More US regulations needed to prevent mad cow - US panel

More US regulations needed to prevent mad cow - US panel

June 25, 2001 Reuters by Randy Fabi

WASHINGTON - A panel of U.S. food industry and consumer experts said on Friday that stronger government regulations and more funding for animal disease prevention programs were needed to keep the United States safe from mad cow disease and its deadly human variant.

At a panel discussion on mad cow disease, Dan Glickman, former Agriculture Secretary under the Clinton administration, said government funding to study and prevent mad cow disease - which has plagued Europe - were "seriously inadequate."

Glickman said scientists still do not know how long mad cow disease can survive, nor do they have any commercially available vaccines or early detection tests to prevent it.


Caroline Smith DeWaal of the Center for Science in the Public Interest said the U.S. allows up to 20 percent of the ingredients in hot dogs, sausages and hamburgers to contain meat from the spinal cords and brains of cattle, which officials call mechanically separated meat.

"The absence of the disease in this country is no excuse for complacency," DeWaal said. "Additional consumer protections are needed."

DeWaal said in the next few weeks, the consumer group plans to ask the USDA to ban the spinal cord and brain tissue of cattle from human food.

All of the five panelists admit current government regulations have been successful in preventing an introduction of mad cow disease in the United States.

Other suggestions the panel provided to improve U.S. defenses against mad cow disease included:

* One single federal agency that handles food safety. Currently, a hodgepodge of government agencies have food safety programs including USDA, Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.

* Ban the sale of all animal heads and brains to consumers.

* Prohibit the use of rendered animal parts for animal feed

* Increase the number of federal inspectors at U.S. meat plants

Harvard University was expected to issue in the next few weeks its assessment on the effectiveness of U.S. animal disease prevention programs and the likelihood mad cow disease could spread to the United States, industry officials said.

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