Friday, August 19, 2005

1,036 notices given over mad-cow rules

This Aug. 16 AP article by Libby Quaid states that USDA inspectors gave 1,036 violations to slaughterhouses or processing plants for failing to comply with rules created to prevent the spread of mad cow disease. The preventative rules require that brains, spinal cords and other nerve parts be removed when older cows are slaughtered. The at-risk tissues are removed from cows older than 30 months because infection levels are believed to rise with age. The department released the information in response to requests made by several groups under the federal Freedom of Information Act. The records were from January 2004, when the rules went into effect, through May of this year. One of the groups, Public Citizen, said the records showed serious problems in enforcing the rules. For example, there were mistakes in identifying animals' ages, which affected whether at-risk tissues were removed. Interesting "bright line" comment: Removal of nerve tissues is important but doesn't guarantee the safety of the food supply, said Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at Consumers Union. "We've always had a dispute with the bright line USDA seems to draw between dangerous parts of the animal and safe parts of the animal," Halloran said. "There's a lot we don't know. There's nothing absolute about 30 months. It's not a magic number." The USDA assures that no contaminated meat reached consumers.

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