USDA: American burgers still safe

March 22, 1996
Web posted at: 10:30 p.m. EST

From Correspondent Eugenia Halsey


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- If you are in the United States and in the mood for a big fat juicy burger, go ahead, indulge. That's the word from the Department of Agriculture a day after news about infected British beef triggered off an international scare.

Since the United States hasn't imported beef from Britain since 1989, USDA Secretary Dan Glickman says, there is no reason to be alarmed.

That, however, doesn't mean the department is sitting pretty. It has rounded up health officials, scientists and ranchers from around the country to discuss ways to improve monitoring of beef in the United States.

Mad Cow Statistics

One of the participants at Friday's beef-monitoring meeting was USDA's Dr. Will Hueston. He says there seem to be no glaring gaps in the current surveillance program.

"That's the real good news coming out of this meeting. We'll continue meeting to make absolutely sure that we don't have any gaps," he added.


After the meeting, Hueston was headed for England, where he serves on the British committee of scientists that found there may be a link between that country's bovine disease and a rare but fatal human equivalent called Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, or CJD.

Apparently, CJD is brought on by the same virus that causes "mad cow disease," also known as BSE.

Since Thursday, when new research revealed the connection between "mad cow disease" and CJD, several nations across the world, especially in Europe, have turned their backs on British meat.

Many U.S. ranchers see an opportunity in this rejection of British beef.

Another Cow Bessie Cow

"We would love to send 'em (Europeans) some wholesome, clean, American beef ... to help 'em with their current problems," said Colorado rancher Scott Johnson.

But that is not expected to happen anytime soon. The European Union has banned U.S. beef because it often contains hormones.

Glickman said he doesn't believe the "mad cow disease" issue is necessarily going to affect American beef sales abroad.

But that doesn't mean the United States isn't going to try. It will seek to persuade Europe to lift the ban. Now, says Glickman, they even have a good argument: American beef is safe.

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