Food Engineering

Regulatory Watch: Veneman questions GAO report on BSE

April 16, 2003




USDA is taking issue with a GAO report calling for greater federal efforts to prevent bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) from entering the United States and infecting U.S. cattle. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said her agency, along with the Department of Health and Human Services, has worked aggressively to block entry of the devastating disease. No cases of BSE have been found in U.S. cattle nor have any cases of the human form, variant CJD, been detected. “While we support the GAO’s efforts to examine ways to strengthen the government’s ongoing efforts to prevent BSE, the report fails to appropriately recognize the conclusions and recommendations made last year by Harvard University in its comprehensive, three-year study on BSE,” Veneman said. “The Harvard Risk Analysis showed that the risk of BSE occurring in the United States is extremely low and that early government protection systems have been largely responsible for keeping BSE out of the United States and would prevent it from spreading if it ever did enter the country.” Veneman said she is concerned that despite extensive comments on the draft report, the GAO did not correct the scientific and technical errors that appear in the final report. Even so, the agency announced stepped up anti-BSE measures, including doubling the number of BSE tests it will conduct this fiscal year compared to the previous year.