Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Report finds flaws in mad cow disease testing program

Government investigators say testing is too slow at times to prevent cattle from eating feed that might be contaminated, just one flaw they cited in a program to help stop mad cow disease from spreading.
Feed safeguards are the most important firewall against mad cow disease, said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who sought the report the Government Accountability Office issued Wednesday.
"If FDA's testing program is not catching violations, and catching them in time, that needs to be corrected immediately," Harkin said.
FDA disputed the findings, arguing that the report unfairly focused on a small component of broad government efforts to stop mad cow disease.
The only way mad cow disease is known to spread is through feed containing certain tissue from infected animals. Adding animal protein to feed is commonly done to speed growth, but the U.S. has banned cattle protein in cattle feed since 1997.
Run by the Food and Drug Administration, the feed testing program is a small part of the government's campaign to keep mad cow disease out of the food chain for animals and people.
The program has many weaknesses, according to GAO, the investigative arm of Congress.


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