US Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) new rule that takes effect in April 2009, bans U.S. makers of pet food and all other animal feed from using certain materials from cattle at high risk for spreading mad cow disease.
The rule finalized on Wednesday by FDA sought to exclude high-risk materials from cattle 30 months of age or older, from all animal feed. The move is to prevent any accidental "cross-contamination between ruminant feed (intended for animals such as cattle) and non-ruminant feed or feed ingredients."
Following a mad cow disease outbreak in Britain in 1997, Canada and the United States banned the inclusion of protein from cows and other ruminant animals such as goats and sheep in cattle feed.
It has been observed that there are chances of contamination during manufacture, transport or through the accidental misfeeding of non-ruminant feed to ruminant animals.
A list of U.S. safeguards against mad cow disease include the feed ban, a prohibition against slaughtering animals too sick to walk on their own—for human food, and a requirement for meatpackers to remove from carcasses the brains, spinal cords and other cattle parts that are most likely to carry the malformed proteins known to cause the disease.
Mad cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is a fatal, brain-degenerating disease believed to be spread by contaminated feed. Scientists believe that eating contaminated parts from an infected animal can spread a human version of the disease known as Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, or vCJD.
Three cases of mad cow disease were cited in the US, including the first one detected in December 2003. It brought U.S. beef exports to a sudden halt. U.S. officials have been gradually working to resume beef shipments.
Last week, South Korea officially announced it would open its market to U.S. beef imports in stages, following Washington stepping up its safety standards.
The FDA ban issued Wednesday finalizes a proposed rule that was floated for public comment in October 2005. It goes into effect on April 23, 2009.
According to the FDA the rule is effective 12 months from Wednesday in order to allow the livestock, meat, rendering, and feed industries sufficient time to adapt their practices to comply with the new FDA regulation.