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Mad Cow rules violated by feed mills in Washington State, says Friends of the Earth

(Thursday, Dec. 25, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- From a news release:

Contacts: Larry Bohlen, 202-270-1547
Brent Blackwelder, 202-222-0727 or 202-966-3451

Washington, D.C. -- Two cattle feed mills near the farm where the first incidence of Mad Cow disease was identified have been in violation of federal regulations meant to prevent the disease, also known as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). They are listed on the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) database of animal feed company inspection records.

According to an FDA website, M & E Seed & Grain Co. Inc, a non-FDA licensed feed mill located in Prosser, WA, is a violator of Mad Cow prevention rules. It is located 13 miles from Mabton, WA, the town where the first case of Mad Cow was discovered this month. M&E handles cattle feed and also distributes material prohibited in cattle feed raising a red flag. It was last inspected in October 2002.

A Washington State firm previously in violation of Mad Cow prevention rules is RTK Producers, an animal feed producer located in Moses Lake that handled proteins prohibited from use in cattle feed according to a listing on the FDA's website in October 2003.

The firm was listed as a violator at the time of a June 2002 FDA inspection. It is currently listed by the FDA as a firm that does not handle prohibited material and that is not in violation as of a March 2003 inspection. Moses Lake is the town where the carcass of the first animal identified with Mad Cow disease was sold, suggesting it may also be a place where the farm in question purchased feed in the past.

"There is no excuse for cattle feed suppliers to be in violation of government rules to prevent Mad Cow disease," said Dr. Brent Blackwelder, president of Friends of the Earth. "The FDA needs to enforce the law. Until it does, the best way for people to avoid the risk of Mad Cow disease is to eat organic, grass fed beef or beef alternatives."

In a letter sent to the FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture today, Friends of the Earth (FoE) requested that all feed handlers in Washington State that are in violation of Mad Cow prevention rules, or that have been in violation in the past, be evaluated for potential exposure of cattle to prohibited materials. FoE's Safer Food-Safer Farms Program is working to end factory farming practices that cause adverse health and environmental effects and warned last October 10 that the number of businesses in violation of mad cow rules had almost tripled since April of 2002.

As part of the federal prevention program, the FDA inspects feed companies in the United States to determine whether they are in compliance with federal Mad Cow prevention rules, which include keeping feed made with cattle parts separate from feed for cattle and labeling feed with the banned material. The company database is maintained by the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine. The first update in 17 months was posted on Oct.7, 2003 and has since been revised. It is located at: http://www.fda.gov/cvm/index/bse/RuminantFeedInspections.htm

Of 300 firms in violation of FDA regulations nationwide as of October, 173 handled or distributed prohibited materials. And 32 of these handled both prohibited materials and ruminant feed, making them the most likely firms to spread Mad Cow disease. Additionally, 1779 records out of 11,172 had no listing of any action taken by the FDA after it completed its own inspection. The FDA regulations established in 1997 are meant to prevent cattle and other ruminant parts from being fed to cattle and other ruminants, a form of animal cannibalization once commonly practiced and now considered most likely to spread Mad Cow disease. The disease is suspected of causing a deadly brain disorder in humans called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Human symptoms, which may not appear for 20 years, include hallucinations, loss of memory, dementia, uncontrollable crying or screaming, and inability to speak or walk. There is no known cure for the disease which is always fatal.

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For a listing of the 300 firms out of compliance in October 2003 and an assessment of the FDA database of mad cow prevention inspection records, see http://www.foe.org/factoryfarms