Question: What could be worse for food safety than a global trade agreement negotiated in secret, by the corporations that stand to benefit, and slated to be rammed through Congress using the controversial “fast track” option?
Answer: Finding out, from leaked documents, that the agreements are being written so vaguely that the public will have no idea what hit them—and corporations will have virtual free rein to skirt regulations intended to protect consumers.
The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) recently got its hands on some of the secret draft texts for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). According to the IATP’s analysis, the texts call for fewer inspections and less testing of meat imported to the U.S. from other countries, putting Americans at risk of diseases like bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as “mad cow disease.”
Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE): A family of progressive, incurable, fatal diseases caused by prions. Characterized by dementia, and holes in the brain on autopsy. Can be transmitted between mammals when one mammal eats parts of the nervous system (e.g., brain, spinal cord) of another mammal.
Prion (pronounced pree-on): Novel infectious agent common to these diseases. Not a virus or bacterium, but an infectious protein which can set off a chain reaction which destroys nerve cells. They cannot be inactivated by most sterilization methods.
Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE): The technical name for Mad Cow Disease - the TSE found in cattle. The form of BSE found in European cattle is probably not the same as that in US cattle.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD): A human TSE. The classic form of CJD appears to arise spontaneously, but the so-called "new variant" of CJD (nvCJD) is now known to be the human equivalent of mad cow disease thought to be contracted by eating contaminated beef.
Kuru: Another human TSE, found in Pacific Islanders who ate human brains.
Scrapie: The TSE found in sheep. The probable source of all other animal TSEs.
Downer cow: US industry term for an animal who falls down and dies without an apparent disease. Some people speculate that some US downer cows have a form of BSE with different symptoms from the British form of BSE.
Before there was Fast Food Nation, there was Mad Cow USA. Those who read this book when it first appeared in 1997 were shocked but not surprised on December 23, 2003, when the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture announced that mad cow disease had been found in America.
Six years earlier, Stauber and Rampton warned in Mad Cow USA that government and industry in the US had failed to take the necessary steps to prevent this bizarre and deadly dementia disease from spreading through contaminated feed into livestock and humans.
The feeding of rendered slaughterhouse waste to livestock, which spreads mad cow disease and created an epidemic in England, continues to be both legal and widespread in the United States. Dairy calves are literally weaned on cattle blood protein in calf milk formula, while government and industry feed the American public a dangerous diet of outright lies, false assurances and deceptive PR.