before any serious worries break out.</conspiracyfilter>
posted by destro at 5:11 PM on December 24, 2003


Well, given my personal assertion that the major problem with the public stock market these days is "these days" -- the fact that the buffer lag between the news and the stock trading has gotten wafer thin because the Internet has made realtime trading practical -- if in fact there was such a concern about the timing, more power to them.
posted by baylink at 2:46 PM on December 25, 2003


For what it's worth, kosher gelatin is typically derived from cattle bones or hides, just like most non-kosher gelatin. (Although no pigs are involved.) The designation simply means that it's been certified as kosher.
posted by lisa g at 5:19 PM on December 25, 2003


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