January 2, 2004
US Meat Export Federation Issues Statement On Mad-Cow Issue
The U.S. Meat Export Federation has released the following statement regarding U.S. beef and events since a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad-cow disease, was discovered in the state of Washington last week.
USMEF's statement as issued follows:
"We know that U.S. beef is safe and are in the process of working with trading partners worldwide to assure them that they have every reason to trust U.S. products and U.S. safety systems. We were pleased Tuesday that Secretary of Agriculture Veneman announced new rules and protocols that will make already aggressive health and safety rules tougher still.
The reality of this issue is that there are short- and long-term actions that must be taken to re-establish the United States as the world's number one beef exporter.
Short term, we have an immediate problem that must be fixed. We estimate that there are 1,800 to 2,000 containers of beef and beef products that left our shore prior to the announcement of a suspected case of BSE in the U.S. Dec. 23. These containers of highly perishable product are being held hostage on the high seas because our trading partners closed their borders at the moment of the announcement. These government officials overlooked the fact that these beef products meet or exceed their own specifications for wholesomeness and safety. As a result, as estimated $200 million in beef inventories cannot be moved. U.S. companies, many of them small and based in rural America, will suffer financial disaster - some even ruin. This beef is safe and BSE-free by any definition. We ask the Administration to make this its highest priority now - because time is running out for this product.
Long term, we must reopen closed international borders quickly. In 2003, we were on track to sell beef and beef products valued at more than $3.5 billion and our beef exports were expected to grow another 5 to 7 percent in 2004. This would continue a two-decade trend that has made the U.S. the envy of other world producers.
The U.S. government and industry have, as partners to prevent BSE, worked aggressively for more than a decade to put in place the key elements of surveillance, testing, feed bans and other firewalls to assure unquestioned product safety. New rules and protocols announced by USDA will set the bar even higher. With these new rules, so-called "downer" animals will be banned from the human food chain; animals tested will be held until test results are returned before being allowed in the food supply; specific risk materials (SRMs) have been uniformly defined and these materials will be banned if derived from animals under 30 months and small intestine is banned from animals of any age; advanced meat recovery (AMR) will not be allowed for animals under 30 months; and air injection stunning will no longer be allowed.
It is important to remember that, at this stage of the investigation, the evidence points to the fact that the U.S. still does not have a single endemic case of BSE. And, should the investigation continue on its present course, all imported animals will be traced and tested. The Food and Drug Administration assures us that compliance with bans that prohibit the feeding of ruminant material to ruminants is 99% plus, and controls are being tightened. Since we have never had a case of BSE in the United States, this level of enforcement represents abundant caution in protecting consumers, as well as our industry.
We all need to keep in mind that science has found that meat, milk and dairy products are safe for human consumption, even when produced in countries with prevalent BSE - which we are not. Consumers here and in the more than 80 nations worldwide where U.S. beef is sold can rest assured that beef they buy from us is among the safest in the world.
Many new challenges are ahead of us in 2004. We pledge our worldwide resources to overcoming these obstacles so that we can continue our mission of putting U.S. meat on the world's table."