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US fears backlash after mad cow case confirmed

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PORKER

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By Mira Oberman in Chicago
Saturday, 25 June , 2005, 15:40

The multi-billion-dollar US cattle industry braced for a possible backlash against its products on Saturday after the authorities confirmed the country's second case of mad cow disease.
Taiwan, one of the major export markets still reluctant to accept US meat after the country's first case was reported in December 2003, immediately suspended US beef imports.

"The suspension on US beef imports will take effect immediately," a cabinet statement quoted Premier Frank Hsieh as saying on Saturday.

Taiwan had in March partially lifted a ban on US beef imposed in December 2003, allowing non-minced beef from cows aged 30 months or younger if high-risk parts such as brains and spinal cords were removed.

The US was Taiwan's third largest beef supplier, selling some 14,000 tonnes or 55 million dollars' worth of beef in 2002 and 19,225 tonnes worth 76.5 million dollars in 2003 before the first ban.

Confirming the case after the close of US financial markets on Friday, US officials insisted that meat from the animal, which died in November and had previously tested disease-free, had not entered the food supply.

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said the discovery showed that the system is working.

"This animal was blocked from entering the food supply because of the firewalls we have in place. Americans have every reason to continue to be confident in the safety of our beef."

He added: "We are currently testing nearly 1,000 animals per day as part of our BSE enhanced surveillance program, more than 388,000 total tests, and this is the first confirmed case resulting from our surveillance."

The US Department of Agriculture said it had started an investigation to determine the animal's herd of origin. The cow was born before the United States imposed a ban on feed containing animal brains, the suspected source of mad cow disease, in August 1997.



The beef industry also moved quickly to reassure the public. "The bottom line for consumers remains the same: Your beef is safe," said Terry Stokes, chief executive officer of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

"As America's beef producers, our number-one priority has always been providing the safest beef in the world. Our livelihood depends on it."

The 45-billion-dollar US beef industry has already been suffering from declining domestic demand as a result of shifting consumer tastes. Average beef consumption has fallen 20 percent from 80.9 pounds a year in the 1970's to 64.6 pounds a year in 2000, according to the USDA.

Most Americans probably won't be dissuaded from eating steaks, said Troy Vetterkind, a commodities broker for E. Hedger in Chicago.

The real concern is whether the news will further delay the lifting of a ban on US beef in several major export markets, he said.

Beef futures had already been trading lower after it was announced earlier this month that US officials had sent an inconclusive test to Britain for further study.

Vetterkind predicted a mass exodus when markets reopen Monday. "It's going to cause a panic sell-off," he said. "I think you could look at cattle futures 150 to 300 points lower."

The first US case was found in the northwestern state of Washington in 2003. Major export markets such as Japan have had bans on US beef since then.

The new case has also caused concern in Canada, where the first US case of mad cow originated. US imports were suspended in May 2003 after Canada's first case of the disease appeared.

Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin said Friday he hoped the new case in the United States would not further delay the reopening of the US border to Canadian beef imports.

About 150 people, mainly in Britain, have died of the human form of mad cow disease, Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), since it first surfaced in the 1990s.

Experts believe the pathogen leapt the species barrier to humans through the consumption of contaminated beef.
 

Murgen

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Do you think that if they had been honest from the start it might have helped? do you think that all the media fanfare that RCALF created could have been negated from the start? Probably not, eh?
 

Mike

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Murgen said:
Do you think that if they had been honest from the start it might have helped? do you think that all the media fanfare that RCALF created could have been negated from the start? Probably not, eh?

It started in Washington...It's a downer!, no it's not!, yes it is! And so forth.
Then the "inconclusives" started hitting. Then the Creekstone thing. Then the border thing....One thing after another.

I personally don't know that R-Calf has hurt or helped the media feeding frenzy. I just know that the USDA has not been wise nor honestly open, and that will only hurt beef.
 

don

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murgen: Do you think that if they had been honest from the start it might have helped?

the problem is that if they had been honest about test results their system was deficient in traceback and safeguards to keep animals out of the food system. usda was totally unprepared to deal with bse so tried to ignore it and covered up as many suspicious animals as they could.
 

Mike

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What's amazing is that Johanns keeps spouting off about the 388,000 tests that have been conducted. I want to ask him what good has this testing done if no one trusts the outcome?

I say turn the whole testing program to a private company and say,

"GO TO IT BOYS".
 

PORKER

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Darn Tooten,Packers AMI, USDA all have been evasive and even some have QUIT Now the OIG and Congress gets the last say!!!!!!!!!
 

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