From farm to table: Part 1

by Emily Wilson
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American feed manufacturers work to prevent spread of
BSE in the United States

More funding for federal agencies is needed to prevent bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, from entering the United States, an official with the American Feed Industry Association recently told the U.S. Senate.

Richard Sellers, AFIA vice-president who directs the group's feed control and nutrition programs, in April told a Senate panel that additional funds were needed for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which oversee control of BSE.

"This funding is necessary to expand research on prion disease transmission, to find quick diagnosis and analytical test methods, provide increased manpower and technology at American ports … and should the unthinkable occur, contain any BSE outbreak to prevent spread of the disease," he said.

Sellers said no case of BSE had ever been detected in the United States, "and we are united in our resolve that an effective marriage of government and industry action will continue to keep the U.S. BSE-free."

A brain-wasting disease in cattle, BSE has devastated the European, and particularly the British, livestock industry. Since 1986, nearly 180,000 BSE cases have been confirmed in Britain, with another 1,300 to 1,400 cases elsewhere in Europe. Several human deaths also have been attributed to the disease, caused when humans eat infected beef.

In the wake of the BSE outbreaks in Europe, U.S. officials have taken action. The USDA since 1989 has banned imports of live cattle and sheep from countries where mad-cow disease has been reported. In 1997, the FDA banned the feeding of certain meal made from cud-chewing animals to other cud-chewing animals, including cows and sheep. Just last December, the USDA prohibited all imports from Europe of rendered animal-protein products, regardless of species.

The AFIA, which represents companies manufacturing approximately 75% of U.S. feed, also is doing its part to prevent the spread of BSE in the United States. The organization in February called for the removal of ruminant-derived meat and bone meal byproducts from feed manufacturing facilities that make beef and dairy rations.

AFIA said the purpose behind this measure was to eliminate any chance of carryover and cross contamination in feed mills and to demonstrate the feed industry's good faith to both consumers and FDA.

In March, AFIA launched the Facility Certification Institute (FCI), which certifies compliance with the FDA regulation that prohibits mammalian feeding.

AFIA President David Bossman said these actions represented "another significant step toward further ensuring the safety of our feed and food supplies. The U.S. already has the safest food production system in the world. This will make it even safer."

The FCI will contract with independent agents to inspect facilities that utilize restricted use protein products (RUPP) as well as those that do not. The agents will review procedures, examine records and issue certifications to those facilities successfully meeting the program requirements.

"Many producers and meat packers are requiring third-party certification that cattle they're receiving have not been fed restricted use proteins," said Rex Runyon, AFIA vice-president. "FCI's program will provide that documentation."

FCI certification is open to AFIA member companies and non-AFIA companies. Besides feed mills, intended audiences include protein blenders, livestock producers, on-farm mixers, ingredient suppliers, feed dealers and grind and mix operations.

Two levels of certification are offered: Level 1 for those facilities not using restricted use protein products and Level 2 for those facilities using restricted use protein products, but conforming to federal limitations for those products.

AFIA also created a new web site to provide additional information. The web site,, contains applications, information on fees, inspection forms and related documents. For additional questions, contact AFIA at 703-524-0810.