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For Immediate
June 26, 2002

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Statement on the USDA's Order on Advanced Meat Recovery

by CSPI Food Safety Director Caroline Smith DeWaal

Today USDA ordered their meat inspectors to test more meat for the presence of spinal cord. The inspectors will be routinely testing meat produced in special bone stripping equipment, a process known as AMR for “advanced meat recovery.” That is a critical new protection for consumers if “mad cow disease” (bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE) were discovered in the U.S. cattle population.

Unfortunately, the order does not go nearly far enough. The order never defines how often “routine” tests should be performed. Also, test results are not publicly reported unless they result in a voluntary recall. Finally, USDA has missed the boat by not declaring spinal cord in meat (which has the potential to transmit mad cow disease if the cattle are infected) a food-safety violation. That approach results in less aggressive recalls.

Last August, CSPI petitioned USDA to ban the use of spinal columns in AMR systems. Today’s order does not replace the need for additional regulatory firewalls to protect U.S. consumers from the risk of mad cow disease.