On Swine Flu, Mad Cow and Other Wastes of Time

In late 2003 there wasn't a U.S. mad cow disease epidemic. There wasn't an incident of human contraction of mad cow disease in the U.S. No spinal cord material from an infected cow entered the U.S. human food supply. There was, however, discovery of an infected cow, after which 10,000 lbs of meat from the infected cow's originating slaughterhouse were recalled. Nothing bad happened to anyone, anywhere except the inconvenienced beef producers, the slaughterhouse and, well, the cow.

Howard Dean, then running in the Democratic primaries, naturally, didn't see it that way. He thought a situation where the USDA responded quickly and appropriately to prevent a non-threat from morphing into a hint of something larger was an example of a failure by the Bush Administration (conspiring with its industry friends, of course) requiring substantial federal funding to ensure the problem that didn't happen never didn't happen again no more times.

Fellow RSPer Steven L. Baerson and I felt, even without Howard Dean's advanced medical training, there was absolutely no danger from beef that didn't:
  1. Have the necessary ingredient (spinal tissue) to result in human mad cow disease.
  2. Get in the food supply.
We felt it would be like fearing a hijacking of an airplane containing 100 armed FBI agents and the infant son of an Al-Qaida operative. In fact, we believed Dean's pretend controversy exposed beef producers to far greater economic jeopardy than it addressed a genuine public health problem.

So we went for a delicious Italian beef sandwich to support the beef producers impugned by Dr. Dean. And to this day we live to tell the story.

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