WASHINGTON – The confirmed case of BSE in Canada has renewed calls in the United States for country-of-origin labeling and a national animal identification program.
Mandatory country-of-origin labeling would let U.S. producers differentiate themselves from countries that may have disease or food safety concerns, proponents said.
Think of consumers. “While country-of-origin labeling can’t prevent a disease like BSE,” said Dave Frederickson, National Farmers Union president, “it would help reassure consumers and our markets.”
“Consumers would be armed with information to make educated decisions instead of decisions based on fear and doubt,” Frederickson added.
National ID system. The goal of a national animal identification program is a 48-hour traceback capability in the event of an animal disease outbreak in the United States.
“A national identification program is no longer just a good idea,” said John Meyer, CEO of Holstein Association USA, “it’s vital to the security of our nation’s livestock supply.”
A national task force that unveiled its plan last October said an identification system should have the capability to identify all sites – farms, feedyards, markets and other stops in the marketing chain – that had direct contact with a diseased animal within two days of discovery.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association remains firm in its opposition to both country-of-origin labeling and mandatory identification.
Canadian program. The Canadian Cattle Identification Program for cattle and bison became mandatory in July 2001. Prior to then, there was an 18-month voluntary phase-in period.
As of February 2003, more than 95 percent of the Canadian cattle had been tagged and recorded in a central database, although the BSE case is uncovering holes in that system.
– Susan Crowell
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