September 29, 2003



US' FDA Enacts Standard On Animal Feed


The U.S. government is working on expanding its ban against brains and spinal tissue in cattle feed to include food for dogs, cats, pigs and poultry.


Stephen Sundlof, director of the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the Food and Drug Administration, said Tuesday the agency wants to prevent animal diseases from being passed onto consumers and other animals. It will probably write new regulations, one of which could require companies that slaughter "downer" livestock - animals that are sick or injured - to dispose of the brain and spinal cord before mixing animal feed and pet food, he said.


So far, animal feeds made with spinal and brain tissue are not allowed to be given to sheep, goats and cattle, as a safeguard against the spread of diseases like mad cow. But the tissue can be mixed into pet food and feed for pigs or poultry.


The FDA is working with slaughterhouses and animal feed companies to come up with a plan by 2007 to prevent high-risk materials like spinal tissue from ending up in feed.


"The whole point of this is to develop a more comprehensive plan for the feed from the time it leaves the farm," said Sundlof. "We need to minimize the risk."


Sundlof said worries about a recent case of mad cow disease in Canada and concerns that terrorists may attack the food supply have prompted questions about whether the government should take further steps to prevent animal diseases from contaminating foods for human consumption.


Mad cow disease is linked to a human illness, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The illness killed about 100 people in Europe following an outbreak of mad cow disease in the 1980s.


But Dan Murphy, a meat industry spokesman, said that while meat companies want to prevent disease, expanding a ban on the use of spinal and brain tissue in animal meal and pet food would leave meat companies with a lot of waste to dispose of.


"You're talking about the skull, the brain and the spinal cord - that's 100 pounds of material from every animal that would end up in a landfill," said Murphy, of the American Meat Institute.


Murphy said that while the meat industry wants to keep meat safe from diseases like mad cow, it would prefer that the issue be handled on a global level.