Mad cow disease has been making headlines once again (see "It Can Happen Here," Features, July/August 2001). The brain-degrading disease that is contracted through consumption of contaminated flesh has been found in two isolated cases in American cattle, and the threat of mad cow continues to loom large. It is for this reason that U.S. lawmakers say they are enacting more stringent measures on the contents of animal feed. The new law, likely to go into effect this year, would ban the use of cow brain and spinal tissue in the feed of any animal—if the source cow was 30 months of age or older or if the cow had not passed inspection for human consumption. Previous bans eliminated many cow parts from beef feed, but allowed them to be included in feed for other animals.
Critics say this still is not enough, and that restrictions should be tighter. John Stauber, the co-author of Mad Cow U.S.A, says, "The FDA and the meat industry are totally committed to continuing the practice of feeding slaughterhouse waste to cows." Feed is currently still allowed to include restaurant food scraps and cow blood products, which are routinely fed to calves as a replacement for milk, says Stauber. Eliminating these practices would further decrease the risk of mad cow contamination, argues Stauber.