FSIS Permanently Bans Slaughter of Downer Cattle

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is permanently prohibiting the slaughter of cattle that are unable to stand or walk (“downer” cattle) when presented for pre-slaughter inspection. According to FSIS, the inability to stand or walk can be a clinical sign of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

Under the rule, cattle that are injured after they pass pre-slaughter inspection will be reevaluated to determine their eligibility for slaughter. Veal calves that cannot stand because they are tired or cold may be set apart and held for treatment and re-inspection.

The rule published in the July 13, 2007, Federal Register makes permanent what had been an interim final rule prohibiting slaughter of non-ambulatory cattle in the United States. The final rule becomes effective October 1, 2007.

On January 12, 2004, FSIS issued a series of three interim final rules in response to the first BSE diagnosis in the United States on December 23, 2003. Those rules had prohibited for human consumption non-ambulatory cattle and cattle tissue identified as specified risk materials (SRMs); banned the use of high pressure stunning devices that could drive SRM tissue into the meat; and established requirements for advanced meat recovery systems.

The rule requires that the spinal cord be removed from cattle 30 months of age and older at the place of slaughter. It also mandates that records must be maintained when beef products containing SRMs are moved from one federally inspected establishment to another for further processing.

Countries that have received the internationally recognized BSE status of negligible risk are not required to remove SRMs because their system controls prevent the introduction and spread of BSE. The United States was recently classified by the World Organization for Animal Health, or OIE, as controlled risk.

FSIS will conduct outreach sessions with industry to ensure that the provisions of the final rule are fully understood by all affected establishments.

Comments on the new information collection requirements will be received by USDA until September 11, 2007.

August 2007 RENDER | back