December 23, 2008
The US is planning to ban the use of cattle brain and spinal cords in all animal feeds by late April 2009, in order to reduce the risk of transmission of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease.
The regulation, which will take effect April 27, will prohibit the use of those parts from cattle 30 months and older in all animal feed. The materials are already prohibited from use in feed for ruminants, including cattle, sheep, and goats.
The new proposal would reduce infection risk by 90 percent, said Stephen Sundlof, director of the US Food and Drug's Administration's (FDA) Centre for Veterinary Medicine.
The added measure of excluding high-risk materials from all animal feeds addresses risks associated with accidental feeding of such material to cattle, which could occur through cross-contamination of ruminant feed with non-ruminant feed or feed ingredients during manufacture and transport or through misfeeding of non-ruminant feed to ruminants on the farm, according to the FDA.
The regulation would also ban from animal feed the entire carcasses of all BSE positive cattle, the entire carcasses of cows 30 months or older that is not inspected and passed for human consumption, and from which the brain and spinal cord is not removed, tallow derived from the prohibited materials that contain more than 0.15 percent insoluble impurities, and mechanically separated beef derived from the prohibited materials, said the FDA.
The new proposal does not ban cattle blood and chicken litter, which scientists believe could contain BSE if the chickens had ingested tainted protein. The proposal also does not include other tissues such as eyes or parts of the small intestine, considered "specified risk materials" (SRM) by the USDA, and which requires removal from meat that people consume.
Linda Detwiler, a former USDA veterinarian, said it is disappointing that SRM are not removed 100 percent, as there are emerging research that there may be more tissues that have infectivity.
Detwiler said the plan would still allow chicken, pig and pet feed to contain potentially infectious tissues.
Michael Hansen, a biologist for Consumers Union, said the remains of any mammals should not be fed to food animals, and the US public is exposed to unnecessary risk by not closing such a dangerous feeding loophole.
The new plan will cost about US$14 million annually, according to FDA.