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The “Tuberculous Cattle Trust”: Disease Contagion in an Era of Regulatory Uncertainty

  • ALAN L. OLMSTEAD (a1) and PAUL W. RHODE (a2)

In 1900 bovine tuberculosis was a serious and growing threat to animal and human health. Early private and state initiatives in the United States often increased the incentives for the interstate trade of diseased stock. One unscrupulous dealer exposed thousands of dairy herds and families to the disease. Our study helps explain the expanding federal role in regulating food safety. In this case regulations arose from genuine health concerns. Before the development of strict regulations, diagnostic innovations that could have helped prevent the spread of the disease actually made the operation of markets worse by aggravating asymmetric information problems.

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