OTTAWA – The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture on Tuesday said he doesn’t know whether cloned cows or their offspring have made it into the North American food supply.

But Tom Vilsack, in Ottawa to talk trade with food exporters and Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, emphasized that if they have, the animals are safe to eat.

“I can’t say today that I can answer your question in an affirmative or negative way. I don’t know. What I do know is that we know all the research, all of the review of this is suggested that this is safe,” Vilsack told reporters, pointing to an assessment of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Vislack said that because science is often “ahead of the regulatory process and ahead of the ethics discussion,” the U.S. will continue their “moratorium” on not allowing the sale of meat from cloned animals until the products are widely accepted as safe.

Vilsack’s comments come a week after the U.K. Food Standards Agency told consumers in that country that descendants of a clone made their way into the local food supply. The cattle were the offspring of a cloned cow in the U.S. and were shipped to the U.K. as embryos.