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15 December, 1997
The Ministry of Agriculture has released a public discussion paper on proposed regulations for an effective, efficient ban on feeding ruminant protein(excluding milk protein) to sheep, cattle, deer and goats.
In May 1996, a voluntary ban began in New Zealand against the inclusion of any ruminant protein - other than milk protein - in stock feeds manufactured forfeeding to ruminants such as calves, dairy and beef cattle, deer and sheep.
This was in response to the discovery in Britain of a new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, which causes dementia in humans. New variant Creutzfeldt-JakobDisease (nvCJD), is thought to be linked to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) -so-called "mad cow disease"- and is characterised by the same prion strain as BSE.
BSE is one of several diseases known as the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). It is the suspected linkages between three TSEs (scrapie in sheep, BSE in cattle and nvCJD in humans) which is at the root of global recommendations by scientists that ruminant protein should be excluded from ruminant diets.
The epidemic of BSE in Britain was almost certainly the result of feeding cattle rations which included meat and bone meal rendered from the slaughter wastes of BSE infected cattle. The epidemic of BSE in the British cattle herd is now steadily declining under an effective feed ban.
The voluntary ruminant to ruminant feed ban in this country was agreed between the NewZealand Feed Manufacturers Association and the Ministry of Agriculture on the mutual understanding that legislation would follow which would make it a statutory offence tofeed ruminant protein to ruminant animals. Legislating for the ruminant to ruminant feed ban will provide a greater level of assurance that agents which cause TSEs cannot betransmitted and amplified in this country via stock feeds in the unlikely event of the irintroduction.
This is a safeguard measure only, because New Zealand livestock are completely free of all TSEs, such as BSE and the apparently related sheep disease, scrapie. The measures proposed in the discussion paper are intended to complement those already in place to protect this freedom.
The proposed ruminant feed ban would apply to all ruminant animals and all stock feeds and feed ingredients processed from ruminant tissues and ruminant blood. Label information would inform end users of the feeding prohibition, or would specifically identify that the feed was intended for ruminants, as appropriate.
Some pet foods, and blood and bone fertilizers may need to carry a warning label against being mistakenly fed to ruminants. In-house quality programmes operated by renderers andfeed millers are proposed to ensure feeds and feed ingredients are true to label and uncontaminated. Programmes would be approved by MAF and verified as being practised by MAF-approved auditors. Offences, including on-farm breaches, would be set out in the regulations and prosecutions taken by MAF where appropriate.
On present scientific knowledge, the ban would not apply to ruminant tallow, milk and milk products, and gelatin; nor to any meat and bone meals produced exclusively from pigs and poultry; nor to fish meal produced exclusively from fish.
The intention of the statutory ban is not to disrupt the production of valuable meat and bone meals from ruminant waste nor to prevent the production of compound feeds containing these ruminant proteins but to ensure such feeds are not fed to ruminants. There is arange of alternative protein sounces available for inclusion in feeds designed for ruminants. It is one of a range of measures taken by the Agriculture and Health Ministries to keep New Zealand livestock free of TSEs and New Zealanders free of nvCJD. The ruminant feed ban would be administered by the Ministry of Agriculture.
The purpose of the public discussion document is to seek the views of interested partieson how such a ban can most effectively be implemented, monitored for compliance andenforced. The impacts and imposts of the ban on animal producers, the feed industry andthe rendering industry are discussed in the context of potential benefits to human and animal health.
The deadline for comments is 27 February 1998.
It is important to note that nvCJD is different from ordinary CJD.The ordinary form of CJD has been recognised for about 80 years, occurs spontaneously atrates of less than one person in a million in New Zealand and throughout the world, and isnot linked with BSE. The average rate of occurrence for ordinary CJD has appeared to remain constant over the years.
Media inquiries to:
Dr Barry O'Neil, Chief Veterinary Officer,
Ministry of Agriculture (MAF Regulatory Authority) (04) 474 4100
Debbie Gee, Manager, Corporate Communications, Ministry of Agriculture (04) 474 4258