LONDON (B)--The French food safety agency AFSSA recommended March 6 that slaughterhouses cease the common practice of stunning cattle before slaughter as it may risk spreading bovine spongiform encephalitis (BSE), or mad cow disease.

"Stunning constitutes a risk factor for BSE," the AFFSA said in a statement.

The technique, which involves stunning cattle by shooting bolts into their brains, where BSE can accumulate, is applied on about half of the French cattle production. After stunning, many slaughterhouses "pith" the cattle by thrusting metal bars into their skulls and moving the bars back and forth to macerate the tissue.

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