FSIS Further Strengthens Protections Against Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)
All cattle slaughtered in federally inspected establishments in the United States are subject to inspection. FSIS inspectors examine cattle to identify any symptoms of disease, including signs of central nervous system impairment.
Cattle that are suspect for any reason are examined by an FSIS veterinarian to determine whether the animal is eligible for slaughter. Cattle that show signs of systemic illness and disease are condemned and not allowed into the human food supply. The brains from animals that exhibit signs of neurological impairment during inspection are submitted for testing and analysis by the USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratories.
USDA's surveillance program for BSE draws samples of high-risk cattle that are then tested for BSE. More information on testing for BSE is available from the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).
Effective December 30, 2003, carcasses from cattle intended for human food that are sampled and submitted to APHIS for BSE testing will be held until the sample is determined to be negative for BSE.
Effective December 30, 2003, USDA will not allow any non-ambulatory disabled cattle to be slaughtered for human food. Non-ambulatory disabled cattle are animals that cannot rise from a recumbent position or that are disabled (e.g., have a broken appendage).
Advanced Meat Recovery (AMR) is a technology that removes muscle tissue from the bone of carcasses under high pressure.
The AMR process cannot be operated in a manner to incorporate central nervous system tissue (e.g., spinal cord) or excessive amounts of bone solids (measured by calcium level), or bone marrow (measured by iron level). The product resulting from the AMR process is meat.
AMR products are usually blended with ground products derived from beef or pork trimmings. AMR is used in meat patties, links, sausages, chili products, sauces, soup bases, meat gravies, broth and flavorings.
FSIS policy gives a clear definition of meat (9 CFR 301.2 and 318.24) that does not include brain, trigeminal ganglia, spinal cord tissue, or dorsal root ganglia, all of which are central nervous system-type tissues. Therefore, product containing spinal cord tissue is not allowed to be called meat.
Yes. The new regulation amends the previous definition of meat to emphasize that in addition to spinal cord, brain, trigeminal ganglia, and dorsal root ganglia tissue are not permitted in meat.
Yes. In March 2003, FSIS began a routine regulatory sampling program to ensure that plants using AMR systems are preventing spinal cord from entering the food supply in products labeled as meat. The sampling program will be expanded to also test for the presence of dorsal root ganglia, and will include meat from beef and pork. Currently, there is no lamb prepared using AMR systems.
Establishments must ensure that bones going in to the AMR system do not contain fragments of brain, trigeminal ganglia, or spinal cord. In addition, the product exiting the system cannot have spinal cord or dorsal root ganglia. If FSIS observes any bones entering the AMR system with these central nervous system-type tissues, the product that is produced will not be allowed to be labeled as meat. In addition, if tests on the product exiting the AMR system identify the presence of spinal cord or dorsal root ganglia, inspection personnel will withhold marks of inspection from the establishment's AMR product and tag the AMR system itself, meaning neither the product nor the equipment can be used until satisfactory corrective action has been taken. If the establishment has distributed the sampled product then the product will be subject to recall. Inspection personnel conduct follow-up sampling to verify that the establishment has taken appropriate corrective action. AMR production will not be allowed to resume until FSIS determines that corrective actions have been successful.
Specified Risk Materials (SRMs) include the brain, skull, eyes trigeminal ganglia, spinal cord, vertebral column (excluding the vertebrae of the tail, the transverse processes of the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae, and the wings of the sacrum) and dorsal root ganglia of cattle 30 months of age and older. SRMs also include the tonsils and distal ileum of all cattle. However, in order to ensure that the distal ileum is removed, the entire small intestine shall be removed.
Science indicates that in animals with BSE, these materials harbor the infectious agent before the animal shows any clinical signs of disease. Canada took similar actions when a single case of BSE was discovered there in May 2003.
Brain and a portion of the small intestine could have been in products, but only if the product label indicated that these materials were present. Very few products contained these components. Tonsils have never been allowed in a meat product. Spinal cord tissue could only have been present in edible rendering.
Slaughter and processing establishments will be required to develop procedures to show that SRMs are removed from product. To ensure that SRMs are not present in meat, FSIS inspectors will verify that establishments are properly removing these tissues. In addition, FSIS will continue a strong regulatory verification testing program of product produced from AMR systems to ensure that spinal cord and dorsal root ganglia are not present in meat.
Also, because vertebral column and the skull of cattle older than 30 months will be considered inedible, these materials cannot be used in AMR systems.
Captive bolt stunning devices that inject air into the cranial cavity to stun cattle prior to slaughter can force visible pieces of central nervous system tissue into the circulatory system of cattle. This could present a risk of spreading BSE should it be present.
While no U.S. plants currently use air-injection stunning, by issuing this rule, FSIS will address the potential risk associated with imported products by prohibiting the import of beef products from foreign establishments that may use this stunning method.
Under the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) (21 U.S.C. 601 et seq.), FSIS issues regulations governing the production of meat and meat food products prepared for distribution in commerce.
Under the FMIA, a meat food product is adulterated if, among other circumstances, it bears or contains any poisonous or deleterious substance that may render it injurious to health (21 U.S.C. 601(m)) or if it is for any reason unsound, unhealthful, unwholesome, or unfit for human food (21 U.S.C. 601(m) (3)).