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CU Comments on Scrapie Eradication Uniform Methods and Rules

Consumers Union’s comments on Docket No. 97-093-8
Scrapie Eradication Uniform Methods and Rules;
Reopening and Extension of Comment Period

August 18, 2001
Consumers Union submits these comments on the APHIS’ proposed Scrapie Eradication Uniform Method and Rules that appeared in 66 FR 34143, June 27, 2001. We commend USDA/APHIS’ decision to reinstitute a scrapie eradication program for the US. Given the uncertainties surrounding this disease, especially troubling recent evidence that it may be transmissible to humans (Lasmezas et al., 2000), we feel that such precautionary actions are justified. We feel this is the correct action for the agency to take and are pleased to see. In general, we think the program is well thought out, although we do think the proposal can be strengthened in a number of areas, as outlined below.
There are a number of very good elements to this Scrapie Eradication program. These include: use of government funds, required scrapie reporting, neighbor notification for affected flocks, requiring record keeping, requiring animal identification and some carcass disposal and they will be discussed in more detail below.
We are pleased to see that the government is putting some public money into this scrapie eradication effort.
Consumers Union is particularly pleased to see that APHIS is proposing prohibiting the use of scrapie positive animals for human or animal food. This very positive action will partially close a gaping loophole in the FDA’s BSE feed rule (21 CFR Part 589), which permitted TSE positive animals, including scrapie infested sheep and goats, to be used in animal feeds.
Use of public funds
We commend the Secretary of Agriculture for taking the step last year to declare an emergency and authorize use of $10 million of Commodity Credit Corporation funds for an advanced scrapie eradication effort. While this is a positive step, we feel the agency should seek to eradicate scrapie and to continue the program until they have succeeded. This may ultimately require more than $10 million. Thus, we feel USDA/APHIS should explicitly state that their goal is to eradicate scrapie and that they are committed to continuing the program (and seek further funding, if it is needed) until the goal has been achieved. The use of public funds to pay for Program Services to livestock owners (such as for animal testing) should encourage livestock owners to participate in the program since they do not have to pay for it.
Reporting Scrapie Activities (Part II, D)
Requiring the results of all scrapie activities (Part II, D), including testing, regardless of whether they are performed as part of the Program or are performed privately to be reported to both the flock owner and cooperating agencies is a very positive step. The decision to require reporting from any private testing is needed to ensure that all appropriate information on scrapie has been reported.
Notification of Scrapie-Affected Herds and Terminal Feedlots (Part II. E)
Requiring State or Federal officials to notify neighboring flock owners of the presence of scrapie positive animals (sheep or goats) in adjacent flocks and terminal feedlots (Part II. E) is a very appropriate, for just the reasons offered—to emphasize to the owner the importance of taking appropriate precautionary action to protect their sheep and/or goats from spread of scrapie from a neighboring flock. However, the document is not quite clear on the extent of the notification, saying that it “will notify adjacent flock owners about the presence of sheep or goat flocks that have been designated as infected or source flocks when direct contact with the lambing areas of the affected flock has occur [sic] or when direct contact with animals in infected or source flock has occurred or is likely to occur.” We feel that all adjacent flock owners should be notified of the presence of infected (scrapie positive) animals or that a flock was the source of an infected animal.
Dealer Registration and Record Keeping (Part II. F)
We support requiring all dealers of sheep and/or goats to be registered or licensed and to require them to keep records on all sheep older than 18 months that would permit tracing of the animals back to their flock of origin for animals born prior to 2002 and back to the flock of birth for animals borne after January 1, 2002. Such record keeping is key to have a truly functional traceability system. However, the program would only require records to be kept for 5 years. We feel that this is too short a time period. As the agency admits in Part VI. A: “The incubation period is typically between 2 and 5 years for animals exposed at or near birth but is typically longer than 5 years and may exceed 9 years in animals exposed post weaning.” Given this, the agency’s proposal to require records to be kept for 5 years would (Part II. F. 5) would only pick up animals exposed at or near birth and would fail to pick up those exposed latter in life. But animals exposed in later life need to be monitored because they constitute the bulk of the horizontal cases of transmission, while animals exposed at or near birth will consist primarily of the vertical cases of transmission (e.g. parent to offspring), although animals exposed at a birthing area would constitute some horizontal cases of transmission. To ensure that the agency maximizes its ability to detect the majority of cases of both horizontal and vertical cases of transmission, we propose that the agency require records to be kept for a minimum of ten years. Thus we propose changing the last sentence of Part II.F.5 to “The records must be kept for a minimum of 10 years.”
In general we believe all reference to keeping records for 5 years throughout the document should be changed to 10 years.
Indemnity (Part II. K)
We support the government indemnifying farmers whose animals need are destroyed. The provision under Part II. K State-Industry Indemnity, which would ensure that farmers do not receive much more than the appraised value of the animal. The provision states that if the State and Industry indemnity payments (if any) exceed the appraised value of the animal, the federal indemnity will be reduced by that amount. This is a good provision to remove an economic incentive to abuse the system.
One of the provisions in Part II. K. Procedures for destruction of animals is of crucial importance. This provision (b) states that carcasses of scrapie-positive or suspect animals must be disposed of and that “The carcasses of scrapie-positive and suspect animals must not be processed for human or animal food.” This provision is quite good because it serves to partially close a loop hole in the Food and Drug Administration’s BSE Feed rule (21 CFR Part 589), promulgated in 1997. The FDA’s feed rule permits TSE (transmissible spongiform encephalopathy) positive animals to be processed and used in pet food and non-ruminant animal feed. By requiring those scrapie-positive and suspect animals to be destroyed, APHIS is ensuring that they will not be used in any pet or animal feed, nor used as fertilizer or cosmetics. We commend APHIS for taking this action and closing a glaring loophole in the FDA’s feed rule. Given the recent study that found evidence from strain typing experiments that the agent responsible for a French case of iatrogenic growth hormone-linked CJD looked just like a french sheep scrapie isolate, thus suggesting that scrapie was the ultimate source of this case of iatrogenic CJD (Lasmézas et al., 2001), APHIS’ action in this area is a very prudent one.
Lasmézas, C.I., Fournier, J.G., Nouvel, V., Boe, H., Marcé, D., Lamoury, F., Kopp, N., Hauw, J.J., Ironside, J., Bruce, M., Dormont, D. and J.P. Deslys. 2001. Adaptation of the bovine spongiform encephalopthy agent to primates and comparison with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease: Implications for human health. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 98(7): 4142-4147.
1) Consumers Union is a nonprofit membership organization chartered in 1936 under the laws of the State of New York to provide consumers with information, education and counsel about goods, services, health, and personal finances; and to initiate and cooperate with individual and group efforts to maintain and enhance the quality of life for consumers. Consumers Union’s income is derived solely from the sale of Consumer Reports, its other publications and from noncommercial contributions, grants and fees. In addition to reports on Consumers Union’s own product testing, Consumer Reports, with approximately 4.5 million paid circulation, regularly carries articles on health, product safety, marketplace economics and legislative, judicial and regulatory actions which affect consumer welfare. Consumers Union’s publications carry no advertising and receive no commercial support.