Update on Mad Cow - August 2004
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Update on Mad Cow - August 2004
by Michael Greger, MD
Within days of the first discovered mad cow in the U.S., the FDA promised that they were going to ban poultry manure and cow blood from cattle feed as recommended by an international panel of experts. Now, six months later, the FDA said that it "might not finalize all its animal feed rules until 2006." "This is a betrayal of a promise made to consumers to protect their health," said Jean Halloran, director of Consumers Union's Consumer Policy Institute.
The problem, according to FDA director Stephen Sundlof, is what to do with all the droppings of billions of chickens if we don't feed them to cattle? Some of it could be used as fertilizer, but, as the NYT article concluded, the "cows might pick up prions from grass."
This July they did finally exclude brains, spinal cords and eyes from older cows from lipstick, other cosmetics, skin conditioners, hair products, supplements and foods. Of course your flesh-eating friends and family may still be eating or applying the brains, eyes and spinal cords from younger cows, and only small intestines have been banned from human food. In Europe, all of the intestines are excluded from human food, from the small intestine down to the rectum, in part because there is concern that the colon may also be infectious.
Unfortunately the USDA has failed to follow Europe's example and has chosen not to exclude all cow and calf rectum, colon, and anus from the American food supply.
July 13th, the USDA's own Inspector General slammed the agency for "major flaws" in the USDA's mad cow surveillance program, criticizing the agency for inadequate training, failing to test animals most at risk in violation of international standards, and an "almost complete absence" of testing documentation.
The third big mad cow story in July was the publication of "Unrecognized French BSE Epidemic" in the international scientific review journal Veterinary Research by France's official Institute of Health and Medical Research. They showed that France vastly underestimated their mad cow disease epidemic. The report estimated that over 300,000 French cows contracted the disease--300 times more than officially recorded by the government--and almost 50,000 severely infected animals made it into the French food supply. 
Unfortunately we seem to be following the French governments lead in covering up our own mad cow crisis.
29 USA TODAY 12 July 2004.
30 Consumers Union news release 9 July 2004.
31 Omaha World-Herald 10 July 2004.
32 The New York Times 10 July 2004.
33 Official Journal of the European Communities. Commission Decision of 27 December 2000. http://europa.eu.int/comm/food/fs/bse/bse23_en.pdf
34 European Scientific Steering Committee. Listing of Specified Risk Materials. http://europa.eu.int/comm/food/fs/sc/ssc/out22_en.pdf .
35 Scripps Howard News Service 13 July 2004.
36 SUNDAY TELEGRAPH (LONDON) 4 July 2004.
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