Food Safety

FDA strengthens safeguards against "mad cow disease"

April 30, 2009
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FDA issues final ruling barring specific cattle materials from all animal and pet feed

The FDA issued a final regulation barring certain cattle materials from all animal feed, including pet food. The final rule further protects animals and consumers against bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, also known as “mad cow disease”).

“This FDA action serves to further protect the US cattle population from the already low risk of BSE,” said Bernadette Dunham, Ph.D., director of FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine. “The new rule strengthens existing safeguards.”

The measure builds on FDA’s 1997 feed regulation, which prohibited the use of certain mammalian proteins in ruminant feed.

The materials that can no longer be used in animal feed are the tissues that have the highest risk for carrying the agent thought to cause BSE. High risk cattle materials are the brains and spinal cords from cattle 30 months of age and older. The entire carcass of cattle not inspected and passed for human consumption also is prohibited, unless the cattle are less than 30 months of age, or the brains and spinal cords have been removed. The risk of BSE in cattle less than 30 months of age is considered to be exceedingly low.

The removal of high-risk materials from all animal feed will further protect against inadvertent transmission of BSE, which could occur through cross-contamination of ruminant feed with non-ruminant feed or feed ingredients during manufacture and transport, or through misfeeding of non-ruminant feed to ruminants on the farm. The added measure of excluding high-risk materials from all animal feed prevents any accidental feeding of it to cattle.

The regulation finalizes a proposed rule that FDA issued for public comment in October 2005. The final rule is effective in 12 months, which allows the livestock, meat, rendering and feed industries time to adapt their practices to comply with the new regulation. Under the new requirements of the final rule, renderers that process cattle not inspected and passed for human consumption must make available for FDA inspection their written protocols for determining the age of cattle and demonstrating that the brain and spinal cords of cattle have been effectively removed.

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