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US still not removing SRM's?

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SASH

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U.S. Embassy removes mad cow notice




WASHINGTON, Jul 01, 2005 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- Three days after United Press International reported its existence, the U.S. Embassy in Japan has removed a notice from its Web site stating Department of Agriculture officials requested a criminal investigation into the actions of a meat inspector who claimed mad cow disease safeguards were being violated.

The inspector, Stan Painter, who also is head of the federal meat inspectors union, had objected to the Web site notice, and consumer advocates were concerned that threats of a criminal investigation could constitute a violation of the Whistleblower Protection Act.

Painter alleged in December that the riskiest parts of older cows, such as brains and spinal cords, were not being removed in some instances and were entering the food supply.

Humans can contract a deadly brain illness from consuming beef products contaminated with the mad cow pathogen.

Painter, who previously had told UPI he brought the situation to the agency's attention, because he was concerned about the risk it posed to the public, said he never had been informed by USDA officials he might be facing a criminal investigation. His lawyer had written to the agency two weeks ago requesting removal of the notice.

USDA officials have been negotiating with Japan for more than a year to re-establish imports of U.S. beef after the Asian nation shut its borders in 2003, when the first U.S. case of mad cow was detected.

Apparently, as part of the negotiations, the U.S. Embassy posted a notice denying Painter's charges and stating: "FSIS (USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service) has requested that the Office of Inspector General (OIG) ... consider conducting a criminal investigation into the actions of" Painter.

The U.S. State Department, which oversees the embassy's Web site, did not return a phone call from UPI requesting comment.

USDA spokesman Steven Cohen told UPI the notice had been taken down because it was inaccurate.

"The mention of Mr. Painter contained an erroneous statement that FSIS worked to correct since it was brought to the agency's attention," Cohen said.

Painter said, however, that officials with the Office of Inspector General informed him the USDA had requested a criminal investigation be launched against him, but the OIG declined to pursue it because its investigation had not turned up any suggestion he had committed a crime.

A member of Congress also might have played a role in getting the Web site notice removed.

Tony Corbo, of the watchdog group Public Citizen, told UPI aides to Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., had told him they contacted the State Department and requested the notice be taken down. Hinchey has monitored Painter's case closely and sharply criticized the USDA's handling of Painter during a congressional hearing in February.

Hinchey's office did not return UPI's phone call requesting comment.

The USDA has said publicly it has investigated the allegations and has found nothing to substantiate the assertions some slaughterhouses were not removing the risky cow parts, known as specified risk materials, or SRMs.

Both Corbo and Felicia Nestor, a consultant to the watchdog group Public Citizen, said USDA officials acknowledged in a private meeting with consumer groups they were aware of internal agency documents called noncompliance reports, or NRs, showing certain slaughterhouses had violated the SRM policy.

In addition, Nestor said she has seen at least four NRs that support Painter's claims.

Last December, Public Citizen requested all NRs related to SRM violations held by the USDA, but so far the agency has refused to release the documents.

Corbo objected to the language about Painter that remains on the U.S. Embassy Web site. The notice calls Painter's allegations "unsubstantiated" and states the "USDA/FSIS has not found any significant problems" with the SRM policy.

"That's still a bone of contention," Corbo said. "Once the NRs are released, that's going to prove Stan's case."

Corbo noted that USDA officials have requested a meeting about mad cow issues with consumer groups July 12 -- two weeks before their regularly scheduled monthly meeting.

Corbo said he plans to raise the issue of the embassy's Web site and the USDA's failure to release the NRs.
 

Mike

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Every dang bit of the s$$t is gonna hit the fan now that the sharks have smelled blood. This is old news but relevant considering the USDA has set a precedence for being less than transparent. Poor, poor, Phyllis Fong.
 

PORKER

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The USDA has said publicly it has investigated the allegations and has found nothing to substantiate the assertions some slaughterhouses were not removing the risky cow parts, known as specified risk materials, or SRMs.

JUST WHO are these USDA spokepersons?????????????????I would like to have NAMES????????
 

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