Mad cow animal testing program to be expanded

WASHINGTON, DC, February 23, 2004 (ENS): The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is expanding its animal testing program as recommended by an international panel of experts convened by the department after a cow in Washington State tested positive in December for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), says Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman.
Briefing reporters Thursday after a speech at USDA's Agricultural Outlook Forum near Washington, Veneman said she expects soon to announce the "comprehensive nature" of the enhanced testing program. It is likely that the USDA will increase the number and expand characteristics of the animals tested for BSE, known as mad cow disease.

Veneman said the expanded testing program likely would include the testing of older healthy cows for BSE, as well as the younger, sick or injured animals that have been the focus of the department's testing program. Older cows are those over 30 months of age.

In addition, the department likely will test more than 40,000 cows for BSE in 2004, as recommended by the review panel, Veneman said. The department initially said it would test 40,000 cows in 2004, or twice the amount of animals tested in 2003, and 40,000 cows was the number mentioned in the 2005 budget request sent to Congress earlier this month.

Veneman said representatives of Japan and Mexico are currently in Washington to learn more about the United States' ongoing efforts to upgrade its animal testing and health protection programs.

Those efforts include the accelerated development of a verifiable, permanent national animal identification system and helping other countries understand the importance of basing international trade rules on sound science, she said. Veneman announced December 30 that the USDA would begin immediate implementation of a national animal identification plan, which would aid efforts to track animals and their origins.

Japan and Mexico, which currently ban U.S. beef imports, are the two largest U.S. beef export markets.

The United States hopes its open approach to informing the public about its efforts to strengthen its animal testing and surveillance programs will provide an example to other countries dealing with food safety and consumer confidence issues, said J.B. Penn, under secretary of agriculture for foreign affairs. Addressing conference attendees, Penn said U.S. officials continue to work to inform foreign officials and public about the safety of North American beef.

Penn said that Canada and the Philippines remain open for U.S. beef and said he expects other markets to reopen in 2004.

The USDA's labeling of the BSE infected cow as a "downer" has been questioned by the two highest ranking members of the House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform. In a joint letter to Veneman on February 17, committee Chairman Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican, and Congressman Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, presented evidence from three people who handled, transported and slaughtered the BSE cow that it was ambulatory at the time of death.

"If the information we have received is true," the congressmen wrote, "a key premise of the USDA BSE testing program is subverted. It is self-evident that if the only BSE-infected cow in the United States was able to walk and had no symptoms of nervous system disease, USDA should not assume that all infected cattle will be either downer cows or cows that exhibt symptoms of nervous system disease."

The two congressmen said the evidence means that the USDA should follow the international panel's recommendations and test not just 40,000 cows, but "all downer cows over 30 months" and conduct "a random sampling of among healthy cattle."

The congressmen said the USDA should "either follow the recommendations of these independent experts and expand mad cow testing substantially or provide a compelling reason for not doing so."

While Waxman said Sunday that the committee has not received a reply to its letter from the Agriculture Secretary, her announcement of an expanded testing program appears to address some of their concerns.

http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/feb2004/2004-02-23-09.asp#anchor3


Recent news and research

[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Stay Up-to-Date –
Sign up for our Newsletter

NewFarm.org changes daily! Don't miss out on the latest interactive features, columns and news. Sign up now for our monthly e-newsletter and stay connected.

ACTION ALERTS

•Free the meat markets! End packer ownership and stop closed-door deals

• Support Saskatchewan farmers in efforts to block GM wheat

• Stop budget cuts to conservation programs--the one's that help you pay for environmentally sound farming practices!

Share Your Stories

Are you a farmer? A consumer? Whatever story you have to tell, let it be an inspiration to others.
Share it with us now...

T H E    N E W    F A R M – R E G E N E R A T I V E    A G R I C U L T U R E    W O R L D W I D E