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Jon Fox,
CALPIRG

CALPIRG Calls on USDA to Increase Testing for Mad Cow

Newly discovered case in California reinforces need for more testing
For Immediate Release

San Francisco, CA – The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) statement confirming the presence of an infected cow with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) - commonly referred to as “mad cow disease” - in California reinforces the need for increased animal testing.

At present the USDA only tests 40,000 animals nationwide for BSE. In California alone there are 620,000 beef cows and another 1.84 million dairy cows, ranking it 4th in the country in total cattle numbers.

“A huge cattle industry is supported in California by consumers’ trust in safe meat and milk products. With reduced testing, the USDA is gambling with that trust,” warned Jon Fox, Consumer Advocate with the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG).   

In the USDA statement, authorities confirmed the 4th case of BSA in U.S. history was discovered in central California. While the cow in question was never meant for human consumption, the event underscores the importance of robust food safety regulations. Under the Bush administration in 2006, the USDA reduced the number of animals tested under the mad cow surveillance program to its present level of 40,000. Yet with no restrictions on imports of beef or live cattle under 30 months, the U.S. meat market faces risk from new cases.

“We were lucky this case was discovered through USDA testing, which is why we need more testing, not less” said Jon Fox.

Priority Action

The overuse of antibiotics on factory farms is threatening the effectiveness of lifesaving antibiotics. Call on the state Legislature to ban the mass distribution of antibiotics to livestock.

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