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Tuesday, December 21, 2004; Page A04

Meat Inspectors Say Plants Violate Ban

Meat plants are allowing brains and spinal cords from older cattle to enter the food supply, violating strict government regulations aimed at preventing the spread of mad cow disease, a federal meat inspectors union said yesterday.

Nearly a year after the first U.S. case of mad cow disease, meat plants have yet to implement measures required by the Agriculture Department to protect consumers, said the National Joint Council of Food Inspection Locals.

"We are seeing little to no change at these plants," said Stan Painter, the union's chairman.

The USDA has said its ban on brains, spinal cords, eyes and other "specific risk" material was the most important action it has taken since the discovery of mad cow disease in the United States.

The deadly disease is carried within the infected animal's brain and nervous system and can be spread to humans when eaten. Cattle older than 30 months are thought to be at higher risk for mad cow disease than younger animals.

"We know USDA's zero tolerance is not being met," Painter said. "We believe this is a widespread problem." He declined to say how many plants were in violation.

The USDA disagreed with the union, saying no prohibited cattle parts were entering the food supply.

State Dept. Rewards Heroic Acts in Haiti

The State Department presented its heroism awards to three diplomatic security officers for actions in Haiti during a political upheaval in February.

Spokesman Richard Boucher gave the following account of the actions of the three:

Special agent Christopher R. Belmonti of Gurnee, Ill., rescued a woman who had been attacked by a group of rebels. He risked his life to free the injured, bound woman from unknown assailants, taking her to receive medical attention.

Special agent Raymond Kyliavas of Huntsville, Ala., confronted an armed mob in the act of carjacking and preparing to kill a defenseless victim with a machete at a makeshift roadblock. The mob fled, and the woman was released.

Special Agent Alston A. Richardson of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, risked his life to provide tactical updates of a gunfight between third parties that was mistaken for an attack on Haiti's newly installed president, Boniface Alexandre. Richardson's actions allowed his team members to avoid having to engage an unknown enemy and face a potentially deadly escape through sustained hostile fire.

For the Record

• The number of passengers flying to Cuba from the United States has plummeted since last year, according to figures compiled by the State Department. Since July, when the new regulations took effect, 50,558 seats have been reserved on charter flights to Cuba. During the same period last year, 118,938 seats were booked.

• Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) will chair the Senate Agriculture Committee when the 109th Congress convenes next month, said Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). The elevation of Chambliss means that Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), who had more seniority on the agriculture panel, will remain as chairman of the Senate intelligence committee.

-- From News Services

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