FDA reopens comment period on BSE rule

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is once again taking comments on a rule governing which cow parts can be used in human food and cosmetics, following recent research on bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or mad cow).

The rule, called “use of materials derived from cattle in human food and cosmetics”, aims to protect humans from exposure to BSE by prohibiting the use of some cow parts in food, cosmetics and other products, according to the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

BSE is a progressive, neurological disease that causes aggression, loss of coordination, decreased milk production, and finally, death.  The human disease Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease has been linked to the same agent that causes BSE called prions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Under the rule, amended in 2005, certain parts of cow intestine may be used in food, cosmetics and dietary supplements as long as a part called the distal ileum has been removed. However, since the rule was amended, studies have shown “trace levels of infectivity” in intestines from BSE-positive cattle, outside of the distal ileum. The levels were much lower than found in the distal ileum, according to FDA.

Given the extreme low levels, “FDA believes that the levels of infectivity are so low that they do not pose a significant health risk to humans or ruminants in the U.S.,” the agency notes in the statement.

To this end, FDA has reopened the comment period on the rule. Those who would like to comment can visit the Federal Register posting here for more information.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the U.S. most likely would be moved from a “controlled” rating to a “negligible” risk rating for BSE under World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) standards.

“Negligible” is the lowest level of risk under OIE and indicates the U.S. has conducted thorough testing and surveillance in its domestic cattle herd.

Early last year, the U.S.’ fourth case of BSE was confirmed in a California dairy cow. The cow was not destined for human consumption. BSE is not transmitted through milk.

Safeguards against the disease have been credited with the dramatic drop in BSE cases – there were only 29 cases globally in 2011, down from a high of 37,311 in 1992.

In 2004, the USDA used Neogen’s GeneSeek laboratory to verify the origin of the first animal diagnosed with BSE in the U.S.


For more coverage from Neogen blog on BSE, click here.

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