Mad cows and Canadians

The United States and many other countries have halted Canadian imports of beef ever since a case of mad cow disease was discovered in 2003. But the measure has more to do with protecting the beef industry than protecting consumers, says the Wall Street Journal.

The embargo has negatively impacted consumers and U.S. industries:

  • Consumers are paying about five cents more per pound of beef.

  • The U.S. meat-packing industry has laid off workers due to a cattle shortage.

    But scientists say that the health risks that consumers are supposedly being protected from are overblown:

  • During the peak of Britain's mad cow disease epidemic in the early 1990s, 143 cases were reported despite the thousands of pounds of beef consumed by Britons.

  • In North America, however, only four cows have been identified as having mad cow disease (only one was in the United States), and there has been no evidence of infected beef entering the food chain.

  • Furthermore, the recently infected Alberta beef cow was born just shortly after new cattle-feed regulations had taken effect.

    However, the U.S. cattle industry would prefer to keep the embargo in place permanently, similar to the protectionist measures granted the American sugar and steel industries. Using exaggerated hype as a way to protect industry sets a bad example for other countries that will discourage them from opening their markets to the United States, says WSJ.

    Source: Editorial, No Way to Treat a Neighbour, Wall Street Journal, January 19, 2004.

    For WSJ text (subscription required):,,SB110609776324629707,00.html?mod=todays_us_opinion

    For more on Food, Drug and Tobacco Regulation:

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 01 February 2005
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