While again attacking the cattle industry, specifically its use of Bovine Growth Hormone [BGH], Spurlock writes:
It's because of the BGH that countries in the European Union won't let us export beef to them anymore; BGH is linked to mad-cow disease. (p. 102)Short passage. Two huge errors.
First, nearly all the BGH used in the United States is synthetic. It never came from an actual cow. Which means it can't carry the misshapen protein (called a prion) that carries mad cow disease. That's only found in the nervous system of ruminants -- actual cows and sheep.
The only link between BGH and mad cow I could find anywhere was this one, in which a a consumer advocate theorized that cows on BGH grow quickly, and therefore need feed that's denser in energy and protein. This, the author concluded, means BGH cattle are more likely to get food that's made up of other ruminants, which puts that cattle at increased risk of mad cow.
Of course, even before 1997, that risk was still damn-near zero. And the whole point was rendered moot after 1997, when the FDA banned feed with ruminant remains for other ruminants.
Second, Spurlock himself goes on to write the following:
Originally discovered in the UK in 1986, the first case of mad cow in the United States wasn't documented until 2004 (in a cow raised in Canada and slaughtered in Washington state).So to sum, Spurlock...
By the end of 2003, 143 official cases [of the human form of mad cow] had been counted in the UK, six in France, one each in Canada, Ireland, and Italy, and two in the United States--most recently, a Florida woman died of it in 2004, apparently after having eaten bad beef in the UK. (p. 102)
A) Questions the business practices of the U.S. beef industry,
B) does so by drawing a false link between bovine growth hormone and mad cow disease,
C) backs up his point by noting that Europe refuses to import U.S. beef, even though....
D) 153 of the 154 (99.3%) documented cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (the human form of mad cow) occured outside the United States, and 152 of the 154 occured in Europe.
A realist might also point out that these cases all occured over a period of time in which billions of pounds of beef were eaten the world over. Which means your risk of contracting the human form of mad cow from eating beef is virtually nil. And if you should contract it, there's a 99% chance didn't get the beef that gave it to you in the United States.
Somehow, Spurlock reaches into that bag of statistics and pulls out an indictment of U.S. beef.