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Republican for U. S. Senator
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November 14, 2004
Hon. Chuck Conner
Secretary of Agriculture
U. S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250
Re: Suspension of “Cook Only” meat rules
Dear Secretary Conner:
I am writing to ask you to suspend and thereafter to cancel the “Cook Only” meat rules that allow contaminated meat to be sold and transferred in interstate commerce while bearing evidence of E. coli infection.
While I am sure that reasonable minds can differ on whether “cooking” the meat (or as one industry represented suggested, “cooking the books” to avoid losses) poses a risk to public health. Frankly, we don’t know what the long-term consequences are.
I believe the USDA should err on the side of public health and safety, not industry protection and preservation. That is why I am writing to urge you to temporarily suspend the “Cook Only” provisions of the agency’s rules, and thereafter to conduct appropriate administrative proceedings for the purpose of determining whether the rules should be permanently eliminated.
I am going to be contacting representatives of the meat industry, and food processors, to gather additional information.
I am also evaluating a nationwide consumer boycott. I hope USDA will make much of this public interest action unnecessary by immediately suspending the applicable rules and thereafter taking steps to eliminate any exceptions which allow either any E. coli in any meatpacking facility, or any sale and/or resale of contaminated meat for cooking purposes or any other purposes whatsoever.
Given the spate of recent health scares involving both cooked meat and processed meat, USDA and the meat industry owe American consumers a higher standard, the highest standard of care. I hope you agree.