In light of recent food recalls, the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Office of Research (OR) has developed a new method for testing animal feed for banned materials. 

The newly developed method relies on a molecular technique called polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a process that replicates small amounts of DNA or RNA, creating larger amounts for analysis. 

Once employed, this new PCR-based method will amplify the FDA’s ability to ensure that animal feed is safe and free from prohibited materials that may spread the agent thought to cause bovine spongiform encephalophy (BSE).

BSE, popularly known as “Mad Cow Disease,” is a fatal disease that causes progressive degeneration of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) in cattle. 

In 1986, scientists in the United Kingdom found a strong association between outbreaks of BSE and the use of cattle feed containing proteins from cattle and other ruminants, such as sheep and goats, called prions.

The FDA strengthened the current feed ban in April of 2008 by prohibiting

high-risk materials (prions) from being used to make all animal feed, which includes

pet food.

Fore more detailed information on testing procedures, visit the FDA Website.