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Couple of good pieces over on tracing two food safety issues and their effects on consumers - the outbreaks of bird flu, and ongoing debate about mad cow detection procedures.

In the case of bird flu, reports that while it is the newest concern for many consumers and unfortunately there is not a lot of helpful information available:

    "There have been two outbreaks of bird flu detected in the US at this point -- one in New Jersey and also in Pennsylvania, and the other in the Delmarva section of the eastern short of the US that includes pieces of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. Health authorities say that this strain is not harmful to humans, and doesn't even hurt chickens very much -- but if not contained, it could mutate into a more virulent form of the disease that could do significant damage to both species. And as a reflection of how seriously authorities take the situation, more than 80,000 chickens have been killed as a way of slowing down the spread of the disease."

As for mad cow disease, the news isn't getting any better, "as more new questions arise about the safety of our meat supply," reports. "Italian researchers suggest that there is a new form of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) better known as mad cow disease, that may be responsible for human deaths not previously linked to the malady. The new variation forms a kind of plaque in the brain and has been found in two aged Italian dairy cows. It is so different from the original disease that it has been given a new name -- bovine amyloidotic spongiform encephalopathy (BASE)."

There are indications, in fact, that this new strain can be found in places like France and Japan - and may be responsible for human deaths not previously related to the infection.

In addition, according to, "The Government Reform Committee of the US House of Representatives is challenging the official version of how the first case of mad cow disease was found on US soil in the days just before Christmas 2003. While the US department of Agriculture (USDA) has been maintaining that the infected cow was a 'downer,' and exhibited symptoms of BSE, the committee is saying that three separate witnesses have said that the cow appeared to be healthy, and that the infection was discovered as a matter of good fortune, not design."

For more, go to:

At the same time, California officials reportedly have gone to the federal government to revisit an agreement that keeps meat recalls secret.

The deal that currently exists, according to the Sacramento Bee, was put in place because meat recalls are voluntary and "must hold in confidence any proprietary information, including distribution and sales records that the government uses to track recalled meat."

However, because of criticism that came after a meat recall resulted from the discovery of mad cow disease on US soil, California wants to rework the memorandum of agreement that exists between it and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

A similar memorandum exists between USDA and 38 other states.
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