Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/19/2004 03:37 PM Senate RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
     CSHJR(L&C) 35-MAD COW DISEASE/COUNTRY OF ORIGIN LABELS                                                                 
CHAIR SCOTT  OGAN called the Senate  Resources Standing Committee                                                             
meeting  to order  at 3:37  p.m.  All members  were present.  The                                                               
first order  of business to  come before the committee  was CSHJR
35 (L&C).                                                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE BETH  KERTTULA, sponsor of  HJR 35, said  that her                                                               
staff person would present the bill.                                                                                            
MS.  AURORA HAUKE,  staff to  Representative Kerttula,  said that                                                               
bovine spongiform  encephalopathy (BSE) is commonly  known as mad                                                               
cow  disease and  can be  contracted  by humans  who eat  tainted                                                               
meat.  The disease  is invariably  fatal  and there  is no  known                                                               
cure, but  it can be  prevented and this resolution  supports the                                                               
USDA's  efforts to  prevent the  spread  of mad  cow disease  and                                                               
encourages earlier  implementation of  country-of-origin labeling                                                               
for  beef  so  consumers  can  make  informed  decisions  in  the                                                               
SENATOR FRED  DYSON asked what  the rationale is for  the present                                                               
implementation date of 2006.                                                                                                    
MS. HAUKE replied  that retailers had some concern  that it might                                                               
be costly to label their products.                                                                                              
SENATOR  RALPH  SEEKINS  asked  which  countries  have  diagnosed                                                               
bovine spongiform encephalopathy in their animals.                                                                              
MS. HAUKE replied the U.K., Canada, Italy, France and the U.S.                                                                  
SENATOR  SEEKINS asked  how  labeling beef  with  the country  of                                                               
origin would assist in protecting public health.                                                                                
MS. HAUKE replied that 42  other countries have country-of-origin                                                               
labeling, which is  used as a tool for customers  to decide which                                                               
country  they are  going to  buy meat  from in  case of  a recall                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA  added that some countries  use bar codes                                                               
so  that one  could know  exactly  where a  cow came  from. If  a                                                               
recall were needed, it could happen quicker.                                                                                    
SENATOR DYSON asked when in  the slaughter-packaging process does                                                               
the label get attached.                                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA replied that  she couldn't remember if it                                                               
happens  when it's  packaged by  the farmer  or at  the point  of                                                               
MS.  HAUKE added  that a  lot of  companies are  already labeling                                                               
beef  and more  companies are  labeling food.  It happens  at the                                                               
slaughterhouse but, if not there, at the retailer.                                                                              
SENATOR DYSON  said there  is some evidence  that the  last three                                                               
infestations in  the Northwest had to  do with feed. He  asked if                                                               
the labeling they are trying to  encourage is going to take place                                                               
on animal feed.                                                                                                                 
MS. HAUKE  replied no. Congress  has legislation to  label animal                                                               
feed  and pet  food products,  but it  is not  currently labeled.                                                               
However, use of prions that cause  the disease has been banned in                                                               
the feed since 1997.                                                                                                            
SENATOR  DYSON remarked  that  the  infestation happened  despite                                                               
that. He asked  how labeling anticipated dealing  with herds from                                                               
Montana, Idaho,  North Dakota and  Western Washington that  go to                                                               
Canada to feed lots and mix with the herds there.                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA said she didn't know.                                                                                   
SENATOR BEN STEVENS informed them  that that's the reason for the                                                               
delayed implementation  - because  of the problem  of identifying                                                               
the sourcing  of the  product versus  the labeling.  The language                                                               
says labeling goes on at the  point of processing. The same thing                                                               
is happening with implementation of seafood labeling.                                                                           
SENATOR DYSON speculated  that the reason for the  delay might be                                                               
to get the present crisis behind us.                                                                                            
SENATOR STEVENS agreed that that is  part of the delay, but there                                                               
is  also inefficiency  in the  tracking  of the  sourcing of  the                                                               
SENATOR  GEORGIANNA LINCOLN  said that  she didn't  think any  of                                                               
this discussion would change the resolve factors.                                                                               
SENATOR DYSON said the date  causes him concern, "But they're not                                                               
going to do what we say anyways."                                                                                               
SENATOR STEVENS responded that the  delegation was opposed to the                                                               
extension of the  implementation date for all  products that come                                                               
into  the country  and they  were  successful in  keeping it  for                                                               
seafood.  A  lot  of  effort   is  focused  on  accelerating  the                                                               
implementation  dates  back  to   their  original  schedule.  The                                                               
reality is  that labeling is  going to cost packaging  plants and                                                               
they don't want the bill to pass.                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  KERTTULA   acknowledged  that   Senator  Stevens'                                                               
office in Washington D.C. had sent her that explanation as well.                                                                
CHAIR  OGAN asked  if the  delegation  supports accelerating  the                                                               
SENATOR  KIM ELTON  moved to  pass CSHJR  35(L&C) from  committee                                                               
with the attached zero fiscal  note. There were no objections and                                                               
it was so ordered.                                                                                                              

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