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ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. -- A federal district court has ruled that Creekstone Farms based here and other meatpackers have the right to test all the animals they slaughter for mad cow disease. Unless USDA appeals the decision, Creekstone can start testing for the disease on June 1.
U.S. District Judge James Robertson immediately put his ruling on hold, pending a possible USDA appeal.
"We are very pleased with the ruling handed down by the Court and we stand ready to work with the USDA," stated Dennis Buhlke, Creekstone's president and c.e.o. "This decision confirms the position Creekstone has taken for over three years that the USDA should not prevent businesses from responding to their customers' demands for more information about their products, such as BSE testing."
Creekstone already has built, with the advice of BSE-testing experts, a state-of-the-art laboratory and is positioned at this time to implement its stated plans for BSE testing of some or all of the cattle it processes at its Arkansas City, Kan. plant.
The ruling held that USDA has authority to regulate the use of diagnostic tests in general, but that it lacks authority to prohibit the private use of BSE test kits, which are not used in the treatment of BSE, but are used on cattle that are already dead to see if they had significant levels of BSE infection.
Noting that many other countries test large numbers of healthy-appearing cattle for BSE at slaughter, Judge Robertson suggested that USDA's stated concerns about the conclusions consumers might draw from private BSE testing were not within USDA's statutory areas of responsibility.
Creekstone sells a wide variety of branded fresh beef as well as value-added products such as burgers, deli meats, and fully-cooked entrees to foodservice and retail customers.