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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Animal & Veterinary

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BSE and the Safety of Pets

FDA Veterinarian Newsletter January/February 2004 Volume XIX, No 1

The same safeguards in place to pro-tect the U.S. food supply from the agent that causes Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) are also protecting pet foods.

Shortly after government officials first announced that a cow in the U.S. had tested positive for BSE, pet owners began contacting the Center for Veterinary Medicine to ask if their pets would be safe. In response, CVM issued this statement:

“With the exception of cats, no pets (companion animals) are known to be susceptible to the infectious agent that causes BSE in cattle. No evidence of BSE has ever been found in dogs, horses, birds, or reptiles.

“However, cats are susceptible. Approximately 90 cats in the UK and several cats in other European countries have been diagnosed with the feline version of BSE, or FSE. Before it was recognized that they were susceptible to the BSE agent, cats were exposed to the infectious agent through commercial cat food or through meat scraps provided by butchers. The number of reported cases of FSE in the UK and Europe has been declining annually since 1994 after implementation of feed bans in those countries.

“Currently in the U.S. , animal products that are prohibited from cattle feed are acceptable for use in pet food. Such products include meat and bone meal, for example. However, FDA believes that the safeguards it has put into place (specifically, the 1997 rule banning the use of mammalian tissue in ruminant feeds) to prevent BSE in the U.S. have also protected cats. To date, no case of FSE has been found in the U.S.

“Material from the BSE positive cow in Washington State (discovered December 23, 2003 ) did not pose a risk to cats in the U.S. because none of it was released into distribution. All firms involved with the incident in Washington State were found to be in compliance with the BSE rules.

“In addition, when the BSE positive cow was found in Canada in May 2003, the FDA stopped imports of all pet foods made from material derived from mammalian sources, and the pet food manufacturer recalled the food it had manufactured that was thought to contain material from the infected cow.”

FDA continues to review these safeguards to be sure they are adequate, especially in light of the first BSE case found in the U.S. FDA announced additional measures on January 26 to further safeguard the U.S. food supply against BSE. These actions will diminish the risks of BSE's spread even further, thus better protecting all pets.