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Report: Mad cow disease still threatens U.S.

Fears of mad cow disease originated in Great Britain.  

From Jeanne Meserve
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The federal government is not doing enough to ensure that mad cow disease is kept out of the United States, a report from the General Accounting Office said Tuesday. The Department of Agriculture called the report flawed.

If infected animals and products did enter the country, the report said, steps now being taken by the federal government might not detect it or keep it from spreading.

It took the Agriculture Department to task for failing to test many high-risk animals that die on farms, and cited weaknesses in USDA and Food and Drug Administration import controls.

According to the report, FDA record-keeping is so flawed that the agency does not know to what extent industry is complying with the ban on using prohibited proteins in feed and has yet to identify and inspect all firms subject to the ban. Some non-compliant firms have not been re-inspected for two or more years, and in some instances no enforcement action was taken even though the firms had failed multiple inspections, the report said.

In-Depth: Mad cow in Europe 

The USDA and FDA should strengthen enforcement of the feed ban, develop a strategy for increasing the inspection of imported goods, and alert consumers about products that contain central nervous system tissue, the report recommended.

Agriculture Secretary Anne Veneman, in a written statement, criticized the GAO for failing to correct scientific and technical errors in the report. She said the administration has taken "aggressive steps" to strengthen protections against mad cow, including significant funding increases for inspection, testing, and research programs.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, said he plans to introduce legislation to ensure the safety of both domestic and imported meat products.




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