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FDA: Restaurant meat scraps end up as cattle feed

Restaurants may ironically play a role in the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or Mad Cow disease, according to the government.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said this week that meat scraps collected from "large restaurant operations" are frequently rendered into meat and bone meal, then fed to cattle.

Scientists have determined that it's exactly that kind of diet that causes Mad Cow disease.

The FDA is moving to stiffen regulations designed to prevent another outbreak of the disease after a sick cow was discovered last month in Washington State.

The agency plans to prevent "mammalian blood and blood products" from being fed to cattle. Currently, such animal matter can be used in ruminant feed.

It will also ban the use of "poultry litter"--consisting, in part, of fecal matter--in cattle feed. And those meat scraps from restaurants, known as "plate waste," will also be banned.

"The use of 'plate waste' confounds FDA's ability to analyze ruminant feeds for the presence of prohibited proteins, compromising the agency's ability to fully enforce the animal feed rule," the government said.

"Today's actions will make strong public health protections against BSE even stronger," said Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson.

The government's moves received praise from the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

"One of the positive consequences of the recent BSE discovery is a renewed focus on animal feed," CSPI said. "Many Americans were surprised to learn that cattle are sometimes fed cow blood and so-called 'poultry litter.' We hope that the FDA takes its feed ban a step further by banning all mammalian protein, especially specified risk materials, from the entire animal food chain."

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