Senator questions USDA's mad cow testing, surveillance program.
In a lengthy and detailed letter to Johanns, Harkin says it is critical to get to the bottom of how recently disclosed problems with the system came about and to "ensure that similar lapses do not occur in the future. Confidence in USDA's anti-BSE measures is absolutely critical to maintaining consumer confidence in beef, protecting U.S. cattle herds and reopening closed markets." Harkin outlined several issues that he says need to be addressed, including:
* USDA should not limit its cooperation and responsiveness with the inspector general's office due to disagreements over the handling of the retested sample.
* Steps need to be taken to resolve problems with USDA's sampling methods for testing high-risk cattle, which Harkin says are "questionable."
* Despite repeated promises by USDA to test 20,000 normal, aged cattle as part of its expanded surveillance system, USDA has decided not to test this subpopulation of cattle but has not informed the public or justified the decision.
* USDA is moving at a slow pace towards implementing a national animal identification system, despite its commitment to expedite this process.
"USDA needs to correct the problems in its testing and surveillance program and be forthright with the public when policies change." Harkin says. "I urge the secretary take the necessary steps to ensure confidence in America's BSE surveillance and prevention systems." The senator says he believes "there is a limit to how much of its own errors, inconsistencies and lack of transparency USDA can reasonably expect consumers to abide and still have confidence in the safety of [U.S.] beef."
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|Title Annotation:||United States. Department of Agriculture|
|Publication:||Food & Drink Weekly|
|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||Jul 18, 2005|
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