Monday, June 27, 2005

Some don't want to find Mad Cow

A third and more sophisticated test on the beef cow suspected of having mad cow disease would have helped resolve conflicting results from two initial screenings, but the U.S. refused to perform it in November.
That additional test, ordered up by the Agriculture Department's internal watchdog, ended up detecting mad cow — a finding that was confirmed on Friday by the world's pre-eminent lab, in England.

U.S. officials in November had declared the cow free of the disease even though one of two tests — an initial screening known as a rapid test — indicated the presence of the disease. A more sophisticated follow-up — immunohistochemistry, or IHC — came back negative.
"They had two diametrically opposed results which begged to be resolved," said Paul W. Brown, a former scientist at the National Institutes of Health who spent his career working on mad cow-related issues.
"If you had what they had, you would immediately go to a Western blot and get a third test method and see which one of the previous two was more accurate," Brown said.

In a letter to Consumers Union last March, the department said there was no need for the British lab to confirm the results and that the Western blot test would not have given a more accurate reading.
"We are confident in the expertise of USDA's laboratory technicians in conducting BSE testing," wrote Jere Dick, an associate deputy administrator. Mad cow disease is medically known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE.

The department had used Western blot tests since the 1990s to resolve conflicting results, including on the first case. But since then, the department has used the Western blot only if samples from an animal were too degraded to work for the IHC.
The current testing program "might not be the best option today," Johanns said. "Likewise, the protocol we develop as a result of this testing might not be the best option in 2007," Johanns said. "Science is ever evolving. It is not static."

"They were afraid the truth would come out," said Carol Tucker Foreman of the Consumer Federation of America. Added Michael Hanson of the Consumers Union: "This is just foot-dragging, and these delayed reactions need to really stop."

read the US Today article


Post a Comment

<< Home