McDonalds: Beef Must Be Mad Cow-Free

Wednesday, March 14, 2001

WASHINGTON -- McDonald's Corp. is starting on its own to enforce widely disregarded federal regulations aimed at keeping the nation's beef supply free of mad cow disease.

The fast-food giant has given packers until April 1 to document that the cattle they buy have been fed in accordance with the federal rules.

The action by the nation's largest buyer of beef has had a ripple effect throughout the industry, officials say. Major meatpackers have told their cattle suppliers they must document their compliance with the feed rules.

"If McDonald's is requiring something of their suppliers, it has a pretty profound effect," said Janet Riley, a spokeswoman for the American Meat Institute, which represents packers.

The Livestock Marketing Association has advised its members to begin requiring documentation from cattle producers or risk being unable to sell to slaughterhouses.

The Food and Drug Administration reported recently that hundreds of feed makers had failed to comply with its feed regulations, which are designed to keep the brain-wasting disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, from spreading if it ever reaches this country.

Europe's cattle industry suffered severe losses after consumers began shunning beef because of fears that humans can contract a similar brain disease from eating meat infected with BSE.

Mad cow disease is linked to a new variation of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which has killed some 80 Europeans since the mid-1990s, mostly in Britain.

Animals get the disease by eating the tissue of other infected animals, so the U.S. livestock industry in 1996 voluntarily banned sheep and certain other animal parts from U.S. feed. The next year, the FDA formally banned any proteins from cows, sheep, goats, deer or elk -- animals that get similar brain-wasting diseases -- from being used as ingredients in feed for cows, sheep or goats. FDA also imposed paperwork and labeling restrictions associated with the ban.

McDonald's new documentation rules grew out of a meeting the company organized in December with government officials and representatives of the beef and rendering industries, McDonald's spokesman Walt Riker said. Beef processors were notified last month of McDonald's new documentation requirements.

McDonald's, which has 28,000 restaurants worldwide, has previously used its marketing muscle to impose animal-welfare standards on egg producers and slaughter- houses.


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