Mad cow scare stirs markets, food safety doubts

Appetite undiminished
The latest mad cow scare sent markets into a schizophrenic spin, first crashing, and then rebounding on the news that the animal in question was “clean.”

Overall, confidence in the market and the product outweighed fears. Ranchers and meat packers across the U.S. were not worried for their fortunes. Overseas, Jamaica chose to not renew a partial ban on U.S. beef.

“Cattle prices rise as U.S. finds no evidence of mad cow disease”
Bloomberg, November 24, 2004

Latest mad cow case not causing alarm in Kansas
Associated Press, November 23, 2004

“Nebraska cattle farmers aren’t worried about mad cow”
November 18, Associated Press/

“No plan to reinstate partial ban on U.S. beef”
Jamaica Observer, November 23, 2004

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Canada: Mixed signals
In Canada, farmers literally parked their cattle in downtown Montreal to protest for more financial aid, after an incident of mad cow disease (technically known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy) provoked a U.S. ban on Canadian beef.

U.S. regulators are considering dropping the ban, though the process could take months. Farmers protesting in Montreal said their animals’ value plummeted from more than $1,000 to $120 (Canadian).

Angry farmers park their cows in Montreal, November 22, 2004

U.S. starts final review on dropping the ban on Canadian cattle
Canadian Broadcast Corporation, November 24, 2004

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Food safety
Overshadowed by the market’s swings is a “simmering” debate on food safety. Ranchers and meat packers say that more testing isn’t warranted due to high safety standards, and the lack of a widespread outbreak of the disease.

But the FDA is considering new controls on cattle feed, and will continue to announce inconclusive test results, in the hopes of short-circuiting “speculation” about the agency’s actions.

Critics cite numerous instances of meat producers that failed to live up to safety standards, and consider the potential consequences of an error to be devastating. There is no cure for mad cow disease, the effect of which in humans has been described as “brain wasting.”

“USDA to keep announcing inconclusive mad cow tests”
Reuters, November 24, 2004

“Mad cow debate intensifies
Knight Ridder, November 24, 2004

Debate over food safety rules is still simmering
Houston Chronicle, Nov. 23, 2004

US FDA mulls mad cow safeguards for feed”
Reuters, November 22, 2004

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