Cattle industry representatives believe a risk/benefit and cost/benefit analysis on proposed changes to the Food and Drug Administration’s feed rule will show removing all specified risk materials (SRMs) from all animal feed is not necessary to further reduce BSE risk in the U.S. 

In a meeting today with FDA and Office of Management and Budget officials, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) reviewed their comments on the proposed feed rule submitted to FDA last month. 

“Over the past two decades, and especially since Dec. 23, 2003, industry and government have worked together to put in place science-based measures which have proven successful in preventing and reducing the spread of BSE in the U.S.,” says Gary Weber, NCBA executive director of regulatory affairs. “We must continue to look to the science to avoid over-regulating the industry and creating policy that doesn’t meet our objective of a safer animal health system.”  

The government began 15 years ago building and maintaining firewalls to ensure U.S. cattle are protected from BSE. In 1997, FDA banned feeding cattle the type of animal-derived protein that can spread BSE.  International experts agree that a feed ban breaks the cycle of BSE and assures it will be eliminated. FDA reports a 99 percent compliance rate for the feed ban.

“USDA’s expanded surveillance program which began on June 1 of this year has tested nearly 70,000 animals to date for BSE and has yet to find a positive case,” says Weber.  “The expanded surveillance program continues to illustrate that the BSE risk in this country is extremely minimal.  This is further evidence that our current feed restrictions are working.” 

In a letter to FDA last month, NCBA and other industry groups ask that consideration be given to the multiple firewalls already in place and the results of USDA’s enhanced surveillance program.  The letter also suggests the agency conduct appropriate risk/benefit and cost/benefit analysis of various policy options.  The letter was signed by NCBA and the American Feed Industry Association, American Meat Institute, American Sheep Industry Association, National Grain and Feed Association, National Milk Producers Federation and the National Renderers Association. 

“We need to be sure the changes proposed are, in fact, what’s needed to better protect our cattle herd,” says Weber.  “But anything other than a science-based approach will be harmful to cattle producers and offer no real benefit to our industry or to consumers.”

NCBA’s comments on the feed rule are posted at:  http://hill.beef.org/pdfs/NCBAFDAANPRComments.pdf