Prevention Measures against BSE Spread

To prevent BSE from entering the United States, severe restrictions were placed on the importation of live ruminants, such as cattle, sheep, and goats, and certain ruminant products from countries where BSE was known to exist. These restrictions were later extended to include importation of ruminants and certain ruminant products from all European countries.

Because the use of ruminant tissue in ruminant feed was probably a necessary factor responsible for the BSE outbreak in the United Kingdom and because of the current evidence for possible transmission of BSE to humans, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration instituted a ruminant feed ban in June 1997 that became fully effective as of October 1997. As of October 26, 2009, a regulation issued by FDA in April 2009 came into effect establishing an enhanced BSE-related feed ban in the U.S. This enhanced feed ban will further harmonize BSE feed control measures in the U.S. with those in Canada (see below). In addition, FDA continues to enforce its important 1997 mammalian-to-ruminant feed ban through its BSE inspection and BSE feed testing programs.

As of July 12, 2007, an enhanced BSE-related feed ban came into effect in Canada. CFIA established this ban to more effectively prevent and quickly eliminate BSE from Canada. The enhanced ban prohibits most proteins, including potentially BSE infectious tissues known as “specified risk materials” (SRM) from all animal feeds, pet foods, and fertilizers, not just from cattle feed as required by the ban instituted in 1997. The 1997 feed ban in Canada was similar to the feed ban instituted in the United States that same year. As recently reported by CFIA, removing SRM from the entire animal feed system addresses risks associated with the potential contamination of cattle feed during production, distribution, storage, and use. Applying the same measure to pet food and fertilizer materials addresses the possible exposure of cattle and other susceptible animals to these products. With this ban in place, CFIA expects BSE should be eliminated from the Canadian cattle herd by about the year 2017.

In late 2001, the Harvard Center for Risk Assessment study of various scenarios involving BSE in the U.S. concluded that the FDA ruminant feed rule provides a major defense against this disease.

BSE/TSE Action Plan of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)

On August 23, 2001, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a department-wide action plan outlining steps to improve scientific understanding of BSE and other transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). The action plan has four major components:

Surveillance for human disease is primarily the responsibility of CDC.

Protection is primarily the responsibility of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Research is primarily the responsibility of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Oversight is primarily the responsibility of the Office of the Secretary of DHHS.

Read the Department of Health and Human Services press release: USDA and HHS Strengthen Safeguards Against Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathyexternal icon