April 29, 2008 — /FDA NEWS/ — On April 24, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a final regulation barring certain cattle materials from all animal feed, including pet food. The final rule further protects animals and consumers against bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, also known as “mad cow disease”).
“This FDA action serves to further protect the U.S. cattle population from the already low risk of BSE,” said Dr. Bernadette Dunham, Director of FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine. “The new rule strengthens existing safeguards.” The new measure builds on FDA’s 1997 feed regulation, which prohibited the use of certain mammalian proteins in ruminant feed.
The materials that can no longer be used in animal feed are the tissues that have the highest risk for carrying the agent thought to cause BSE. These high risk cattle materials are the brains and spinal cords from cattle 30 months of age and older. The entire carcass of cattle not inspected and passed for human consumption is also prohibited, unless the cattle are less than 30 months of age, or the brains and spinal cords have been removed. The risk of BSE in cattle less than 30 months of age is considered to be exceedingly low.
The removal of high-risk materials from all animal feed will further protect against inadvertent transmission of the agent thought to cause BSE, which could occur through cross-contamination of ruminant feed (intended for animals with four-chambered stomachs, such as cattle) with non-ruminant feed or feed ingredients during manufacture and transport, or through misfeeding of non-ruminant feed to ruminants on the farm. The added measure of excluding high-risk materials from all animal feeds prevents any accidental feeding of such ingredients to cattle.
Today’s regulation finalizes a proposed rule that the FDA issued for public comment in October 2005. The final rule is effective 12 months from today to allow the livestock, meat, rendering, and feed industries time to adapt their practices to comply with the new regulation. Under the new requirements of the final rule, renderers that process cattle not inspected and passed for human consumption must make available for FDA inspection their written protocols for determining the age of cattle and demonstrating that the brain and spinal cords of cattle have been effectively removed.
Scientific studies have linked BSE to cases of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) in humans, an invariably fatal disease that most likely results from human consumption of infectious material from cattle with BSE. Rules issued in 2004 prohibited specified risk materials from use in the human food supply. There have been no vCJD cases linked to consumption of U.S. beef and the risk of BSE among U.S. cattle is low.
FDA regulates animal feed and drugs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and FDA promulgate and enforce the regulations that ensure the exclusion of specific risk materials from the human food supply.
For more information about the FDA’s work on BSE, go to