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Federal Action to Reduce Risk of BSE

Livestock Update, August 2004

Mark L. Wahlberg, Extension Animal Scientist, VA Tech

On July 14, 2004, the Federal Register contained several announcements from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) which relate to BSE. Due to the one case of BSE which was found last December, federal action to reduce the likelihood of exposure have taken place. The July 14 announcement contained some rules which take place immediately (referred to as interim final rules), and also some proposals for future regulations on which these agencies are seeking comment (referred to as advanced notice of public rulemaking, ANPR).

Background - On January 22-24, 2004, the Secretary of Agriculture convened an international panel of experts to review the BSE situation in the US and to provide recommendations for action that should be taken. This group, referred to as IRT, submitted their report on February 4, 2004. Meanwhile, on January 26, 2004, the FDA announced in the Federal Register their intent to implement rules regarding restrictions on certain feed practices, including the use of poultry litter. Until the July 14 announcement, no such restrictions have been addressed by FDA in the Federal Register.

The IRT recommendations and the rules proposed on January 26 did not agree on the degree of restriction on high-risk meat and bone meal usage. High-risk meat and bone meal is derived from cattle and contains certain tissues in which the abnormal prion proteins which cause BSE may be found. These tissues are referred to as specified risk materials (SRM's), and include spinal cord, brain, tonsils, and certain regions of the intestine. Cattle over 30 months of age at the time of slaughter are considered to be higher risk as well. The FDA is now considering rules more in agreement with the IRT recommendations, and they are highlighted below.

Proposed Rules (ANPR) The IRT's recommendations would prevent potentially infective materials (SRM's) from ever entering the animal feed system. The purpose of the July 14 announcement is to inform the public of the IRT's recommendations and to solicit comment on those and related recommendations. Specific topics addressed deal with the following, which will be regulated by FDA:

In addition, this Federal Register posting included a call for comment from APHIS dealing with these topics:

Comments regarding these and other related topics are sought by the respective regulatory agency. APHIS and FSIS will consider all comments received on or before September 13, 2004. FDA will consider all comments received on or before August 13, 2004. For details on submitting comments please see the July 14 Federal Register. It can be accessed at Select 2004 , then July 14, and finally scroll down to the Food and Drug Administration to open the pertinent section. A great deal of information on this topic is also available from the FDA's website,

Interim Final Rules - FDA has previously ruled that SRMs are inedible and unfit for food and prohibits their use as human food. They had also ruled that Mechanically Separated Beef is unfit for food and inedible. In addition, they required that all nonambulatory disabled cattle presented for slaughter be condemned and not used in human food. Furthermore, they required that establishments that slaughter cattle or that process the carcasses or parts of carcasses of cattle maintain daily records sufficient to document the implementation and monitoring of procedures for removal, segregation, and disposition of SRMs. Finally, they specified certain tissues from cattle 30 months or older at the time of slaughter as SRM's, with dental development being the determining factor for age.

The rule published July 14 would prohibit the inclusion of SRM's and other prohibited cattle materials in all FDA-regulated human food, including dietary supplements, and cosmetics. FDA is proposing a fortified records system for all manufacturers of such products. A comment period which ends on October 12, 2004 is in place.

The effect of these various rules is mostly borne by the packers, renders, and feed manufacturers. Producer impact is minimal. It is still legal for producers to use poultry litter as feed or fertilizer. It seems likely that if SRM's are banned from use in all animal feed, there will be no need to ban poultry litter as cattle feed.

The producer impact hits in the area of on-farm mortality. Renderers will have a narrower range of uses for products derived from dead cows that they process. This makes it all the more important for cattle producers to be watchful over their herds and to cull from their herds all cattle with diminished health or productivity while they are still ambulatory.

I am assuming that once the comment period has concluded, FDA will implement the proposed rule concerning a ban of SRM's in all animal feeds. Future topics which the BSE issue may bring to the forefront include mandatory animal identification and increased record-keeping requirements for producers. We will keep you informed of these developments.

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