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US Still Allows Mad Cow Feeding Practices

This article was just brought to my attention. The US has failed to put in
place the (still inadequate) new feed regulations it announced after the
discovery of mad cows in the US. I wish I could say I'm surprised, but this
is par for the course. This is what happens when anti-government zealots
control the government -- nothing but PR and lip service with the meat heads
in charge of policy.

No wonder Dr. Stanley Prusiner boycotts US beef.

John Stauber, co-author, Mad Cow USA


Boston Globe
Feed regulations not yet enforced
By Raja Mishra, Globe Staff, 4/14/2004

As fears of mad cow disease rippled across the country three months ago, the
nation's top health official announced stringent rules that would prohibit
farmers from giving cows potentially high-risk feed, saying Americans must
"never be satisfied with the status quo."

But, in fact, the status quo remains.

Despite the urgent tone of that January announcement, the proposed rules
have yet to go into effect, and farmers can use the risky feed with

Instead, a series of bureaucratic complications and scientific questions --
prompted by complaints from industry groups and outside safety specialists
-- arose within the US Food and Drug Administration. Review committees were
formed and continue work to this day on issues such as how to dispose of the
prohibited feed.

To become enforceable, the rules must be published in the Federal Register,
a daily compendium of federal government actions. In January, federal health
officials said it would be only a matter of days. But, to date, they have
not appeared.

"We're getting closer and closer all the time, but I can't tell you exactly
when it will be ready, . . . hopefully not too much longer," said Stephen
Sundlof, the FDA's veterinary medicine director. "The fact that we're being
very deliberative about getting it right shows that we do consider it

But Joseph Mendelson, legal director of the nonprofit Center for Food
Safety, said: "The longer they take to publish them, the longer the
loopholes exist . . . The longer the delay, the more negligent the agency is
in preventing [mad cow] from appearing."

In December, the first-ever animal with mad cow disease in the United
States turned up at a Washington state farm, generating considerable public
concern. The cow had been imported from Canada, where mad cow had surfaced

US health officials reacted quickly.

In mid-January, the US Agriculture Department published rules keeping
risk-prone cow parts out of the human food system and strengthening farm
inspection rules.

On Jan. 26, US Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson held a
news conference announcing the cattle-feed rules.

The government's scientists, he said, recommended that farmers be prohibited
from feeding cow blood, chicken waste, and poultry parts to cows. All could
potentially carry mad cow disease, also called bovine spongiform
encephalopathy, or BSE.

"We must never be satisfied with the status quo where the health and safety
of our animals and our population is at stake," said Thompson.

BSE involves the spread of infectious proteins that attack afflicted cows'
nervous systems. The proteins clump in the brain, spinal cord, and nerve
tissues. These parts were once used in cow feed. Infected tissue made its
way into other cows, which in turn entered the human food chain. In the
1990s, about 150 people in England who ate infected beef developed a form of
Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease, a neural condition that causes violent tremors
and eventually death.

Most of the parts have been out of the bovine food system for some time. But
farmers continue to feed cows blood and chicken parts, which could carry BSE
as well because some chickens receive feed containing cow parts.

In addition to banning this type of feed, Thompson announced that meat and
parts from disabled cows, which are considered to be at higher risk of
infection with BSE, could not be used in dietary supplements, cosmetics, and
certain food products.

Shortly after, a panel of international specialists consulted by the FDA
contended that the rules were not stringent enough, said federal health
officials. In addition, the FDA was legally mandated to perform a
time-consuming environmental study on how the chicken parts not used for
feed would be disposed of. The poultry industry said chickens not fed any
cow parts should be allowed to become part of cow feed. And farmers said
certain parts of cow blood were important in maintaining the health of the
herd, including in the manufacture of cattle vaccines.

The FDA continues to study these issues.

"Of all our regulatory options, which will have the greatest effect in
reducing the risk to cattle and at the same time avoid unintended
consequences?" said Sundlof.

"There's a lot of different meetings and discussions going on at different

Raja Mishra can be reached at