Consumer Federation of America supports Joint Resolution on Canadian Border Rule

February 17, 2005
Chris Waldrop, 202-797-8551

The Consumer Federation of America supports Senator Conrad's Joint Resolution providing for congressional disapproval of the USDA rule relating to the establishment of minimal risk zones for introduction of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

BSE is a very serious disease that can have catastrophic implications for the public health if people consume meat from cattle suffering from mad cow disease. For this reason, the United States must be absolutely sure that the proper steps are being taken to protect the public before the border to Canada is open to cattle and cattle products.

The Department of Agriculture's rule to open the border to Canadian cattle and cattle products under 30 months of age is decidedly less stringent than the international standards put forth by the International Office of Epizootics (OIE). USDA is proposing to establish Canada as a "minimal risk region" without adhering to the strict requirements that the OIE establishes for that minimal risk designation. These include specific timeframes for the enforcement of a feed ban, the mandatory reporting of cattle displaying signs of BSE and an established surveillance plan, areas in which Canada has not yet achieved complete compliance. Without closely following these international requirements, USDA is setting a poor precedent that could lead to underestimation of the risk of BSE in Canada and other countries.

Questions also remain as to whether Canada is properly enforcing its feed ban rule. This concern was heightened last month when a Canadian cow, born several months after the 1997 feed ban implementation, was confirmed with mad cow disease. The Vancouver Sun also recently found animal proteins in "vegetarian" feed samples, a violation of Canada's feed regulations, in more than half of 70 feed samples it investigated. Our own Food and Drug Administration has issued import alerts concerning the presence of animal tissue in vegetarian feed products coming out of Canada.

For these reasons, it is important that USDA reconsider its push to open the Canadian border and reexamine the risks that such an action may pose to U.S. consumers. CFA supports Senator Conrad's efforts to encourage this reexamination.

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The Consumer Federation of America is a non-profit association of 300 consumer groups, representing more than 50 million Americans, that seeks to advance the consumer interest through research, education and advocacy.