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From: TSS ()
Subject: BSE USA FONG OIG ON THE TEXAS MAD COW DeHaven tried to cover-up ''USDA was more concerned about trade than human health''
Date: March 1, 2006 at 2:29 pm PST

Panel questions Homeland Security inspection of food
By Jerry Hagstrom, CongressDailyPM

Agriculture Department Inspector General Phyllis Fong and several members of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee expressed concern Wednesday about whether the Homeland Security Department is properly inspecting food and other agricultural items when they arrive in the United States.
Neither Fong nor the committee members provided any hard evidence of problems, but Fong said she and the Homeland Security Department's inspector general were conducting a joint review of inspection functions. Once the province of USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, they were transferred to Homeland Security when that department was created.

"We are still very concerned about whether that broader inspection is being carried out," Fong said in testimony.

Fong said the joint inquiry was only in the stage of field investigation and had reached no conclusions.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, suggested the inspector general focus on the impact of the inspections on plants from other countries. House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Henry Bonilla, R-Texas, said he had asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate the food inspection process. Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, who noted he also sits on the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, said, "Apparently there are still some unresolved issues about what the heck [the department] is doing."

Under questioning from Agriculture Appropriations ranking member Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., Fong acknowledged it was APHIS Administrator Ron DeHaven who made the decision not to conduct further tests on a Texas cow whose initial test for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, was inconclusive. Further tests ordered by the inspector general several months later showed that the cow had the disease.

DeLauro noted that when Japan stopped importing U.S. beef in December, USDA moved faster to deal with that issue than it had when the Texas cow was tested, a sign, she said, that USDA was more concerned about trade than human health.

"We are taking years to deal with public health," DeLauro said. "If APHIS is in charge of avian influenza and we have the kinds of problems existing here, it doesn't bode well for public safety."


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