USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service has proposed a rule to amend the federal meat inspection law to include a complete ban on the slaughter of cattle that become non-ambulatory after an initial inspection.

This new proposal follows USDA Secretary Ed Schafer's May 20, announcement to remove the provision that directs FSIS inspection program to determine the disposition of cattle, on a case-by-case basis, that become non-ambulatory after they have passed inspection before (ante-mortem) slaughter. That action began on July 13, 2007, when FSIS published the final rule, "Prohibition of the Use of Specified Risk Materials for Human Food and Requirements for the Disposition of Non-Ambulatory Disabled Cattle; Prohibition of the Use of Certain Stunning Devices Used To Immobilize Cattle During Slaughter" -- known as the SRM final rule. The point was to address cases in which an animal deemed by FSIS as fit for human food suffers an acute injury after ante-mortem inspection.

If approved, the new proposal, would address ll cattle that are non-ambulatory at any point before slaughter, including those that reach that state after the initial inspection, would be disposed of properly, say officials. FSIS inspectors would tag these cattle as "U.S. condemned" and room them from slaughter. Packer/processors would have to notify FSIS personnel when an animal became disabled after passing ante-mortem inspection.

"To maintain consumer confidence in the food supply, eliminate further misunderstanding of the rule and, ultimately, to make a positive impact on the humane handling of cattle, it is sound policy to simplify this matter by initiating a complete ban on the slaughter of downer cattle," Schafer contends.

Of the nearly 34 million cattle slaughtered in 2007, less than 1,000 cattle that were re-inspected were actually approved to continue to slaughter. This represents less than 0.003 percent of U.S. cattle slaughtered annually.

Comments on this proposed rule must be received on or before Sept. 29. They can be sent to Docket Clerk, USDA, Food Safety and Inspection Service, Room 2534 South Agriculture Building, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, D.C. 20250; e-mailed to fsis.regulationscomments@fsis.usda.gov or submitted through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov. All submissions received by mail or electronic mail must reference the Food Safety and Inspection Service and include the docket number FSIS-2008-0022.

Source: USDA, Meatingplace.com