The Food Corner

Mad Cow
Several of the candidates have responded to the discovery of a case of mad cow disease in Washington State in December 2003.  The incident raises the issue of food safety and poses a threat to the rural economy.

Dec. 27-Gephardt Statement
Dec. 28-Dean Press Release
Dec. 28-Gephardt Plan
Dec. 29-Kucinich Statement
Dec. 30-Lieberman Statement

Dick Gephardt for President
For Immediate Release
December 27, 2003

Gephardt Statement on Mad Cow Disease

"The threat of mad cow disease can harm consumer confidence in the safety and security of our food supply, destroy families and devastate farmers, cattle ranchers and rural economies all over our country.  We must stop this deadly disease at our borders at all cost.  It's the government's highest responsibility to keep Americans safe.  That includes the food at our grocery stores.

"George Bush refuses to fund important country-of-origin labeling provisions for meat and has ignored the need for resources at the FDA and USDA to inspect the agricultural products coming across our borders.  We need a president who is committed to the right of American consumers to know where their meat is coming from and not to the huge special interests that are fighting to keep safety regulations out of our food supply."

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Dean for America
For Immediate Release
December 28, 2003

Dean Criticizes USDA for Lack of Foresight on Mad Cow; Calls for Measures to Protect
Confidence in American Beef Producers and Enhance our Food Security

AMES, IOWA - Democratic Presidential candidate Governor Howard Dean, MD traveled to Ames and criticized the Bush administration for its approach to Mad Cow Disease and called on the USDA to immediately implement measures to restore confidence in the US beef industry.  Ames, Iowa is the home of the National Veterinary Services Lab which confirmed this case of BSE or Mad Cow.

"The recent discovery of Mad Cow Disease in Washington raises serious concerns about the ability of this administration to protect the safety of our nation's food supply and the health of our rural economies that depend on agriculture exports," Governor Dean stated.

"US beef producers are the best in the world and I have full confidence in their ability to produce a high quality and safe product.  But Mad Cow Disease is a serious concern that has been undersold by this administration and their industry allies," he added.

Congress has attempted to ban the slaughter of cattle that are too sick to walk but administration has blocked them.  Such a ban may have prevented the current situation in Washington.  The Bush administration has also resisted attempts to implement a better cattle tracking system despite the urging of scientists such as Nobel Laureate Stanley Prusiner, the scientist who identified the proteins that cause Mad Cow Disease.

"We need a system of instant traceability for all cattle.  The discovery of a single cow with BSE has effectively halted any and all beef exports from this country.  A larger outbreak of BSE or some other livestock disease could  devastate rural economies.  This administration has not taken such dangers seriously -- they have seriously underfunded important food security efforts, including important upgrades to the National Animal Disease Center here in Ames,"  Dean said.

"We need to support our domestic beef industry, protect our consumers and ensure the security of our food supply.  In the short-term we need federal support for the beef industry.  In the longer term, we need an Administration that will put the interests of our consumers and ranchers ahead of the President's corporate backers," he added.

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Gephardt for President
For Immediate Release:
December 28, 2003


Creston, IA - On the heels of the first confirmed occurrence of mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) in the United States, Dick Gephardt today unveiled his plan to bolster America's commitment to food safety and boost consumer confidence at home in America's food supply.

"I am encouraged that Canadian and American investigators have worked so well together to identify the origin of the affected cow and to isolate possibly affected herds.  I remain concerned, however, that this administration has not taken the necessary immediate steps to make our food supply safer and increase consumer confidence.  Keeping Americans safe from food-borne illness is a long term challenge, but there are things that can be done in the short term to ensure that Americans can be confident in the safety of what they are buying at the grocery store," said Gephardt.

Gephardt outlined the following the strategy to secure America's food supply:

* Compensate cattle ranchers, packers and those in the grain industry in rural America who will be directly affected by the disaster.  The impact of mad cow disease stretches beyond the cattle industry to affect all American corn and grain producers.  More than 70% of the corn produced in the United States is consumed by livestock.

*Issue an executive order placing an immediate stop on the shipment of meat from all suspicious downed animals until test results have returned.  Some packers already do this voluntarily, but it is illogical to conduct tests whose results are issued too late to have their maximum positive affect on our food supply.

* Expand testing for mad cow disease and increase America's investment in research and development of animal disease testing to increase speed and accuracy.  Tests on the diseased animal in Washington State were not returned for two weeks after the animal was killed and the meat had already been sent to market. It is necessary to increase capacity of testing facilities and create other regional facilities around the country.

* Create an independent food safety agency, designed to protect the interests of consumers and producers. Currently, food safety is handled by entities within the FDA and the USDA - this new agency would combine those efforts and streamline American food safety mechanisms.

* Immediately implement a mandatory animal identification system and trace back to country-of-origin immediately.  There is a similar rule whose implementation has been delayed until July - it should be accelerated to make it easier to track animals immediately.

* Immediately fund implementation of country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for meat.  President Bush and congressional Republicans have backed an effort to delay COOL implementation for meet products until after the 2004 election. This is a political calculation that could have a devastating impact on our nation's ability to prevent mad cow disease from infiltrating our food supply and must be reversed.

* Immediately suspend the recently proposed rule by the Bush Aadministration to allow Canadian imports of live animals back into the United States.  Under no circumstances should the border be reopened to Canadian cattle until Canadian food supply efforts match robust American efforts to keep food borne pathogens out of our food supply.

* Coordinate more closely with our trading partners to improve conditions abroad where our imported food is being produced.  This should be a priority in all future trade agreements.

"America has always had and must continue to have the safest, highest quality farm products in the world.  In order to keep our food supply safe and maintain consumer confidence at home and abroad, we must act quickly and decisively to stop any crisis from having long-term affects on our markets.  Nothing is more important than protecting the American people in their daily lives and nothing less than the future of small town and rural America is at stake," Gephardt continued.

To pay for his food safety program, Gephardt proposes utilizing emergency relief funds and restructuring commodity payments to put more sensible limits on the amounts that large agribusinesses can receive.



Kucinich: USDA, FDA Not Doing Enough to Protect Consumers From Mad Cow Disease
For Immediate Release: December 29, 2004
Democratic Presidential Candidate Dennis Kucinich released the following statement today:
"The unfortunate discovery of a dairy cow in Washington State infected with Mad Cow Disease, or BSE, is a result of irresponsible US agricultural policies.  BSE in the United States is preventable but the US Department of Agriculture (UDSA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must do more to protect American consumers.
"Last year, the USDA tested only 19,990 cattle believed to be at risk for Mad Cow Disease, out of a population of about 96 million or 1 out of every 5,000 cattle. By contrast in Europe, every single animal above a given age gets tested for this fatal brain-wasting disease (one out of every four cattle).
"USDA argues that there is no risk to humans because slaughter houses are required to remove all central nervous system (CNS) tissue from sick cattle.  This tissue is where BSE is found and can infect humans if eaten.  However, removing this tissue is rarely completely effective.  USDA's own studies found that 35 percent of advanced meat recovery product tested was contaminated with CNS tissue.
"While the USDA-sponsored Harvard risk assessment of BSE in the U.S. noted that compliance with FDA's 1997 BSE feed rule is the most important factor in preventing a BSE outbreak, it is clear that this rule is not being rigorously enforced.  Two GAO reports have shown how lax FDA has been in ensuring compliance with the feed rule.  The first GAO report published some three years after the BSE feed rule went into effect found fairly widespread non-compliance.  The 2002 GAO report found no improvement and found that the FDA compliance data was unreliable.
"When Congress returns I intend to introduce legislation that will:

"More can and must be done to protect Americans, and our economy, from this devastating disease and the public panic it can cause."


JOE 2004
For Immediate Release
December 30, 2003


ARLINGTON, VA -- Joe Lieberman released the following statement on the discovery of mad cow in Washington state:

"The discovery of mad cow creates two potential crises: a public health crisis for our people and an economic crisis for our cattle industry.

"Here are five immediate steps I would take as president to protect the safety of the American people and restore confidence in our food inspection system.

"To start, it is absurd that our inspection system would allow meat from a suspicious cow to get into the food supply.  We must remove all downer cows from the food supply -- both animal and human -- for testing.  We
know this disease spreads when animals eat infected meat and we know paralysis in cows is one of the warning signs of BSE.  We should not expose Americans to meat from the 160,000 suspect cows that are slaughtered every year.

"Second, we must test all suspicious animals for BSE.  This includes downer cows and animals imported from countries where mad cow already may exist.  These animals should not be used for any other purpose before
their test results are known.

"Third, we have to follow through more effectively in banning cow parts in cattle feed -- which targets one of the primary means for transmission of the disease.  A 2002 report found serious shortcomings in enforcing the ban. We must do more.

"Fourth, we need a better tracking system for animals.  If an animal comes down with mad cow, we need to instantly know where that animal has been so that we can act quickly to minimize the spread of the disease.
 We must follow the example of other countries and insist upon country of origin labeling so we can track all imported and exported meats.

"Finally, we have to provide our cattle farmers with emergency aid to transition to a new testing and inspection regime.  Making food and water healthier and safer in America -- whether from this public health threat or from the possibility of a terrorist attack -- need not overly burden industry."

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