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CU Supports Legislation on “Downed” Animals

For Immediate Release
January 21, 2004


I would like to thank Representative Ackerman and Senator Akaka for inviting me to be here today, and for their hard work on this important food safety issue. My name is Adam Goldberg, and I am a policy analyst with Consumers Union, the independent, non-profit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine.
Consumers Union fully supports the Downed Animal Protection Act. It is a shame that it took a confirmed case of mad cow disease in Washington State to draw so much attention to this issue. We should not wait for another case – or worse, the appearance of the human form of mad cow – to make this legislation the law.
Make no mistake about it, downed livestock do pose a food safety threat. If an animal is too sick to stand or walk unassisted, that should be a tip-off that it is too sick to eat. Downed animals can have neurological problems or bacterial infections that should require that they be culled from the herd prior to slaughter. Even if the problem is simply a case of a broken leg, oftentimes the animal is kept in unsanitary conditions while it awaits slaughter. That creates a risk that we should not tolerate.
Every year in this country more than 70,000 people get sick from E Coli. Over 60 of them die. In the United Kingdom, more than 150 people have died from the human form of mad cow disease so far. We believe that we could substantially reduce the risk consumers face from these diseases by simply taking these downed animals out of the food supply.
I commend the United States Department of Agriculture for prohibiting the use of downed animals in the food supply. However, because that ban was imposed by the USDA under existing authority, there is no guarantee that it will be permanent. It can be changed or modified at any time. We need this ban to be permanent. If it is unsafe to eat meat from a downed animal today, it will be unsafe tomorrow too.
There are many other steps that we can take to protect consumers from the risk of mad cow, and I look forward to talking with you about those steps as we continue to deal with this very real problem.
Again, I would like to thank Representative Ackerman and Senator Akaka for pressing this legislation. We welcome the opportunity to work with you to secure its passage.