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(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) spoke at a press conference in support of the Durbin Bill, which would help improve the safety of America’s food supply. Murray stood with Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn), who has introduced similar legislation in the House.

Murray’s remarks follow:

“Food safety is not a new issue for me. I have long been an advocate for stronger food safety protections. Since coming to the Senate, I’ve supported proposals that, had they passed, would have provided better safeguards against the recent Mad Cow case. Given Washington state’s history with food safety, the discovery of “Mad Cow Disease” in my state is an urgent discussion in every neighborhood and on every farm. It has raised questions about the safety of our food supply and put our cattlemen and their families at risk due to closed overseas markets.



Here in Congress, we must take steps today to strengthen food safety protections. Consumers need to know that the beef their families eat is safe. And producers must not suffer the consequences of unanswered questions about their cattle.



I have followed USDA’s response to the Mad Cow discovery closely. I support the regulatory changes announced by Secretary Veneman in late December and as recently as yesterday. These are positive steps, but we need to do more. Congress should act swiftly to put those and other changes into law. That’s why we need to pass the Durbin bill.



Since USDA’s announcement in December, I have worked with officials at USDA and researchers at Washington State University - one of our premier institutions in this field -- to assess our nation’s existing food safety protections and to identify any gaps in the system.



Congress must take steps now to assure the public and our trading partners that our beef supply is safe – and will continue to be safe.



Downer Cows

Passing legislation to permanently ban downer cows from the human food supply is a first step. Cattlemen and scientists have supported this ban for years, but efforts to adopt this common sense legislation in Congress have been defeated. I’m a cosponsor of Sen. Akaka’s bill and hope to see it pass the Senate soon.

Labeling

Secondly, I believe consumers deserve the right to know where their beef comes from. Mandatory country-of-origin labeling is essential.



Recall Authority

Third, the federal government must have the authority to recall products when human safety is at risk. I will continue to support mandatory recall authority for FDA and USDA.

Testing

Fourth, we need to broaden our testing regime. While USDA has pledged to test more cattle, we must also utilize new technologies, including rapid BSE tests that generate results in hours, not days. And we need to ensure that we get an adequate sample of cattle so that a disease doesn’t slip through the cracks.



In my state, not a single cow was tested in the first seven months of 2003. And according to today’s Seattle Times, Nebraska, Kansas, Texas and Colorado together produce 70% of US beef, but only account for 11% of the testing. This has got to change.



Research

Finally, we need to invest in research. I’ll be working in the Appropriations Committee to fund BSE and other animal disease research. It’s critical that we learn more about these diseases and be able to make policy changes that are based in science. Allowing the meat of sick animals to enter our food supply poses too high a risk for both consumers and producers.



I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, with the Administration, and the research community to ensure the safety of our residents and the strength of our economy. We should work to pass the Durbin bill and increase consumer confidence and food safety as soon as possible.”