US Quarantines Texas Cattle
Over Mad Cow Rules
By Lisa Richwine

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. regulators said on Thursday they had placed some cattle in Texas under quarantine as a precaution while officials probe whether a feed mill violated rules designed to keep mad cow disease out of the food supply.
A Food and Drug Administration (news - web sites) spokesman (FDA) said the agency was investigating whether the cattle were accidentally fed meat and bone meal made from other U.S. cattle.
``There's a possibility that bone meal derived from U.S. cattle may have been mixed with a feed supply and later fed to cattle,'' FDA spokesman Lawrence Bachorick said.
``To date, no cases of (mad cow disease) have been confirmed in the U.S. Nevertheless, the cattle here are being kept in isolation until we can determine whether they are fit for human consumption,'' Bachorick said.
This was the first time FDA had asked that cattle be kept under quarantine for possible violations of mad cow safeguards, Bachorick said. Inspections have found that many companies were not following FDA mad cow rules, and officials have promised to crack down on violators.
FDA regulations prohibit cattle from being fed meat and bone meal made from other ruminant animals that could carry mad cow, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE (news - web sites)), or a related disease. Scientists believe cattle can get the brain-wasting disease if they eat the remains of other infected animals.
The disease's human form, known as new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD), has killed more than 80 people in Britain, and BSE cases have been found in several European countries.
Linda Detwiler, senior staff veterinarian for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said there was no danger of BSE in the Texas cattle because the source of the meat-and-bone meal was U.S. cattle, which have never been found to have BSE.
``There is no evidence that BSE would be involved in this situation at all,'' Detwiler said.
Shares of fast-food giant McDonald's Corp. closed more than 4 percent lower Thursday after the news of the FDA action, which also sent livestock futures falling.
Inspections have found that some feed mills were not fully complying with labeling and record-keeping rules designed to prevent mad cow from spreading through the food supply if it were to appear in U.S. animals.
The Texas feed mill involved in the quarantine notified the FDA as soon as it realized it may have violated the agency's rules, Bachorick said, adding he could not disclose the name of the feed mill or how many cattle were involved.
Gary Weber of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association said the case involved a feed lot of about 1,200 cattle.
``The current feel is that it wasn't a big deal, just a normal process to see whether there needs to be a feed recall,'' Weber said.
Texas is the largest cattle state and has about 2.9 million head in feed lots being fattened for beef production.
Local producers welcomed the FDA's move.
``Our reaction is that the system works. It was an incredibly unfortunate situation. FDA was notified and they pulled feed samples and we are waiting until next week to get the results of the tests on the feed samples,'' said Texas Cattle Feeders Association spokesman Burt Rutherford.
Rutherford said that apparently the wrong feed was provided by feed mill. ``It was an inadvertent thing and they caught it right away,'' he said.

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