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Sen Boxer Calls for Comprehensive Mad Cow Testing

Boxer wants all-out mad cow testing
Senator's suggestion also taken up by Rep. George Miller
Edward Epstein, Chronicle Washington Bureau
Saturday, January 10, 2004

San Francisco Chronicle

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URL: sfgate.com/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2004/01/10/MNG8R47DL91.DTL

Washington -- Sen. Barbara Boxer has urged Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman to use her executive authority to immediately order that all 35 million to 40 million cattle and dairy cows slaughtered annually in the United States be tested for mad cow disease.
The Agriculture Department and the cattle and dairy industries say that such testing, which could cost a minimum of $1 billion a year, isn't needed, at least not after only one case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy has been found in the United States. But Boxer said the drastic step would assure the public that the nation's beef supply is safe and get vital export markets for U.S. beef reopened.

"I ask that you immediately test for mad cow disease all animals destined for the food supply. I ask that this to be done for at least six months or until a thorough analysis is made of the extent of the mad cow problem we are facing,'' the California Democrat wrote in a letter sent late Thursday.

"Such a comprehensive plan will reinforce immediately our country's commitment to eliminate the threat to our people from mad cow disease. In my opinion, it is also the best way to help the cattle industry,'' added Boxer, who is seeking a third six-year term in November.

Boxer's letter came a day after Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, said he would introduce legislation when Congress returns on Jan. 20 that would force the USDA to test all slaughtered beef cattle and dairy cows for the disease.

The administration says steps already taken by Veneman, which include banning all ill or maimed cows and cattle from the human food chain, are sufficient for now. The USDA is also stepping up its surveillance among so- called "downer'' animals by raising the number of carcasses tested annually from 20,000 to about 40,000.

The 6 1/2-year-old cow found with mad cow disease last month in Washington state became lame after giving birth to a bull calf. U.S. and Canadian authorities think the cow was infected through a type of feed that was banned about six years ago.

While continuing to trace the history of the cow and her calf, authorities last week destroyed 450 calves born in Washington state about the same time as the bull calf.

On Friday, the USDA said 129 cows out of a herd of 4,000 in Mabton, Wash., where the affected cow spent time, will also be destroyed as a precaution.

"The measures in place have done their job,'' USDA chief veterinarian Dr. Ron DeHaven said. "We will continue and expand our surveillance program.''
E-mail Edward Epstein at eepstein@sfchronicle.com.

©2004 San Francisco Chronicle

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