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BSE TEXAS MAD COW 'USDA was more concerned about trade'

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flounder

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----- Original Message -----
From: "Terry S. Singeltary Sr." <[email protected]>
To: <[email protected]>
Sent: Wednesday, March 01, 2006 4:59 PM
Subject: BSE USA FONG OIG ON THE TEXAS MAD COW DeHaven tried to cover-up ''USDA was more concerned about trade than human health''


##################### Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy #####################


Panel questions Homeland Security inspection of food
By Jerry Hagstrom, CongressDailyPM



Agriculture Department Inspector General Phyllis Fong and several members of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee expressed concern Wednesday about whether the Homeland Security Department is properly inspecting food and other agricultural items when they arrive in the United States.
Neither Fong nor the committee members provided any hard evidence of problems, but Fong said she and the Homeland Security Department's inspector general were conducting a joint review of inspection functions. Once the province of USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, they were transferred to Homeland Security when that department was created.

"We are still very concerned about whether that broader inspection is being carried out," Fong said in testimony.

Fong said the joint inquiry was only in the stage of field investigation and had reached no conclusions.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, suggested the inspector general focus on the impact of the inspections on plants from other countries. House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Henry Bonilla, R-Texas, said he had asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate the food inspection process. Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, who noted he also sits on the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, said, "Apparently there are still some unresolved issues about what the heck [the department] is doing."

Under questioning from Agriculture Appropriations ranking member Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., Fong acknowledged it was APHIS Administrator Ron DeHaven who made the decision not to conduct further tests on a Texas cow whose initial test for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, was inconclusive. Further tests ordered by the inspector general several months later showed that the cow had the disease.

DeLauro noted that when Japan stopped importing U.S. beef in December, USDA moved faster to deal with that issue than it had when the Texas cow was tested, a sign, she said, that USDA was more concerned about trade than human health.

"We are taking years to deal with public health," DeLauro said. "If APHIS is in charge of avian influenza and we have the kinds of problems existing here, it doesn't bode well for public safety."


http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0306/030106cdpm2.htm



TSS

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flounder

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##################### Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy #####################

Subject: Re: BSE USA FONG OIG ON THE TEXAS MAD COW DeHaven tried to cover-up
''USDA was more concerned about trade than human health''
Date: March 1, 2006 at 2:55 pm PST

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE PHYLLIS K. FONG INSPECTOR GENERAL Before the
HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE, RURAL DEVELOPMENT, FOOD
AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES March 1, 2006


snip...

For release only by the House Committee on Appropriations Good morning, Mr.
Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee. I thank you for inviting me to
testify before you today to discuss the activities of the Office of
Inspector General (OIG) and to provide information about our oversight of
the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) programs and operations. I would like
to introduce the members of the OIG senior management team who are here with
me today: Kathy Tighe, our new Deputy Inspector General; Robert Young,
Assistant Inspector General for Audit; Mark Woods, Assistant Inspector
General for Investigations; and Suzanne Murrin, Assistant Inspector General
for Policy Development and Resources Management. I welcome this opportunity
to provide the Subcommittee with an overview of the highlights of our audit
and investigative activity over the past year. Fiscal Year 2005 presented
many difficult challenges for the USDA and our country’s agricultural
producers and consumers. In addition to administering programs relied upon
by farmers and rural communities and managing the $128 billion in public
resources entrusted to the Department, USDA assumed significant
responsibilities responding to the hurricanes that ravaged the Gulf Coast in
2005 and addressing the threat of plant and animal disease. To best serve
the Department, our Congressional oversight committees, and the general
public, OIG has formally prioritized, organized, and planned our work
according to three
2
central objectives. I will present my testimony to the Subcommittee
according to the framework of these three objectives: supporting Safety,
Security, and Public Health in USDA programs and operations; protecting
Program Integrity as USDA provides assistance to individuals and entities;
and improving the Department’s Management of Public Resources. I. Safety,
Security, and Public Health The BSE Surveillance Program and SRM Controls We
recently issued our second report focusing on the Department’s efforts to
establish and enforce effective, interlocking safeguards to protect
producers and consumers from Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE),
commonly referred to as “mad cow disease.” Our February 2006 report reviewed
the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) implementation of
its expanded BSE surveillance program and the Food Safety and Inspection
Service’s (FSIS) controls to prevent banned specified risk materials (SRM)
from entering our Nation’s food supply. We found that USDA made significant
efforts to implement and improve the expanded surveillance program. The
Department faced many challenges in a short period of time to establish the
necessary processes, controls, and infrastructure needed for this massive
effort. In our recent report, we discuss specific areas where we believe
corrective actions were not fully effective in addressing our prior findings
and recommendations on issues such as obtaining representative samples of
the U.S. herd, identifying and obtaining samples from high-risk surveillance
streams, and ensuring the completeness/accuracy of data. The Department
3
has responded to our report with immediate actions. For example, at the
Secretary’s direction, APHIS revised its testing protocols to provide for
additional confirmatory procedures when inconclusive test results occur.
Also, both APHIS and FSIS agreed with all OIG recommendations, and they have
corrected, or have developed action plans to correct, the program weaknesses
identified. APHIS’ Implementation of the Expanded Surveillance Plan APHIS
obtained significantly more samples for testing than it originally
anticipated would be needed to achieve its stated level of confidence in
estimating the prevalence of BSE in the U.S. herd. The voluntary nature of
the surveillance program, however, makes it difficult to determine how
successful USDA was in obtaining a representative proportion of high-risk
cattle for testing. OIG found that APHIS’ various statistical approaches to
determining the prevalence of BSE mitigate some, but not all, of the
limitations associated with its data and the agency’s underlying assumptions
in the design and implementation of its surveillance program. The accuracy
of the underlying data is critical to the development of a future
maintenance surveillance program. We recommended that APHIS disclose the
limitations in its surveillance program and underlying data when it makes
its final assessment of the prevalence of BSE in the U.S. We also found that
USDA needed to strengthen its processes to ensure the quality and capability
of its BSE testing program, especially when inconclusive test results occur.
We recommended that USDA re-evaluate and adjust its testing protocols based
on its
4
evaluation of emerging science and strengthen its proficiency testing and
quality assurance reviews at participating laboratories. Evaluation of FSIS
Processes Regarding SRMs To examine FSIS’ inspection procedures to enforce
regulations to prevent risk materials in meat products, OIG reviewed the SRM
plans of several meat processing facilities, observed FSIS inspections, and
evaluated the effectiveness of controls during the slaughter process. FSIS
technical experts assisted us in these reviews. We did not identify SRMs
entering the food supply during our plant visits. However, we could not
determine whether required SRM procedures were followed or were adequate due
to the lack of specificity in the plans. We found that the plants lacked
documentation of compliance with SRM control procedures and FSIS actions to
validate such compliance. In addition to the control issues we identified
regarding SRM procedures at slaughter and processing establishments, we
found that FSIS’ information system could not readily provide FSIS with the
data it needed to identify trends in SRM violations. The expanded stage of
USDA’s BSE surveillance program is now nearing its end. Accordingly, it is
important that the issues we have raised be considered as USDA completes its
BSE surveillance program and reports on the prevalence of BSE in the U.S.
herd. The Department has responded to our report with immediate action and
agreed to address all of our findings and recommendations.
5
Assessing USDA Controls for Beef Exported to Japan On January 20, 2006,
Japanese officials announced that they had banned any further imports of
beef products from the United States, based on the discovery that a U.S.
plant had shipped a veal product containing vertebral column material that
was prohibited by the terms of an agreement with Japan. On the same date, in
response to Japan’s decision, the Secretary announced 12 actions USDA would
undertake to facilitate resuming trade. These actions include delisting and
investigating the plant that exported the ineligible product, requiring a
second signature on export certificates, providing training to inspection
personnel on export certification, and holding meetings with inspection
officials and industry representatives to reaffirm program requirements.
Shortly thereafter, the Secretary requested OIG to audit the adequacy of
USDA’s coordination and control processes for the Beef Export Verification
(BEV) program for Japan. OIG’s report, issued on February 16, 2006,
concluded that the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and FSIS could
strengthen their controls over the BEV program by improving processes used
to communicate BEV program requirements, clearly defining roles and
responsibilities, and implementing additional oversight of FSIS inspection
personnel. In response to our recommendations, the agencies agreed to an
array of actions. AMS agreed to maintain a list of specific, export-eligible
products for each facility with an approved BEV program; to systematically
notify FSIS when any establishment is approved/delisted from a BEV program;
and to review all establishments in the BEV program to ensure that they
adhere to program requirements. FSIS agreed to
6
clarify the roles and responsibilities of FSIS personnel involved at each
stage of the export verification process; expedite the development of export
certification training; and increase supervisory oversight of the export
certification process. OIG believes that the full implementation of these
measures will strengthen and improve the Department’s compliance with BEV
program requirements. Assessment of the Equivalence of the Canadian Beef
Inspection System Last year, my testimony discussed OIG’s findings from our
audit of APHIS’ oversight of the importation of beef products from Canada.
Our work on that audit led us to conduct an evaluation of FSIS’ assessment
of the equivalence of the Canadian food safety inspection system, which we
issued in December 2005. The then FSIS Administrator and the Under Secretary
for Food Safety had identified concerns with the Canadian inspection system
in late 2003. Our audit determined that FSIS did not fully address the
issues raised by USDA officials in a timely manner. For example, in July
2003 FSIS found that Canadian inspection officials were not enforcing
certain pathogen reduction and HACCP system regulations. These same types of
concerns were identified again in June 2005. At the time of our audit, FSIS
did not have protocols for evaluating deficiencies in a foreign country’s
inspection system which could be used to question the system’s equivalence
to U.S. standards. In addition, FSIS had not instituted compensating
controls (such as increased port-of-entry testing) to strengthen public
health protections while
7
deficiencies were present. During the period of January 2003–May 2005, 4.4
billion pounds of Canadian processed product entered the U.S., even though
FSIS officials questioned the equivalence of the Canadian inspection system.
FSIS agreed with OIG’s five recommendations, which included implementing
protocols to determine which deficiencies would lead FSIS to question
whether a foreign country’s inspection system is equivalent to the U.S.
system. In response to the report, FSIS committed to develop these protocols
by March 2006 and to implement them immediately thereafter. Oversight of
FSIS Recalls For the past several years we have testified about our
continuing work regarding adulterated beef product recalls. In July 2004, a
Pennsylvania firm initiated a recall of approximately 170,000 pounds of
ground beef patties because of mislabeling. Approximately one-fourth of this
product was made, in part, from beef trim from Canada which was not eligible
for import to the U.S., following the detection of a Canadian cow with BSE.
In May 2005, we reported on the adequacy of FSIS’ effectiveness checks and
the agency’s oversight of the recall. Overall, we concluded that FSIS had
strengthened its procedures regarding the agency’s oversight of recalls.
However, we noted that FSIS personnel did not determine the amount of
product purchased by firms on 26 of the 58 completed effectiveness checks.
This resulted in reduced assurance that mislabeled product was completely
retrieved from distribution. Agency officials concurred with the firms’
assertions that the product had been removed from the marketplace. In
response to
8
our recommendations, FSIS agreed to provide more specific direction to its
personnel on identifying and evaluating the amount of product purchased. The
Subcommittee has been interested in OIG’s investigation of a Pennsylvania
company’s recall of meat products. This remains an ongoing civil fraud
investigation and we will be pleased to provide information on its
resolution to the Subcommittee upon its conclusion.


snip. ...9 of 34 pages. ...tss


http://appropriations.house.gov/_files/FongTestimony.pdfTSS



----- Original Message -----
From: "Terry S. Singeltary Sr." <[email protected]>
To: <[email protected]>
Sent: Wednesday, March 01, 2006 4:59 PM
Subject: BSE USA FONG OIG ON THE TEXAS MAD COW DeHaven tried to cover-up
''USDA was more concerned about trade than human health''


##################### Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy
#####################


Panel questions Homeland Security inspection of food
By Jerry Hagstrom, CongressDailyPM

SNIP...END......TSS
 

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