Senator asks GAO to examine USDA, mad cow

July 21, 2004 at 4:20 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 21 (UPI) -- U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Wednesday requested the Government Accountability Office examine the Agriculture Department's mad cow disease strategy.

In a letter to GAO Comptroller General David Walker, Harkin said there are several issues that should be investigated, including whether the USDA's monitoring plan is adequate to detect mad cow disease in U.S. herds and allegations of mismanagement by USDA officials.

"Examples of this alleged mismanagement include questions regarding the downer status of the (mad cow)-positive cow in Washington, the failure to collect a post-mortem sample from a suspect cow in Texas, and questions that have been raised regarding the scientific and statistical basis for USDA's revised (mad cow)-testing system," Harkin wrote.

Harkin's letter comes a week after the release of a scathing report from the USDA's Inspector General that found numerous problems with the agency's mad cow program that might have reduced the chances of detecting the disease.

Humans can contract a fatal brain illness called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease from eating beef products containing the mad cow agent.

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