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Feds Tighten Protections Against Mad Cow Disease

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In fact, recent FDA inspections have discovered that about one-third of the companies that process this type of animal feed for pigs and poultry lack a system to prevent it from accidentally being mixed into the feed meant for cattle. The FDA along with state investigators also discovered that a large number of the companies who repackage and sell this feed to livestock farmers fail to properly label their products.

Still, there is no reason for anyone to panic, Sundlof tells WebMD. The FDA expected to see some violations during the first round of inspections, he explains. The important thing is that when the investigators went back to re-inspect those facilities, the compliance rate was much higher, he says. It also is important to note that the FDA plans to inspect each and every facility, he tells WebMD.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture also has taken active steps to prevent the infectious agent from entering the country, Sundlof says. In fact, that agency has passed a rule banning the import of live cattle or animal feed from areas of the world where BSE cases have been documented, he tells WebMD.

The U.S. continues to carefully monitor the situation. Next week, advisers to the FDA will consider tightening restrictions on who can donate blood in the U.S. Current restrictions ban blood donations from people who have spent six or more months in the U.K. between January 1980 and December 1996. The initial cases of mad cow disease, or the new variant of CJD, were first documented in the U.K.

The new FDA proposal would expand that ban to people who have spent long periods in other countries now dealing with mad cow outbreaks, such as France and Germany.

Blood banks, however, have blamed this deferral policy for creating national blood shortages. But U.S. health officials stand by their ban, choosing to err on the side of caution rather than risk allowing potentially contaminated blood from entering the U.S. blood supply.

The FDA meeting to review blood donation restrictions is Jan. 18-19.

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