Dean blames Bush for mad cow scare

Ankeny, Iowa - Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean on Sunday accused President George Bush of failing America's cattle producers by not having adequate plans in place to cope with the discovery of mad cow disease.

"You can't blame the president because a cow came down with BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), but you can blame the Bush administration for a lot of what's going to happen to beef farmers over the next couple of weeks," Dean said.

"We didn't adopt the procedures that Great Britain did after their terrible time, which ruined many cattle farmers."

Dean, who is a physician, said the Bush administration had killed a proposal passed by the Senate which would have prohibited meatpackers in the US from slaughtering so-called downer animals like the Washington state dairy cow that has become America's first confirmed case of mad cow disease.

"What's going to happen to the beef industry in the short term could have been prevented if the administration had thought more about this possibility," Dean said in a campaign speech in Ankeny, Iowa - a leading farm state.

Dean said there should be a system in place to track the movement of cattle so investigators, when confronted with a case of mad cow disease, can check if meat from the animal had entered the food supply.

"I haven't verified this so this isn't part of my official platform yet... I am told that testing every single cow (that is slaughtered) costs an average of three cents extra per pound of meat," Dean said. "If that's true, we ought to do it."

One of Dean's rivals for the Democratic nomination, Richard Gephardt, also faulted Bush on Sunday, saying the discovery of mad cow disease could be devastating for farmers and rural towns.

"George Bush refuses to fund important country-of-origin labelling provisions for meat and has ignored the need for resources at the FDA and USDA to inspect the agricultural products coming across our borders," Gephardt said in a statement.

"We need a president who is committed to the right of American consumers to know where their meat is coming from and not to the huge special interests that are fighting to keep safety regulations out of our food."

Another democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry, called for federal aid for farmers who suffer financial losses from the mad cow scare.

US officials on Sunday expanded the recall of more than 4 500kg of beef, sparked by the mad cow crisis, to eight mostly western states and Guam.

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