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U.S. Beef Import Ban Had Holes In It

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WASHINGTON, May 20, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- The U.S. ban on Canadian beef based on concerns over mad cow disease was circumvented for six months, with 33 million pounds of meat imported.

The Washington Post said Thursday the Agriculture Department allowed U.S. meatpackers to resume imports of ground and other processed beef from Canada last September, just weeks after it reaffirmed its ban on importing those products.

Over the next six months, a total of 33 million pounds of Canadian processed beef flowed to U.S. consumers under a series of permits the USDA issued to the meatpackers -- permits that remained in effect until April.

In the August announcement allowing importation of boneless beef to resume, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said the risk that ground beef might contain the mad cow infection was too great to allow it in.

However, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, processed beef began re-entering the United States the next month, and 33 million pounds were imported over the next six months, mostly through Buffalo, N.Y.

While the 33 million pounds sounds like a lot, it represents a tiny fraction of the beef eaten by Americans -- last year, more than 3 billion pounds of beef were imported.

Copyright 2004 by United Press International.


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