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New Meat-Trimming Rule Cuts Mad-Cow Risk

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WASHINGTON - Hamburger made with special meat-trimming equipment must not contain any nervous-system material that could spread mad-cow disease, according to a new U.S. Agriculture Department regulation.

Some 30 U.S. beef-processing plants use the equipment to strip and scrape tiny bits of beef from cattle bones. Companies use the technology to maximize production of meat for hamburger.

Consumer groups have criticized the special trimming equipment because particles of spinal cord and central-nervous tissue can contaminate hamburger.

An infected animal's brain and other central-nervous tissue are considered high-risk material for spreading mad cow.

USDA officials said the equipment was not used to trim beef from the infected dairy cow from Washington state.

About 45 million pounds of the 26.5 billion pounds of beef produced each year is from advanced meat-recovery equipment.

A USDA survey found that about 35 percent of beef products produced with the equipment contained bits of the animals' spinal cords.

But the American Meat Institute, a trade group, says that figure was outdated and the rate of contamination was likely less than 10 percent.


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