New safeguards in place against mad cow disease


SALEM, Ohio – They’ve been under consideration for many months, in the wake of the Canadian BSE case in May 2003. But it took a single confirmation of mad cow disease in Washington state to kick the USDA into high gear.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman announced additional measures to guard against BSE, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, last week.

Nonambulatory animals. Effective immediately, USDA banned all nonambulatory, disabled cattle from the human food chain.

Many states, including Ohio, followed suit.

Once a trailer arrives at a slaughter plant, USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service personnel will check whether any cattle are nonambulatory.

If an inspector finds a downer cow, he will condemn the animal and the establishment must euthanize the cow and it will go off to appropriate denaturing.

It is thought the mad cow disease-causing prions, or proteins, can be inactivated by denaturing them with extreme heat or certain chemical agents.

Cattle that show up at slaughter and become nonambulatory will still be targeted for testing.

‘Test and hold.’ New measures also require that meat processors must hold meat while tissue samples of animals are routinely tested.

Any cattle or calves checked by a vet and determined to be suspect for disease may be slaughtered, but the meat must be held while the test result is pending.

USDA inspectors will no longer mark cattle tested for BSE as “inspected and passed” until confirmation is received that the cattle tested negative.

Other material banned. The USDA also declared additional “specified risk materials” that are also prohibited for use in the human food supply: skull, brain, trigeminal ganglia, eyes, vertebral column, spinal cord and dorsal root ganglia of cattle over 30 months of age. Also prohibited are the small intestine of cattle of all ages.

Tonsils are already considered inedible and do not enter the food supply.

Sate-inspected plants must have equivalent procedures in place.

Meat recovery. The new policy also bans processors using Advanced Meat Recovery (AMR) from using dorsal root ganglia, vertebral column, skull and spinal cord tissue in products.

This high tech, high pressure meat recovery process removes muscle tissue from the bone of beef carcasses without incorporating bone material. This product can then be labeled as “meat.”

Previous USDA regulations prohibit spinal cord from inclusion in products labeled as “meat.”

Stunning. The new policy also bans the practice of air-injection stunning.

Even though the process is considered a humane method, it has the potential to dislodge portions of the brain into tissues.

Mechanical separation. The USDA is also banning the use of mechanically separated meat in human food.


Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!