AR-News: Ban Urged on All Animal Protein for Cattle

Andrew Gach unclewolf at
Thu Feb 5 16:22:44 EST 2004

February 5, 2004
Ban Urged on All Animal Protein for Cattle
Saying mad cow disease is now "indigenous in North America," an international panel advising the Agriculture Department recommended a ban yesterday on feeding all animal protein to cattle.

The panel, made up of experts from Britain, New Zealand, Switzerland and the United States, also recommended testing many more head of cattle, adopting rapid European tests and removing brains, spinal columns and intestines of all cattle older than 1 from food supplies.

Convened after the first cow infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy in this country was found in December in Washington State, the panel released its report at a conference in Maryland. Its chairman, Dr. Ulrich Kihm, a Swiss veterinarian, said the United States "could have a case a month" of mad cow disease if it was doing enough testing, Reuters reported. Dr. Kihm made the estimate based on the experiences of European countries. But he did not predict an outbreak like the one in Britain, where hundreds of thousands of infected cows were found and more than 100 people died of a degenerative brain disease.

The chief veterinary officer for the Agriculture Department, Dr. Ron DeHaven, said that it was "no surprise that there may be other cases in North America," but that there was "no way to know whether there would be one a month or one every five years."

Even if there are more, Dr. DeHaven said, the panel acknowledged that the steps that the department took on Dec. 30 - banning the slaughter of sick and injured cows for human food, as well as the removal of brains, spinal cords and intestines from older cows at slaughter - are the most important to protect consumers. The department will respond to the report quickly, he said "because there is a sense of urgency about this."

Though the document, "Report on Measures Relating to Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy in the United States," was couched in dry uncritical language, it made clear that the panel believed that the department had not done enough to protect consumers or find all the diseased cows in North America. It also said blanket assurances that "beef is safe" could undermine regulatory efforts.

"It's explosive stuff," Michael Hansen, an expert on mad cow disease at Consumers Union, said. "It's an implicit admission that the critics have been correct and B.S.E. has been here all along."

Dr. Gary Weber, executive director for regulatory affairs at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, said the report was "not objective" and was "negative in tone." Dr. Weber called Dr. Kihm's remarks "more soothsayer than scientist."

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