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The New York Times had a fascinating piece in its Sunday magazine section yesterday that detailed the cases of some eight people, all of whom died from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a fatal brain disorder that is the human variant of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), better known as mad cow disease.

Remarkably, all of these people are believed to have eaten meat at the Garden State Race Track in Cherry Hill, NJ, in the late 19080's.

This "cluster" of victims has been identified by a woman named Janet Skarbek, an author, consultant and self-help guru, and who seems to have happened upon these circumstances through a combination of happenstance, hard work, and simple curiosity. The diagnoses of these cases are both complex and imperfect, according to the piece - but the coincidence of these deaths from essentially the same malady - at a time when there was supposed to be no mad cow disease on US soil - certainly is enough to cause some pause and get New Jersey officials interested in a further investigation.

"Is it possible that meat from an infected cow got to the Garden State Race Track in the late 80's?," the NYT asks. "There are a lot of assumptions built into Skarbek's theory. There has to be a strain of mad cow disease in America that is rare enough or different enough to have avoided detection…That strain has to infect humans in a way that mimics the symptoms of sporadic C.J.D. but also differs from the well-documented symptoms of variant C.J.D. in Britain. And it had to be present in no more than a few cows whose meat was consumed by only a small group of people who ate at a single venue over a short period of time more than a decade ago. It does not help Skarbek's theory that during those years the racetrack food was provided by more than two dozen suppliers."

Still, the coincidence seems remarkable.
KC's View:
For those of us who believe that not enough is being done to test and track cattle in this country, stores like this one are cautionary…if not downright scary.

"The truth is out there," Mulder used to say. Maybe he should get off the FBI's X-Files and go work for the FDA and USDA …