R-Calf Dismay at Conflicting BSE Rules

US – The United States Department of Agriculture has come under fresh criticism from the cattleman's action group, R-Calf, for their final rule to relax requirements of imported cattle. R-Calf claim that this new 'Gelatin rule' comes into conflict with the over thirty month (OTM) rule previously proposed.
calendar icon 31 January 2008
clock icon 3 minute read

Max Thornsberry
R-CALF USA President/Region VI Director

This final rule, titled “Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy; Minimal-Risk Regions; Identification of Ruminants, and Processing and Importation of Commodities” relaxed prohibitions on gelatin from Canadian cattle and also relaxed the identification requirements for Canadian cattle.

However, according to R-Calf, the new Gelatin Rule directly conflicts both with the agency’s existing regulations for importing cattle and beef from minimal-risk countries and the OTM Rule that took effect Nov. 19, 2007.

R-CALF USA and 10 other plaintiffs are challenging the OTM Rule in federal court on the basis that the agency has exceeded its congressional authority by allowing higher-risk Canadian cattle and beef into the United States. On Jan. 25, 2008, R-CALF USA provided notice to the court that the new Gelatin Rule provided yet another clear example of the agency’s inconsistent justifications for relaxing BSE safeguards.

R-CALF USA and the other plaintiffs argued that because the OTM Rule allows beef and beef products from cattle of any age, it is in violation of the agency’s Final Rule that banned beef or beef products from cattle that were not subject to a ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban. In defense of its OTM Rule, however, the agency claims the ban on beef from cattle born before the Canadian feed ban was unnecessary by stating, “no age restriction with respect to meat is necessary given that SRM (specified risk materials) removal requirements reduce any BSE risk to a negligible level for bovine meat and meat products.”

This justification, according to R-CALF USA’s Jan. 25 notice, is directly contradicted by the Jan. 18, 2008, Gelatin Rule, which allows imports of gelatin derived from Canadian cattle bones only if the SRMs from the animal have first been removed and the animal was born after Canada’s feed ban became effective.

“In fact, the Gelatin Rule states there is a risk of infectivity unless Canadian cattle are subject to the regulations that require gelatin be derived from bones of cattle that both had SRMs removed and were born after a feed ban comparable to the United States’ ban,” said R-CALF USA President/Region VI Director Max Thornsberry, a Missouri veterinarian who also chairs the group’s animal health committee.

“Thus, the Gelatin Rule confirms that BSE infectivity remains a concern in Canadian cattle, even after SRMs are removed at slaughter – despite the agency’s dismissal of that concern in its OTM Rule,” he continued. “This is but another example of the long trail of inconsistent and contradictory justifications offered by USDA in order to support its unscientific relaxation of needed BSE restrictions.”

The District Court – District of South Dakota, Northern Division has scheduled a hearing for R-CALF USA’s request for a preliminary injunction against USDA’s OTM Rule.

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