Decision to ban beef was correct |

Decision to ban beef was correct

On the face of it, the decision not to serve beef at Aspen’s elementary and middle schools seems like an overreaction to the news that one cow was found in Washington state with mad cow disease.

After all, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has gone to great pains to track down all of the cows that came into this country from Canada with the infected Holstein at the end of December.

As The Associated Press reported today, the USDA decided to kill a herd of 450 calves in Washington, because one or more of them might be the offspring of that tainted cow.

The government has also made a great effort to assure Americans that the beef they buy in supermarkets is safe.

Nevertheless, The Lunchroom Co. owner Anne Owsley’s decision to stop serving beef this week seems prudent. Owsley, who has been providing lunch to Aspen students for 11 years, said she is not going to resume serving beef to children until all her questions have been answered.

“I know the government says beef is safe, but I don’t believe the government has much credibility right now. It’s my hunch, but it’s also my prerogative,” she said.

Owsley added that she has no intention of serving anything to Aspen students that she wouldn’t serve to her own children.

She is right to question the credibility of the USDA. In the mid-1990s, after approximately 150 Britons died of the human variation of mad cow disease, Great Britain, Japan and many European countries instituted extensive testing of their herds.

Since the discovery in Washington state, news organizations from New York to Los Angeles to Seattle have published stories about how the Department of Agriculture has agreed with the beef industry’s contention that extensive testing for bovine spongiform encephalopathy ” mad cow disease ” isn’t necessary.

The government and major players in the beef industry have a lot of explaining to do before they convince the public that their beef is safe.

Owsley’s caution, for the moment, seems wise.