When unsubstantiated, activist-driven fears of mad cow disease began to surface in the United States, Doug McEwen was the darling of the lunatic fringe. (If you haven’t heard of him before, check out our 2001 report, Mad Cow: A New American Scare Campaign.) McEwen was a hunter who died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a human brain-wasting disorder that, while tragic, has absolutely nothing to do with “mad cows” or eating meat.

But John Stauber, of the far, far left-leaning Center for Media & Democracy, is not one to let the truth get in the way of his agenda. Stauber and other disciples of Ralph Nader and noted technophobe Jeremy Rifkin (the Organic Consumers Association and the misnamed Center for Food Safety come to mind) would love nothing better than to see American consumers as paralyzed by mad-cow fears as their British counterparts. All the better for the “natural” and “organic” meat industries, which so far occupy just a niche market.

We thought we’d seen the last of Doug McEwen’s story, but he’s back. This time, John Stauber is using his tragic death as an excuse to frighten people about the supposed dangers of contracting mad-cow disease while giving blood. Speaking of mad cow disease in the Connecticut Post this weekend, Stauber claimed that “this might be the 21st century’s own AIDS epidemic, that’s how massive an epidemic we face.” The medical director of Connecticut’s Red Cross services, being motivated by good science rather than a good sound bite, declared that “there is simply no evidence that the disease can be transmitted through blood transfusion.”

Stauber’s agenda-driven hyperbole comes at a time when the rest of the civilized world is declaring “mad cow” to be a much, much smaller threat than previously believed. France’s food agency, once terrified of allowing British beef to cross the English Channel, is now talking about dropping its trade barriers entirely. British scientists searching for human tissue infected with mad cow disease admitted on Friday that they were only able to find one positive sample, out of the many thousands they’ve studied.