A former USDA inspector and two USDA veterinarians claim that the ag department is covering up bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) cases in the United States.
Lester Friedlander, now a consumer advocate, was fired from his inspector position in 1995 after speaking out about what he saw were unsafe practices. Friedlander is so confident that the United States is covering up BSE finds that he reportedly would take a lie detector test to prove it, according to wire reports.
Reports from the Canadian Broadcast Corporation say that in 1997 an animal was cleared from the having the disease because tests were conducted on the wrong parts of its brain. Three months later another animal appeared at the same slaughterhouse exhibiting similar symptoms. One of the vets who is speaking out, retired USDA Veterinarian Dr. Masuo Doi asked to see the test results, but was only verbally told it tested negative.
When Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns was questioned about the allegations in a media call on Thursday, he says the "baseless claims" provide no mileage that USDA is hiding information. Johanns adds that the only complaints he's receiving is that USDA is publishing false positives.
Johanns says that USDA is "not seeing anyone buying into what he's trying to sell," assuring that U.S. and foreign consumers remain confident in the safety of U.S. beef. He also told reporters that the claims should be considered less authoritative since the individuals are speaking out about incidences that happened in the mid-90s.
To date the United States has tested 314,000 high-risk animals from all across the country. The enhanced surveillance program that was implemented last June was designed to capture an accurate assessment of the prevalence of the diase in the United States. Johanns says within the next couple of months the agency will probably evaluate the results and determine any needed future steps.