Statement of CSPI Food Safety Director Caroline Smith DeWaal
While USDA's announcement of a new proposal on animal identification and traceback systems represents an important food safety improvement, the timeline for implementation is another Bush-adminstration bow to the cattle producers. Delaying until 2009 this essential food and animal health protection means the U.S. is lagging even further behind many of our trading partners on food safety issues.
In 1996, when USDA first announced mandatory process control systems in meat plants, the U.S. was a leader on food safety issues. In 2003, Secretary Veneman announced more major reforms, including an animal identification and tracing system, in response to a finding of a single case of mad cow disease in Washington state. A national cattle tracking system is an important new control for both animal and public health protection.
But, with today's announcement that the program won't take full effect until 2009, the Bush Administration has cemented it's role as a food safety laggard. The U.S. should adopt a mandatory animal identification system at least as effective as the one in place in Canada. Canadian officials were able to move from a voluntary to a mandatory animal identification and traceback system in a year. Secretary Johanns today proposed that that same effort will take the U.S. nearly four years.
Animal ID and traceback systems would enable the U.S. to contain animal disease outbreaks more quickly, sustain consumer confidence in the food supply, and ensure greater access to world markets for our beef products. We urge Secretary Johanns to revise his timeline and make food safety a priority for the Bush Administration.