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AMERICAN MEAT INSTITUTE SAYS POLITICALLY-MOTIVATED BSE RHETORIC MUST STOP; U.S. AND CANADIAN BEEF BOTH SAFE

Friday, May 21, 2004
 

In response to comments in the media yesterday by some lawmakers questioning whether Canadian beef is safe for U.S. consumers, AMI President J. Patrick Boyle made the following statement:

"Consumers in the United States are the beneficiaries of an efficient, North American meat industry that produces safe and affordable products. Given our integrated, North American industry, attacks on Canadian products are also attacks on U.S. products.

Questions have been raised about whether certain products should have been allowed in from Canada under permit. These are procedural questions, not food safety issues. Although it may be legitimate to examine whether appropriate procedures were followed, it is disingenuous to suggest that there is need for public concern.

The fact is -- BSE is an extremely rare, non-contagious animal disease that only develops in older cattle. The agent that is thought to cause BSE has never been found in beef, no matter what nation produces it. Canada's beef production practices and the regulations governing it mirror those of the United States. American lawmakers who claim that Canadian-produced beef is unsafe ignore the science of beef safety for their own political gain. International BSE experts have confirmed that both U.S. and Canadian beef are safe, and the risk of a BSE epidemic in North America is near zero. Consumers should be given the facts by our elected officials, not political rhetoric. The facts about BSE and beef safety reveal these protectionist lawmakers' true intentions: keeping imported products out of the United States.

It is indeed ironic that their dubious logic becomes incomprehensible when suggesting that country-of-origin labels are imperative. These labels would apply only to single-ingredient beef sold at retail. Hamburgers and all beef products sold at restaurants, as well as any processed products sold in retail stores, are exempt from the labeling requirements. If consumers have a right to know -- indeed if it so imperative -- why should only a third of beef consumed in the United States carry the label?

The U.S. meat industry supports open and free trade -- as well as voluntary country-of-origin labeling -- and hopes that these alarmist and scientifically inaccurate statements about Canadian beef will stop immediately. Canada is the only major trading partner that did not cease all imports of U.S. beef after our first case of BSE. As the Golden Rule says, do unto others as you would have done unto you."


For more information contact:
David Ray
Vice President, Public Affairs
703-841-3624
dray@meatinstitute.org
Janet Riley
Sr. VP, Public Affairs
703-841-3635
jriley@meatinstitute.org

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