The third U.S. case of mad cow disease (bovine spongiform
encephalopathy) was confirmed this week, 18 years after Great
Britain destroyed 3.7 million cattle in an effort to eradicate the
fatal disease that had claimed 143 people in the United
Like the first two cases in the United States (December 2003,
Washington state; November 2004, Texas), this time the degenerative
disease was found in a 'downed' animal. Downed animals cannot walk
or stand, and are classified by the United States Department of
Agriculture (USDA) as 'diseased.' Estimates on the number of
diseased/downed animals that make it into the human food supply
range from 100,000 to 200,000 annually, or more than 70 percent of
the downed animals brought to USDA slaughterhouses.
In addition to the risk of mad cow disease, downed cows are more
likely to be contaminated with fecal pathogens and other diseases.
The USDA previously agreed to ban the use of downer cows, but
recently, USDA Secretary Mike Johanns announced that downed animals
may again be used for human food. Because the USDA's policy on
downed animals has been inconsistent, concerned citizens ?
including U.S. representative Gary Ackerman (D-NY), senator Daniel
Akaka (D-HI), and the organizations
supporting legislation that would permanently ban the use of downed
animals in the human food supply. The U.S. Senate has passed the
Downed Animal Protection Act, but the House has yet to
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