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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Animal & Veterinary

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Statement by HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson

FDA Veterinarian Newsletter January/February 2002 Volume XVII, No 1

Regarding Release of Harvard BSE Risk Assessment

A Harvard University study released today has found that thanks to the joint efforts of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture, Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) - or "Mad Cow Disease" - poses only an "extremely low" risk to our consumers and agriculture.

The study shows that even if the disease should appear in the United States, it would be contained by the safeguards already put in place by the Food and Drug Administration and USDA. This is a reassuring finding, but it also means that we cannot let those safeguards down, and that we must constantly keep improving them.

Protecting our country against BSE has been among my top concerns since I took my present post. One of my first initiatives was the launching of an action plan to protect this country against BSE.

Today, I want to join the Harvard researchers in emphasizing the critical importance of FDA rules that protect our herds from BSE. As the Harvard study demonstrates, these rules are a strong firewall against the spread of BSE in American herds.

Since these measures were put in place in 1997, FDA has gone to great lengths to impress on all renderers, feed mills and similar establishments in this country that these rules are vital for the health of our consumers, agriculture, and economy. As part of the program, FDA and its state feed inspector colleagues have developed a special guidance for the animal feed industry, held public meetings with stakeholders, and conducted more than 12,000 inspections and re-inspections of the more than 10,000 renderers and feed mills in the U.S. These inspections will continue.

Support for FDA's measures has been gratifying. Industry and government agree: American consumers can and must be protected. Today, we are well on the way to achieving full compliance, and we must not settle for less.

There are still some components of the animal feed industry that are failing to live up to the FDA standards. I want it to be clear that we intend to enforce FDA's rules with increased vigor.

FDA, USDA, and our state and private sector partners deserve to be congratulated on their performance in combating BSE. But we cannot rest on our success to date. As the Harvard assessment makes clear, continued vigilance and concern are essential.

This statement was issued Friday, November 30, 2001.