Downer cow slips through system

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WASHINGTON – The cow staggered and fell as it went to slaughter April 27 at Lone Star Beef in San Angelo, Texas.

A USDA veterinarian condemned the animal, which meant the next step was for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to collect samples for testing.

That never happened.

The animal was sent to rendering.

Mistake discovered. As a condemned cow, there was never any risk of the animal entering the food chain, but it could have entered the system as material in livestock feed.

By the time the Food and Drug Administration investigation began April 30, the animal had already been rendered into meat and bone meal, a type of protein animal feed.

All material found. The FDA was able, however, to track down all the material. It is being held by the firm, which is cooperating with the inspectors.

The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for the safety of animal feed.

FDA investigators inspected the slaughterhouse, the rendering facility, the farm where the animal came from and the processor that initially received the cow from the slaughterhouse.

OK for swine feed. The FDA will permit the use of the material in swine feed only, because pigs have been shown not to be susceptible to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease.

If the firm uses the material for swine feed, FDA will track the material through the supply chain from the processor to the farm to ensure the feed is properly monitored and used only as pig feed.

USDA officials are investigating the case and “will take appropriate actions once all information is available,” said a joint statement from APHIS and USDA’s Food Safety & Inspection Service.

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