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The Los Angeles Times reports that the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has ruled that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is within its legal rights to prohibit meatpackers from conducting their own tests for mad cow disease.

The case stemmed from an effort by Kansas-based Creekstone Farms Premium Beef to test all of its cows and then advertise the fact that these animals had been determined to be free of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Larger meatpackers opposed the Creekstone program, saying that it would force them to also perform the expensive testing.

KC's View:
Perhaps the legal system is correct when it says that the USDA can prohibit private BSE testing and the listing of those results on meat packaging.

But what seems incomprehensible to me is why the USDA would want to prohibit such testing.

Sure, market forces might then compel bigger meatpackers to do the tests themselves. But we’re supposed to be in favor of market forces in this country…and besides, when did it become the USDA’s mission to save big meatpackers from such expenses?

There are only two probable results from such private testing. One, the consuming public finds out that the nation’s meat supply is just as safe as the government has maintained. Two, it demonstrates that the government has been overly optimistic about the level of mad cow disease in the US, and that more testing and greater vigilance is needed.

Either way, the consumer wins. In fact, the only way that the consumer doesn’t win is if the USDA gets in the way of market forces and prevents the private testing from taking place. Which, ironically, is what has happened.

Here’s hoping that Creekstone takes advantage of whatever appeals processes may be available to it, and that common sense and logic are applied to the issue of private BSE testing.