To the People

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or TO THE PEOPLE.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

T-Boneheads

In the you-gotta-shitting-me news of the week, the White House has asked a federal court to prevent meatpackers from testing for mad cow disease more often. Why? 'Cause if they found a case of mad cow that might turn people off of steaks.

The AP says:
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration on Friday urged a federal appeals court to stop meatpackers from testing all their animals for mad cow disease, but a skeptical judge questioned whether the government has that authority.

The government seeks to reverse a lower court ruling that allowed Arkansas City, Kan.-based Creekstone Farms Premium Beef to conduct more comprehensive testing to satisfy demand from overseas customers in Japan and elsewhere.

So Creekstone wants to do extra testing on its own to reassure customers' concerns. And the government says no way, you cannot do that:

Less than 1 percent of slaughtered cows are currently tested for the disease under Agriculture Department guidelines. The agency argues that more widespread testing does not guarantee food safety and could result in a false positive that scares consumers.

"They want to create false assurances," Justice Department attorney Eric Flesig-Greene told a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

But Creekstone attorney Russell Frye contended the Agriculture Department's regulations covering the treatment of domestic animals contain no prohibition against an individual company testing for mad cow disease, since the test is conducted only after a cow is slaughtered. He said the agency has no authority to prevent companies from using the test to reassure customers.

"This is the government telling the consumers, `You're not entitled to this information,'" Frye said.

What's going on here? Well, it turns out that other meatpackers are afraid that Creekstone's testing could become the norm for the industry. So they are leaning on the government to stop it:

Larger meatpackers have opposed Creekstone's push to allow wider testing out of fear that consumer pressure would force them to begin testing all animals too. Increased testing would raise the price of meat by a few cents per pound.

This stinks like fresh cow patties for a variety of reasons. If a private business wants to adopt safety measures over and above the federal regs that's their own business. The government should only be involved in setting minimums, not regulating every single aspect of the industry. It's pretty sleazy too how the whole industry is able to lean on the government to do its dirty work and bully one company that refuses to get in line.

And finally, as somebody for whom cheeseburgers are a staple of my diet, I would like to know if the next one will give me a crippling brain disease. I think that is somewhat more important than worrying about what the public reaction might be if there was a "false positive". Hey, feds, worry more about an actual infected cow slipping through the net.

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