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Texas Agriculture Archive

February 6, 2004

Latest BSE rules ban
poultry litter, blood in feed


By Lana Robinson
Field Editor

New Food and Drug Administration safeguards bolstering BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) firewalls, announced Jan.26, coincided with the Texas Farm Bureau Leadership Conference in College Station, and dovetailed into a presentation by Dr. Jeff Savell, Texas A&M University animal science professor. After an overview of mad cow disease and its manifestations in cattle and humans, Savell told conferees attending his session at TAMU's Rosenthal Meat Science Center, like it or not, tightening regulations are sure to continue.

"That's where your business is about to be intruded on," said Savell. "You may as well get in on the front of it and have a say in it."

His associate, Dr. Kerri Harris, HACCP coordinator, agreed.

"USDA is not finished writing all the regs and requirements," she said.

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 from FDA-regulated human food, (including dietary supplements) and cosmetics: 1) Any material from "downer" cattle. ("Downer" cattle are animals that cannot walk.); 2) Any material from "dead" cattle. ("Dead" cattle are cattle that die on the farm (i.e. before reaching the slaughter plant); 3) 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 4) Mechanically separated beef, or meat obtained by Advanced Meat Recovery (an automated system for cutting meat from bones), 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 1980s and 1990s.

This interim final rule will implement four specific changes in FDA's present animal feed rule, as follows: 1) Elimination of the present exemption in the feed rule that allows mammalian blood and blood products to be fed to other ruminants as a protein source, which may carry some infectivity for BSE; 2) A ban on the use of "poultry litter" as a feed ingredient for ruminant animals, since litter consists of bedding, spilled feed, feathers, and fecal matter that are collected from living quarters where poultry is raised. Also, poultry feed may legally contain bovine meat and bone meal, and if spilled in the chicken house, may be collected as litter. 3) A ban of the use of "plate waste," which consists of meat scraps that are currently collected from some large restaurant operations and rendered into meat and bone meal for animal feed as a feed ingredient for ruminants; and 4) Further minimization of the possibility of cross-contamination of ruminant and non-ruminant animal feed by requiring equipment, facilities or production lines to be dedicated to non-ruminant animal feeds if they use protein that is prohibited in ruminant feed.

"They're telling us if all bans put in place, along with the new safeguards—provided people follow them—anything with a positive agent should work itself through within a five to 10 year window," Harris added.

FDA is also continuing its efforts to assist in the development of better BSE science, to achieve the same or greater confidence in BSE protection at a lower cost.

Comprehensive information about FDA's work on BSE and links to other related websites are available at