A federal appeals court last Friday ruled that Creekstone Farms Premium Beef cannot test its cattle for bovine spongiform encephalopathy to assure customers of the safety of the company's beef. Creekstone asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture for permission to conduct such tests in 2005, but USDA refused under the 1913 Virus Serum Toxins Act, arguing that the U.S. had put scientific interventions in place and that plant-wide testing could find false positive that would be damaging to beef demand.
Creekstone sued to overturn USDA's position and a district court determined that the government did not have authority to prevent such testing, saying the 1913 law, intended to stop the sales of bogus drugs to livestock producers, covered disease treatment, not testing harvested animals for disease. However, the court put its ruling on hold pending appeal.
The U.S. Federal Appeals Court for the District of Columbia, in a decision late on Aug. 29, ruled that diagnosis may be considered part of treatment and that deference should be given USDA for its interpretation of the law. The ruling was handed down by two members of the three-judge panel as the third judge dissented, saying USDA had exceeded "the bounds of reasonableness."
The ruling was sent back to the lower court.