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FDA Strengthens Safeguards Against Mad Cow

Use of Risky Animal Parts Banned in Feed, Cosmetics, Dietary Supplements
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WebMD Health News

Jan. 27, 2004 -- In the wake of the first reported case of mad cow disease in the U.S., the FDA says it will ban the use of certain cattle and animal parts in dietary supplements, cosmetics, and animal feed.

The move strengthens current safeguards to prevent the spread and protect the public from exposure to the agent thought to cause bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as mad cow disease. A cow in Washington State tested positive for the disease on Dec. 23.

"Today we are bolstering our BSE firewalls to protect the public," says FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan, MD, PhD, in a news release. "We are further strengthening our animal feed rule, and we are taking additional steps to further protect the public from being exposed to any potentially risky materials from cattle."

The new regulations ban a wide range of bovine-derived material from dietary supplements and cosmetics regulated by the FDA. They also prohibit some currently allowed feeding and manufacturing practices involving feed for cattle and other hooved animals.

Materials derived from cows, such as gelatin, are currently used in a variety of cosmetic lotions and creams as well as dietary supplements.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced similar safeguards banning the use of risky animal parts, such as brain and spinal cord-related materials, in the human food supply.

New Mad Cow Safeguards

The new FDA regulations are effective immediately and include two main components.

The first bans the following materials from FDA-regulated human food (including dietary supplements) and cosmetics:

  • Any material from "downer" cattle. (Downer cattle are animals that cannot walk.)
  • Any material from dead cattle.
  • Specified risk materials (SRMs) that are known to contain the highest concentrations of the infectious agent for BSE, including the brain, skull, eyes, and spinal cord of cattle 30 months or older, and a portion of the small intestine and tonsils from all cattle, regardless of their age or health.
  • Mechanically separated beef, which may contain SRMs.

The second rule contains the following changes to the FDA's current animal feed rule:

  • Eliminates the exemption that allows mammalian blood and blood products to be used in feed for other hooved animals.
  • Bans use of bedding, spilled feed, feathers, and fecal matter collected from the living quarters of poultry as feed ingredient.
  • Bans use of plate waste consisting of uneaten meat and other scraps collected from large restaurant operations and rendered into meat and bone meal for animal feed.
  • To further minimize cross contamination, a new rule requires equipment, facilities, and production lines to be dedicated to non-hooved animal feed if they use any of the prohibited ingredients in manufacturing feed products.

Officials say that in addition to these measures, the FDA will step up its inspection of feed mills and rendering industries.

"The science and our own experience and knowledge in this area are constantly evolving. Small as the risk may already be, this is the time to make sure the public is protected to the greatest extent possible," says Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson in a news release.

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