- Proposed regulations aimed at limiting the spread of
mad cow disease will require the federal government to devise ways of disposing
of more than 1.5 trillion pounds of animal products, the meat industry
- In letters to the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S.
meat industry argues that current regulations are sufficient to deal with
the problem of mad cow disease in the United States. Further regulations,
the industry argues, would not provide any added safety for consumers.
Instead, landfills would be flooded with animal parts that would no longer
have any market value.
- Jeremy Russell, a spokesman for the National Meat Association,
said the regulations would put some meat processors out of business.
- "This could take what is a profit center for a company
and turn it into a liability," he said.
- Russell said about 45 percent of each animal is currently
rendered into other products. Regulations prohibiting all brains and spinal
cord would create a huge disposal problem, and food industry experts told
the FDA that ways would have to be devised for handling almost 1.5 trillion
pounds of offal currently turned into useful products. More than 37 million
cattle are slaughtered for food in the United States each year.
- Russell also questioned whether the proposed rules were
based in science, noting that Harvard scientists who conducted a risk assessment
concluded existing government regulations were sufficient to stop mad cow
disease from spreading in the United States.
- Consumer groups are lobbying the government to impose
a complete ban on feeding materials that may harbor the protein that causes
mad cow in other animals. They say that's the only way of stopping the
spread of the disease in the United States.
- Michael Hansen, a researcher at Consumers Union's Consumer
Policy Institute, said the government promised tough new regulations after
a case of mad cow was discovered in Washington state last December but
is now backing away.
- "You have to take strong actions," Hansen said,
arguing the cases will multiply until regulations break the cycle of feeding
animals to animals.
- Hansen said some European countries have adopted even
more stringent regulations in response to the mad cow outbreak that apparently
started in England in the 1980s, including prohibiting the sale of meat
on the bone - something U.S. agencies are not proposing.
- Sue Jarrett, owner of a 3,000-acre, 150-head cattle farm
in Wray, Colo., also agrees with the need for tougher regulations of the
industry because she said they would protect the public. She said cattlemen
should take the mad cow problem as a clear warning that they need to stop
feeding animals to other animals, and treat cattle as herbivores.
- Jarrett dismissed arguments by the meat industry that
the new regulations are too expensive. "The big guys sure darn can
afford it," she said.
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has banned cattle
brains, small intestines and other parts of animals older than 30 months
from animal feed and FDA-regulated cosmetics and drugs. But the agency
is waiting to take further steps, saying it need for information.
- Among 36 questions posed in an "Advance Notice of
Proposed Rulemaking," the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture
said they are considering whether to expand the ban to include cattle of
all ages, whether to stop feeding cattle blood to calves and forbid feeding
henhouse sweepings to cattle.
- The industry estimates that a third of discarded cattle
parts are made into poultry feed, a third into pet food, 15 percent into
pig food, and the rest in other products.
- Under current regulations, cattle brains and spinal cord
of older cattle are not allowed in cattle feed but are allowed in feed
for pets, chickens and pigs. Proponents of tougher regulations note that
sweepings of chicken coops are fed to cattle and risky material could still
get into cattle food by that route.
- The National Grain and Feed Association called an expanded
ban "draconian" and said it "could force a dramatic restructuring
of an entire industry sector and impose adverse economic and environmental
impacts that ultimately may prove to be unwarranted."
- The organization noted the U.S. Department of Agriculture
has begun an enhanced surveillance program testing 268,000 cattle for the
presence of the mad cow protein, and will know by the end of 2005 if it
is prevalent in the U.S. cattle herd.
- On the Web: www.nmaonline.org/html/hot-topics.htm
- 2004© The E.W. Scripps Co.