050526 NCBA Responds to Activists' Attack on Beef Safety

May 30, 2005

Denver, CO - The Cattlemen's Competitive Market Project (CCMP) filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in support of R-CALF USA's challenge to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Minimal Risk Rule. CCMP is a lobbying organization operated by the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) and R-CALF.

Co-signers to the amicus brief include consumer activist groups Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and Public Citizen, who, during the group's telephone media conference, repeatedly discredited the U.S. systems that protect the U.S. beef supply and public health.

"It is a historic and sad day when cattle producers provide an open mic to activist groups who have worked 20 years to take beef off Americans' plates," said Jim McAdams, president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

During the call, neither CFA nor Public Citizen discussed the Canadian food safety system or its BSE mitigation measures. Their statements were wholly directed at what these groups claim are failings in the United States beef production system.

CFA spokesperson Chris Waldrop said that since the first cow was found in Washington state, USDA has failed to protect U.S. consumers from bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Waldrop called the USDA regulations and enforcement "little more than promise and paper checks" to keep the beef supply safe. He said the USDA rule on specified risk material (SRM) removal is inadequate, and the FDA feed ban still allows "infectious materials" to be fed to cattle.

Waldrop concluded this "does not inspire confidence that our government is protecting public health."

Public Citizen's representative Patricia Lovera agreed, saying, "Given that we have these concerns with the domestic system, it doesn't make sense to open the border."

Overlooked by the activist groups conducting the call were the following facts:

The United States has had a surveillance program that has met or exceeded OIE standards for 15 years and a feed ban for eight years as of August, 2005

More than 360,000 cattle were tested since June 1, 2004, with no cases of BSE

An aggressive system to remove specified risk material further protects public health

"The comments of these activist groups prove they are anti-beef and anti-cattle. I can't understand why anyone would embrace the clearly inaccurate and destructive statements of these two groups," said McAdams.

The statements made by CFA and Public Citizen come as no surprise. In January, 2004, CFA criticized the new USDA BSE regulations that further protect U.S. consumers by removing SRMs and preventing downed animals from entering the food supply: "I think that the new regulations have more holes in them than a mad cow's brain.... I can't help the paranoia of American cattlemen. They would like to not have the government in their lives at all."

Other CFA credits include:

- My concern is that I don't want a system that says you can have fecal matter all over it, and then irradiate it. Irradiated poop won't make you sick, but it's still poop." Carol Tucker Foreman, CFA, discussing beef on the PBS program Frontline.

- When she was Assistant Secretary at USDA, Tucker Foreman also was one of the biggest proponents of the 1977 "Dietary Goals for the United States," which recommended Americans "decrease consumption of meat, and increase consumption of fish and poultry."

- CFA also supports proposals to increase the amount of soy and reduce the amount of meat in the School Lunch Program.

Public Citizen was founded by familiar consumer activist Ralph Nader. This group has joined CFA's attacks on beef:

"Americans face a growing risk of eating feces, vomit and metal shards in meat and poultry because the U.S. Agriculture Department is allowing companies to perform more of their own food safety inspections," said Public Citizen in a CNN story.

In June, 2004, Public Citizen called the U.S. BSE Surveillance Program "nonsense" and said that it, "seems to be designed to give the public and would-be importers of American cattle false assurance."

"The objective of these groups is clear: to convince consumers that the U.S. beef supply is unsafe," said McAdams. "On today's media conference, these groups made no statements about Canada or even the USDA Rule. Rather, they attacked the U.S. beef supply and the people who produce it. And, to think, today, cattlemen groups like R-CALF and CCPM are giving them a platform to do so."

Opening comments were provided by R-CALF attorney David Domina, who also answered most of the reporter's questions. Domina dismissed multiple questions from reporters about how importation of live cattle under 30 months of age could pose more of a threat than beef from the same animals, which is already imported from Canada under a separate government rule. Domina also implied that BSE can be transmitted through the blood of infected cattle. This is a claim that, as reporters quickly pointed out, is not based in fact.

Domina said that if live cattle trade with Canada is resumed, "there is a near-statistical certainty that BSE will reach the United States in one year."

This is completely inaccurate, because the rule allows only cattle younger than 30 months of age to be imported. Cattle under 30 months of age are not a risk given the preventative measures that are in place in Canada and the United States. No animals under this age category, or even close to this age, have been diagnosed with BSE in Canada or the United States.


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