A Government Agency Against Competition & Testing for Food Safety
This AP story summarizes a shocking news story and an even more shocking Appeals Court ruling:
The government can prohibit meat packers from testing their animals for mad cow disease, a federal appeals court said Friday, overturning a lower court ruling that would have allowed such testing. Because the Agriculture Department tests only a small percentage of cows for the deadly disease, Kansas meatpacker Creekstone Farms Premium Beef wanted to test all of its cows. The government said it could not. Larger meat companies worry that if Creekstone performed the test and advertised its meat as safe, they could be forced to do the expensive test, too. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Friday overturned a lower court ruling. The appeals court said restricting the test is within the scope of the government’s authority.
The lower court ruling can be found here. I agree with Stan Collender:
Let me see if I have this right.
1. Creekstone had to get government permission to provide a safer product for consumers.
2. The USDA didn’t grant that permission because it might provide Creekstone with a competitive advantage over other meatpackers.
3. The court agreed that the federal government has the right to impose rules that reduce competition within the United States AND at the same time make meat less safe to eat.
4. And this is a USDA that, under a Republican president, should be in favor of increased rather than decreased competition.
Here’s my question: Why did Creekstone even ask for permission?
We want the USDA to insure that we get more attention to food safety in situations where the private sector does not provide sufficient incentives for companies to do so. Creekstone saw a competitive advantage in providing a safer product and the government decides to tell this company no? Why? Because the big boys did not want this kind of competition? This is the kind of crony capitalism that legitimately drives conservatives insane.
Update: Reuters provides more on why Creekstone wanted to do additional testing:
USDA allows the mad-cow test kits to be sold only to laboratories that it approves. It says the tests should not be used as a marketing tool and the cattle that comprise the bulk of the meat supply are too young to be tested reliably. Two large export markets, Japan and South Korea, accept beef only from younger U.S. cattle. Mad cow is found mostly in older cattle. Its incubation period is two to eight years. Creekstone said it lost $200,000 a day due to reduced U.S. beef exports when it filed its lawsuit.
Just lovely! The USDA and the Appeals Court are protecting Asian beef producers from competition from US exports!