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From: TSS ()
Subject: DeLauro Calls on Agencies to Coordinate “Mad Cow” Readiness Letters to HHS, USDA Outline Specific Actions to Increase Oversight
Date: June 30, 2005 at 4:23 pm PST


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Kate Cyrul
Wednesday June 29, 2005 (202) 225-3661


DeLauro: More Coordination Needed Now that 1st Native-Born “Mad Cow” Case Identified


WASHINGTON, D.C. – On the heels of a USDA announcement this evening that the first case of “mad cow” was identified in a native-born cow, Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro (Conn.-3) today called for greater coordination between the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA). Earlier today, DeLauro sent letters to the secretaries of both agencies, outlining specific actions need to increase oversight. Click here for the letters: http://www.house.gov/delauro/press/2005/June/BSE_letters_06_29_05.html. DeLauro is ranking member of the House Appropriations Agriculture subcommittee, which oversees the budgets of USDA and FDA.

“We cannot allow the announcement of the first case of ‘mad cow’ in a native-born animal to be identified without a major overhaul of coordination between HHS and the USDA,” said DeLauro. “We are glad that this cow did not enter the human food supply, but we must ensure the safety of our oversight to prevent future cases of this dangerous disease.”

In April, DeLauro introduced H.R. 1507, the Safe Food Act. The legislation calls for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), housed at USDA and the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), housed in FDA to be moved into a new, single food agency. Identical legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Dick Durbin (D-IL).

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www.house.gov/delauro

http://www.house.gov/delauro/press/2005/June/native_born_06_29_05.html

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Kate Cyrul
Wednesday June 29, 2005 (202) 225-3661


DeLauro Calls on Agencies to Coordinate “Mad Cow” Readiness

– Letters to HHS, USDA Outline Specific Actions to Increase Oversight –

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the wake of the 2nd case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or “mad cow” disease in the U.S., Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro (Conn.-3) today called on the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA) to coordinate oversight in “mad cow” prevention. In letters to the secretaries of both agencies, DeLauro outlined specific actions need to increase oversight. The actions proposed by DeLauro resemble those in legislation she introduced earlier this year, which called for the development of a single food agency.

“Though these two agencies have divided duties with regard to ‘mad cow’ readiness, they have a shared responsibility to protect the public health,” said DeLauro. “What is evident by the 2nd case of ‘mad cow’ confirmed in the U.S. is that these agencies are not coordinating their efforts, presenting a dangerous gap in oversight of our food supply.”

Currently, USDA is charged with regulating animal health under its office of Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) while the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) oversees the foods and drugs given to animals. CVM operates under the Food and Drug Administration at HHS.

In April, DeLauro introduced H.R. 1507, the Safe Food Act. The legislation calls for APHIS and CVM to be housed under one agency, the Food Safety Administration, to better coordinate food safety regulation. Identical legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Dick Durbin (D-IL).

The full text of both letters follow.

June 29, 2005

The Honorable Michael O. Leavitt

Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

200 Independence Avenue SW

Washington, DC 20201

Dear Secretary Leavitt:

I am writing regarding the recent determination that an animal, of probable U.S. origin, has tested positive for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) and the need for the Food and Drug Administration to take action to protect the nation’s public health by appropriately regulating the animal feed supply. The lack of urgency at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to fulfill commitments made by your predecessor to close loopholes in the feed ban put the nation’s health at risk, and diminish confidence in your capacity to protect the food supply.

As you know in January 2004, following the positive test for a cow in Washington State, both FDA and Secretary Thompson called for an urgent rulemaking to ban cattle blood, poultry litter that can contain cattle tissue, and restaurant plate waste that may contain beef from entering the animal feed stream, and to require feed mills to segregate production lines and equipment for the manufacture of species specific animal feed.

However, in July 2004, Acting Commissioner Crawford changed this plan and issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) calling for a period of comment about the need for a rule, prior to any possibility of an important rule being written, issued for comment and implemented. This action means that we are unlikely to have a final rule for quite some time, and that we risk putting cattle into the food supply that have eaten contaminated feed. Regardless of the purpose of the ANPR, there was nothing to stop FDA from immediately requiring a halt, via an interim final rule, to potential contamination by blood, poultry litter and plate waste.

The cooperative effort and shared responsibility to protect the public health that should exist between HHS and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also appears to have broken down leaving the American public’s health and the industry vulnerable to lost confidence when this latest positive test came to light. It is HHS’ responsibility to implement an effective feed ban that will eliminate entirely any ruminant-to-ruminant feeding paths, and unfortunately the current ban does not meet that goal.

Now there is the potential that an entire herd was somehow introduced to BSE contaminated feed many years ago, but only one animal has been found from that herd. This leaves us without information on the other cattle that may have been exposed to contaminated feed in the same herd. Unfortunately, one place tissues from these potentially diseased animals may have gone is into animal feed via blood, poultry litter use and even plate waste. By failing to act, FDA did not assure us that this could not happen.

Our government clearly must re-focus its efforts to prevent the occurrence of BSE as well as to enhance surveillance for it when an infected animal is found. Toward that end I ask you to:

act immediately to close these loopholes in the feed protection system by issuing the rule that was promised in January 2004 to remove cattle blood, poultry litter and plate waste from the feed stream;.
inform me of how you are coordinating your actions with Secretary Johanns at USDA to protect the public from this zoonotic disease; and
inform me how the Office of Regulatory Affairs at FDA is handling its part of the investigation into the exposed herd’s disposition into animal feed, cosmetics and other by-products.
I will look forward to hearing from you promptly about your actions to facilitate FDA action on this important matter.

Sincerely,

Rosa L. DeLauro

Ranking Member

Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug and Related Agencies Appropriations

June 29, 2005


The Honorable Mike Johanns

Secretary

U. S. Department of Agriculture

1400 Independence Avenue SW

Washington, DC 20510

Dear Secretary Johanns:

I write to you to indicate how concerned I am about the Department’s credibility following the latest Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) testing debacle, and to raise additional concerns about Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) performance and leadership. Unfortunately, these technological and scientific lapses can lead to a loss of confidence – not only in your management of BSE – but also in the capacity of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to carry out its responsibilities to protect us from influenza outbreaks, and other zoonotic diseases.

To be clear, it is my understanding that without the intervention of the Inspector General (IG) we would never have known that an older beef animal, first tested over six months ago, was carrying BSE. General Fong is to be commended for her persistence and thoroughness in following her investigation, without which we would not have known that USDA was using a faulty scientific testing protocol, and indeed had run an “experimental” IHC test that showed the animal to be positive back in the fall. And we certainly might not have learned that the animal, whose herd affinity is very critical to seeking out and destroying other BSE carrier animals, had been so intermixed with non-positive animals that only DNA could be used to make a potential herd identification.

In April I wrote to you about failings in the APHIS Surveillance Program. Unfortunately, I believe that this incident presents a picture of deteriorated management at APHIS more clearly than in April. In addition, I have recently heard from professionals in the rendering industry who tell me that significant numbers of high risk animals are definitely not being presented either for slaughter or for rendering, leading to a call from them for immediate regulation of on-farm land filling to prevent prions from becoming endemic in pasture on which cattle would be grazed in the future. Unfortunately, evidence is mounting that the high-risk animals, claimed by APHIS to be covered by its Surveillance Program, are really being disposed of on ranches and farms across the country.

A well-managed program for BSE identification and eradication would consist of:

the use of the best technology and testing protocols for suspect animals and for a mandatory, statistically valid surveillance program,
followed up by the best review of any presumptive positive tests – even if they have to be sent to another country;
a national animal identification program capable of retrieving data about and finding animals within 48 hours of a triggering incident;
an effective and thorough feed ban plan and enforcement of that plan to prevent cattle tissue from being included in cattle feed; and,
enforced slaughter procedures complete with a whistleblower protection for inspectors who observe and report violations of the Specified Risk Materials (SRM) procedures.
Frankly not one of those criteria is being met at the moment. I understand you have taken a few steps to implement improvements in some of these areas. Others, like the feed ban improvements do not fall under USDA’s authorities, yet APHIS managers are touting the effectiveness of the feed ban.

However, this is a matter for the Cabinet to address to protect our public health and the economic health of one of our largest industries. When you testified before our subcommittee in February, I asked you if you intended to work with Secretary Leavitt to protect the food supply. This is an immediate opportunity for you to do so.

I urge you to:

immediately speak with Secretary Leavitt to request him to move FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine quickly to fulfill its initial commitment to ban cattle blood, poultry litter and plate waste from the feed supply and move to a species specific segregated feed manufacturing system;
move the USDA timetable for a National Animal Identification System (NAIS) capable of 48 hour tracing of cattle movement and location – to be followed by other species; and
renew the focus on support for slaughter inspectors to assure the public that Specified Risk Materials (SRMs) are consistently being removed from the meat supply.
Mr. Secretary, my April letter only identified the tip of the iceberg of problems in BSE management in USDA. Now you must move promptly to ensure that there are no more significant omissions and failures as we go forward.

Sincerely,

Rosa L. DeLauro

Ranking Member,

House Subcommittee on Agriculture Appropriations


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www.house.gov/delauro

http://www.house.gov/delauro/press/2005/June/BSE_letters_06_29_05.html

TSS




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