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Friday, July 29, 2005

(Washington, DC) – The American Meat Institute (AMI) today urged USDA to publish a proposed rule to permit the importation of cattle 30 months of age and older and the beef products derived from such animals.

“Many U.S. beef packers that specialize in the slaughter of older animals still find themselves in an extremely difficult economic situation because cattle over 30 months are not permitted entry from Canada,” AMI President J. Patrick Boyle said in a letter sent to Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns.

In the letter, Boyle said that BSE prevention and control measures implemented in both Canada and the U.S. are virtually identical and that both countries have taken extraordinary measures to assure the safety of the beef supply and to protect cattle health. USDA has designated Canada - and only Canada – as a minimal risk region, he noted.

“Continuing to limit importation of live cattle to those animals less than 30 months and to restrict the importation to beef products from those animals is without a scientific foundation. Indeed, in its minimal risk rule published in January 2005, USDA properly concluded that importation of beef from cattle over 30 months was scientifically warranted, yet illogically excluded the importation of older cattle,” Boyle said. “While the resulting economic inequities prompted the department to delay this part of the regulation, international standards support restoring trade in both older animals and beef derived from them.”

Boyle told Johanns that fully restoring cattle and beef trade in North America is a critical step toward preventing further equity losses in the meat packing industry, regaining additional market access with other North America countries, such as Mexico, enhancing global competitiveness and protecting processing jobs in the U.S. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 7,800 U.S. jobs have been lost since May 2003, when Canada detected its first case of BSE and cattle trade with Canada ceased.

“Overwhelmingly, the scientific evidence demonstrates that food safety is not dependent on the age of the animal, but whether or not specified risk materials (SRMs) that may contain the infectious agent are eliminated from the food supply,” he said. He also noted that FDA is proceeding to strengthen its feed regulations to prevent the possible introduction and spread of BSE in the U.S. cattle herd.

Boyle urged Johanns to abide by international trading rules set by The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), which permits cattle, beef and offal to be traded in international commerce, even from high BSE risk countries, if the exporting country implements appropriate BSE risk mitigation measures.

“We firmly believe that the U.S. must lead the way in establishing a rational BSE trade policy. Only by setting the appropriate, scientifically-based, internationally recognized standards for trading in cattle and beef can we expect governments of other countries, such as Japan and Korea, to apply such standards and restore access to their markets for U.S. beef exports,” Boyle said.

To read the entire letter, go to: http://www.meatinstitute.org/Template.cfm?Section=Canada2&CONTENTID=3918&TEMPLATE=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm

For more information contact:
David Ray
Vice President, Public Affairs
Janet Riley
Sr. Vice President, Public Affairs

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