US Cattlemen Call 'Zero Mad
Cow Tolerance' Meeting
By Bob Burgdorfer

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The National Cattlemen's Beef Association has called a meeting next week of feed industry and government officials to underscore the need for ``zero tolerance'' of any mad cow disease threat to the United States.
Charles Schroeder, NCBA's chief executive officer, said in an interview that NCBA had invited officials of the feed industry, US Agriculture Department, Food and Drug Administration and the meatpacking and rendering industries to the meeting in Washington next Monday, January 29.
``If there are folks that don't understand the seriousness of the situation, they need to be brought to understand that, both by communication from the industry and if necessary by penalties from the regulatory authorities involved,'' he said.
``There is simply no excuse for non-compliance. As an industry we are unwavering on that,'' Schroeder said.
Schroeder said the discussion followed the recent wave of reports of growing panic in Europe over beef consumption and more cases of mad cow disease, the fatal brain-wasting disease formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
The European Union from January 1 banned the use of any type of meat and bone meal (MBM) in animal feeds for at least 6 months as a precaution against the spread of BSE.
MBM made from cattle has been banned in US cattle feeding operations since 1997 and the US last month banned all types of MBM imports from countries where BSE has been detected. No case of BSE has ever been detected in the US.
FDA officials said earlier this month that a survey of US feed mills and renderers--which reprocess carcass materials into industrial oils and fats--showed some laxity in labeling and record keeping.
``We have made it clear to the feed industry and the renderers from the start of this situation that we have no tolerance for any slippage in compliance of those regulations,'' Schroeder said.
``As an industry, from the producer side, we have made it clear we have zero tolerance on any violation of those barriers. Evidence thus far is that we have been successful.''
Schroeder said US regulators and the cattle industry had actively cooperated for the last decade to keep the 100 million head beef cattle and dairy herd--the single largest US segment of agriculture--free from the BSE threat.
But if a BSE case should occur in the United States, Schroeder said the industry is ready to deal with it.
``We are prepared, if a discovery is ever made, to number one verify that discovery, isolate it, and eliminate it as rapidly as possible from the beef system,'' he said.
``We have no interest as an industry in trying to mislead the public or hide it from them,'' Schroeder said. ``We are prepared to communicate that discovery. Communicate, to the best of our knowledge, any related risk, as well as what the industry is doing to isolate it, contain it and eliminate it.''

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