Log in Subscribe Join Grass Roots Action

AMI Expresses Support for USDA's Package of New BSE Regulations

Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Minutes after USDA Secretary Ann Veneman announced new measures in response to the nation's single case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) yesterday, AMI's senior staff organized a national teleconference to commend USDA for its vigilance and express AMI's belief that these regulations will surely maintain consumer confidence in the safety of the U.S. beef supply.

"It is understandable, and in fact prudent, for USDA to review our nation's regulatory firewalls that protect against BSE," AMI President J. Patrick Boyle told a national audience of reporters and editors yesterday. "Although these extraordinary new measures are very aggressive and indeed go well beyond international standards, we recognize that they were developed in an effort to protect our cattle herd and to reinforce consumer confidence in beef safety."

Boyle also urged U.S. trading partners to take notice of the swift federal response.

"In the wake of these announcements, our trading partners must consider an immediate reestablishment of beef trade with the United States," he said.

In her statement, Veneman reiterated that the risk of BSE spreading within the United States is low, again citing Harvard University's BSE Risk Assessment studies, and pledged that "sound science will be our guide" as the agency moves forward with its new rules.

Specifically, USDA made the following revisions:

· A ban on non-ambulatory livestock for human consumption. Despite this change, USDA said it would increase BSE surveillance of at-risk animals. Existing surveillance exceeds international standards by more than 40 times.

· A ban on specified risk materials. SRMs, including skull, brain, trigeminal ganglia, eyes, spinal cord, small intestine and the dorsal root ganglia from cattle over 30 months of age and the small intestine of cattle of all ages will be prohibited from the food supply. Tonsils from all cattle are already considered inedible and do not enter the food supply.

· Immediate implementation of a national animal ID system to track the nation's livestock from point of origin through food production, an initiative AMI has strongly supported.

· New regulations on meat advanced meat recovery. Spinal cord, which is already prohibited, and dorsal root ganglia, plus meat derived from the skull will be prohibited in product derived by advanced meat recovery systems.

· Mandatory carcass test-and-hold. USDA will require that beef carcasses and beef products from animals undergoing BSE testing must be withheld from the food supply pending test results. This is already a routine practice at many of the nation’s beef plants, AMI noted.

· Ban on air injection stunning. Air-injected stunners are officially banned, although such systems are no longer manufactured and are not in use in the industry.

· Ban on mechanically separated meat, a product that is no longer produced in the industry, having been supplanted more than a decade ago by product from advanced meat recovery systems.

Because downer animals were an integral checkpoint in USDA's ongoing BSE surveillance, questions arose regarding the impact the ban on use of such cattle as food animals would have on BSE testing. Veneman explained that USDA would continue to identify high-risk and determine "other means" of targeting these animals, in addition to identifying them at packing plants.

Veneman also announced the appointment of a scientific panel to review USDA's response to the BSE case, its ongoing investigation surrounding the index cow and the agency's BSE surveillance system. This panel will be similar to that established by Canada and would include those international experts who advised the Canadian government earlier this year.

For more information on the new regulations, visit www.usda.gov.

For additional scientific background on BSE, be sure to visit www.MeatAMI.com and click on the "For more information about BSE" link on the home page.

 share on facebook  share on twitter