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Senate Commissions Mad Cow Bill

April 6, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Senate has authorized a commission of high-ranking officials to coordinate efforts to keep mad-cow and foot-and-mouth diseases out of the United States.

A bill passed Thursday night would bring together agriculture, health and safety officials to ensure that the government is doing everything it can to keep the bovine diseases out of the country, said Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the bill’s co-sponsors.

``Fortunately, we have an animal and public health system that has successfully prevented either of these diseases from entering our country,″ Harkin said. ``We must make doubly sure there are no gaps in our defenses.″

Added Hatch: ``The bottom line is that we want to ensure that the U.S. food supply is safe.″

The bill now goes to the House.

Mad-cow, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is linked to a human brain-wasting disease that has killed some 80 Europeans since the mid-1990s, mostly in Britain. Cases have been reported in France, Portugal, Germany, Spain and Ireland.

Foot-and-mouth disease is harmless to humans but is highly destructive to herds.

``The United States has been free of foot-and-mouth since 1929, and our goal is to keep it that way,″ Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman told President Bush on Wednesday.

The commission proposed by the Senate would be made up of high-ranking officials such as the secretaries of agriculture, commerce, health and human services and treasury departments, the Food and Drug Administration commissioner and the directors of the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

After the commission is created, it would submit a report to Congress saying what steps are being taken to keep the diseases out of the country and what legislative steps still need to be taken.

___

The bill number is S.700.

On the Net:

For bill text: http://www.thomas.gov

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