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French minister warns of possible "mystery" cause for BSE
French farm minister denies concealing BSE find
French `mad cow' issues anger farmers
France to maintain embargo on British beef due to disease uncertainties
British politicians, food firms call for French BSE probe
Portugal discovers mad cow case in imported Danish cow
Farmers ignore law by failing to report scrapie
Rare brain illness claims American, 28
EU widens ban on animal feed production from sludge
US blood banks fear UK ailment: spread of `mad cow disease'
Body parts of Britons in US prisons to be salvaged

French minister warns of possible "mystery" cause for BSE

Sat, 15 Apr 2000 AP
French Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany said in an interview published on Saturday that there could be a "mysterious, third way" [encore mysterieuse troisieme voie] of spreading mad cow disease, other than through animal-based feeds and from cow to calf.

Glavany told the daily Le Monde newspaper that this could mean the disease would not be eradicated, as hoped, in 2001 -- five years after authorities took rigorous measures to prevent more outbreaks.

"In fact, scientific uncertainties are such that the hypothesis of cross-contamination, even if it is still favored, is not the only hypothesis. Apart from transmission from cow to calf, today we must consider a possible and still mysterious "third way"," he told Le Monde.

France banned animal-based feeds for cows in 1996. Mad cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy is thought to have an average incubation period of five years.

"What happens after 2001 will certainly be a deciding factor," Glavany said. "Either ... the epidemic will progressively disappear, which would mean that fraud or cross-contamination before 1996 accounted for all French cases, or the phenomenon will continue," he said.

Thirty-one cases of mad cow disease were discovered in 1999, up from 18 in 1998. So far this year, 14 cases have been discovered. Europe's beef scare was triggered in 1996, when the European Union imposed a ban on British beef after a link was established between the disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a fatal brain-wasting condition in humans.

Glavany told Le Monde he had decided to change the content of official statements issued after each new case of mad cow disease is discovered. "In the future, these communiques ... will say that cross-contamination through feeds is the most likely hypothesis but that there are others," he said in the interview.

Glavany also told Le Monde that France would start screening cattle in May, to determine the causes of the disease. The minister said 40,000 tests will be carried out before the end of the year in regions most affected by the disease, and another 8,000 tests will be carried out in other regions, on the EU's request.

The minister said =, in the short term, it was not possible to systematically screen all 5.7 million cows slaughtered in France each year.

France provoked a spat within the EU by keeping in place its ban on beef from Britain, after an EU ruling last August that the beef was again safe for import. The European Commission has taken France to court over its ban.

Reuters World Report of Apr 17, 2000.

"The minister has either said too much or not enough. Either he knows nothing new and is simply trying to cover himself ... or he possesses new scientific information and in this case he should urgently make it public," French mainstream farm union FNSEA said in a statement.

Marie-Jose Nicoli, president of consumer protection group UFC-Que Choisir, echoed the FNSEA sentiment. "Glavany has said too much. He must explain himself and tell us what is this third way," she told Reuters. "Either it's thoughtlessness or he knows something and he's trying to prepare public opinion."

Some observers said, however, that consumers and farmers' groups may be reading too much into Glavany's comments. Anne Touratier, a veterinarian with the group responsible for French animal safety, said she doubted the minister's comments signalled he was about to drop a BSE bombshell.

"Personally, I think it's all a storm [tempest] in a teacup," she said, noting it was not the first time that French officials had discussed a possible third way of BSE transmission. A group of experts studying BSE on behalf of the French government last year refused to rule out the possibility of other methods of BSE infection besides the two already known.

Opinion (webmaster): The environment of secrecy surrounding BSE has created an atmosphere of intense distrust. Is any new information here, or just a signal that UK beef embargo will continue? Both the British and French government have made a point of knowing as little as possible about the scope of bovine and human epidemics, by not funding necessary studies and interfering with those that proceed anyhow. But the possibility remains that the French minister has access to scientific articles being prepared for publication.

French farm minister denies concealing BSE find

Tue, Apr 18, 2000 Reuters World Report
French Farm Minister Jean Glavany insisted on Tuesday he was not hiding any new scientific discovery when he remarked earlier that an unknown third factor may help spread mad cow disease.

The comment, made in an interview published on Saturday, has raised fears that the spread of the deadly brain-wasting cattle disease bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in France may be wider than thought. Angry farmers and consumer groups on Monday demanded that the minister clarify his remark.

"I wasn't giving you a scoop on Saturday in that interview. I said things which French scientists have been saying for several years," Glavany told LCI television. "I said that ... basically the scientists are in a phase of uncertainty."

Glavany said scientists had identified the two most probable ways of passing BSE, namely infected foodstuffs and cow-to-calf transmission, but that they did not exclude a third way.

France has recorded 14 cases of mad cow disease this year, compared to a total of 30 in 1999. The farm ministry has repeatedly said France's BSE epidemic should start tapering off in 2001, given that the disease has a five-year incubation period and that tougher controls on cattle feed were introduced in 1996.

"But since (scientists) don't exclude another mode of contamination, they tell us that if it doesn't decrease towards the end of 2001 and does not fade away, then there is probably, then there is maybe, a third way which they have no proof of but which they have no proof against," he said.

Glavany said that while he wanted to let consumers and producers know there was a potential risk of further contamination, his government was doing everything in its power to control the spread of the disease.

"What I want to say to consumers is that, at the same time, the French measures regarding BSE are surely the most sophisticated, the most rigorous in the world," he told LCI.

France will start conducting tests for BSE in May on 48,000 cows, and has taken several other steps to halt transmission of the illness. Glavany did not exclude additional measures if new scientific evidence emerged. He praised a provisional agreement by EU farm ministers on Monday on a new system for labelling beef, which France had been lobbying for, but pointedly criticised Denmark, the only country not to endorse the scheme. Denmark announced in late February that it had detected its first case of mad cow disease.

British politicians, food firms call for French BSE probe

Fri, Apr 21, 2000  Reuters North America
Britain's opposition Conservative Party has called for a Europe-wide ban on French beef after reports that mad cow disease is rising in France. The Food and Drink Federation, representing Britain's 63 billion pound food manufacturing industry, also called on the European Union to carry out a scientific review and assessment of the French situation. France has recorded 14 cases of mad cow disease this year, compared to a total of 30 in 1999.

Conservative agriculture spokesman Tim Yeo said: "Britain should now ask the European Commission to review France's BSE risk status and impose a precautionary ban on the import of French cattle products until their safety can be guaranteed." "At last the truth about BSE is being dragged out of a reluctant French government," he said.

France is to start conducting tests for BSE in May on 48,000 cows and has taken several other steps to halt transmission of the illness. Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany did not exclude additional measures if new scientific evidence emerged.

France has repeatedly said its BSE epidemic should start tapering off in 2001, given that the disease has a five-year incubation period and that tougher controls on cattle feed were introduced in 1996.

Tories call for French beef ban over BSE

21 April 2000 By Sarah Schaefer THE INDEPENDENT, London, 21 April 2000
Tories demanded an immediate ban on imports of French beef yesterday as they seized on reports that BSE cases in the country are increasing. Tim Yeo, the shadow Agriculture Minister, said the French government had admitted that the BSE problem was much worse than previously expected.

"At last the truth about BSE is being dragged out of a reluctant French government," he said. "This is not the first, nor will it be the last report to admit that BSE is much more widespread in France. Britain should now ask the European Commission to review France's BSE risk status and impose a precautionary ban on the import of French cattle products, until their safety can be guaranteed."

However, a spokesman for the Ministry for Agriculture stressed that Britain could not "act unilaterally" to ban imports of French beef. "We have the Commission taking action against the French (for refusing to lift their domestic ban on British beef). They have currently gone to the European Court of Justice."

France had 31 cases of BSE last year and 14 so far this year, according to reports. The French food standards agency admitted the planned elimination of BSE from French herds by 2001 was unlikely to happen.

French `mad cow' issues anger farmers

Wed, Apr 19, 2000 COMTEX Newswire UPI
French Farming and consumer groups voiced anger Wednesday against the French agriculture minister who recently said failure to eradicate so-called "mad cow" disease in France could be due to an unknown "mysterious third way of infection."

French Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany said on Saturday bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), mad cow disease, is transmitted in the usual means -- from cattle eating bone meal made from ingredients which include infected cattle and from cow to calf through mothers' milk -- and a possibly also through a "mysterious third way" about which nothing is known.

He noted BSE is found in French cattle about once a week and two thirds of the 92 confirmed cases in France have cropped up since a 1990 ban on bone meal in cattle feed. Glavany also said that despite measures introduced to combat the spread of the disease through contaminated animal feed and from mother to calf, cases of BSE continue to rise in France.

In 1998 there were 18; last year there were 30; and there have already been 18 this year. Many more are suspected to go unreported. Federal Consumers' Union spokeswoman Marie-Jos e Nicoli said Wednesday she feared Glavany knows more than he is letting on.

In an interview aired Wednesday over French radio RTL, she said: "(Glavany) owes us an explanation of precisely what he means by this third way of disease transmittal. He is either without information or he knows something we should all hear about."

French health officials note the disease has such a long incubation period that feed-infected cattle could continue to surface until 2001, based on the 1990 feed ban. And now fears have surfaced that infection of French cattle will continue beyond next year. What Glavany said was: "What happens after 2001 will be without doubt very important. If infection continues, scientists will have to try to understand why."

However, farmers' spokesmen say there is no mystery at all, claiming cattle feed producers have ignored regulations against use of feed which could be infected.

One farm organization, Smallholders' Confederation, said through its spokesman, Emile Valverde: "This debate has nothing to do with transparent and truthful research into the origin of the epidemic and everything to do with distracting public attention from the reckless, e

Portugal Discovers Mad Cow Case In Imported Danish Cow

Thu, 13 Apr 2000 Agence France-Presse
Comment (webmaster): Jan Braakman maintains a careful compilation of BSE cases by country and by year.

Portuguese authorities have uncovered a case of so-called "mad cow" disease in a cow imported from Denmark, the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration said in a statement Wednesday. Although it could not be ruled out that the cow had caught bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) before it left Denmark, the case did not constitute a risk to food safety there, said the organisation.

The cow was born in Nordvestjylland, Denmark in March 1992 and was exported to Portugal in October 1994 from a herd of only 16, none of which was still in Denmark.

While Portugal has reported 13 new cases of BSE so far this year and registered 170 cases in 1999, the first case of BSE in a native Danish cattle herd was announced in late February. A number of countries immediately announced bans on Danish beef and Denmark pulled beef products from its shelves. The Danish government admitted March 1 it had failed to follow EU guidelines fast enough to prevent the first case.

Denmark had previously been criticised by the European Union for acting half-heartedly on recommendations to prevent BSE, with the government proving unwilling to test dead or sick animals, or introduce new methods in abattoirs.

Until this year, Denmark believed its cattle were free from BSE, the only previous case having occurred in 1992 -- an import from Scotland that aroused little domestic concern. Denmark has two million head of cattle.

New case of mad cow disease found in Belgium

15 Apr 00 Xinhua news agency
One more case of so-called mad cow disease was confirmed Thursday in Belgium, where altogether 13 cases have so far been reported on the disease. The new case, the third this year, was confirmed by a report on local television RTBF, a radio and television service for the French-speaking part of the country. But the television report did not say where the case was discovered.

Belgium announced discovery of its first case of mad cow disease on October 31, 1997. The diseased cow was located at a farm in Mean in the east of Namur province.

The disease, scientifically termed as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, was first found in 1985 in Britain, where a total of 170,000 cows and cattle were confirmed to have contracted the disease.

Switzerland is the next country in Europe to be heavily plagued, followed by Ireland, Portugal, France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. Up till now as many as 3 million diseased cows and cattle have been destroyed through incineration.

British beef and cow products had been banned from exporting and the European Union lifted the ban only last autumn though France is still barring British beef from entering its market.

The EU countries are now trying to trace down each of the cattle herds and only cow and cattle raised for a designated period of time are allowed for production of beef and other products for human and animal consumption.

Farmers ignore law by failing to report scrapie

Wednesday  April 19, 2000 James Meikle Guardian
Comment (webmaster): The basis for this Guardian story is at the 15 Apr 00 Vet Record, pg 146#16 p455-461, Descriptive epidemiology of scrapie in Great Britain: results of a postal survey (L. J. Hoinville and others) (only the abstract is online):
"In 1998, a questionnaire was sent to 11,554 British sheep farmers to determine how many believed that scrapie cases had occurred in their flock; 614 per cent of them responded anonymously. The results indicated that 149 per cent of farmers with more than 30 breeding ewes thought that they had ever experienced scrapie in their flock and 27 per cent thought that they had had cases in the past 12 months.

A comparison of these results with the number of farmers reporting suspect scrapie cases to MAFF, in accordance with the statutory requirement, suggests that only 13 per cent of farmers who suspect that they may have cases of scrapie are currently reporting them. Scrapie occurred in all regions of the country but there was an apparent regional variation. Larger farms and those with purebred sheep appeared to be at greater risk of having cases. Other differences between affected and unaffected farms included lambing practices and sheep purchasing policy.

On the majority of farms the first case occurred in a purchased animal. The survey also revealed a need for the provision of further information about scrapie to farmers.

Farmers are hampering attempts to check whether BSE has spread from cows to sheep by failing to report a similar disease in their flocks, a report by government vets suggests. They conclude only about one in eight sheep farmers who suspect their livestock is suffering from scrapie is obeying the law by telling the authorities, raising concerns over the effectiveness of efforts to control the disease.

The vets, who surveyed more than 7,000 sheep farmers, also found that many who did not think any of their animals had experienced scrapie did not know the clinical signs of the disease - which include rubbing up against posts because of skin irritation, nervous and aggressive behaviour and an unsteady gait.

The investigation was demanded by scientific advisers on BSE and its fatal human equivalent, variant CJD, which is probably caused by eating infected beef. They want more checks on brains of slaughtered sheep to see whether they have BSE too, and improvements to scrapie surveillance. BSE has never been proved to exist in sheep outside the laboratory, while scrapie has been endemic for more than 250 years and never linked to human disease.

But some scientists believe scrapie may have caused BSE through recycling of infected sheep in animal feed. The diseases are hard to distinguish and if BSE were found, the only method of control would be culling affected animals and their lambs.

There would be disastrous economic implications. Even with scrapie, the vets say "many farmers may be reluctant to report cases owing to the possible loss of markets, both national and international, and the potential loss of livelihood".

As with BSE and CJD, there is no test for live animals and the government is belatedly to introduce the compulsory tagging of sheep to improve checks on their provenance. Failure to report scrapie can attract unlimited fines - although its true extent is difficult to establish. Last year there were 593 confirmed cases compared with 328 in 1993, 508 in 1997 and 499 in 1998.

That is a small proportion of the 40m sheep and lambs, and far fewer than the 2,250 BSE cases in cattle confirmed last year, but the disease is most likely to be a problem in the 20m breeding flock where the animals are older than most sold for slaughter.

Peter Smith, acting chairman of the spongiform encephalopathy advisory committee on BSE-like diseases, said: "We have always been aware scrapie was likely to be quite substantially under-reported. "I don't think this came as a great shock to us. We are looking at ways to eradicate it from Britain and we would feel a lot more comfortable if it was not around."

The vets, from the government's veterinary laboratory agency and the institute of animal health in Compton, Berkshire, analysed responses to a questionnaire sent to farmers with flocks with more than 30 breeding ewes. Nearly 15% thought they had experienced scrapie and 2.7% thought they had had it in the past year.

A comparison with the number of farmers who reported suspect cases to the Ministry of Agriculture suggested only 13% of those with suspect cases were doing so. The findings, published in the Veterinary Record, said flocks in Yorkshire, Humberside and the Shetland Islands appeared to be most at risk. These are areas involved in anti-scrapie measures, including attempts to breed resistant stock.

Officials believe the rise in scrapie cases recorded in recent years may be due to improved reporting. But the ministry said yesterday: "The reporting rate is unacceptably low." In 1998, it introduced compensation for farmers whose suspect animals were destroyed, and it was issuing publicity material to increase awareness of the disease.

Britain 'breaking EU rules' on sheep exports

Thursday December 16, 1999 Guardian James Meikle
Britain was last night facing an embarrassing row over alleged breaking of EU export rules for sheep - just as it pursues legal action against France for refusing to take British beef.

The European commission in Brussels has taken the first steps towards forcing farmers to tag or tattoo all sheep and goats so they can be traced back to the farm of their birth because the government here has so far failed to carry out plans to do so itself.

About 1 million sheep a year are exported live to the continent - and numbers are rising - but the rules reflect increased nervousness about disease spreading across Europe in the wake of the BSE fiasco. The commission wants to be able to trace any outbreak back through farms of exporting countries and its lifting of the export ban on beef was dependent on just such measures.

Britain has endemic scrapie, a BSE-like disease in sheep, and there has been a big increase in scientific monitoring to ensure that BSE itself has not gone into the 40m sheep population.

The ministry of agriculture said last night that the current system "allows a good degree of tracing disease in sheep can be done under the current arrangements. We shall be looking to see whether improvements can be made." It is understood that its own lawyers are worried that other member states could reject sheep and goats if Britain is not fully implementing legislation.

At present sheep for export do not carry details of the farm of their birth or others they may have been fattened on. Defenders of the scheme argue this could be done through interpreting paint-staining on an animal's fleece and appropriate paperwork, but this is not always sufficient.

The commission examined whether Britain was following the rules following a complaint from the animal welfare group Protesters Animal Infromation Network, headed by Carla Lane, the TV writer. In October the commission issued, without publicity, a formal notice asking Britain for its reponse. If the commission is not satisfied with that, it will go to a second stage of enforcement.

Live animal exports have soared in recent months back to mid-1990 levels despite tha apparent success of blockades to force ports and ferry operators to pull out of the trade. But Farmers' Ferry , operating a single ship, has proved a huge success for exporters and many in the industry say it has helped to shore prices up, even though carcass meat still accounts for 80% of meat going abroad.

John Thorley, chief executive of the National Sheep Association, said: "The EU's worry is that paint marking is not as secure."

Rare brain illness claims man

4/15/00 By LAURIE WINSLOW Tulsa, Okla World Staff Writer
The 28-year-old Miami, Okla., resident's malady had similarities to mad cow disease. A 28-year-old Miami, Okla., man died recently following a battle with a rare brain infection called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Jay Dee Whitlock II, who died earlier this month at a Joplin, Mo., health center, was first diagnosed with the disease last year in March.

"The unusual feature of this case was the very young age and onset of illness," said Kristy Bradley, state public health veterinarian of the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, or CJD, is a rapidly progressive disease of the nervous system that causes muscle spasms and loss of mental function similar to Alzheimer's disease. On average, people die within one year of its onset. No cure exists for the disease, and its progress cannot be slowed. Worldwide, the disease strikes about one in 1 million people. Although the disease sometimes is hereditary, the majority of cases in humans are sporadic, and no one knows what causes the disease.

The number of cases occurring in Oklahoma ranges from one to five cases annually, according to the state Health Department. CJD primarily affects adults, particularly those in their late 50s. A disease similar to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease occurs in cattle (mad cow disease), sheep and goats (scrapie) and elk and deer (chronic wasting disease).

"It's a very rare disease. It's also a very new disease in that much scientific research is ongoing to better understand how persons become infected," Bradley said. Death from the disease among people younger than 30 in the United States is extremely rare, causing fewer than five deaths per billion per year.

Whitlock was first diagnosed with the disease last year after he started showing signs of forgetfulness, according to an earlier report. The Miami man had been an avid deer hunter, leading to unconfirmed speculation that he may have contracted the disease from eating deer meat. In the fall of 1999, several state agencies surveyed 138 deer from Ottawa and Craig counties where the man had hunted to check for signs of chronic wasting disease.

"None of those deer that were tested were found to have chronic wasting disease," Bradley said. "It's important to point out that chronic wasting disease of deer and elk has never been identified in our native population of deer in this state." Last year, two captive elk that had been imported to Oklahoma from Montana were found to have chronic wasting disease.

Mad cow disease, which swept through British cattle herds starting in the late 1980s, was later linked to the deaths of several Britons who had eaten meat from the cattle infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy. This new strain of human CJD found in Britain, which was referred to as "new variant CJD," has never been found in North America. Likewise, no case of mad cow disease has ever been found in U.S. cattle.

France to maintain embargo on British beef due to disease uncertainties

Sun, 16 Apr 2000 Agence France-Presse
France will maintain its embargo on British beef because of uncertainties over the ways bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, could be transmitted, Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said Sunday.

The minister said on radio: "In view of the continuing great scientific uncertainty about the paths of transmission, greater vigilance than ever is need. We are right to maintain a policy of precaution and vigilance," Vedrine said. No country could consider itself entirely free of danger.

French Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany said in an interview Sunday it was possible the disease could be transmitted by a third and as yet undiscovered path.

"Today we have to allow for a possible and still mysterious 'third way,' " he told Le Monde newspaper, indicating that hopes for a short-term solution to the disease, which has ravaged herds across Europe, could yet be dashed.

Two possible sources of infection have so far been identified -- from the cow to a calf still in the womb and through food contamination. "When scientists do not rule out this hypothesis (the third way), I have to integrate it into managing risk policy," the minister said.

France is now the last member of the European Union holding out against a European Commission order made last August to end a general embargo imposed because of fears over bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease.

France decided to retain its ban after the country's food safety agency said there was still a risk despite measures taken in Britain to eradicate the disease. Britain and the European Commission had urged France, which faces legal action over its ban, to change its stance following the German vote.

France's latest recorded case of BSE was on April 10, in the west of the country. It was the 14th case in France this year, and the 94th since the disease first appeared.

France stands by UK beef ban after new BSE warning

Sun, Apr 16, 2000  Reuters North America)
France is less likely to lift its ban on British beef following suggestions that mad cow disease may be caused by a mystery factor as yet unknown, Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said on Sunday.

France's Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany said in comments published on Saturday that BSE, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, may be passed in a mysterious third way, apart from infected foodstuffs and cow-to-calf transmission.

"Given that there remains great scientific uncertainty about the way in which the disease is transmitted, it is more than ever important to be vigilant, and it is even more out of the question that France should change its position," Vedrine told Europe 1 radio.

Glavany called into question forecasts predicting a reduction of the disease in France by 2001. The country's 14th BSE case this year was discovered last week, compared to 30 in the whole of 1999.

The European Commission took France to court in January over its refusal to lift a ban on British beef, although EU states agreed in August to end an embargo imposed in 1996. Asked about the problem this raised with European solidarity, Vedrine said: "Not all Europeans are of the same opinion.. but it seems to me that the principle of taking care is more important than the obligation (of solidarity)."

Reinforcement of BSE monitoring and surveillance through tests

The European Commission has today endorsed a draft Decision which will reinforce the epidemio-surveillance of BSE in cattle by introducing a monitoring programme from 1st January 2001, through rapid post mortem tests. Three post-mortem tests have been validated by the Commission last year to this end1.

The draft decision will require the Member States to carry out an annual monitoring programmes on a targetted sample of animals, with a particular focus on animals which die on farms, sick animals slaughtered as emergencies and animals displaying behavioural or neurological signs.

The test results will provide a more complete picture of the incidence of BSE in the Community and of the patterns of infectivity in the animal population. Similar tests carried out in Switzerland have led to a significant improvement in BSE monitoring in that country.

"It is of utmost importance to learn as much as possible about the scale of the disease in Europe. I encourage all Member States to introduce these test", said David Byrne, European Commissioner responsible for Health and Consumer Protection.

Mr Byrne pointed out that he would like to see Member States move ahead with the adoption of a decision (proposed by the Commission in November) to remove specific risk materials (SRM) from cattle. "SRMs, which include the brain, spinal cord, and spleen, carry the greatest risk of infectivity for BSE and possible risk for human exposure to nvCJD. These tissues should not enter the food chain".

Some Member States remain reluctant to accept the proposed measures while others support the introduction of the monitoring programme and the removal of SRMs. Eight Member States already have national rules in place to remove SRMs.

The Commission has launched a new call to present tests for evaluation, looking notably for tests which can identify pre-clinical BSE in live animals or differentiate between BSE and other transmittable spongiform encephalopathies.

The current proposal takes the form of an amendment of Decision 98/272 of 24 April 1998 on epidemio-surveillance of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. The Commission will put the proposal to the Standing Veterinary Committee of the EU on 5th April for decision.

US blood banks fear U.K. ailment: concern about spread of `mad cow disease'

Saturday, April 15, 2000 Carl T. Hall,  San Francisco Chronicle Science Writer  
Fearing the spread of fatal ``mad cow disease'' by blood transfusions, federal health officials are requiring blood banks to start turning away donors who may have been exposed during travel to the United Kingdom. Some regional blood banks -- including the Blood Centers of the Pacific, the provider of blood products to 37 Northern California hospitals -- said the restrictions could cause a serious blood shortage.

The nationwide restrictions were ordered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last year and take full effect Monday. Virtually all community blood centers and the Red Cross are affected. The FDA said it was acting even though there is still no evidence that mad cow disease has ever been transmitted from one person to another through a blood transfusion. Current studies ``cannot exlude this possibility,'' officials explained.

The move underscores a philosophy of extreme caution born during the early years of the AIDS epidemic -- when the nation's blood banks were notoriously slow to protect the safety of the blood supply.

``From the scientific point of view, it's hard to justify, but from the emotional point of view, I understand why they are doing this,'' said Dr. Celso Bianco, medical director of a New York blood-collection agency and president of America's Blood Centers in Washington, D.C., whose member agencies collectively draw about half of the U.S. blood supply. ``We had a big tragedy 20 years ago from AIDS, and people are concerned it could happen again,'' he added.

When the controversial rules were announced in November 1999, local blood supply centers were given up to six months to put the new guidelines into effect by adding questions about U.K. travel to their standard donor-screening programs. Blood Centers of the Pacific, based in San Francisco, said it will start questioning donors about U.K. residency when doors open Monday morning.

The FDA restrictions came at a bad time for blood-supply centers already grappling with a shortage of donors. ``We need donors,'' said Dr. Nora Hirschler, president of Blood Centers of the Pacific. ``I'm very worried that this could trigger another serious blood shortage.''

The FDA said it was implementing the restriction in order to ``reduce the theoretical risk of transmission'' of a rare form of disease found almost exclusively in the U.K., known as ``new variant Creutzfeldt- Jakob Disease.'' Invariably fatal, the disease is linked to consumption of contaminated beef. Control efforts in Europe have included widespread destruction of herds and bans on British beef exports. Relatively few human cases have been reported, all in the United Kingdom, including 17 cases in 1998 and 12 cases last year. But there is no test to tell whose blood may be contaminated.

The FDA restriction does not apply to those who have traveled or lived in the Unitede took effect. The U.K. countries include England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. Travel in Ireland is not affected. Under the new rules, anyone who has spent a cumulative time of six months or more in any of the U.K. countries should not donate blood. No exceptions were made for vegetarians, for example, or others whose diets presumably did not bring them into contact with contaminated foods.

To blood banks, the rules seem ``somewhat arbitrary,'' Bianco said. ``There is no scientific evidence for such a radical action. We would have preferred waiting for more data,'' he added.

By all accounts, the new restrictions will worsen the problem of an eroding blood-donor base. Authorities report more and more difficulty maintaining an adequate blood supply, and there are regular alarms for more donations during peak use periods. Besides the traditional needs of emergency rooms and blood-disease patients, many new medical procedures and transplants now require tremendous quantities of blood. In some cases, it takes 10 donors to supply a single bone-marrow transplant case.

"It's very difficult to balance safety and availability,'' Hirschler said. ``I understand why the government is so concerned, but the problem is I am here dealing with all these hospitals. . . . If this measure turns out to eliminate a high percentage of our donors, how can I guarantee we will be able to supply all that blood?"

The San Francisco blood bank now holds less than half its target inventory of about 1,000 pints. Blood must be routinely imported from other regions. Chronic shortages of donations became so bad in January that hospitals had to delay surgical procedures, and organ- transplant centers were put on special alert. Although those problems have eased, the demand for blood continues to outpace the supply.

A national survey showed that yesterday's action might force blood centers to turn away about 2.2 percent of all current donors. In big cities, however, where blood shortages usually are worse than in smaller communities, the number of European travelers tends to be considerably higher. Blood Centers of the Pacific, for example, estimated it may have to reject as many as 5 percent of potential donors.

Making matters worse, Hirschler said she suspects that most of the Bay Area donors who will now have to be turned away will be from the ranks of frequent givers, because they tend to have higher disposable incomes, are better educated and travel more widely than occasional givers. Other rules already restrict donations from those traveling in certain disease-prone areas. But unlike the indefinite restrictions being imposed on U.K. travelers, other travel- related restrictions typically expire after a year, after which the person is free to resume donating.

The FDA's new policy to restrict blood donations from those who spent a significant amount of time in the United Kingdom is expected to reduce the U.S. blood supply by about 2.2 percent. Blood centers plan to encourage existing donors to give more frequently and will try to recruit new donors to close the gap. To donate blood at the center nearest you, call (888) 393-GIVE or visit on the Web.

Donor plan for death row Britons

Sun Apr 9th London Times Lois Rogers, Medical Correspondent 
BRITONS on Florida's death row may be asked to agree to their hearts, livers and other organs being given to transplant patients. Proposed changes to the state's law would allow execution by drugs which induce brain death while the heart remains beating. Organs would be removed in good condition and passed to hospitals.

More than 160 British passport holders are in prison in Florida. At least 15 have been convicted of murder and one, Krishna Maharaj, 60, from Peckham, south London, faces execution.

This weekend Ben Kuehne, his lawyer, reacted with anger to the suggestion of using execution victims as organ donors. "Maharaj is not about to participate in a Frankenstein experiment by the twisted state legislature," he said. "We are confident that he is not going to be in prison much longer."

Until this year Florida, which has 368 prisoners on death row, used an unreliable electric chair which caused one victim to catch fire. The state has now introduced a cocktail of three drugs and the advent of lethal injection executions gave Bill Andrews, a Republican politician, the idea for his bill. He argues that body parts such as heart valves, skin and bone marrow can be recovered without any alteration to the existing drug combination. Retrieving a beating heart would, however, require a modified execution method.

Transplant organisations have expressed concern about the risk of Aids or hepatitis infection [not to mention nvCJD -- webmaster], but have raised no moral objections.

Clive Stafford-Smith, a British lawyer based in New Orleans who has waged a long campaign against the death penalty, condemned the plan. "It is like hanging, drawing and quartering someone - it is revolting," he said.

EU widens ban on animal feed production from sludge

Fri, Apr 14, 2000 XINHUA COMTEX Newswire
Residues of urban, domestic and industrial waste water from all stages of treatment are now prohibited from the production of animal feed, the European Union said on Friday.

The European Commission, the executive body of the 15-nation bloc, actually widened the ban by re-defining what sewage sludge is in that the existing prohibition on the recycling of sewage sludge in animal feed had been interpreted differently in the past by EU member states. The new prohibition of all wastes from urban, domestic and industrial waste water treatment plants is irrespective of the origin or of any further processing of the waste water.

The recovery of animal feed materials from process waters in slaughterhouses and other food or feed industry plants, however, is made subject to detailed hygiene measures. Feed materials recovered from process water from slaughterhouses and other food or feed industry plants may still be used but only under very strict conditions, the commission said. Process water conduits must be separated from waste water collection systems. If using water, they must use clean water or sea water for fish.

David Byrne, EU consumer protection commissioner, said that the principle that the prohibition of using sewage sludge in animal nutrition covers all possible residues obtained from the different steps in the waste water purification treatment process had been firmly established.

"To gain the public's trust, we must be totally clear about what materials may and may not be used in the production of animal feed," he added. The commission decided to act after media reported last summer that sludge from waste water treatment plants was recycled for use in animal feed.

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