US Meat Groups Oppose BSE Rules

January 21, 2002
U.S. meat groups Friday told the Bush administration there was no need to prohibit bits of animal brains and spinal cord in human food to prevent mad cow disease because U.S. cattle have never had the deadly ailment, Reuters reported.

However, consumer groups said the U.S. Agriculture Department's proposals to keep the nation's food supply safe from mad cow disease didn't go far enough.

This week USDA invited public comments on regulations it was considering for the meatpacking industry to prevent the disease also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

The proposals grew out of a Harvard University study last November which found little risk of the disease turning up in American cattle, but suggested a few additional precautions that the government could take.

Among the most drastic measures considered by the USDA is banning meat companies from using bits of animal brains and spinal cord in human food.

High-speed equipment now used by some meat processors to extract edible tissues from bones sometimes pulls tiny amounts of spinal columns and neck bones from cattle into the meat.

Once the department determines which measures to implement, the USDA said it will publish them in the Federal Register and analyze the costs to the industry.

"In this country it's important to remember that we don't have BSE [That's what Germany said, that's what Japan said, that's what Italy said, that's what they all said. How can she say that in good conscience when we sinply haven't looked hard enough to tell?--BSE coordinator]. Any meat derived from (cattle) from the United States is safe," said Janet Riley, spokesman of the American Meat Institute.

"These measures should be taken by a country that already has BSE." [By the time it's discovered it's obviously too late--BSE coordinator]

Riley said the meatpacking industry would take a "significant hit" financially if USDA implemented the idea.

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