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USDA Should Not Allow Import of Cows From Canada

Jan. 6, 2004

USDA Should Not Allow Import of Cows From Canada


Despite Recent Events, U.S. Still Plans to Open Border – a Violation of U.S. Policy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A federal government proposal to permit the importation of cows from Canada would violate a long-standing U.S. policy against importing ruminants from countries that have had cases of mad cow disease and would be highly irresponsible, Public Citizen has told the government.

In comments submitted on Monday to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Public Citizen warned against a U.S. proposal to import cows from Canada. Events of the past two weeks, in which a U.S. cow imported from Alberta was discovered to have had bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), only strengthens the case for keeping the border shut, Public Citizen said. Click here to view the comments.

“Given what has happened, it would be madness for the federal government to even entertain the notion of letting cattle from Canada into this country,” said Dr. Peter Lurie, deputy director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group. “The U.S. has had a long-standing, ironclad policy of not accepting ruminants or ruminant products from countries that have experienced mad cow disease. Now, the government is going into contortions to continue trading with Canada, to the detriment of consumers.”

Added Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program, “The USDA needs to do much more to ensure that we don’t have homegrown cases of BSE here. However, the possibility exists that more cases of mad cow are lurking in Canadian herds. Allowing the unlimited import of Canadian cattle to our country at this point would be folly.”

The USDA proposed in November to relax its standards and allow the import of ruminants from countries of “minimal risk.” Previously, such imports were permitted only from “BSE-free” countries. Now, the USDA is improperly proposing to give Canada this “minimal risk” status. To do so, however, would require “creative reimagining of the guidelines,” Public Citizen wrote. Importing Canadian cows to the United States, which to date has never had a diagnosed case of indigenous mad cow disease, greatly increases the likelihood that more cases of mad cow will be found in this country, Public Citizen said.

“These inconsistencies seem not to matter to the USDA,” Public Citizen wrote. “But to lower the bar to importation in the midst of an outbreak of unclear size in which one of the clearest findings is that the infected animal came from the very country whose products would now more easily be imported seems irresponsible at best.”