CHICAGO, April 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT), a Chicago-based non-profit national organization that educates the public about the dangers of foodborne illnesses, has urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to take four more aggressive steps to prevent an outbreak of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), or Mad Cow Disease, in the United States. The recommendations of FACT are: 1. Prohibiting blood and blood products in animal feeds; 2. Better enforcement of rules against commingling feeds for different types of farm animals; 3. More and better surveillance of cattle for the possible presence of BSE in the United States; 4. Investment in developing new and better testing for the presence of BSE. "While considerable progress has been made, the simple fact is that more needs to be done," said Rich Wood, Executive Director of FACT. Wood said that new evidence disputes the FDA's research from several years ago stating blood does not convey the BSE infective agent. "Unless we ban these products, there is still cause for concern about Mad Cow Disease in the U.S.," according to Wood. "There is a very disturbing disconnection here, in that, on the one hand human health officials have banned prolonged visitors to the United Kingdom from giving blood in the U.S., while on the other hand, federal agencies continue to allow blood and blood products in animal feed." A second problem that may allow for the presence of Mad Cow Disease in the U.S. involves rendering and feed mill practices that produce products for both ruminant (cud-chewing animals like cattle which can get BSE) and non-ruminant feeds (such as for pigs and which have less stringent feed requirements). Wood said that the area of greatest concern to FACT has to do with the continued lack of procedures to prevent commingling of feed types. In the most recent report: -- 14% of the renderers do not have a system to prevent commingling; -- 13% of the licensed feed mills and 18% of non-licensed feed mills have no system to prevent commingling; -- Approximately 2,000 non-licensed feed mills have yet to be inspected for compliance. The FDA rule requires clean out between these feed preparations and for the storage and hauling of the feed. Scientists now believe that the early spread of Mad Cow Disease in the United Kingdom was due to the failure of feed mills to segregate out potentially infected feed provided for cattle. According to Wood, "If the American public is going to rely on a feed-ban to protect itself from the mad cow disease, the failure to clean out between batches is extremely dangerous. FACT calls on the FDA to revise the rule and require plants that prepare feed for both ruminants and non-ruminants to completely segregate all mixing, storing, and hauling processes. The evidence of failure is too strong to put both cattle and people at risk." FACT also believes the FDA and the USDA need to significantly increase the sample sizes in their surveillance programs for the presence of BSE in the U.S. "The U.S. tested only 12,000 cows over the past ten years, while Switzerland now tests one out of 60 cows. FACT calls on the USDA to increase its sample size," Wood said. Even though most of the BSE cases have been found in dairy cattle, the early slaughter age of beef cattle may mask the existence of BSE in these livestock as well. The scientific literature indicates that cattle become infected with BSE usually between 1 and 2 years of age and that the disease has an incubation period of about 5 years. Beef cattle are customarily slaughtered at 18 months, when infection may occur but long before the disease becomes apparent. This early slaughter age in itself requires increased surveillance by U.S. federal agencies. Wood added, "In the long-term, FACT believes our best hope is to develop a rapid, inexpensive test to detect the presence of BSE in living cattle. We were delighted to learn that $5 million has been designated by the USDA for research in this area. In the U.S., this diagnostic tool could provide the U.S. cattle industry with an added safeguard and offer an alternative to the current European practice where the entire herd is destroyed if one cow is found to have the disease." FACT, an organization with 30,000 individual supporters nationwide, supports increased funding for our federal agencies' BSE work. In the past, FACT has been involved in: developing a federal strategy to keep U.S. cattle free of BSE, developing the FDA rule to prohibit mammalian protein in ruminant feed in 1997, and was a part of a CVM training event for feed-mill managers on this rule.
SOURCE Food Animal Concerns Trust