Eliminating beef a good decision | AspenTimes.com

Eliminating beef a good decision

I applaud Ms. Owsley’s decision to prioritize the health of Aspen’s children over the financial health of the beef industry. (“Beef off menu at two schools,” Jan. 6)

Despite what the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s spokespersons say, no one really knows how widespread BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) is in the American food supply, particularly in the ground beef used in hamburgers, tacos, chili, etc. in school meals.

Is the risk likely to be small? Yes. But one must remember, it is thought to take an incubation period of three to six years before BSE is even manifest in cattle. How many cases of asymptomatic BSE infection have been missed? And what risks are we willing to take?

In his Op-Ed in the New York Times on Jan. 2, Eric Schlosser, the author of “Fast Food Nation,” succinctly documents why the USDA is so quick to protect the U.S. beef industry and why their responses to this crisis are unlikely to be effective.

BSE is not the only risk in eating U.S. beef. Inspections are still documenting substantial levels of contamination by E. Coli O57:H7 in the beef supply, a cause of infectious, bloody diarrhea and life-threatening hemolytic uremic syndrome in children. And reducing high-calorie beef consumption may help to reduce the epidemic of obesity in the U.S.

It is time for other citizens, like Ms. Owsley, to send a message to the USDA that the safety of our children’s food supply needs to be taken more seriously than financial allegiances.

Thomas N. Robinson, M.D., M.P.H.

Associate Professor of Pediatrics and of Medicine

Division of General Pediatrics and

Stanford Prevention Research Center

Stanford University School of Medicine