Bone meal

Asked March 15, 2019, 2:17 PM EDT

I have read a few articles on bone meal and they caution that Mad Cow disease prions can live in the meal and as such, it shouldn't be used. Is there a "science" behind this and what is your recommendation. Thank you.

Allegheny County Pennsylvania

1 Response

Hello and excellent question. There were apparently four deaths of gardeners in Great Britain attributed to use of bone meal from cattle which may have had this disease. It is believed that they inhaled bone meal dust as they were applying bone meal to their garden. The rendering process which generates bone meal used in Great Britain in the 1970's and 1980's was a part of the problem. The process in the US is much different and should produce a safe bone meal product. In the U.S, the USDA has had an aggressive BSE surveillance program in place for many years to assess the effectiveness of the BSE safeguarding measures. There have only been 6 cases of BSE identified in the United states. Therefore, the overwhelming majority of the source entering the bone meal supply should be relatively safe. Cattle bones entering the bone meal process should be cleared of specified risk materials; which SRM are those tissues in which the BSE infective agent would be found in an infected animal. Also, Bone meal manufactures use swine to produce bone meal and a lot of times two the bone meal sources are mixed. In summary, the risk to human health from BSE in the United States is extremely low. You should feel confident in using bone meal and in case you have a little doubt, you can always wear a mask to prevent inhalation of bone meal dust particles.