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Reader Questions Poultry Litter And "Downer" Bans

November 5, 2004 Cow-Calf Weekly Mailbag

I'm confused about the effective date of USDA Secretary Ann Veneman's ban on feeding poultry litter to cattle, and the banned slaughter of downer cattle. Larry W. Mohney Frohna, MO

Editor's Note: On Jan. 26, 2004, responding to the BSE case in December 2003, FDA (not USDA) announced it would publish two interim final rules that would take effect "immediately upon publication," and after providing opportunity for public comment after publication.

The first interim final rule included banning any material from "downer" cattle from FDA-regulated human food (including dietary supplements) and cosmetics. Included in the second rule was a ban on the use of poultry litter as a feed ingredient for ruminant animals. This FDA rule, which took effect in mid July, bars the use of many specified risk materials (SRMs) along with meat from downers and dead animals in human food, dietary supplements and cosmetics.

On Feb. 4, 2004, an International Review Team (IRT) convened by USDA issued a report recommending additional actions to protect the public against BSE. Included were more stringent measures banning all mammalian and poultry proteins from cattle feed, and the removal of SRMs from all animal feed, including pet food.

But, FDA delayed any action on the Jan. 26 proposed rules and the additional rules that would tighten its regulations on cattle feed. FDA says the feed ban regulations might not take effect until 2005 or 2006.

Here's an example of how complicated these rules have become: FDA unveiled a proposal that food makers who use any beef ingredients be required to keep records for at least two years showing they've not used any SRMs. Importers would also have to keep records of what cattle parts went into their products. The recordkeeping plan could take more than a year to implement.

The feed ban delay is a result of FDA officials not considering some consequences when they announced the rule changes on Jan. 26. The delay could add to our problems reopening beef exports, but FDA wants to ensure it gets the right rules in place. Obviously, the world is watching the U.S. response to its first case of BSE.

The feed ban rules are particularly sticky because of their impact on so many sectors of the livestock and poultry industries -- livestock feeders, feed manufacturers and dealers, transportation and storage entities, beef processors, renderers, poultry producers and pet food manufacturers.

What's this mean for beef and dairy producers? Simply, poultry litter can be legally be fed to cattle until the final interim feed ban rule is published. Likewise, milk replacers and colostrum substitutes containing ruminant blood products can also fed to calves. However, producers need to be aware there likely will be no grace period to feed out existing stocks of these products once the rule is published.

Right now, cattle fed poultry litter, milk replacers or colostrum substitutes prior to the ban can still move in normal marketing methods. After publication of the rule, however, cattle that consume banned feedstuffs won't be able to enter the human food chain.

* Clint Peck


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