Statement from Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter
Washington, D.C.—“Today, in another Friday afternoon special, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced its intention to publish a final rule that would permit some beef products to be imported from countries that have experienced cases of mad cow disease. The restrictions will be lifted on countries that are considered to have ‘minimal risk’ of the disease in their animal herds. This seems to be another case of trade trumping food safety.
“This development comes as the reopening of beef trade with Europe has been an issue under discussion in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations. Europe would like to increase its beef exports to the U.S., but because of our current policy of restricting the importation of beef products from countries that have experienced mad cow disease, those exports have been minimal. The new policy will allow Europe to increase its beef exports dramatically in exchange, we expect, for a quid pro quo. Will the Europeans drop their objections to the U.S. cattle industry’s use of bovine growth hormones or to the use of chlorine in poultry processing?
“This decision also comes at a time when the Obama Administration cut the frequency of on-site audits performed by inspection personnel of the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of countries that have been deemed to have equivalent food safety systems for meat and poultry exports to the U.S. Unless there are sufficient resources for those audits to happen in countries that would like to export their beef, U.S. consumers could be at risk.
“And while USDA dismantles important safeguards to America’s food supply, the consumer’s last line of defense – Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) – is also under attack by the industry. After more than a decade of hard work, the COOL rule has had overwhelming support from both consumers and U.S. farmers, despite repeated attempts by the food industry to kill the program and delay its implementation. But as our regulators increasingly prioritize trade deals over keeping our food supply safe, COOL has never been more important.”