Statement of CSPI Food Safety Director Caroline Smith DeWaal

February 4, 2004

A panel of international experts on mad cow disease released a refreshingly candid analysis of the U.S. government's efforts to safeguard against Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). The panel clearly indicated that the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have not done enough to protect both the animal and human food supplies.

USDA should immediately implement the panel's recommendations, particularly by banning spinal cord and backbones from cattle 12 months and older from the human food chain. In addition, the FDA should ban all mammalian and poultry protein from cattle feed. That's really the only way American consumers and our trading partners around the world will have full confidence in the safety of American beef.

USDA should also require all cattle to wear identification tags, and ensure that cattle are tracked as they move from ranch to feed lot to slaughter plant. Finally, all downer cattle on ranches must be tested, to ensure that ranchers don't try to hide evidence of the disease.

The Bush Administration recently asked Congress for $33 million to fund a national cattle ID program. That expense should not be borne by taxpayers. It's not surprising that the Administration would try to subsidize the beef industry in this way, given that USDA is generously populated with former meat industry officials. But the expert panel's report clearly shows that the Bush Administration needs to stop compromising with the industry, and instead act more aggressively to protect the public's health.


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