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FDA: No more chicken waste for cows

New measures to guard against mad cow disease announced

The FDA announced new measures Monday to protect cattle feed.
The FDA announced new measures Monday to protect cattle feed.

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Mayo Clinic
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Great Britain

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Chicken waste, restaurant scraps and blood products are to be banned from cattle feed as part of new measures to protect Americans from mad cow disease, the Food and Drug Administration announced Monday.

The measures are being taken in response to the discovery of the nation's first case of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). No humans have been infected, and government officials said the rules are meant to further protect consumers of U.S. beef.

"Today's actions will make strong public health protections against BSE even stronger," said Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson. "Small as the risk may already be, this is the time to make sure the public is protected to the greatest extent possible."

Mad cow disease first appeared in Britain in the mid-1980s, and millions of cattle were slaughtered as a result. The disease is linked to a similar form of the incurable and fatal brain-wasting disease in humans, called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, or vCJD.

Mad cow is believed to be spread when cows eat the brain and spinal cord tissues of infected cows. It is thought that humans who eat BSE-infected nervous system tissue can contract vCJD.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 153 cases of vCJD had been reported in the world: 143 in Britain, six in France, and one each in Canada, Ireland, Italy and the United States. The Canadian, Irish and U.S. cases were reported in people who had lived in Britain.

FDA commissioner Mark McClellan added, "With today's actions, FDA will be doing more than ever before to protect the public against BSE by eliminating additional potential sources of BSE exposure."

U.S. and Canadian authorities banned the use of brain and spinal cord tissue in cattle feed in August 1997. That ban has been one of the main defenses in preventing mad cow disease from entering the human food chain.

But after a dairy cow in Washington state tested positive for mad cow disease late last year, the government has implemented even more measures, including banning cow brains and other tissue from entering the human food chain.

Monday's measures go even further and include the following:

• Banning chicken waste, known in the industry as "poultry litter," from livestock feed. Poultry litter consists of bedding, spilled feed, feathers and fecal matter collected from where chickens live.

• Banning meat scraps from restaurants, known as "plate waste," from livestock feed.

• Banning mammalian blood and blood products from being used in livestock feed or dietary supplements.

• Requiring plants that make both livestock feed and feed for other animals to have separate production lines to lessen the possibility of cross-contamination.

Mad cow search to end soon

Dr. Ron DeHaven, chief veterinary officer with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said Monday that the search for cows that entered the United States from Canada with the infected dairy cow last month will likely end soon without having achieved a full accounting of the other animals' whereabouts.

"We're talking in terms of days or weeks rather than months," he said. "We have to draw a reasonable line in the sand, if you will, in terms of -- at some point we reach a line of diminishing returns."

Of the 81 head of dairy cattle that entered the country in September 2001, including the animal that went on to develop mad cow disease, 28 have been identified, DeHaven said in a conference call with reporters.

The animals have been found in "multiple herds," which likely contain others of the 81, he said. So far, 131 animals that cannot be ruled out as having been from the original herd -- through birth records or age -- have been euthanized and tested, and none has tested positive, he said.

Tests on another 35 animals are pending, he said.

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