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U.S. Violates WHO Guidelines for Mad Cow Disease
Michael Greger, MD
Organic Consumers Organization
July, 2003

Since 1996, the World Health Organization has recommended that all countries stop feeding prion infected animals to other animals, yet the U.S. government continues to allow deer infected with chronic wasting disease to be rendered into animal feed,[274] and the industry continues to oppose any proposed change in the law.[275]

Since 1996, the World Health Organization has recommended that all countries test their downer cattle for mad cow disease, yet the U.S. government continues to test but a tiny fraction of this high risk population. The beef industry calls U.S. surveillance "aggressive" and doesn't think more testing is necessary[276]. The world's authority on these diseases just calls it "appalling."[277]

Since 1996, the World Health Organization has recommended that all countries remove beef products containing risky organs like spinal cord from the human food supply. The U.S. government continues to refuse to implement such a measure, and the industry continues to oppose it, referring to such products as nothing but "wholesome."[278]

Since 1996, the World Health Organization has recommended that all countries stop feeding risky cattle organs like brains to all livestock. The U.S. government is considering it. The American Meat Institute, and 14 other industry groups remain vocally opposed.[279]

And, Since 1996, the World Health Organization has recommended that all countries stop feeding any remains of cows to cows, yet the U.S. government still allows dairy farmers to feed calves gallons worth of cow blood and fat collected at the slaughterhouse.[280] Industry representatives continue to actively support this practice.[281]

In 2002, the USDA requested feedback on a number of options for further preventive measures, including a total ban on allowing the brains and spinal cords from downer cattle in the human food supply.[282] The spokesperson for the American Meat Institute explained that the meatpacking industry would take a "significant hit" financially if the USDA enacted such a proposal.[283]

The American Meat Institute explained that spinal cords pose no health risk, "because the U.S. is BSE-free."[284] Despite grossly inadequate surveillance for the disease, when asked if we have BSE in U.S. cattle, the American Meat Institute in 2002 emphatically replied, "No, BSE is a foreign animal disease." They stressed that, "The fact that we share no physical borders with any affected nations has been a key means of protecting our cattle."[285]

Now that mad cow disease has been discovered in North America, the USDA should immediately enact measures to prevent human exposure by issuing an emergency interim rule to ban products that may contain the agent that causes mad cow disease.[286] So far, though, according to an agency spokesperson, the USDA isn't even discussing plans to increase testing for the disease.[287]

Years ago, once mad cow disease started appearing up in Europe, David Byrne, the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, immediately called for a comprehensive Europe-wide surveillance program to test every cow slaughtered for human consumption over a certain age. Commenting on the program he said, "One of the major lessons I have learned in dealing with BSE is that the political establishment must be fully transparent with the public on the issue. There must be no hidden agendas. No distortions. No false assurances. Transparency, information and open dialogue must guide our actions."[288] The United States could learn from Europe's experience.


[274] Guidance for Industry: Use of Material from Deer and Elk in Animal Feed. 14 May 2003.
[275] American Feed Industry Organization. Feedgram. 30 April 2002.
[276] "Critics say U.S. needs to do more to protect against mad cow." The Journal News (New York) 29 May 2003.
[277] Mad Cow Disease in Canada. May 23, 2003 9:00am KQED Forum hosted by Angie Coiro.
[278] Referring to mechanically separated meat [American Meat Institute Fact Sheet. Meat Derived by Advanced Meat Recovery. October 2002.]
[279] "FDA changes in feed restriction won't reduce BSE risk, industry groups say." by Dan Murphy on 1/15/03 for www.meatingplace.com.
[280] Based on average 7.9 week weaning period [USDA Dairy Herd Management Practices Focusing on Preweaned Heifers N129.0793. July 1993.]
[281] Testimony of Richard Sellers, Vice President for Feed Control & Nutrition, American Feed Industry Association, before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs. 4 April 2001 Washington, DC.
[282] USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. Current Thinking on Measures that Could be Implemented to Minimize Human Exposure to Materials that Could Potentially Contain the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy Agent. 15 January 2002.
[283] US Meat Groups Oppose BSE Rules. January 21, 2002 Farms.com.
[284] American Meat Institute Fact Sheet. Meat Derived by Advanced Meat Recovery. October 2002.
[285] AMI Fact Sheet Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy. November 2002.
[286] USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. Current Thinking on Measures that Could be Implemented to Minimize Human Exposure to Materials that Could Potentially Contain the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy Agent. 15 January 2002.
[287] The Journal News (New York) 29 May 2003.
[288] European Commission press release IP/00/1289. Brussels, 13 November 2000.
[289] David Bossman quoted in USA Today, June 3, 2003.
[290] FDA Veterinarian Newsletter. Volume XVII, No. VI. November/December 2002.
[291] USA Today, June 10, 2003.
[292] Associated Press, Frederic J. Frommer, July 14, 2003.


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