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Posted January 29, 2004

U.S. Action on Mad Cow -- Supplements Included As Well as Food

On Jan. 26, 2004, the U.S Department of Health and Human Services announced announced several new public health measures, to be implemented by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to strengthen significantly the multiple existing firewalls that protect Americans from exposure to the agent thought to cause bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, also known as mad cow disease) and that help prevent the spread of BSE in U.S. cattle.

The new safeguards being announced today are science-based and further bolster existing safeguards.

Specifically, HHS intends to ban from human food (including dietary supplements), and cosmetics a wide range of bovine-derived material so that the same safeguards that protect Americans from exposure to the agent of BSE through meat products regulated by USDA also apply to food products that FDA regulates.

FDA will also prohibit certain currently allowed feeding and manufacturing practices involving feed for cattle and other ruminant animals. These additional measures will further strengthen FDA’s 1997 “animal feed” rule.

To implement these new protections, FDA will publish two interim final rules that will take effect immediately upon publication, although there will be an opportunity for public comment after publication.

The first interim final rule will ban the following materials from FDA-regulated human food, (including dietary supplements) and cosmetics:

-- Any material from “downer” cattle. (“Downer” cattle are animals that cannot walk.);

-- Any material from “dead” cattle. (“Dead” cattle are cattle that die on the farm (i.e. before reaching the slaughter plant);

-- Specified Risk Materials (SRMs) that are known to harbor the highest concentrations of the infectious agent for BSE, such as the brain, skull, eyes, and spinal cord of cattle 30 months or older, and a portion of the small intestine and tonsils from all cattle, regardless of their age or health; and

-- The product known as mechanically separated beef, a product which may contain SRMs. Meat obtained by Advanced Meat Recovery (an automated system for cutting meat from bones), may be used since USDA regulations do not allow the presence of SRMs in this product.

The second interim final rule is designed to lower even further the risk that cattle will be purposefully or inadvertently fed prohibited protein. It was the feeding of such protein to cattle that was the route of disease transmission that led to the BSE epidemic in United Kingdom cattle in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Comprehensive information about FDA’s work on BSE and links to other related websites are available at http://www.fda.gov.