In a 2-1 decisions, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals has held that only the United States Government can test for mad cow disease. This is predicted to have a harmful effect on private beef exporters because foreign consumers are often skeptical of buying American beef for fear of mad cow. In this case that was just decided, an exporter named Creekstone tried to buy and use a kit that tests for mad cow. However, federal regulation only allows the USDA to have and use such kits.
USDA regulation of testing kits falls under the Virus-Serum-Toxin Act,
which Congress enacted in 1913. The law gives the USDA control over the
sale of products intended for the “treatment” of domestic animals.
The case is not over, however, since the appeals court sent the case back down to the lower court to decide whether the USDA’s refusal to allow the exporter to test its own cattle is arbitrary and capricious.
I can see both sides of the argument for allowing or not allowing these kits to be used by private companies. On the one hand, as the court noted, since the incubation period for mad cow is between two and eight years, but most meat comes from cows under 2 years of age, so a test would not reveal any useful information and could give false assurances. On the other hand, I also see the benefit to exporters giving some level of assurance to foreigners that our meat is safe. This would also seem to help our trade deficit. Read the decision here, and make up your own mind
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