Mad Cow Panic and Perspective

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"I plan to serve beef for my Christmas dinner," [Secretary of Agriculture Ann M.] Veneman said, "and we remain confident in the safety of our food supply."

Responded [former USDA veterinarian Lester] Friedlander: "She might as well kiss her (behind) goodbye, then."

From an article by Steve Mitchell of UPI, December 23, 2003

"Again, I would emphasize that the science today as we know it says that meat is completely safe," [Agriculture Department chief veterinarian Ron] DeHaven said on ABC's Good Morning America program. Prions are not found in meat, he said, and instead are "found primarily in central nervous system tissues."

From an article by Charles Abbott of Reuters, December 29, 2003

In the days since mad-cow disease was announced in the United States, more than 1 million Americans were sickened by food they ate. About 6,000 became so ill they were hospitalized, and nearly 100 died, according to federal health estimates.

But mad cow disease wasn't the culprit. Indeed, not a single American is known to have contracted the human form of the disease from eating food in this country.

Instead, salmonella, E. coli, listeria and other dangerous bacteria routinely take a huge toll on public health yet receive little of the attention now focused on the beef from one Washington state Holstein...

From an article by Alison Young, Knight Ridder Newspapers, January 4, 2003

Responses:

January 16, 2004

Thank you for your frequent perspective pieces on important safety and health issues, especially those that relate to food. The rash of explosive claims circulating online about mad cow and BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopy) is mind-boggling and can set one to spinning.

In addition to your excellent site, I found an article by David Ropeik with the Harvard Univeristy Center for Risk Analysis. This article echoes ACSH's warning to journalists and others against false fears and misleading hype promoted by special interest groups. I hope you will post a link to the full article ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentId=A43184-2003Dec30&notFound=true ) for your members.

Thank you.

S. Apple
Boston, MA