USDA Beefs Up Meat Safety Precautions
New Restrictions to Add Extra Layer of Protection Against Mad Cow Disease
WebMD News Archive
New Meat Safety Regulations
Veneman says the new regulations will take effect immediately
and are similar to those implemented by other countries where mad cow disease
has been found.
Major changes include:
Downer animals: Any animal unable to walk on its own is banned from
entering the U.S. food supply.
Product holding: Animals selected for mad cow disease screening will
be held until test results confirm that the animal does not have the
High-risk parts: Brain, spinal cord, and other nervous
system-related tissue from cows older than 30 months are prohibited from
entering in the U.S. food supply. The small intestine of cattle of all ages is
Other changes affect the procedures during the slaughter
process in order to reduce the risk of spreading infected tissue.
Researchers say older cows are considered high-risk for mad cow
disease because they may have eaten contaminated feed prior to the protective
feed bans enacted in August 1997. In addition, once a cow is infected with mad
cow disease it takes 3-6 years before symptoms emerge.
Adding Extra Layer of Safety
Officials say many of the changes announced today have been in
the works since the first case of mad cow disease was found in Canada in May in
order to better monitor the beef supply.
"These actions do not suggest in any way that that meat
produced under the current system is unsafe," says Ron DeHaven, DVM, chief
veterinary officer at the USDA. "For years, we have had a feed ban in
place, high-risk materials from this infected cow were removed, and the meat
produced on the day that this positive cow was slaughtered is being
"Just like with the meat recall, we are making these
further enhancements to our system out of an abundance of caution," says
DeHaven says the exact details of how the new measures will
affect the USDA inspection process and screening for mad cow disease are yet to
be worked out. For example, it's unclear whether downer animals will be allowed
to be rendered and used in the production of animal feed, which falls under the
jurisdiction of the FDA.
"Those are kinds of details that are yet to be
resolved," says DeHaven.