What you eat could kill you...

Success! I've been "nagging", that's what wives do when they give helpful advice to their husbands, about not eating beef for about a year. Yet, my husband still chooses a burger at Mc Donald's (because it costs less) and requests beef in his burrito. He travels often to Japan - where they screen all cows for BSD and told him he could have his fill of beef there but not in the United States where - though some independent farms have tried - the beef industry has been staunchly against testing all cows for this deadly disease. w

So what's this big success I'm talking about? Well.. I've had it with getting frustrated in recounting the dangers of Mad Cow to my husband so - by coincidence - TiVo recorded an episode of Forensic Files Called "Foreign Body" a very scientific, factual account on the origins of mad cow and it's effects on those who consume the infected meat. Before I turned on the program I made a pledge to my husband.

"If you promise to pay attention for the next 30 minutes, I will never bring up your beef consumption habits, nor try to prevent them. After seeing this program, I think you should make up your own mind about consuming beef and I will respect your decision."

When the program finished my husband was declaring vegetarianisim as the way to go - maybe I was a little too successful!

Mad Cow - and why US Beef still isn't safe
Like many Forensic File episodes, this one opened with a mystery. Why were healthy young people in Britain suffering from Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease - a disease that usually strikes the elderly? Beautiful microscope slides are displayed showing the holes in the brain caused by this disease and personal stories are recounted for three youths with promising lives ahead of them dying within 9 months to a year after displaying symptoms of what was later discovered to be CJD. Then various scientists were interviewed about how disease could jump sepcies, and a short animation displayed the specific effects of this disese on prions - a normal protein that for unknown reasons becomes infectious. Fast forward to a few screen shots of cows suffering from "Mad Cow", sheep suffering from "Scrapie" (thought to be the original cross species jump), and a few shots of cow and sheep carcasses being ground-up and turned into little pellets which are later fed back to the cows - who are now no longer herbivores but omnivores because of this practice- and the path of this disease is clear. The program ends with one grieving parent looking in the camera asking the viewer how he could possibly feel comfortable eating beef again without a concentrated effort to erradicate the infected cows and BSD's path of transmission.

As a side note, United States outlawed feeding carcasses back to cows in the 1997. The FDA is the agency who has been tasked with tracking and enforcing compliance with this rule but their most recent report, Agencies Work to Corral Mad Cow Disease, admits to not having 100% compliance and hides in plain view the fact that they are only monitoring animal feed firms- not the cows.

Why is this statistical shell game important to note? In 2003, the United States has tested only 20,526 cattle out of 35 million slaughtered - that's .05% While the testing has increased ten-fold in 2004 that only brings the number of cattle tested to 176, 468 (according to the USDA) - that's .5%. Conrtast these numbers with Japan where they tested 100% of the cattle destined for the commercial market and new European Union regulations that require that every head of cattle over the age of 30 months, headed for slaughter be tested and you can clearly see why U.S. beef is blatantly unsafe.

So... next time you're tempted to ask, "where's the beef?" what you should really be asking is, "where's the test results?"

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