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FDA shields pet food with mad cow curb

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

By Michael Woods, Post-Gazette National Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Dog and cat food will get new safeguards against contamination with mad cow disease and a similar microbe under a U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposal now being circulated in the animal feed industry.

The FDA yesterday recalled dry dog food made by one firm after discovering that it may have been produced with bones and other material rendered from a Canadian cow that tested positive for the disease -- bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

The food was produced during February and March, and sold under the Pet Pantry brand only by phone or e-mail. None was sold in retail stores.

Now the FDA is moving to further restrict use of deer and elk meat in manufacture of food for household pets and farm animals because of growing concern about chronic wasting disease, also known as mad deer disease, which has decimated deer herds, mainly in Western states.

An epidemic of mad cow disease struck cattle in the United Kingdom in the 1990s, and scientists found that it could be transmitted to people who ate infected beef. About 130 people in the U.K. have developed the fatal human version of mad cow disease, which is known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

There is no treatment for mad cow and related diseases, no vaccine to prevent them and no diagnostic test that can be done on living animals.

Although mad deer disease can be transmitted from deer and elk to other animals under laboratory conditions, no confirmed cases have been reported among hunters or others who eat deer or elk meat.

The FDA in 1997 banned the use of animal parts in feed for ruminants to prevent spread of mad cow disease in cattle. Ruminants are animals like cows, sheep, goats, deer and elk whose stomachs have four chambers. The 1997 ban covered most material from deer and elk.

The new FDA "guidance" to the animal feed industry, issued in draft form, further limits use of deer and elk meat.

It recommends against use of all material from deer and elk in all kinds of animal food, not just that intended for other ruminants. Included would be feed for non-ruminant farm animals like chickens and pigs, as well as pet dogs and cats, according to Rae Jones, an FDA spokeswoman.

The guidelines would cover only deer and elk that test positive for mad deer disease or originate in states with outbreaks, which include Colorado, Illinois, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming. No cases have been reported in Pennsylvania.

Michael Woods can be reached at mwoods@nationalpress.com or 1-202-662-7072.

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