Legislature(2003 - 2004)
04/19/2004 03:37 PM Senate RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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 marketplace. 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 announcement. 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 sale. 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 products. 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 implementation. 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.