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June 24, 2005 1:12 PM   Subscribe

Second US case of Mad Cow confirmed. The initial rapid screening test in November was positive, but a more stringent test was negative, and the USDA told America that the cow was BSE-free. The agency did not mention that it had skipped the Western Blot test, used in 2003 to confirm the first U.S. mad cow.
posted by soyjoy (65 comments total)

 
Oh yeah: Both the initial "suspicion" announcement and today's confirmation occurred, coincidentally, on a Friday afternoon.
posted by soyjoy at 1:17 PM on June 24, 2005


An internationally recognized laboratory in Weybridge, England, confirmed the case of mad cow disease after U.S. tests produced conflicting results, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said.

If the American filtering and testing procedures are so unreliable, how can they be relied upon to date, as far as this being considered the "second" incident?

Oh, and the Bush administration always puts out bad news on Fridays. People don't pay as much attention and its out of mind by the following Monday. It's just policy...
posted by Rothko at 1:19 PM on June 24, 2005


I'm still grilling 8 rib-eye steaks tonight. Medium rare.
posted by pmbuko at 1:24 PM on June 24, 2005


"Mad" cows? Ha! Who ever heard of such a thing?!

I think that we can now expect the Canadian border to re-open. I mean, what reason could there be not to open it?...
posted by Elpoca at 1:31 PM on June 24, 2005


This just in, the Bush Administration would like everyone to start calling it Happy Cow Disease because Mad Cow Disease was too realistic. And Freedom Cow Disease was just confusing.

Bad news on a Friday afternoon, that is the first rule of public relations. Really bad news on the last Friday of the month so this is only a level two bad news crisis.
posted by fenriq at 1:33 PM on June 24, 2005


Are we testing more than say 1 out of every 1000 cows yet?
posted by driveler at 1:36 PM on June 24, 2005


Does anyone have any real numbers for how many cows are tested?

I'm coming close to not eating beef any more since I don't believe (based mainly on rumour) that current testing is comprehensive enough. Just testing 'downer' cows doesn't do anything to protect consumers since the disease could exist for years in the animal before that happens.
posted by Kickstart70 at 1:44 PM on June 24, 2005


Remember that first mad cow? That wasn't a downer cow at all.

Just testing downers is a really bad practice that gives the illusion of vigilance while not actually addressing the problem.
posted by bshort at 1:47 PM on June 24, 2005


Vegetarians, unite!
posted by Specklet at 1:47 PM on June 24, 2005


There's always vegetarian-fed beef you can safely enjoy. I'd say for the meat eaters in the house, pay the extra bucks for the nice stuff that only ate grass.
posted by mathowie at 1:50 PM on June 24, 2005


18 months beef-free in this household. Sorry, we don't trust the system.
posted by rolypolyman at 1:51 PM on June 24, 2005


Though we do occasionally get only the grass-fed stuff, as mathowie pointed out.
posted by rolypolyman at 1:51 PM on June 24, 2005


I've been beef-free for a year and a half.
posted by bshort at 2:05 PM on June 24, 2005


18 months beef-free in this household. Sorry, we don't trust the system.

Though we do occasionally get only the grass-fed stuff, as mathowie pointed out.

But you trust "the system" to supply you with beef that really was exclusively vegetarian? You sure 'bout that?
posted by NeonSurge at 2:09 PM on June 24, 2005


how can they be relied upon to date, as far as this being considered the "second" incident?

Which anyone who's spent time in the Philadelphia area knows is bullshit.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:10 PM on June 24, 2005


Is it rational to avoid beef to avoid mad cow? Are the risks even measurable, compared to everyday life?
posted by smackfu at 2:10 PM on June 24, 2005


Mayor Curley: could you elaborate on your comment about mad cow and the Philadelphia area? I'm not doubting you or anything, I'm just curious to know if there are significant signs of mad cow in that area that we should be aware of...
posted by ensign_ricky at 2:14 PM on June 24, 2005


I have been beef-free for over 29 minutes.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 2:14 PM on June 24, 2005


Bad cows.
posted by MotherTucker at 2:18 PM on June 24, 2005


go back to bed america
posted by Satapher at 2:21 PM on June 24, 2005


Is it rational to avoid beef to avoid mad cow? Are the risks even measurable, compared to everyday life?

I wish someone knew. It seems to me that without better testing, we simply have no idea.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 2:23 PM on June 24, 2005


Cow 1: Are you as worried as I am about this mad cow thing?
Cow 2: Nah, it doesn't affect us squirrels ..
posted by scruss at 2:25 PM on June 24, 2005


Of course, this has nothing to do with the Angus Beef that the fastfooders put in their "premium" burgers, right? (The Angus cattle only ate the remains of other Angus cattle, not those commoner cattle)

Is it rational to avoid beef to avoid mad cow?
Anybody remember how many YEARS the incubation period is for Mad Cow in humans? (cue scary music) It may already be... (dat dat DAH!) too late.
posted by wendell at 2:27 PM on June 24, 2005


Brilliant post title.
posted by todds at 2:37 PM on June 24, 2005


> 18 months beef-free in this household. Sorry, we don't trust the system.

> Though we do occasionally get only the grass-fed stuff, as mathowie pointed out.


This is a very funny series of posts.

I certainly trust farms that produce only grass-fed beef. I don't know that I'd trust a farm that did both traditional and organic beef, but I suspect there aren't that many of them.
posted by occhiblu at 2:39 PM on June 24, 2005


An internationally recognized laboratory in Weybridge, England, confirmed the case of mad cow disease after U.S. tests produced conflicting results, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said.

In retrospect, it would appear not to be a case of Mad Cow at all, but merely a cow that's very, very pissed.
posted by deCadmus at 2:54 PM on June 24, 2005


pmbuko writes "Medium rare."

Doesn't matter how you cook 'em prion aren't destroyed by BBQ levels of heat. Mmm, Steak < /homer>

mathowie writes "There's always vegetarian-fed beef you can safely enjoy"

Recycled cow as feed does not appear to be the only vector.
posted by Mitheral at 2:59 PM on June 24, 2005


Two cows standing in a field. One cow goes to the other "you worried about all this Mad Cow stuff going around?" The other cow looks back all quizzical..
posted by Mr Bluesky at 3:05 PM on June 24, 2005


"Why would I? I'm a helicopter!"
posted by Mr Bluesky at 3:07 PM on June 24, 2005


One man's helicopter, evidently, is another man's squirrel.
posted by joe lisboa at 3:36 PM on June 24, 2005


Is there anyone out there who believes for a moment that there could be such a thing as a single case of Mad Cow?

As far as I know, that's not how diseases work. You don't get single cases. You get clusters. You get populations. You get epidemic, pandemic, and endemic disease. You Dont. Get. One. Case.

It's already perfectly well known that the USDA is a horribly lazy, dishonest, and fundamentally incompetent organization. We're all aware of the grim reality of slaughterhouse practices in the USA. We all know about meat recalls and Jack-in-the-Box mass poisoning cases. It's obvious that the meat industry in the USA is a complete botch.

And they have the gall to tell us there was only one infected cow? Gah.

The next decade or two is going to be very, very interesting. I will not be at all surprised if prion diseases end up affecting a majority of the population. In fact, I don't see how we're going to escape that: it took so long to discover the problem and so very, very long to deal with the root cause, that I think it's likely mad cow disease is endemic to the meat-eating cattle population.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:45 PM on June 24, 2005


This may be completely asinine, and totally wrong, but I thought that the likelihood of contracting Creutzfield-Jakobs disease from a cow infected with mad cow disease was outrageously low, like one in nine million. But then again, this is from stuff I read ages ago.

On preview: One cow's helicopter, evidently, is another cow's squirrel.
posted by Freen at 3:45 PM on June 24, 2005


Is it still legal to feed cows to themselves?
posted by aaronscool at 3:56 PM on June 24, 2005


Here's a good question. Wouldn't this affect the milk supply, and thus all milk-related products like cheese, ice cream, etc.? Anyone here cutting *those* out of their diet?
posted by banished at 4:09 PM on June 24, 2005


Here's a good question. Wouldn't this affect the milk supply, and thus all milk-related products like cheese, ice cream, etc.? Anyone here cutting *those* out of their diet? - banished


That is a good question. I've been to a couple of talks about mad cow, and they haven't shown that the disease is passed through milk. But it might just be at lower levels, and it might be the amount of intake that matters. But, to answer your question, yes, lots of people are giving up dairy as well.

The larger problem is that we don't know enough to say one way or the other. The incubation time can be decades, and has usually been misdiagnosed as alzheimer's, so we don't have a good pool of data to see how infected we are or can be.
posted by team lowkey at 5:02 PM on June 24, 2005


One cow's cow's helicopter is another cow's cow's squir...ah, forget it.
posted by davejay at 5:18 PM on June 24, 2005


And they have the gall to tell us there was only one infected cow? Gah.

Well, technically they said only one confirmed. So it's not a lie. They just test as few as possible so that ignorant people will believe that one confirmed == one existing.

Incidentally, I was beef free for a couple of years, but recently started eating it again. Now I'm wishing I hadn't. Blah.
posted by davejay at 5:20 PM on June 24, 2005


Mitheral, help me out here. There are other ways for cows to contract this aside from cows eating cow byproduct?

In any case why are cow farmers continuing this practice while knowing the risks? The FDA should really be all over this because it seems that the disease is can be avoided by regulation.
posted by snsranch at 5:27 PM on June 24, 2005


While the animal's origin is still being investigated, he said there's no evidence it came from Canada. (Source - reg. required)

Thank Christ. I'm a vegetarian so I'm not personally affected, but I'd love it if I didn't have to hear about the US-Canada closed border policy regarding beef anymore (at least, I hope so). SARStock was the worst. Catherine O'Hara and Dan Aykroyd on stage begging people to purchase Canadian beef while they were in the country. A very low, low point in Canadian history.
posted by purephase at 5:28 PM on June 24, 2005


snsranch asks "There are other ways for cows to contract this aside from cows eating cow byproduct?"

Well the thing is we really don't know what's happening with prions[1]. Similar wasting diseases can be seen in wild animal populations who sure aren't eating each other.

"The mode of transmission among deer and elk is not fully understood; however, evidence supports lateral transmission through direct animal-to-animal contact or as a result of indirect exposure to the causative agent in the environment, including contaminated feed and water sources"

Studies of whether CWD in wild populations can cause vCJD are inconclusive but there appears to be a minor correlation. Also if wild populations of deer and elk are getting CWD from contaminated water it means you could be at risk of vCJD just by being downstream/downwind of an infected population of cows or deer/elk or a processing plant.

[1] Kind of reminds me of the early days of AIDS. Remember when only gays got aids?
posted by Mitheral at 7:15 PM on June 24, 2005


Vegetarians already feel superior enough. We need a mad broccoli disease.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:43 PM on June 24, 2005


Also, snsranch, bear in mind two things:

The much-trumpeted "feed ban" in place since 1997 is being enforced with questionable completeness. As late as three years ago there were huge gaps in compliance, and though the compliance is supposedly at "99%," well, that sounds a lot like what I would say if I wanted to give the impression of complete compliance but knew there were actually enough bad apples out there to cause at least one embarrassing future incident.

Secondly, even were that ban to be enforced 100%, there are still cows legally eating cow byproducts as we speak, in the form of cow blood and downer cows-into-chicken-feed-into-litter-into-cow-feed. While there is no certainty that prions are passed through blood, the other route seems pretty sure to deliver unprocessed cow meat (in tiny bits, but prions are tiny) back into cows. Folks like the Organic Consumers' Association have been pressing the FDA on this for years, and were also hectoring the USDA to retest the three 2004 cows - without their persistent pressure (along with Consumers Union), we might not even today know this cow had BSE.
posted by soyjoy at 7:44 PM on June 24, 2005




The best meat has a name. In our freezer, we have "Daisy" for beef and "Gerald" for pork. They lived next door to my sister. Gerald was very personable and had his 15 minutes of fame at the 4H show. Daisy just sort of hung around. Like all the cows, she liked the spent grain from beer making.

If you know what they eat and where they lived, it's better. In all sorts of ways. Feedlots -- bleah.
posted by warbaby at 9:37 PM on June 24, 2005


It still amazes me how well they've managed to hide from the general consumer the simple and horrifying fact that it is a regular and accepted practice to put cows that are incapable of standing up of their own volition into the food supply.
posted by nightchrome at 9:48 PM on June 24, 2005


>could you elaborate on your comment about mad cow and the Philadelphia area?

I think Mayor Curley may be talking about the Garden State (NJ) Racetrack CJD incidents. There were 17 people who died in the area, diagnosed with CJD, connected somehow with the racetrack. It says there that they were season ticket holders and employees. Most of the news articles say the racetrack connection was somehow ruled out, but when "the disease is correctly diagnosed in anywhere from one to two people per million" it seems unlikely that so many would randomly occur in such a small area, connected so closely to the same kitchen.
posted by drstupid at 10:14 PM on June 24, 2005


Here's some interesting stuff I didn't see in the initial reports...
    Also, after the animal tested positive on two rapid Elisa tests and then negative on the slower, "gold standard" test, another "experimental" test was done that came up positive. Mr. Johanns would not describe it, but an Agriculture Department Web site said it was an enhanced version of the "gold standard" test.
In other words, they're now admitting there were three positives to one negative IHC test (the USDA's so-called "gold standard" test), and one of those was another IHC test. Compare that version with this description of the testing that the USDA was disseminating at the time...So one of their IHC tests was positive, yet they publicly claimed they did IHC tests (plural) that were all negative.

But it doesn't stop there. (I knew Steve Mitchell would have the goods on this.) That whole article, from November 24, 2004, cites domestic and international BSE experts who are "very, very skeptical" of the professed negative result. Why did they doubt the word of the USDA?
    The veterinarian, who requested anonymity because she feared repercussions for speaking out against the USDA, said the skepticism arose because the agency did not run another kind of mad cow test called a Western blot.
Yeah, yeah, right, Western blah blah blah.... what? Something else?
    The veterinarian said concerns also have emerged because the USDA has not made a sample from the cow in question available for examination by outside experts. She added that the USDA did not notify state officials, as officials previously said they would about positive results on rapid tests. Knowledgeable people are saying "wait a minute, this doesn't add up here," the veterinarian said.
Oh, it adds up all right. Can it be any clearer that the USDA outright lied to the American public for seven months about a matter of life and death?

____

*** Fun quote: "The United States needs stricter safeguards against mad cow disease, but has not introduced them in part because of pressure from meatpackers to keep costs down." Also: "The major meatpackers in the United States and Canada do not want to incur these costs. We think they are having far too much influence on the BSE policies of USDA." Who's that tree-hugging America-hater? It's Bill Bullard, president of R-CALF USA, the largest American organization of cattle ranchers.
posted by soyjoy at 11:28 PM on June 24, 2005


" Vegetarians, unite!"

Dyslexics, untie!


fyi, I'm dyslexic...no offense meant to oneany"
posted by Hands of Manos at 12:06 AM on June 25, 2005


OK, there were apparently two negative IHC tests, not one, according to the Houston Chronicle, which would jibe with the earlier Steve Mitchell version, though it's still damning that they didn't announce the "experimental" IHC results or even let anyone know they'd been done. Or release a sample, ever, as far as I've heard. But that Chronicle article has another twist: Lab technicians in Ames, Iowa, twice performed what's known as the immunohistochemistry, or IHC test, and concluded the cow was free of the brain-wasting disease. But when experts in Weybridge, England, this week used that same test with more up-to-date methods they got a positive result. So... here's yet another positive, again on the "gold standard" test. Um... were those IHC tests in November really negative? Is the documentation on that still available? And if it's a question of how the test is administered by whom, do we have the right people doing that - if they missed this positive using the "gold standard" test?
posted by soyjoy at 12:19 AM on June 25, 2005


Oops. Here's the Chronicle article. I'll go to bed now.
posted by soyjoy at 12:21 AM on June 25, 2005


Very interesting link, Mitheral.

How many cows does the States process in a year? It's my understanding that mad cow disease does naturally occur, though rarely - that is its origin - and so how often would we expect, statistically, to find a cow spontaneously infected?

Apparently only 145 (as of last year) people have died so far in Britain as a result of their mad cow disaster. However, the incubation rate in humans is on a scale of decades (twenty years) so it's yet to be seen how many people are carriers. Nonetheless, with today's level of precautions, it's pretty apparent that your chances of getting CJD from eating beef are really damn low. You'd be better off pureeing that steak to prevent choking.
posted by mek at 5:47 AM on June 25, 2005


Just testing downers is a really bad practice that gives the illusion of vigilance while not actually addressing the problem. - bshort
Well yeah. It is good to seem like you are doing something without agressively trying to actually find the disease, because then you'd have a lot less reason for your protectionist importation policies where you try and pretend like the problem is everywhere else but at home. And your ranchers and meatpackers tend to like that not letting in forgein meat and animals jacks up the price and increases the market for their own beef.
posted by raedyn at 9:44 AM on June 25, 2005


dances_with_sneetches writes "Vegetarians already feel superior enough. We need a mad broccoli disease."

Heh - the mind boggles :-)

@thread

Ok, so the rest of the world now needs to embargo all US beef exports (like they did to the UK), and hundreds and thousands of cattle need to be culled and burned. Would probably damage the US economy more than the oil situation...
posted by Chunder at 10:23 AM on June 25, 2005


If I were a cow, I'd be pretty angry too.

Lambs to the slaughter, and all.

Spongiform Encephalopathy kinda brings a new shine to the old chestnut...."You are what you eat"</
posted by troutfishing at 10:34 AM on June 25, 2005


We need a mad broccoli disease.

We need Chewbroccoli!
posted by homunculus at 11:36 AM on June 25, 2005


We need a mad broccoli disease.

There are some sicknesses that are easily passed by vegetables, the ones where several people eat at the same salad bar and then get sick are often caused by green peppers or sprouts.
posted by drezdn at 11:39 AM on June 25, 2005


mad cows, mad cows
whatcha gonna do
whatcha gonna do when they come for you?

posted by five fresh fish at 2:34 PM on June 25, 2005


I remember reading a short story somewhat recently, in it India was the major world power because large fractions of the populations of most of the other countries had been killed/demented by mad cow disease.
posted by Iax at 6:56 PM on June 25, 2005


Is it rational to avoid beef to avoid mad cow?

If they aren't adequately testing for mad cow, what other diseases aren't they adequately testing for?
posted by dirigibleman at 8:26 PM on June 25, 2005


Those professional writers at the New York Times have better conveyed what I was trying to get at back up here in a story for the Sunday edition headlined For Months, Agriculture Department Delayed Announcing Result of Mad Cow Test.

At least this bizarre and damning (and extremely newsworthy) development isn't slipping by the entire press corps of the US, though I'll be eager to see what if any light Steve Mitchell can shed on the whole situation when he turns in his in-depth, UPI-branded version of this story.
posted by soyjoy at 12:01 AM on June 26, 2005


I think Mayor Curley may be talking about the Garden State (NJ) Racetrack CJD incidents.

I was indeed. Then I left for a couple days of no Internet access. Sorry!
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:18 PM on June 26, 2005


Some of my favorite recent editorials...

Beef consumers beware
The second U.S. case of mad cow disease will do little to change most people's minds about whether they are at risk of dying from the human form of the ailment. But the federal Department of Agriculture's mishandling of the matter ought to worry all of us. The seven-month delay in word of the infected animal would be simply ridiculous if it were an isolated instance of bureaucratic ineptness. In fact, the delay looks like a prime example of federal officials favoring industry profits over intensive examination of food safety.

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

Government hid deadly beef
What we don't know might kill us, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture isn't letting us know.
The government's excuse for keeping the test secret is that another test didn't find the disease. In other words, when the government couldn't be sure about the presence of the disease in our food supply, it did not decide to give the benefit of the doubt to you and your family. It gave it to the cattle industry. ... Our government tests one in 90. It's hardly paranoid to wonder about the other 89.
posted by soyjoy at 2:43 PM on June 28, 2005


You oughtta watch Re:Genesis, soyjoy. There's a storyline involving a chicken factory that would creep you right out. It exactly parallels this reality.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:14 AM on June 29, 2005


FFF - I hate to say Is This Something I'd Need to Have a TV to Know About? but, um... well... never heard of it. Is it a Canadian show or something? I did google it, but got a ton of pages with replies to subjects beginning with "Genesis."

Also, since I touted it above, here is the long-form Steve Mitchell piece, "USDA refuses to release mad cow records," but it focuses on the records disputing the efficacy of the "firewalls" supposedly keeping BSE out of Americans' food, not the testing records of the Texas from-some-still-unknown-location mad cow, which are records I'd like to see, for one.

Again, it's worth repeating that the agency's continual stonewalling behavior on this and other issues calls into question anything they say that isn't backed up with hard evidence.
posted by soyjoy at 8:24 AM on June 29, 2005


Well, it's something that was on TV, and also available through torrents. Multi-national production. Extremely believable situations of disease- and panic-control and moral challenges, even if some of the actual science was science fictional more than science factual.

It was spooky how they seemed to be accurately predicting current (ie. post-production) news stories. And how several things have happened since the series that are closely analogous to things that happened in the series.

I think it was a ten or twelve-episode production. Excellent acting, production, and scripting values all over.

Google for "regenesis" torrents. Partially taxpayer-funded, so you've got my permission to make use of my tax dollar like that. :-)
posted by five fresh fish at 7:14 PM on June 29, 2005


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