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"FDA says Texas cattle were fed banned animal ingredients With BC-Mad Cow-Texas

Eds: Moving to news and financial wires

By DAVID KOENIG= AP Business Writer=

DALLAS (AP) - The mill and Texas feedlot involved in a federal food-safety investigation said Tuesday that the results should reassure consumers that U.S. beef is safe.

The feed maker, Purina Mills Inc., also said the incident shows that the feed industry can police itself without more restrictive government regulation.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said 1,222 cattle at a central Texas feedlot ate feed containing animal parts - a practice banned in 1997 as a precaution against bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad-cow disease.

But, the FDA said, the amount of illegal feed eaten by each animal was so slight that the incident poses a negligible risk to the food supply.

Mad-cow disease affects the brain and spinal cord of affected animals. It has been transmitted to humans in Britain since 1995 and is blamed for the deaths of more than 80 people.

The disease has never been found in U.S. cattle.

The Texas cattle ate a protein supplement from a Purina mill in Gonzales, near Austin. Brad Kerbs, president and chief executive of St. Louis-based Purina Mills, said the company took full responsibility for the animal meal winding up in cattle feed.

Krebs said that because Purina notified the FDA and the feedlot of the improper feed, it ``proves the system in place is working.'' No animal that ate the feed will reach the food chain, he said.

The company said it would buy the 1,222 cattle from Vaqueros of Texas Cattle Feeders in Floresville, near San Antonio, and use the meat in food for other animals.

The animal meal has been commonly used in pet food and is fed to poultry and pigs. It cannot be fed to cattle, sheep or goats.

The feedlot operator, K.R. Brown, said in an interview before the FDA's announcement that he expected the cattle to be destroyed.

On Jan. 16, Brown's feedlot received a shipment of about 600 pounds of a protein supplement, which is mixed with feed and given to cattle as they are fattened for slaughter.

Brown said Purina notified him of the mixup the next day and sent a truck to pick up the tainted feed. Brown held the cattle - about one-fourth of his herd - on his lot.

Brown said Purina Mills, which makes and sells animal feed under license from Ralston Purina Co., would pay him for the cost of any animals that must be destroyed. He said the company had already agreed to pay him about $500,000 to cover the cost of about 500 older cattle that couldn't be sent to slaughter because of the FDA investigation.

Like others in the beef industry, the owner of the feedlot at the center of the current storm thinks the American public - encouraged by the media - has overreacted to the threat posed by mad cow disease.

``There's no mad cow disease in the United States. Never has been,'' Brown said. ``The bone meal that was fed to these cattle was domestic, not imported. Everybody used it for years'' until 1997.

Brown, who has owned the feedlot for 25 years, said he held no animosity toward Purina Mills or the FDA.

``It was just a human error, which they readily admitted,'' Brown said of Purina Mills, adding that he would buy the company's products again.

The cattle that were fed the outlawed animal meal range up to 6 months old and would not have been slaughtered for several months, he said.

The FDA's zero-tolerance rules against animal or bone meal in cattle feed are ``overkill,'' but something that is necessary to assure consumers beef is safe, Brown said..."

-- tex (tex@tex.com), January 30, 2001

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