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FDA Expands Mad Cow Disease Safeguards

Tighter Rules on Cattle Feed, Slaughtering, Processing
WebMD Health News

Feb. 12, 2004 -- An FDA advisory panel is discussing new safeguards to further prevent risk of mad cow disease, specifically in medical products.

According to, the FDA is proposing the use of certified cattle herds for material used in medical products.

The measure is intended to reduce the risk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE, also known as mad cow disease, from being transmitted to drugs, devices, vaccines, blood products, and human and tissue-based products.

The committee will also get an update on the discovery last December of BSE in a dairy cow in Washington State.

Protecting Americans

Over the last 15 years, the FDA has gradually implemented safety measures to protect Americans from the BSE agent thought to cause mad cow disease. The measures currently in place:

  • Ban the importing of BSE-exposed cattle
  • Provide surveillance of cattle for BSE (which led to identification of the BSE cow in December)

  • Prohibit feeding bovine-derived meat to cattle

  • Ensure that no meat from high-risk cattle enter the human food supply

In the wake of the first reported case of mad cow disease in the U.S. last December, new measures were put in place to further protect human food, dietary supplements, medical products, and cosmetics that contain bovine material.

The FDA bans include:

  • Any material from "downer" cattle that cannot walk
  • Any material from cattle that die on the farm before reaching the slaughter plant

  • Specific cattle material known to harbor the highest concentrations of the BSE agent, such as the brain, skull, eyes, and spinal cord of cattle 30 months or older, and a portion of the small intestines and tonsils from all cattle regardless of the animal's age or health

  • Meat that has been mechanically scraped from bones, which could contain high-risk material

Also, the FDA banned the use of:

  • Poultry litter as feed for cattle, currently a practice in large cattle and poultry operations. Poultry litter is essentially chicken house litter -- bedding, spilled feed, feathers, and fecal matter. Because poultry feed may legally contain meat and bone meal from cattle -- including meat not allowed in cattle feed -- the concern is that it could contaminate cattle.
  • "Plate waste," which consists of uneaten meat and other scraps that are currently collected from some large restaurant operations and rendered into meat and bone meal for animal feed

Cattle feed producers will be required to dedicate specific equipment, facilities, or production lines to handle only cattle feed, to prevent contamination from other types of animal feed. Inspections of feed mills and renderers will also be stepped up, says the FDA.

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