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Consumers Union has called on the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to back off its lawsuit challenging an attempt by Creekstone Farms, a Kansas meatpacker, and other companies from testing all of their animals for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease. Creekstone won the right to do so in a lower court case, but the USDA has appealed that ruling.

“The best thing USDA could do would be to drop its anticompetitive, anti-consumer ban on voluntarily testing for mad cow disease and also allow meat from tested animals to be labeled as ‘tested for BSE’ so that consumers have a choice and free markets can function,” said Michael Hansen, Senior Scientist at Consumers Union. “It is hurting our trade with other countries and consumer confidence in our beef supply at home.”

Less than one percent of all slaughtered cows are testing for BSE under current federal guidelines. Larger meatpackers also have objected to Creekstone's plans, saying that it could create unfair pressure on them to test all their animals for BSE, which could result in higher costs and, ultimately, higher consumer prices.

The appeals court is expected to rule in this case shortly.

KC's View:
The USDA is so wrong on this issue that it almost defies belief. The consumer of 2008 demands and expects transparency, and both companies and governments that do not deliver on this will be viewed with distrust and suspicion. In this case, the government is preventing companies from achieving a level of transparency, which strikes me as deliberate obfuscation and anti-consumer.

It ought not be tolerated by the electorate.