Udderly Clean: No 'Mad Cow' in U.S., Feds Claim
"In addition to a strong feed rule, our best hope is to
develop a rapid, inexpensive test to detect the presence of [mad cow disease]
in living cattle," says Richard Wood, executive director of the Food Animal
The task of containing mad cow disease is complicated by the
tremendous variety of products containing bovine material, including dietary
supplements, skin implants, and vaccines.
And because prions are harder to kill than typical bacteria and
viruses, even sterilized surgical instruments can be a risk. In the U.K., for
example, where mad cow disease is a major public health problem, there's been
talk about throwing away medical tools used in surgical procedures like
Why? In such operations, the instruments are exposed to a
tremendous amount of white blood cells, where the disease-causing proteins can
"One of the real issues here is the issue of
resources," says the FDA's Lumpkin. "We try to use the resources that
we have to focus on those kinds of products that we think are the highest risk
products and go for that. Could we use more resources? Yes."
James Hodges, president of the American Meat Institute
Foundation, says while it's impossible to reduce the threat of mad cow disease
to zero, the multilayered controls in place are sufficient.
"All of the wailing and moaning from the consumer groups
does not necessarily mean that our actual risks are very high," Hodges
tells WebMD. "They're damn low."