Tests find deficiencies in measures designed to avoid mad cow disease

Tests find deficiencies in measures designed to avoid mad cow disease

May 13, 2001 The Associated Press
More than one third of Colorado cattle-feed producers failed at least part of a federal test of measures designed to keep mad cow disease out of the United States.

So far the disease has not reached American shores, but some industry observers say it is troubling that the protective measures aren't being observed at many points.

The Food and Drug Administration reported the test results in its national database.

The FDA is not yet issuing fines or sanctions to those who break the rules, calling its first rounds of inspections an educational exercise. Of 71 Colorado feed concerns inspected through late 2000 that handled cattle parts, 26 failed to add a warning label that would help prevent that feed from going to live cattle, or 37 percent of the total.

"The present system has no allowance for either human greed or human error, and that's a bad way to proceed," said Carol Tucker Foreman, director of the Food Policy Institute of the Washington, D.C.-based Consumer Federation of America. "It's such a devastating disease for both humans and animals; it's probably worthwhile to take all of the protective steps that we can."

The FDA issued rules in 1997 prohibiting the feeding of cattle or other ruminant parts to U.S. cattle.

More worrisome to some experts was the finding that at the 40 Colorado locations which handle both cattle remains and other protein from pigs or chickens, inspectors were not able to answer the vital question of whether those firms have a system to prevent co-mingling of the materials.

At least nine of those 40 firms also failed to apply the warning label, making it nearly impossible to tell what animal parts were in the feed.

And of 123 Colorado feed locations inspected overall, 35 said they were not aware of the regulations - although some of those were already following the safeguards as their normal practice.

The FDA, which conducted the inspections along with state regulators, is now trying to follow up at each site to see if its education effort brought better compliance with the mad cow rules. They are also instructing the state inspectors who helped them on how to properly complete the query forms.

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