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FDA tests show quarantined cows ate banned feed

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Federal officials have determined that a herd of quarantined cows in Texas was indeed fed an illegal type of feed, the FDA said Tuesday. The FDA report concluded that the feed was made with animal parts, which is banned in the United States.

Feed with ground up animal parts has been linked to the spread of "mad cow disease" in Europe, but it is unlikely that the small amounts consumed by cows in the United States last week were contaminated with the disease, the FDA said.

The suspicious herd was isolated last week in Gonzales, Texas after the owner discovered the cattle may have been given feed made from animal parts. The concern centers on the use of bone meal in the feed. Purina Mills, which made the feed, is purchasing the 1222 head of cattle, which will not be made into food for either humans or cows, according to the FDA. The feed had been prepared for use by pigs and poultry, which can use it safely because they do not get mad cow disease, according to government officials.

But experts on mad cow disease say the chances the cows in that herd have mad cow disease are small. They say the ground-up animal parts were from domestic animals, and stressed that there's never been a case of the disease in either humans or animals in the United States.

According to the FDA, each 600 pound cow consumed approximately 5.5 grams -- or a quarter ounce -- of the contaminated feed.

In the past three years, 174 cows in France have been found to be infected with mad cow disease, 390 cows in Portugal and 231 in Ireland, according to the World Animal Health Organization.

"The challenge to regulators and industry is to keep this disease out of the United States," said Dr. Bernard Schwetz, the FDA's acting principal deputy commissioner.

"One important defense is to prohibit the use of any ruminant animal materials in feed for other ruminant animals. Combined with other steps, like U.S. Department of Agriculture's ban on the importation of live ruminant animals from affected countries, these steps represent a series of protections to keep American cattle free from BSE." Through the end of November, there were 87 definite or probable cases of mad cow disease in humans in the United Kingdom, two confirmed cases and one probable case in France, and one confirmed case in Ireland, according to a recently published report by Dr. Paul Brown, head of the FDA advisory committee.

EU imposes stronger anti-BSE curbs
New York health officials investigate candy made with beef gelatin
Mad cow fears cut beef consumption in Ireland
No sign of mad cow so far in quarantined Texas herd
European Union considers expanding mad cow disease testing

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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