Sick, but safe and relatively sound we return to Salem where I launch another Mad Cow rant. Moo-ha-ha-ha.

Made it home alive and in one piece. Still a lot of snow everywhere but nothing that prevented us from getting anywhere or doing anything. Erin, Jonah, and I are all sick with colds, but last night we (finally!) got a full night’s sleep, and the result may be that we’re on the upswing. Not that we couldn’t use a snow day at school, mind you.

I had a stack of newspapers to read upon our return from California. The Wall Street Journal had an interesting December 29, 2003 story called Scientific Data Offer No Proof of Beef Safety. Would it surprise anyone to learn that the USDA’s assurances of a safe US beef supply are being challenged by the very scientist who won the Nobel for his mad cow disease work? I quote:

“They are making these sweeping statements for which they don’t have the data,” said Stanley Prusiner, the University of California, San Francisco, researcher who won a Nobel Prize in 1997 for his work on the malformed prion proteins linked to mad-cow and related ailments in humans, sheep and many other species.

…Today, scientists in Dr. Prusiner’s laboratory say they think it’s inevitable that beef cuts also will be shown to harbor mad-cow prions.

In short, the USDA has told everyone that the mad-cow-causing prions are only in brain matter and the spinal cord, which gets removed (theoretically—there could always be tissue splatter given the way the animals are killed) from the human food chain. Prusiner’s group has found that the prions can also exist in muscle tissue. Is the risk high? Probably not. But it exists, despite USDA statements to the contrary, and provides yet another reason to question the information the Bush administration gives out.

On the brighter side, the Bush administration has reversed its position and now plans to exclude downer cattle from the food chain. Why they waited until it was an issue instead of supporting Democratic efforts to do this last Congress remains something of a mystery. (OK, not really: Bush is a cattleman himself. It’s no surprise that he’d put the interests of the US beef industry ahead of consumer safety.)