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|General Cooking (rec.food.cooking) For general food and cooking discussion. Foods of all kinds, food procurement, cooking methods and techniques, eating, etc.|
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No New U.S. Cases Of Mad Cow Disease In Humans This Week
But hundreds of millions of pounds of beef have been condemned,
because it may infect people with mad cow disease. Most of it
has already been eaten.
School districts across Tennessee, including Metro Nashville
and surrounding areas, received meat from Hallmark/Westland
Meat packing company, which was shut down Feb. 4 for allegedly
slaughtering "downer cows" — cattle that could not stand. Such
cattle are banned from the food supply because they are at a
higher risk than other cattle for mad cow disease.
USDA recalls 143 million pounds of beef from California slaughterhouse
No charges have been filed against Westland, but an investigation
by federal authorities continues. Officials estimate that about
37 million pounds of the recalled beef went to school programs,
but they believe most of the meat probably has already been
"We don't know how much product is out there right now. We don't
think there is a health hazard, but we do have to take this
action," said Dr. Dick Raymond, USDA Undersecretary for Food Safety.
Most of the beef was sent to distribution centers in bulk packages.
The USDA said it will work with distributors to determine
how much meat remains.
Federal regulations call for keeping downed cattle out of the
food supply because they may pose a higher risk of contamination
from E. coli, salmonella or mad cow disease because they typically
wallow in feces and their immune systems are often weak.
---------- additional information from Mark Thorson ----------
On December 28, 2004, I sent a letter to the CDC FOI
office, following the instructions given on their website
I requested "any records in the possession of the CDC
regarding the results of any tests performed by or for
the National Prion Disease Pathology Surveillance Center
between October 15, 2004 and December 15, 2004 on
human central nervous system tissue".
According to CDC's FOI page, I should have received a
postcard from them acknowledging receipt of my request
when it was logged into their system. I also should
have received a response within 20 working days.
I did not receive a postcard or any other communication.
On February 4, 2005, I called their phone number, and
their spokesman confirmed that my request had been received
and logged as case number 05-0278. I was told that the
records I had requested had been received by the CDC
FOI office from the laboratory involved, and the records
were in the process of being reviewed for release. In a
subsequent phone call on March 14, 2005, I learned that
the requested records had been received by the CDC FOI
office on January 20, 2005, and that the records were still
in the process of being reviewed.
This is an extraordinarily long delay in the release of
these records, much longer than 20 days. This suggests
that the case was passed up the chain of command -- no one
below the highest level would have authority to release
these documents, if they contained extremely sensitive
On March 19, 2005, I posted an account of these events
to rec.food.cooking and a few other newsgroups.
On March 29, 2005, I received a letter from the CDC
(dated March 23, 2005) denying my request for the records.
It seems more than a coincidence that it took a public
exposure of this case to shake loose a response from CDC.
Had I not posted my account, I think it is unlikely I
would have received a response even today.
On March 31, 2005, I sent an appeal of the denial to the
office of CDC Director Julie Gerberding. To my surprise,
I received a letter (dated April 13, 2005) not from the
CDC, but from the Public Health Service, acknowledging
receipt of my appeal. I guess nobody in the CDC had the
authority (in a practical sense, if not a legal sense)
to make a decision to release these documents. My appeal
was assigned case number PHS-2K5-A-070.
After another extraordinarily long delay, on July 23, 2005
I received a letter (dated July 19, 2005) denying my appeal.
Oddly, the reason given for denying the appeal is that the
records are not in the possession of the CDC, even though
the CDC FOI office had told me the records were received
If these records showed nothing noteworthy, I believe
they would have been released to me long ago. I believe
that the extraordinary delays in processing my initial
request and my appeal indicate that no low-level official
could make the decision to comply with the Freedom of
Information Act by releasing the records to me. I believe
that only information of the most sensitive nature would
receive such treatment.
As I said in my appeal addressed to Director Gerberding:
"The extraordinary delay in responding to my request
suggests what these records might contain: documentation
of the first human death from variant CJD acquired in the
United States. Because variant CJD is a preventable
fatal illness, it would be against the mission of the CDC
if the public release of documentation of such an event
were suppressed or delayed. There could be U.S. citizens
that will become infected today who would have changed
their behavior to avoid infection, if a death from
U.S.-acquired variant CJD were known to have occurred."
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