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MAD COW DISEASE: Improvements in the Animal Feed Ban and Other Regulatory Areas Would Strengthen U.S. Prevention Efforts

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While BSE has not been found in the United States, federal actions do not sufficiently ensure that all BSE-infected animals or products are kept out or that if BSE were found, it would be detected promptly and not spread to other cattle through animal feed or enter the human food supply. With regard to imports, the United States had imported about 125 million pounds of beef 0.35 percent of total imported and about 1,000 cattle 0.003 percent of total imported from countries that later discovered BSE during the period when BSE would have been incubating. In addition, weaknesses in USDAs and FDAs import controls, such as inspection capacity that has not kept pace with the growth in imports, may allow BSE-infected products to enter the country. With regard to animal testing to detect BSE, although USDA has steadily increased the number of animals it tests,it does not include many animals that die on farms. Experts consider these animals a high-risk population. Concerning the feed ban, FDA has not acted promptly to compel firms to keep prohibited proteins out of cattle feed and to label animal feed that cannot be fed to cattle. We identified some noncompliant firms that had not been reinspected for 2 or more years and instances when no enforcement action had occurred even though the firms had been found noncompliant on multiple inspections. Moreover, FDA s data on inspections are severely flawed and,as a result, FDA does not know the full extent of industry compliance. FDA acknowledges that it has not yet identified and inspected all firms subject to the ban. In terms of the public health risk, consumers do not always know when foods and other products they use may contain central nervous system tissue, which, according to scientific experts, could pose a health risk if taken from diseased animals.

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  • Agricultural Economics

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