I was not amused by this article. This is fear-mongering, fueled by the fact that most people don't know their burgers are coming from dairy cows (I've never met a layperson who knew that; they're always a bit shocked). The understanding of epidemiology here is particularly egregious:
One: why mention all these "terrible" diseases if they aren't entering the food chain? Two: hate to say it, but milk is a bigger risk than beef for MAP transmission (MAP is the cause of Johne's disease, and is under debate as a contributing factor in Crohn's disease), so I'd rather have them at the slaughterhouse, where the risk of contamination is minimal, than in the milking parlor.
Dairy cows can also carry some common maladies, including mastitis, a bacterial infection of the udder; foot rot, which they can develop standing for long periods in manure, mud and damp straw; and Johne’s disease.
Scientists believe these diseases are not carried into the human food chain, with one exception: Health and animal scientists are currently debating whether the traits of Johne’s are responsible for Chron’s disease in humans. Chron’s disease is an intestinal disorder that can cause inflammation of the colon, severe abdominal pain, diarrhea and weight loss. Some argue it’s these very problems that prompt farmers to dispatch the cows to the slaughterhouse in the first place.
Lesson: don't get your information about your food from the editorial page!
I was very amused by this article. USDA inspectors may not have been doing their job, but that's really no excuse for the Humane Society avoiding their legal responsibility . . . and why were they contacting local DA, then releasing the video on YouTube with national promotion? Sounds like they wanted to appear to do the legal thing while making the biggest publicity. Shame on HSUS!
WASHINGTON — Congressmen repeatedly questioned a representative of the Humane Society of the United States on Tuesday about why the group did not immediately inform USDA of video evidence workers were abusing downed cattle at Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co.
Humane Society grilled on not advising USDA about Hallmark By Janie Gabbett on 2/26/2008 for Meatingplace.com
At a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on food safety, Michael Greger, HSUS director of public health and animal agriculture, said the San Bernardino District Attorney's office asked the group to hold the information until it completed its own investigation. The congressmen, however, said HSUS could have discretely gone to USDA earlier than it did.
Greger hinted at more HSUS exposes, telling the committee the videographer's identity must be guarded so as not to compromise current and future investigations. The Hallmark/Westland video, which was shown at the hearing, resulted in the nation's largest beef recall. (See Hallmark/Westland recalls 143 million lbs of beef — largest in history on Meatingplace.com, Feb. 18, 2008.)
Hallmark/Westland President Steve Mendell did not attend the hearing, declining the committee's request for him to testify. Committee members said they are looking at compelling him to come before the committee sometime in the future.
Greger told the committee that Hallmark workers said in criminal testimony in California that they were pressured by supervisors to get the cows up and into slaughter. Hallmark slaughtered mostly spent dairy cattle, often fatigued after being trucked in from surrounding states.
Members of the subcommittee, which is chaired by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), used the hearing as an opportunity to renew calls for: banning all meat from downer cattle from the food supply, mandatory traceability standards, mandatory recall authority for USDA and the Food and Drug Administration and the creation of a single food safety agency.
William Marler, a Seattle lawyer who represents victims of foodborne illnesses, however, suggested USDA might have actually gone too far with the Hallmark recall.
"Although stunned by the video …I am more stunned that the recall has ballooned to 143 million pounds of meat and is quickly encompassing products that might contain trace amounts of the meat. No people have been sickened. I wonder if resources are better spent elsewhere," he testified before the committee.