USDA pressured over ‘downers'

USDA is under increasing pressure to meet the threat of mad cow disease. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is calling on USDA to permanently ban the slaughter of downed cattle to protect the food supply. Of the cattle that have tested positive for the disease, the group says every one has been a downer-an animal too sick or injured to walk on its own.

"The downer ban put into place by the Agriculture Department at the end of December 2003 kept these sick animals out of the meat case, preventing another economic catastrophe for the cattle industry," said HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle. "The recent talk by USDA and industry officials of weakening the downer ban should end today."

Labeling debate continues

Food industry representatives in Washington are promoting a bill establishing voluntary country-of-origin labeling guidelines, hoping to head off tougher, mandatory rules.

"We have long supported voluntary, market-driven, country-of-origin labeling with oversight from the US Department of Agriculture," said Hunt Shipman, executive vice president of government affairs and communications at The Food Products Association (FPA). "This legislation - which establishes criteria for domestically produced foods to use labels displaying US origin - is a sound, workable approach to providing consumers with this information."