Technology with attitude

Mad Cow False Negatives: A Retraction


The AP reported that the government was challenging a farmer for testing all of his cows for Mad Cow disease. I thought that was pretty stupid.

Turns out I was wrong…sort of.

See, they did challenge the farmer, but not for the reason that was first reported…

In the lawsuit, the government did not make an argument about “false positives.” To the contrary, the government’s brief in support of a motion for summary judgment (as well as its other briefs) argued that BSE tests would provide a overwhelming number of false negatives.[…]

The false negative argument was also made in a 2005 rule from the USDA, which found universal testing to lack any scientific justification: […]

Why is the government taking this position? I see no evidence, as of yet, that concern for “protect[ing] companies’ profits” has anything to do with this. Instead, this seems to be a perfectly normal case of the liberal regulatory state protecting its turf.

However, let me ask if there really is not scientific justification for testing all animals for this? We’re not talking about polling here and this isn’t like rat hairs in peanut butter, or as the FDA likes to call it, the “Food Defect Action Levels.” We’re talking about cows with a serious disease that can jump to humans.

I suppose this seems to me like the argument against testing the cargo containers. Sure, can we test 2% of the containers and have a reasonable scientific estimation about the threat level, but we’ll never truly know and the time, energy and money it would have taken to stop that ONE container with a bomb in it would have been worth the time, energy and money it would take cleaning up the destruction it caused. Same goes with a disease inside of an animal.

Hat tip to Pat over at Stubborn Facts for pointing out the inconsistency and emailing me personally as a heads up.