YONKERS, N.Y. -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's latest proposal on animal feed restrictions does not go far enough to prevent the spread of mad cow disease, according to Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine.
"We're shocked," CU senior scientist Michael Hansen told SN. "The proposal is much weaker than we had ever expected based on earlier assurances from the agency."
Issued earlier this month, FDA's plan allows materials that the CU had expected to be banned, as well as materials from cows under the age of 30 months to be used in feed. The CU contends the allowances leave the nation vulnerable to the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease.
"They seem to be trading off human health and animal health to minimize the impact on the [meat] industry and to minimize a disposal problem," Hansen said. "They're allowing the inclusion of [specific risk materials] that should be eliminated. All SRMs need to be eliminated, and from 12-month-old animals. This proposal requires elimination of only brains and spinal cords from 30-month-old cattle."
That means eyeballs, skulls, parts of the vertebrae column and the intestines can be used in feed, Hansen said. The CU has called the feeding of these body parts to food animals dangerous. Blood and blood products are also permitted.
"This is weaker than Canada's [proposal]. We're not learning from history. It was only after the [United Kingdom] banned all mammalian protein from food animal feed that there was a drop-off in BSE cases. Our position is that the FDA should, like the U.K., ban the feeding of all mammalian proteins to food animals," Hansen said.
Following the FDA's announcement, the CU said the proposal to eliminate 30-month-old cattle's brains and spinal cords from animal feed still leaves the U.S. exposed to the threat of mad cow disease.
"The new FDA rule would allow the brains of younger cattle, as well as the rest of the carcass, to be fed to pigs and chickens, and pigs and chickens to be fed to cows. Cow blood could also still be fed to calves as milk replacer. The FDA said in January 2004 that it was banning these dangerous materials but never acted on its promise."
The government's procedures require the FDA to consider all comments before issuing a final ruling. A 75-day comment period has just begun and the CU will submit a formal opinion to the FDA. Meanwhile, on its Web site, notinmyfood.org, CU urges consumers and organizations to file comments demanding stronger restrictions.