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AMI Statement: USDA's Revised BSE Regulatory Response

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

(Attribute statement to J. Patrick Boyle, AMI President and CEO)

It is understandable and prudent for USDA to review our nation's regulatory firewalls that protect against BSE. The new measures announced today are very aggressive and indeed extraordinary measures that go well beyond international standards in an effort to protect cattle herds and to bolster consumer confidence in beef safety. In the wake of these announcements, our trading partners must consider an immediate reestablishment of beef trade with the United States.

Specifically, USDA proposes the following changes:

A ban on Specified Risk Materials (SRMs): USDA will implement a ban on SRMs similar to that implemented by the Canadian government. This response is modeled after the more extreme precautions required in European countries that suffered from serious and significant outbreaks of BSE during the 1990s. Although this ban goes well beyond international standards, we recognize the government’s desire to provide additional measures of protection and reassure trading partners that we are taking action.

Increased BSE surveillance: USDA plans to increase its BSE surveillance of live animals. Existing surveillance exceeds international standards by more than 40 times. Expanded surveillance will enhance detection capabilities and provide even greater reassurances that BSE will be detected if present in U.S. herds.

Establishment of a national animal ID system: We applaud this announcement because it will dramatically enhance animal disease investigations. AMI has a policy in place supporting mandatory animal traceability.

New restrictions on meat derived by advanced meat recovery: Spinal cord, which is currently prohibited, and dorsal root ganglia will be prohibited in meat derived by advanced meat recovery equipment. We are confident in the safety of beef derived by advanced meat recovery today because central nervous system tissues are removed from bones prior to processing in AMR equipment today. USDA test data confirm that current procedures are effective in removing these tissues.

Mandatory 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 a prudent measure and is already routine practice at many of the nation’s beef plants. As BSE surveillance increases, certainly, there will be some logistical challenges and costs associated with this new requirement, but we believe it is essential to maintaining consumer confidence.

Ban on non-ambulatory livestock for human consumption: The majority of non-ambulatory livestock if inspected and passed by a USDA veterinarian are safe for human consumption. USDA’s decision today goes beyond what is necessary pursuant to international trading standards and we hope and expect that it will reassure our trading partners.

Ban on air injection stunning: Air-injected stunners are no longer manufactured. AMI called upon its members to discontinue use of these stunners more than five years ago and to our knowledge, no such equipment is in use in plants.

Ban on mechanically separated meat: To our knowledge, mechanically separated beef is not produced in the U.S. at this time.

We applaud USDA’s efforts to respond rapidly as information becomes available. We encourage the Department to continue to use the best available science to protect livestock herds and bolster consumer confidence.

For more information contact:
Dan Murphy
Vice President, Public Affairs
Janet Riley
Sr. VP, Public Affairs

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