AP Takes on "Mad Cow" Supplements
WASHINGTON--Dietary supplements may put you at risk for "mad cow" disease, or so it appeared from stories that were circulating in early February from the Associated Press (AP) and The New York Times. While the original discussion on the topic took place last year in the editorial pages of a medical journal, the most recent scrutiny stems from a story that 1,222 Texas cattle had to be quarantined because they had inadvertently been fed meat and bone meal (ground-up parts of other animals, the reason behind bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE) in cattle supplements. Purina Mills Inc. provided the feed, which it immediately recalled, to Vaqueros of Texas Cattlefeeders; however, a small amount of the tainted feed did find its way into the cattle's food supply.
"Reports today from the Food and Drug Administration [FDA] indicate there were very small amounts of meat-and-bone meal detected in cattle feed supplements produced by a Purina feed mill," stated Chuck Schroeder, chief executive officer of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA). "It's important to note that the situation in Texas is a compliance issue, not a safety issue, and NCBA supports full compliance with FDA feed ban regulations." Purina Mills also announced that it was voluntarily purchasing all 1,222 animals to ensure they do not accidentally enter the food chain.
The "supplements" mentioned in Schroeder's statement relate to a premix that is added in order to supplement the cattle feed of corn, rice and meal. The AP story, however, also used the opportunity to revisit what the government is doing in response to a July 27 letter to the New England Journal of Medicine written by Dr. Scott Norton about finding bovine in supplements. However, the AP article offers no new information than what was previously stated in November: that FDA is sending safety letters to manufacturers and importers of supplements containing bovine tissues.
Mike Greene, director of public affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), stated that he was aware of the media recycling this news. He said that he understood AP's desire to inform people about BSE, but he did not approve of AP's approach in targeting the dietary supplement industry. "When informing the public about supplements, CRN keeps two things in mind: 1) keep our members happy, and 2) keep the public safe," he said. For additional information, visit www.crnusa.org, www.fda.gov/oc/opacom/hottopics/bse.html or www.washingtonpost.com (conducting a keyword search using the AP function).