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AGRICULTURE REPORT – New Rules to Fight Mad Cow - 2004-01-05

Broadcast: January 6, 2004

This is the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

Last week, American Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman announced new rules to protect the nation’s food supply from Mad Cow Disease. The rules represent the government’s reaction to the first American case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or B-S-E. A form of B-S-E, Cruetzfeldt-Jakob Disease, can infect people. An estimated one-hundred-fifty people worldwide died from the disease since nineteen-eighty-six.

The first and most important new rule bans the use of what the cattle industry calls downer cattle. Such animals are too sickly or injured to walk. In the past, over one-hundred-fifty-thousand downer cattle were killed for food each year. About five percent of them were tested for disease. Now, meat from downer cattle will not be permitted in human food.

In addition, the Department of Agriculture will not mark meat as inspected and passed until tests show that it is without disease. In the past, meat was prepared for market before testing had been completed. This is how meat for the first American case of Mad Cow Disease entered the food supply.

On December ninth, a downer cow was identified in Washington State. Part of the cow’s nervous system was tested. The rest of the nervous system was taken for use as something other than human food. The meat was sent to several states and the island of Guam. America’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories confirmed the case thirteen days later. The new rules require companies to hold the meat from suspect cattle until tests show that they are without disease.

The Agriculture Department also will ban some parts of cattle from the human food supply. The parts include the eyes, brain, and nervous system material from the back and bottom of the head. This will be required for cattle older than thirty months of age. The small intestine of all cattle will be banned from human food.

Two other measures will be put in place. A system used to kill cattle called air-injection stunning will be banned. The method is believed to spread brain tissue throughout the body of the animal. And, meat that is mechanically removed from bones will no longer be used for human food.

The rules are meant to ease fears of Americans and of beef importers. Currently, more than thirty countries have banned American beef.

This VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by Mario Ritter.