Valley cattle producers not concerned with mad cow report

January 28, 2001|By ERIKA BUCK, Special to this newspaper

WASHINGTON (MNS) — Reports that a cattle feed producer in Texas may have violated rules aimed at keeping mad cow disease out of the food chain have not raised concerns among Imperial Valley cattle producers.

At the same time, the cattle industry and federal regulators remain vigilant in their effort to keep mad cow disease from appearing in the United States.

U.S. regulators announced Thursday they had quarantined some cattle in Texas while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration investigated whether the cattle were accidentally fed meat and bone meal made from other cattle.

The FDA in 1997 prohibited the use of animal protein-based feed for cows and other ruminant animals. Cattle can contract mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, from feed made from animals infected with the disease.


FDA officials said they plan to step up inspection efforts after discovering that not all feed producers have adhered to anti-mad cow regulations.

No cases of mad cow disease have been confirmed in the United States, according to the FDA.

‘‘Even if the cattle ate bone meal, if it came from U.S. cattle, there wouldn't be any BSE in it,'' said Bill Brandenberg, co-owner and manager of Meloland Cattle in El Centro.

The first case of BSE in Britain was detected in 1986 and quickly became an epidemic there. More than 80 people in Britain have died from the disease's human form, known as Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, and several BSE cases have been detected in other European countries.

The cattle industry instituted a voluntary ban on feeding cattle animal-based feeds in 1989. Brandenberg said.

‘‘The (U.S.) cattle industry has been very sensitive to the panic in Europe,'' he said. ‘‘We feel pretty comfortable in terms of the safeguards we've put up.''

Still, the cattle industry wants the federal government to implement stronger import controls on foreign cattle, according to Brandenberg. The subject is expected to be a hot topic at next week's national cattle industry meeting in San Antonio.

The U.S. Agriculture Department recently contracted with Harvard University to study possible weaknesses in the government's import barriers.

‘‘This is one area where we can't rest on our laurels at all,'' said then undersecretary for food safety Catherine E. Wotecki at a press conference last week.

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