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Life Arts    H3'ed 4/4/10

76 Groups Representing Tens of Millions Implore USDA to Immediately Strengthen Protections Against Mad Cow Disease

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Washington, D.C.R-CALF USA today, along with 75 other organizations that represent tens of millions of Americans, sent formal correspondence to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to request that the agency immediately strengthen protections against Canada's ongoing problems with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as mad cow disease. The groups' letter is in response to the disclosure this month of Canada's 18th case of BSE in a Canadian-born animal, which also is the 11th case of BSE in a Canadian cow that met USDA's age requirements to enter the United States. USDA's relaxed import standards are putting not only U.S. beef consumers at risk, but also the U.S. cattle herd and the livelihoods of independent U.S. cattle producers.

"Mr. Secretary, above all other considerations, the health and safety of the people of the United States and United States' livestock must come first first before trade and first before international relations," the letter states. "Your agency's current BSE policies and regulations compromise directly this health and safety priority and we, the undersigned, urge you to take immediate action to, at the very least, restore for the United States the protections against the introduction and spread of BSE that were in place before USDA began to systematically dismantle its BSE-related border restrictions. We respectfully implore you to, as a first step, immediately overturn the OTM Rule."

USDA first relaxed U.S. safeguards against BSE in 2005, and then further relaxed those safeguards in 2007 with its OTM (over-30-month) Rule, which facilitates the importation of Canadian cattle born after March, 1, 1999, and beef from Canadian cattle of any age. At that time, Canada had detected only three BSE-positive animals born after March 1, 1999, but as of March 10, 2010, Canada has detected 11 BSE-positive animals born after that date all of which met USDA's age requirement for export to the United States.

"We are asking the Administration to immediately reverse this reckless and unscientific approach to the dangers of BSE by withdrawing the OTM Rule that basically eliminated the United States' only defense against the introduction of BSE into the United States its import restrictions that prohibited the importation of cattle old enough to have been exposed to the disease," said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.

While USDA allows the importation of cattle old enough to be exposed to BSE in Canada, the letter explains USDA also allows Canadian cattle to be subject to far less stringent risk mitigation measures than what is required in the European Union and Japan, "thus assuring that U.S. consumer are less protected against the introduction of BSE into their food supply than are consumers in those countries."

"USDA's dismissal of the epidemiological significance of Canada's high rate of BSE detection is simply inexplicable," Bullard said. "USDA can no longer ignore the empirical facts that show Canada's ongoing BSE problem is far more serious than the agency predicted."

Also in the letter, the groups indicate they wholeheartedly disagree with USDA's chief assumption that slaughter controls alone prevent the recycling of BSE infectivity into human food and cattle feed, including the prohibition against the use of tissues from downer cattle in the human food supply and the removal of specified risk materials (SRMs) from human food and animal feed, as well as feed manufacturing controls to prevent the recycling of BSE into cattle feed.

"Unfortunately, USDA, it seems, has decided that measures other than border restrictions are adequate to protect against this always fatal disease, yet we cite page after page after page of various violations over the past several years in both U.S. slaughter facilities and U.S. feed production facilities that continue to put the general public at risk and our U.S. cattle herd at risk," Bullard pointed out.

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R-CALF USA, Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America, represents thousands of U.S. cattle producers on domestic and international trade and marketing issues. R-CALF USA, a national, non-profit organization, is dedicated (more...)
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