April 11, 2001
Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy
(518) 455-5203
Ortiz Calls On President Bush To Impose Federal Ban On Livestock Feed With Animal Parts

Assemblyman Introduces Legislation To Strengthen State Food Protections
Against Mad Cow

Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, chair of the Assembly Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy, has requested President George Bush impose a federal ban on livestock feed containing animal parts to prevent the spread of Mad Cow Disease. In a letter to President Bush, Ortiz called on the federal government to initiate and vigorously enforce regulations that would outlaw mixing animal parts in feed for animals.

While Great Britain has banned the use of all mammalian animal parts in animal feed, the US only bans the use of "most" mammalian parts in ruminant feed. Ortiz believes the US approach does not go far enough and it leaves the nation vulnerable to the threat of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), otherwise known as Mad Cow Disease.

"The FDA should, at a minimum, follow England's rules for animal feed. I asked President Bush to implement the same rules. However, in the absence of federal action I am introducing legislation for New York that would require the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets establish a certification program that would certify feed mills, farms, animals and food products that do not produce or use feed containing any animal parts including meat, bone, blood, gelatin and any other potentially risky components," Ortiz said.

"Certification would give farmers the peace of mind of knowing that the feed they buy does not contain animal parts. This approach would allow restaurants, stores, schools and consumers to identify meat and other foods that meet standards as strict or stricter than England and McDonald's. I am sorry to say that I have more confidence in McDonald's requirements than our own FDA's," said Ortiz.

The Task Force on Food Farm and Nutrition recently held a public hearing that examined emerging food related diseases, including BSE. Many of those who testified agreed with Ortiz that there is a need for more surveillance testing of New York cattle for BSE. The US has tested 12,000 cattle since 1990 while France is currently testing 20,000 per week. Ortiz asked for $100,000 in the State budget to fund a demonstration project to begin a state testing program, preferably with newly developed tests that can be used on live animals. This could help reassure farmers and consumers that New York is the gold standard for preventing BSE.

Ortiz also called for more funding to test for Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) and new variant CJD (vCJD). CJD is a naturally occurring neurological disease mostly affecting the elderly and vCJD is the human form of Mad Cow Disease, believed to be contracted from eating contaminated beef. Ortiz' letter pointed out that, "The CDC has a center for monitoring CJD at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. It receives about $240,000 per year for testing and research to track these diseases which could help identify if any humans have contracted Mad Cow Disease or variant CJD (vCJD). European countries are spending millions each year to track this condition. We need to spend more for monitoring CJD."

"As the Chair of the Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy I want all New Yorkers to have a healthy, affordable food supply. I don't want to discover cases of this deadly disease; I want to prevent it. At the same time I would like to help increase the sales of New York grown and produced foods to our consumers.

"My program to help certify New York animals as the safest in the world and our proposed BSE testing program will enable our farmers to successfully market their meat products to concerned consumers here in New York State, around the country and overseas," said Ortiz.

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