Mad cow animal feed protections postponed

WASHINGTON, DC, July 12, 2004 (ENS): To minimize the spread of mad cow disease and its human counterpart variant Creutzfeld-Jacob disease, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced an interim final rule to take effect on Wednesday prohibiting the use of certain cattle parts in human foods, dietary supplements, and cosmetics.

But the U.S. Agriculture Department (USDA) is postponing actions announced last January to keep animal feed free of materials that could cause mad cow disease, a fatal brain wasting illness, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). The agency is seeking public comments before it moves ahead with the actions regulating animal feed.

For more information on how to comment on the proposed feed regulations visit the Action Center.

In human foods, the FDA's interim final rule prohibits the use of cattle-derived materials that can carry the BSE infectious agent. These high-risk materials include the brain, skull, eyes, and spinal cord of cattle 30 months of age or older, and a portion of the small intestine and tonsils from all cattle, regardless of their age.

Prohibited high risk bovine materials in human food also include material from non-ambulatory disabled cattle, the small intestine of all cattle, material from cattle not inspected and passed for human consumption, and mechanically separated beef.

This action is consistent with the recent interim final rule issued by USDA declaring these materials to be unfit for human food and prohibiting their use as human food.

Mad cow disease is transmitted when materials from infected cattle are made into cattle feed and fed to healthy animals. The composition of animal feed is under scrutiny as U.S. officials try to create public confidence in the U.S. beef supply after a Washington cow was found infected with BSE last December.

In 1997, the FDA prohibited the feeding of most mammalian protein to cattle and other ruminant animals. USDA implemented additional measures in January to ensure that no cattle tissues known to be high risk for carrying the BSE agent are included in USDA regulated products.

On Friday, the Agriculture Department and the FDA announced an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to seek public comments on:

  • Mandating dedicated equipment or facilities for handling and storing animal feed and ingredients to prevent cross contamination
  • Prohibiting the use of all mammalian and poultry protein in ruminant feed
  • Prohibiting materials from non-ambulatory cattle and dead stock from use in all animal feed
  • The details and circumstances of moving from a voluntary to a mandatory animal identification plan

The timeline for any action on these advance notices is a year or two down the line, the officials said Friday, as they want to hear public comments before promulgating a final rule.

But on January 26, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson announced an interim final rule that would:

  • require equipment, facilities or production lines to be dedicated to non-ruminant animal feeds if they use protein that is prohibited in ruminant feed.
  • eliminate the present exemption in the feed rule that allows mammalian blood and blood products to be fed to other ruminants as a protein source.
  • ban the use of poultry litter as a feed ingredient for ruminant animals. Poultry litter consists of bedding, spilled feed, feathers, and fecal matter that are collected from living quarters where poultry is raised. This material is then used in cattle feed in some areas of the country where cattle and large poultry raising operations are located near each other.

The FDA says it has reached "a preliminary conclusion" that it should propose to remove the risky materials from all animal feed and is currently working on a proposal to accomplish this goal. Public comments on these issues raised in the advanced notice of proposed rulemaking are due to the FDA next month.

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