Effort to expand livestock feed restrictions continues
—Draft plan under review
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced last week that it has made significant progress toward a change in policy for eliminating all bovine materials in livestock feed.
FDA initially banned the feeding of bovine materials to cattle in 1997, but the rule did not cover certain feeding practices and left potential loopholes in the feed ban. The most serious concerns lie in the potential for cross contamination of feed during the milling process and the possibility of cattle being fed a ration containing banned materials accidentally.
In January 2004, former FDA Commissioner, Mark McClellan announced the agency planned to take action to clarify uncertainties in the feed ban which did not address the feeding of cattle with materials such as plate scrapings and chicken litter. McClellan also addressed the possibility of eliminating the use of bovine specified risk material (SRM) from all livestock feed. By strengthening current feed ban measures, FDA hoped to prevent all potential transmission methods of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) from entering the bovine food supply.
On July 14, 2004, the FDA unveiled the advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) which announced the agency intended to ban from livestock feed all products it determined to be a risk for spreading BSE. The prohibited products included items such as the brain, skull and spinal cord from cattle 30 months and older; also included were the intestinal tract and tonsils from cattle of all ages. The agency also included the possibility of removing downer cattle from the animal food chain in the ANPR announcement.
A ban of rendered SRMs and downer cattle from animal feed could have an enormous impact on the entire livestock industry. In an August 2004 letter to FDA, the American Meat Institute (AMI) estimated financial impact at more than $125 million annually. Both rendering plants and feed mills would experience the bulk of the impact. However, producers will also experience an increase in render fees when the value of a rendered animal is eliminated by the ban.
In addition to the monetary damage, the ban would send an estimated 1.4 billion tons of bovine rendering waste to landfills each year. In the course of their comments to FDA, AMI urged the agency to weigh the industry impacts and base any future rules on scientifically valid observations. AMI’s comments concluded that current scientific studies do not necessarily validate the measures being weighed by the agency.
FDA has considered public comments from interested parties and made changes to the original proposed rule. The revisions, which have not been released, are being circulated among FDA officials as the agency considers whether to publish the regulation. Once published, the rule will go through an additional public comment period prior to being implemented. — John Robinson, WLJ Associate Editor
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