Iowa Public Television


Government and Industry Battle BSE

posted on January 9, 2004

USDA this week proposed four more rule changes to try and safeguard the nation's food supply from Mad Cow disease. Among the new rules is one requiring the holding of meat from cattle that have been tested for the disease until negative test results are received.

That may seem like a no-brainer. But until now, inspectors were allowed to mark cattle that had been tested for Mad Cow as "inspected and passed" before the test results were fully known.

Those types of rule changes are aimed not just at increased food safety, but also at reassuring consumers of U.S. beef at home and abroad. And it's against that backdrop that advocates of a country-of-origin labeling law surfaced again this week.

Government and Industry Battle BSE Of the more than 80 Canadian animals believed to have been imported only 12 have been found. The 450 calves associated with the animal USDA officials call the "index case" have been destroyed. DNA tests confirmed the index case was indeed from Canada. And Canadian officials revealed the index cow was fed product that contained animal parts banned since 1997.

These revelations were followed up with several efforts to continue to reopen closed markets and bolster consumer confidence.

In the Midwest, Iowa State University Extension's Iowa Beef Center held a two-hour satellite conference to help update those with an interest in the cattle industry on facts surrounding Mad Cow and its affect on the market.

Sync from event.

And in Washington, members of both government and private industry called for the Secretary of Agriculture to implement Country of Origin Labeling, or COOL.

Senator Tom Daschle, (D) South Dakota: "Put this country of origin labeling on our meat. Allow consumers the opportunity to know from where their products are coming, that's all we're asking. The time for it to come has passed, the time to implement it is now."

Leo McDonnell, R-Calf President: "Something's wrong when our international consumers know more than our US consumers This country was founded on honesty, integrity, transparency of our systems, and today we are undermining it all for a few powerful multi-national groups and a rogue USDA agency."

At the press conference, Dashcle pointed out that 43 countries require labeling and there was no reason the U.S. should not be number 44. When pressured about the cost, Daschle referred to a GAO report that put the price of COOL at $582 million, considerably lower than USDA's figure of $1.9 billion.

Negotiations continue with Japan and Mexico, the two major foreign destinations for US meat products, in hopes of getting export markets to reopen. The Japanese are planning to send a delegation to inspect a few US plants and talks continue with Mexico. Even with all the new rules and regulations it is still uncertain if the import bans will be lifted anytime soon.

Tags: agriculture animals beef diseases food safety government industry livestock Mad Cow meat news USDA