Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), or "Mad Cow Disease"
as it is more commonly called, is a fatal and transmissible
animal disease that affects the central nervous system of
adult cattle. The first diagnosis of BSE was made in Great
Britain in 1986. Cattle became infected after eating feed
that contained a particular protein. The disease is most likely
spread by feeding rendered parts of cattle infected with BSE
to other cattle in the form of meat and bone meal.
In 1997, the U. S. Food and Drug Administration prohibited
the use of feed containing the proteins that cause BSE. On
December 23, 2003, Secretary of Agriculture, Ann M. Veneman
announced that there was a "presumptive positive" case for
BSE in the United States. The next day, the Food Safety and
Inspection Service (FSIS) initiated a Class II recall of 10,410
pounds of meat from the group of 20 animals slaughtered at
the plant that day. Testing continued in the United Kingdom,
where it was confirmed positive on December 25, 2003.
On December 30, Secretary Veneman announced a number of safeguards
to protect the public health and enhance protection against
BSE, including the immediate banning of non-ambulatory disabled
cattle from the human food supply.
On January 8, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced
three rules and a Notice. The rules went into effect on January
12. The ban on slaughter of non-ambulatory disabled cattle
took effect upon the Secretary's announcement.
Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy Surveillance Program
This notice announced that FSIS inspectors will no longer
mark cattle tested for BSE as "inspected and passed" until
confirmation is received by both FSIS and the plant that the
cattle have, in fact, tested negative for BSE. Prohibition
of the Use of Specified Risk Materials for Human Food This
interim final rule declares that skull, brain, trigeminal
ganglia, eyes, vertebral column, spinal cord and dorsal root
ganglia of cattle 30 months of age or older and the distal
ileum and tonsils of all cattle are specified risk materials
and cannot be used in human food. Tonsils from all cattle
were already prohibited. In this rule, FSIS is requiring federally
inspected establishments that slaughter cattle to remove,
segregate and dispose of these specified risk materials so
that they cannot possibly enter the food chain. To ensure
effective removal of the distal ileum, the establishment is
required to remove the entire small intestine from all cattle.
To facilitate the enforcement of this rule, FSIS has developed
procedures for verifying the approximate age of cattle that
are slaughtered in official establishments. State inspected
plants must have equivalent procedures in place to prevent
these specified risk materials from entering the food supply.
Meat Produced by Advanced Meat/Bone Separation Machinery
and Meat Recovery (AMR) Systems
AMR is a technology that removes muscle tissue from the bone
of beef carcasses under high pressure without incorporating
bone material. AMR product can be labeled as "meat." FSIS
has previously established and enforced regulations that prohibit
spinal cord from being included in products labeled as "meat."
This interim final rule prohibits dorsal root ganglia, clusters
of nerve cells connected to the spinal cord along the vertebral
column, in addition to spinal cord tissue. In addition, because
the vertebral column and skull in cattle 30 months and older
will be considered inedible, they cannot be used for AMR.
Prohibition of the Use of Certain Stunning Devices
Used to Immobilize Cattle During Slaughter
To ensure that portions of the brain are not dislocated into
the tissues of the carcass as a consequence of humanely stunning
cattle during the slaughter process, this interim final rule
bans the practice of air-injection stunning.