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Presidential Candidates Spar over Food Safety

NEW YORK - President Bush and Sen. John Kerry exchanged blows over who can protect the country's food supply, with each presidential candidate claiming to have a better solution, according to the Association Press.

In his response to a food-safety question posed to both candidates by the AP, Bush pointed out that his 2005 budget would provide $470 million for protecting the country's food supply, which, he added, would be 15% more than the previous one. The President also said the Food and Drug Administration and Department of Agriculture would receive an additional $302 million to bolster their efforts to protect food.

"This includes an increase for the Animal Drugs and Feeds program, which ensures that food from animals is safe, and has the primary role in preventing the introduction and spread of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or 'mad cow disease,' in the United States," Bush said.

With the FDA, Department of Homeland Security and USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service cooperating on detecting threats to the food supply, Bush also said the Administration has increased port security and food import inspections, while adding food security personnel, and increasing laboratory capacity, research, and monitoring and surveillance.

The Democratic candidate said the President's mishandling of all aspects of protecting the domestic food supply demonstrates that the country need a "renewed effort to protect American consumers and farmers."

"As president, I will put public health first and will not take any action that might jeopardize our nation's food supply, like having lax border inspections of imported food. We must do a better job of inspecting and identifying cattle that are exhibiting signs of a neurological disease or that can't walk to ensure they do not enter the food supply," Kerry pledged.

Kerry also said he would increase testing and inspections and enhance surveillance to prevent the risk of BSE. Furthermore, he assured that he would create an "aggressive timeline for establishing a national animal ID tracking system that would make it possible to identify and contain or recall livestock and meat when these efforts are critical to improve food safety and better protect public health."

These efforts, he noted, would help "to minimize any economic impacts by quickly identifying and confining any problems that might arise."

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