Mad Cow Compliance Questioned

By Randy Fabi
Reuters News Service

WASHINGTON - The effectiveness of the most important U.S. safeguard against mad cow disease was questioned Monday when a government report accused the Food and Drug Administration of overstating feed mill compliance with a ban on cattle remains in animal feed.
The Government Accountability Office report was released as many U.S. lawmakers seek to prevent Canadian cattle from entering the United States because of concerns that its neighbor was not effectively enforcing its own animal feed ban.
In 1997, the United States and Canada both outlawed the use of cattle remains as a protein supplement for cattle, goats and sheep to prevent the spread of mad cow disease, a common name for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE.
Canada found two more cases of mad cow disease as 2005 began, and both are believed to be a result of infected feed. So far, the United States has found only one case of mad cow disease, in a Washington state cow imported from Canada.
The GAO said the FDA, which regulates livestock feed, cannot pinpoint how many plants comply with the 1997 feed ban.
"We believe FDA is overstating industry's compliance with the animal feed ban and understating the potential risk of BSE for U.S. cattle in its reports to Congress and the American people," the GAO report said.
The FDA has repeatedly claimed that the industry has a 99 percent compliance rate with the 1997 ban.
Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee who requested the GAO report, criticized the FDA for not testing livestock feed. "Common sense tells us the best way to measure compliance is to sample feed to make sure it does not contain ruminant byproducts," Harkin said.
An FDA spokeswoman was not available for comment.



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