ARCHIVE - Oooohhh! A Congress-Being calls me back!

Archive: Fri Oct 10 18:40:21 2008
Title: Oooohhh! A Congress-Being calls me back!
Mood: grumpy
Music: Trance Rotation #13 - 6-DJ Addison
I just got a call from a Congress-Being (well, one of the Congress-Being's minions).

The call was about an email I had sent earlier this year. She dug into the info more and gave me a few updates on the issue as well as a link to the USDA site.

The USDA [not the FDA! dumb mistake on my part there] regularly inspects dead cows at meat packing plants for mad cow. Using some statistical gamesmanship, they determine the whole supply is ok for US consumption based on sampling some small percentage (what they call a "statistically valid" sample size).

The Creekstone Farms Premium Beef in Kansas wanted to test all its cows rather than some small percentage as an extra stamp of assurance. This kind of "going the extra mile" is a normal part of the ways businesses try to distinguish themselves from their competitors. Its why people think paying lots more for a Mercedes is better than paying less for an "equivalent" Ford. (In particular, Creekstone wanted to try and sell the meat overseas, and overseas markets are very nervous about mad cow these days.)

To do the testing, the USDA has these very expensive tests. Creekstone offered to buy the tests and do the testing itself in-house but the USDA said no. And a district court agreed with the government.

The USDA's claim is that 1) Creekstone's people weren't qualified to do the testing and 2) the tests would give a false assurance of safety...

Errrr... this is all well-and-good, but if the people aren't qualified to do the testing then the USDA should make a way for them to get qualified and/or offer to do the tests for a certain amount and then let Creekstone decide if they wanted to pay. The testing is done by contractors anyway, so why can't Creekstone just hire the same contractors to do more testing of its meat?

But the second point bothers me more. If the tests would give a false assurance of safety, then why are we using the same tests to give US citizens assurance that our meat is safe?

So while the call was great, and its nice that occasionally someone in DC listens to their emails, the problem still is there that the USDA should not be in the business of setting a maximum level of safety if the company wants to go that extra mile.

Here are some links from the USDA on mad cow...


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