IB10127 - Mad Cow Disease: Agricultural Issues for Congress
6-Oct-2005; Geoffrey S. Becker; 19 p.
Update: Nov 14, 2005
Most Recent Developments:
On October 6, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a long awaited proposed rule intended to strengthen its existing feed restrictions, which now prohibit most mammalian protein to be fed to ruminants. The proposal would ban, from all animal feeds, certain higher-risk cattle parts (mainly brains and spinal cords from cattle 30 months and older and from those not passed for human food). Comments are due December 20, 2005.
Abstract: Most countries banned U.S. beef after the December 2003 report of BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease) in a Canadian-born cow found in Washington state. Several of these markets have partially reopened. However, Japan and Korea, which together had purchased 61% (by value) of all U.S. beef exports in 2003, remain closed. Further progress was clouded by reports of BSE in the first U.S. native-born cow, firsttested in November 2004 but not confirmed until June 2005.
Japan says it is working to finalize its rules to admit U.S. beef, in order to implement an October 2004 framework agreement to restart trade. A year later, the changes are not yet final. Reflecting U.S. frustration, the Senate on September 20, 2005, adopted a floor amendment to bar a rule USDA proposed in August enabling Japan to export beef to the United States unless Japan has opened its markets for U.S. beef. On the House side, a resolution (H.Res. 137) has been introduced urging economic sanctions if Japan does not begin to accept U.S. beef.
Canada's own first native BSE case was reported in May 2003. So far, a total of five native cases have been found in North America (one U.S.-born and four Canadian-born cattle). BSE-contaminated feed is considered the likely cause of infection in all cases.
USDA said that total U.S. beef exports in 2004 reached only 17% of their 2003 level of about 2.5 billion pounds. However, strong domestic demand and tight cattle supplies kept U.S. cattle prices relatively high throughout 2004 and the first half of 2005.
Some Canadian beef has been permitted into the United States since August 2003. USDA published a final rule, on January 4, 2005, that is also now allowing younger live cattle and additional Canadian ruminant products to enter. A U.S. judge?s March 2, 2005, preliminary injunction to block the rule was reversed by an appeals court on July 14, 2005.
In Congress, the Senate on March 3, 2005, passed a joint resolution (S.J.Res. 4) to overturn the Canada rule. However, a resolution must pass the House (where similar H.J.Res. 23 was introduced) and be signed by the President, which most observers believe is unlikely. Several other BSE-related measures have been introduced recently, including H.R. 187, H.R. 384, H.R. 1254, H.R. 1256, H.R. 2068, H.R. 3170, H.R. 3931, S. 73, S. 108, S. 294, S. 1300, S. 1331, S. 1333, and S. 1779.
USDA and other experts contend that the risk to human health from one or a few U.S. BSE cases is minimal. Nonetheless, USDA stepped up efforts to improve BSE safeguards, including banning downer (nonambulatory) cattle from human food; keeping from the food supply additional higher-risk animal parts; working on a national animal identification system for disease purposes; and increasing funds for BSE-related activities.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on October 6, 2005, proposed longawaited rules to further restrict the cattle parts which may be used in all animal feeds.
After 70 weeks, nearly 485,000 cattle had been tested, all but one negative for BSE, under an expanded surveillance program. The positive was a sample that had tested negative in November 2004 but which later was determined to be positive using different testing methods. This brought renewed scrutiny of USDA testing. [read report]