Of food supply risks, mad cow's not high on list

By Lauran Neergaard

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, April 25 2012 3:45 p.m. MDT

On Wednesday, a major South Korean retailer suspended sales of U.S. beef. But live cattle futures, which had dropped Tuesday, recovered as it became clearer that exports would not take a significant hit.

U.S. officials have shipped samples to laboratories in Canada and Britain to confirm that the cow had atypical BSE, and investigators will test other cows from the same herd as a precaution. Similar "spongiform" diseases affect other species: It's called scrapie in sheep and chronic wasting disease in deer. There's a human form completely unconnected to contaminated meat called classic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

CSPI, the consumer group, points to other issues that advocates call more relevant for public health — such as stemming the food poisoning that the government estimates sickens 50 million people a year. For example, the government hasn't finalized pending rules to improve the safety of produce, after a series of high-profile disease outbreaks.

On the animal side, CSPI's Caroline Smith DeWaal said 12,000 to 13,000 samples of ground beef and beef trimmings are tested for E. coli every year. Last fall, the government did say it would expand some of that testing, to look not just for the most worrisome strain of E. coli but some additional strains that have begun causing outbreaks.

Associated Press writers Tracie Cone in Fresno, Calif., and Sam Hananel in Washington contributed to this report.

Online:

CDC info: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/bse/

USDA info: http://tinyurl.com/bljbawz

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