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FDA tries to minimize possibility of mad cow disease in U.S.

hamburgers

May 14, 1996
Web posted at: 1:15 a.m. EDT (0515 GMT)

From Correspondent Eugenia Halsey

RIVERDALE, Maryland (CNN) -- To reduce the chances of an outbreak of mad cow disease in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has put the livestock industry on notice that it plans to ban certain animal feeding practices.

The Food and Drug Administration is planning to propose a rule banning the use of sheep, goat, and cow tissue in cattle feed. Previous bans were voluntary.

It is believed such practices spread mad cow disease, or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, in Britain and may be linked to the human form of the brain disorder known as CJD or Creutzfeld Jakob Disease. (618K QuickTime movie)

cows

U.S. officials stopped the import of British cows back in 1989 and called for a voluntary ban on using certain types of animal protein for feed. They are now trying to decide how extensive a mandatory ban should be.

For the next 30 days, government officials will be asking anyone with information that would help them decide on the best rules for preventing the occurrence of mad cow disease in the United States to come forward.

The FDA and the Department of Agriculture have also invited British experts to a two-day meeting in Maryland to help them devise other ways to minimize the risk.

man eating

Americans seem to be taking little notice of what some consider a remote threat. Despite Britain's scare over mad cow disease, Americans are eating beef with a vengeance.

Industry surveys show they will cook 5 percent more beef this Memorial Day than they did last year. And 82 percent of consumers think beef is safe.

The U.S. government wants to keep it that way.

"The fact that we do not have Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy in the United States is a measure of the success of our risk management to date," said Dr. Will Hueston of the United States Department of Agriculture. (156K AIFF or WAV sound)

Officials are also looking at whether the rendering process -- in which leftover animal parts are melted down for feed and other products -- is sufficient to prevent the spread of disease.

"We're trying to make sure that the process used in this country to process animal feed or animals into rendered protein is effective in destroying the agent that causes BSE so that it cannot be transmitted to other animals," said Dr. Stephen Sundlof of the FDA.

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