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USDA’s ‘minimal risk’ beef maximizes U.S. market danger

Senators work to stop rule that opens border to unsafe beef

October 4, 2007

Washington, D.C. - In light of a recent ruling which could affect the American beef market, a group of U.S. senators is urging action to stop the importation of unsafe Canadian cattle.

U.S. Senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, both R-Wyo., are co-sponsoring a resolution that rejects a recently released United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) rule that would allow high-risk Canadian beef to be imported into the United States.

"Now is not the time to lessen our already high food safety standards. I have stressed to various officials that we cannot allow potentially tainted beef to cross our borders, period," said Enzi. "We can prevent a conceivably hazardous situation if we say ‘no’ to this rule now. With increased scrutiny on our food supply, it is important to ensure American beef remains the safest in the world and that this rule does not endanger the safety of American consumers."

"The importation of beef and cattle from Canada increases uncertainty in the American beef supply. Allowing high-risk beef into our country places an undue risk on consumers and producers. I’m fighting the decision and rejecting the USDA rule," said Barrasso.

Under the new ‘Over 30 Months’ rule proposed by the USDA, any cattle born after March 1, 1999 and older than 30 months of age will be permitted into the American market in various forms, including beef products and byproducts, half and whole carcasses, tallow and gelatin. The rule will take effect on Nov. 19, 2007 unless congressional action halts the plan. The Senators are also looking into other options to stop this rule from going into effect.

In 2003, the first cases of the neurological illness BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), better known as mad-cow disease, were diagnosed in a number of cattle throughout Canada. Subsequently, the USDA shut down trade with Canadian beef sellers in order to protect the American market from a potential outbreak among cattle in the U.S.

Text of the resolution is below.


Joint Resolution

To disapprove a final rule of the Secretary of Agriculture relating to the importation of cattle.

Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

That Congress disapproves the rule submitted by the Secretary of Agriculture relating to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, minimal-risk regions, and importation of live bovines and products derived from bovines (73 Fed. Reg. 53314 (2007)), and such rule shall have no force or effect.