The U.S. Department of Agriculture still doesn’t have a solid, safe plan for handling Mad Cow Disease, according to Iowa Senator Tom Harkin. He says a number of recent incidents and statements from U-S-D-A officials have raised concerns about the Department’s ability to handle Mad Cow, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy or B-S-E. Harkin says the “U-S-D-A is still stumbling around to put together a coherent strategy to protect our consumers and the beef industry against B-S-E,” especially with respect to testing and surveillance. He says the risks are small but he adds, “We cannot be complacent until U-S-D-A collects the information. Without information, we are only speculating and whistling in the dark.” Harkin has sent a letter to the head of the General Accountability Office to look into the U-S-D-A’s Mad Cow policies. He says “We must have every confidence that the results gained from any testing program are as accurate and reliable as possible. Getting this information now is vital to insure the safety of American consumers and our beef industry and to restore the confidence of our trading partners around the world.” Harkin cited questions as to the downer status of the B-S-E-positive Washington state cow, failure to take samples from a suspicious cow at a Texas slaughter facility, and concerns about the scientific and statistical basis for U-S-D-A’s revised testing system.
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