UN health authority:BSE spread worldwide: 500,000 tons exported
Mad Cow: Can it happen to U.S.?
Could mad-elk be in antlers? Group wants to stop sale of velvet
Germans fear the "wurst" but can"t stop eating it
German Greens call for dissolution of farm ministry
France probes mad cow manslaughter charges
Five Britons guilty in huge ontaminated poultry scam
BBC urges Britons to eat human placenta, calf brain, and oxtail soup
France to test 20,000 animals a week for mad cow
Germany forced to recall sausage with mad cow risk
Japan to ban EU beef, processed beef products
Canada spreads scrapie waste on farmland
Fri, Dec 22, 2000 AP WorldStream WHO Position Statement on Recall of Evans/Medeva Polio Vaccine in UK WHO Statement on the Stern Magazine Article on Blood SafetyMeat and animal feed infected with mad cow disease may have been sold across the globe, raising the possibility of outbreaks beyond Europe, the World Health Organization said Friday.
Maura Ricketts, a WHO specialist, said it was almost impossible to trace where suspect meat or feed might have gone since mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, was first identified in Britain in 1986.
"How food is exchanged across borders isn"t very transparent or easy to understand," she told reporters. "Neither is how cattle feed moves around the world."
"The incubation period for this is quite lengthy and the disease appears to be a completely unexpected, novel agent," Ricketts said. "We didn"t think that it would make human beings ill."
Scientists initially were taken by surprise by the disease, which is considered the likely cause of a new variant of the human brain-wasting ailment, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. Governments were slow to impose bans on the import of meat and bone meal and other potentially risky animal products, and the goods were exported for a long time after the disease was identified, she said.
Although Britain maintains export records, meat could be sent to one country, processed, relabeled and then moved on, Ricketts said. "We may have to sensitize countries to the fact that they are at risk," she added.
WHO and other U.N. agencies have agreed to review the scientific evidence linked to BSE and CJD, including infection estimates, abattoir and slaughter practices, how humans are exposed and disposal of material which may be infected.
Cases of new variant CJD are rare -- 87 cases in Britain, three in France and one in Ireland. But "because of the long incubation period, and because we don"t know how much of this agent it will take to kill a human being, we cannot be complacent about this disease," Ricketts said, noting that it also has serious economic implications.
Britain has spent 7.5 billion dollars on containing the disease. If the disease were discovered in a developing country, the economic effects could be even more disastrous, she said.
Saturday, December 23, 2000 Elizabeth Olson International Herald TribuneMad cow disease may have been spread from Europe to other parts of the world through exports of meat and bone meal as well as livestock, the World Health Organization said Friday.
Although health agency officials declined to identify countries or regions at risk, they expressed concern that international trade in food had fostered global exposure to BSE, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, and its fatal human form, called new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.
"Our concern is that there was sufficient international trade in meat and bone meal and live cattle that there actually has been exposure worldwide already," said Dr. Maura Ricketts of WHO"s animal and food-related public health risks division.
Dr. Ricketts, speaking at a news briefing after an informal meeting of experts to review scientific evidence on BSE, said the United Nations agency was "concerned that some countries which received materials do not have surveillance systems to detect the disease in animals or the human population."
In light of the increasing public visibility of BSE, WHO is calling a major international meeting of experts and officials in Geneva next spring on the degenerative disease, which affects cattle and humans.
Some 180,000 cases of BSE have been confirmed in Britain, which first discovered the disease in 1986. In recent months, increasing numbers of cases have cropped up in France and Germany, provoking fears that like Britain, where 87 cases of CJD have been reported, there will be growing numbers of humans infected by the fatal disease.
Meat and bone meal are particularly worrisome, Dr. Ricketts said, because "the recycling agent of BSE is inside cattle feed." Only in recent years have developing countries, which used to feed cattle on grass, been able to afford protein supplements such as meal, she noted.
Britain exported its feed, primarily to France, Germany, Denmark and Switzerland in Europe. It also exported to Dubai and other Mideast and African countries, food safety experts say. Of the 3 million tons of meal produced by the European Union, an estimated 500,000 tons has been exported, mostly to Eastern Europe, Asia and the United States.
Dr. Ricketts declined to specify countries at risk on grounds it could provoke a consumer panic and economic upheaval. But the Campaign for Food Safety, a Minnesota-based national network funded by individuals and foundations interested in organic food, said the United States leads the world in "feeding animals to animals."
Meal made from sheep that may have had scrapie has been fed legally to other animals until early 1997, raising the possibility that BSE has infiltrated American beef herds.
Dr. Ricketts said that it was difficult to track down exported beef and other meat products because they are often repackaged or turned into different products, such as hamburger into meat pies, and shipped on to other countries under new labels.
"Potentially contaminated materials were exported outside the European Community," Dr. Ricketts said. The health agency is using British customs records to track down exports of possibly tainted products, and trying to work with countries to get import information to discover which countries are at the greatest risk, she said.
Countries with rendering industries are at greater danger of having contaminated their food supply, she said. "The risks are raised if they recycle it and introduce it into their own cattle population," she said. But many countries that do not have a formal rendering industry have "backyard industries where animal tissue and organs are transformed," she said.
Fri, Dec 22, 2000 Reuters Online Service By Stephanie NebehayThe World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday expressed concern about what it called "exposure worldwide" to mad cow disease and its fatal human form, new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (nvCJD).
The United Nations health agency said it would convene a major meeting of experts and officials from all regions on the neuro-degenerative diseases striking cattle and humans. It will be held in Geneva in late spring, probably in May.
WHO officials spoke after an informal meeting of experts reviewed scientific evidence on a variety of issues amid growing consumer concern in countries including Germany and Canada.
Experts" concerns center on British meat and bone meal exports in the 10-year period between 1986, when bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) surfaced in Britain, and 1996, when an export ban was imposed on British beef. There are also wider concerns about European Union exports.
"Our concern is that there was sufficient international trade in meat and bone meal and live cattle that there actually has been exposure worldwide already," Dr. Maura Ricketts, of WHO"s animal and food-related public health risks division, told a news conference.
Since 1986, 180,000 BSE cases have been confirmed in British cattle, with 1,300 to 1,400 cases elsewhere in Europe -- all but several dozen cases in four countries (France, Ireland, Portugal and Switzerland), according to WHO. Small numbers of cases have been reported in Canada, Argentina, Italy and Oman, but in each of these countries this was only in imported British bovine, it added.
"We know potentially contaminated materials were exported outside the European Community...We are trying to identify the countries that we should put our largest effort into," Ricketts said. "The only way to know whether or not different countries are at risk is to ask them...These countries themselves have the information that is required to determine if they are at risk.
"We are concerned some countries which received materials do not have surveillance systems to detect the disease in animals or the human population," she added. "Countries of the world need to be developing surveillance systems for these diseases."
But Ricketts, a Canadian, conceded it would be difficult to trace exported beef and meat products, often repackaged or transformed before being re-exported with new labeling. "It become very difficult, the trail grows cold," she said.
Experts reviewed issues including: slaughterhouse practices; "chronic low dose exposure" of humans to BSE; mechanically-recovered meat which may contain infected nervous tissue; exposure of sheep and pigs to BSE; testing; and meat and bone meal.
"We thought we had to review how feed moves around the world because of the importance of cattle feed in the transmission of BSE," Ricketts said. "We felt we had to review these tissues that are called "specified risk materials" and include brains, eyes, the spinal column, parts of the gut content...to find how these materials are being sold for human consumption."
"We are very interested in the movement of "rendered" materials around the world since it is quite possible that rendered materials contain infectivity," she added.
Thu, 21 Dec 2000 By BridgeNews/COMTEX NewswireKerstin Mueller, parliamentary caucus leader for the junior German coalition partner Alliance 90/Greens, has called for the Agricultural Ministry to be dissolved as a consequence of the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease crisis in Germany, according to a pre-release of a report in German tabloid Bild due Thursday. Earlier on Wednesday, a third case of BSE was confirmed in Germany.
"It cannot be the case that farmers are having their own lobby group in the agricultural ministry while consumer protection is spread over many authorities," Mueller was cited as saying. She added that "in the long-term a ministry for consumer protection would make more sense than a farmer lobby with the range of a minister."
German Agricultural Minister Karl-Heinz Funke has been under criticism for his dealing with the BSE crisis, accused of having playing down any possible threat of BSE to Germany before the first case was discovered in November.
Up till now, three cases have been reported in Germany, two in Bavaria and one case in the state of Schleswig-Holstein. There is one more suspicion case in Bavaria. BSE is believed to be linked to a human equivalent lethal disease, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD).
24 Dec 00 Associated PressGerman producers agreed Friday to recall exported sausages and other foods made with meat possibly infected with mad cow disease after a request by the European Union"s head office. The request had come from the EU health and consumer affairs commissioner, David Byrne, who said that the EU Commission would take steps to force a recall if Germany did not act.
Fri, Dec 22, 2000 By Erik Kirschbaum ReutersGerman Health Minister Andrea Fischer faced calls to quit on Friday after admitting she had been slow to pass on information about the dangers of certain kinds of sausage harbouring mad cow disease. But Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder stood behind her as his government scrambled to contain a consumer panic.
Meat and sausage-loving Germany until last month believed that its quality controls made it immune to mad cow disease and the equally fatal brain disease that infected beef can trigger in humans. But the scent of cover-up and a rapid spread of cases in cows, including three more on Friday, have alarmed citizens.
"It is an absolute scandal that Fischer left a warning about the risks lying around in her ministry for a week as if it were just another Christmas card," said Hans-Peter Repnik, a leader of the opposition Christian Democrats in parliament.
"The woman is in over her head and she has to resign," he told German Radio. "If she won"t go on her own, then Schroeder has to fire her. She either runs an incredibly sloppy ship or has lost control. In either case she has to go."
At the height of a rush to stock festive Christmas tables, butchers have reported plunges of up to 90 percent in sales of beef and sausages as poultry and horse meat prices have surged.
Fischer told German television: "Naturally I have made mistakes. But the real problem and the real insanity was the notion that we did not have a (mad cow) problem in Germany."
Schroeder"s spokesman Uwe-Karsten Heye said Schroeder had given Fischer his support in a telephone conversation on Friday. He said she had not tendered her resignation and Heye rejected speculation she would be dumped: "The chancellor told her he stood fully behind her and offered his support for her difficult job."
But doubts about Fischer, one of three members of the Greens party in cabinet, were also growing among Schroeder"s own Social Democrats. "The mistakes were enormous and extremely serious," said SPD deputy floor leader Gudrun Schaich-Walch. "It"s damaged the public"s faith in the government."
Fischer had until Wednesday insisted that sausages were safe, but then abruptly reversed course. She admitted that a warning about some types of sausage containing meat from backbones and other cattle parts seen as carrying a risk of disease transmission had lain in her ministry for a week before she learned about it late that day.
In Brussels, the European Union"s food safety commissioner David Byrne urged Germany to withdraw from export meat products that might harbour BSE. Byrne said Germany should stop exporting the meat products that Fischer has warned Germans to stop using.
"My overriding concern is that consumers in other member states are afforded an equal level of protection to consumers in Germany," he said in a statement.
Agriculture officials in the northern German states of Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern said three cows that were slaughtered on Tuesday were suspected of carrying bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), believed to trigger new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in humans.
As first Britain and then France suffered BSE crises, Germans insisted they were safe as their farmers did not use animal-based cattle feed, thought to be one of the main carriers of the disease. But the cases that have come to light have shown that non-animal feed has been contaminated with animal tissue.
Fri, Dec 22, 2000 Reuters By Thierry LevequeThe Paris prosecutor"s office, in an apparent first in Europe, said on Friday it was considering bringing manslaughter charges against French, British and European officials for deaths linked to mad cow disease.
Judicial sources said it acted after families of victims of new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD), a deadly disorder linked to the cattle disease BSE, filed lawsuits against "persons unknown" for poisoning and manslaughter.
Investigating magistrates would not investigate possible poisoning charges, since they would not be able to prove an intent to kill, but would look into a possible charge of involuntary homicide, the sources said.
The plaintiffs have said they wanted formal charges brought against British and European officials for allowing Britain to export suspected animal feed after banning it at home in 1989 and against French officials for not taking action against it.
They charge that EU officials did nothing to stop the exports of suspected animal feed from Britain because they did not want to delay the 1992 opening of European borders in their drive for a single market in the EU and that France went along with this in order to protect its own meat industry.
Several mad cow suits have been filed in Britain by families of victims, but they focus on charges of negligence rather than manslaughter, a charge more serious and more difficult to prove.
Judicial sources said prosecutors might in the end not be able to bring manslaughter charges because it could prove impossible to determine exactly how the victims were infected.
The lawsuits deal with the death of a man who died at age 27 in 1996, a women who died at 36 last February and a 19-year-old man in terminal stages of suspected nvCJD. About 80 people have died from nvCJD in Britain.
Concern over mad cow disease or BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) has sparked consumer panic in France, prompting the government to ban meat and bone meal feed, take T-bone steaks off restaurant menus and institute a sweeping programme of health tests for cattle. Many schools have banned beef from their cafeterias.
The scare, reminiscent of Britain"s mad cow crisis in the mid-1990s, broke out in October after three French supermarket chains removed beef from their shelves over fears it might have come from herds where a contaminated cow was found.
French judges have gone as far as to convict a former health minister for manslaughter in a scandal over infections from HIV- tainted blood, but the prosecution"s case then was based on extensive records on blood transfusions and the government"s role in allowing tainted blood supplies to be used.
Thu, Dec 21, 2000 COMTEX NewswireA French doctor has denied newspaper reports that a fourth person in France may be suffering from nvCJD but admitted he said the patient had showed some initial symptoms of the disease.
The Journal du Dimanche reported that a seriously ill 43-year-old female patient was being tested for the disease at Lyon"s Pierre Wertheimer Hospital, where she has been hospitalised for six weeks and is in a comatose state.
Dr Guy Chazot, the hospital"s chief of neurological services, said at a press conference that the patient initially showed problems involving memory and behaviour and has been tested for the disease.
However, Chazot said he did not believe the patient had contracted the deadly brain-wasting illness and that such a diagnosis could not be confirmed in any event until a post-mortem examination was conducted. Chazot identified the first case of mad cow in a human being in France in 1996.
Tuesday, December 19, 2000 ALANNA MITCHELL Toronto GLOBE AND MAILThe government must stop the sales of antler velvet in the human food chain after an outbreak of the elk version of mad-cow disease among domesticated animals in Saskatchewan, says an Alberta-based wildlife organization.
The outbreak on six farms caused the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to order 1,700 elk killed because they may have been exposed to the the agent that causes the disease. Officially, it"s known as chronic wasting disease. It"s not known how many of the 1,700 elk were infected.
Like mad-cow disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans, chronic wasting disease is one of the family of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies -- brain diseases. They are fatal and untreatable.
There is no way to test a living animal or human for the disease. There is no evidence that the disease is capable of jumping from elk to humans or from elk to cattle to humans. But research continues.
Darrel Rowledge, a director of the Calgary-based Alliance for Public Wildlife, said the kill-off does not go far enough. He is worried about the antler velvet harvested each year from male elk. The velvet is blood-rich, nerve-filled tissue that eventually hardens into antlers. It is used as a health-food remedy and aphrodisiac.
Mr. Rowledge wants existing stocks of velvet recalled and further sales stopped. "How in the world can we go ahead in good conscience and sell products from these animals that may turn out deadly?" he asked yesterday.
This latest outbreak of mad-elk disease -- the most serious by far in Canada -- has fuelled his calls for provincial and federal governments to review game-farming. Even the World Health Organization, in a consultation a year ago in Geneva, was frank about the large number of serious questions that remain unanswered about chronic wasting disease -- and what, if anything, it means for human health.
"At least one animal-transmissible-spongiform-encephalopathy strain [the bovine form] has infected humans and many other mammalian species through the food supply," Gregory Raymond, a microbiologist with the U.S. National Institutes of Health, told the Geneva meeting.
Hence, it is important to consider the possibility that chronic wasting disease could also be transmitted to humans or other mammals exposed to infected cervid -- deer-like -- species, he said.
Dr. Mike Miller, a wildlife veterinarian with the Colorado Division of Wildlife, is one of the world"s leading researchers on this disease. His work has led him to believe that it has a very small chance of leaping to humans. As well, his assessment is that the velvet is safe. [But see a contradictory scientific paper that Miller signed off on. -- webmaster]
The abnormal prion protein thought to carry the disease is concentrated in the brain, the spinal cord and a few lymph nodes of elk. Velvet, said Dr. Miller, is a "peripheral tissue like a limb" where the prion protein would barely be detectable. [Miller is speculating here and way off on anatomy. Only a study could determine the levels of infectivity. Velvet has extremely high concentration of nerve tissue and blood, both of which can carry infectivity. The prion gene may be highly expressed in this rapidly growing tissue. -- webmaster]
"I wouldn"t say it"s impossible the agent is in some of the peripheral tissue, but the quantities would be small compared to the amount in the brain stem," he added. [Until the infectious agent is measured, hunters are being exposed to unknown risk levels. Miller has a personal financial stake in the outcome, not disclosed in this story, as his salary derives from the sale of game tags and licenses. -- webmaster]
Brian Peart, the official at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency who is in charge of forming policy on chronic wasting disease, is also convinced the velvet is safe.
In larger international circles, though, the issue is unresolved. It is to be a topic in January at a new heavyweight advisory panel on TSEs set up by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said Lynn Creekmore, staff veterinarian in Colorado for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
There"s also the question of the velvet currently in circulation. Under federal government"s policy, velvet that has already been harvested from exterminated elk cannot go to market until the animals have been certified disease free.
But Dr. Miller"s modelling suggests that chronic wasting disease has an average incubation period of 22 months. So the government can"t be sure that animals whose velvet was harvested last year were free of it.
December 21, 2000 Associated PressComment (webmaster): One does not have to look to far into this event to see the heavy hand of MAFF condoning and assisting the perpetrators of this long-running black market in contaminated poultry unfit for human consumprtion. MAFF refused to require color-dyeing of contaminated poultry, as is done in beef, and refused to help local council authorities deal with a nationwide scandal operating 15 years. One wonders how much human death and disease ensued and whether people want their pets eating this material either. Was the trade in BSE beef any better regulated?
Britain, already concerned about diseased beef, added poultry to its dietary worries Thursday after a court heard how five men sold hundreds of tons of chicken deemed unfit for human consumption.
A jury at Hull Crown Court found three defendants guilty of a multimillion-dollar scam to sell heavily disguised pet food to butchers, traders, restaurants and supermarkets across Britain between 1993 and 1996. Two others had pleaded guilty before the trial. The five were to be sentenced Friday. Another five defendants were acquitted.
The court heard how the men repackaged meat that had been deemed unfit for human consumption and labeled as pet food. Health inspectors found containers of smelly, badly bruised poultry covered in fecal matter, flies and feathers. Large quantities of salt - used to remove slime from the meat and freshen up its appearance - were also discovered.
Environmental health officers said they believed the meat would eventually have ended up on dinner plates across the country. The officer who led the investigation, Lewis Coates, said there was evidence that the trade in unfit poultry had been in existence since the late 1980s.
For the past five years Britain has been struggling with a fatal brain-wasting disease that is believed to be passed to humans through beef from cows infected with a similar ailment, known as mad cow disease.
29 November 2000 David Clarke Rotherham Council Press Office, 01709 822732The case began in 1996 with a raid by Rotherham"s Environmental Health officers at four units on the Barbot Hall industrial estate at Parkgate. The raid followed observations and information which suggested that local meat traders were involved in covert movements of condemned poultry meat.
The raid triggered a major investigation into an illegal trade whereby condemned chicken and turkey was being diverted back into the human food chain, ending up for sale in family butchers, supermarkets and restaurants throughout the country. Those involved in this trade were making vast profits at the expense of public health. There is evidence that this trade had been in existence since the late 80s and it is difficult to assess the risk to public health from food poisoning, carcinogens and chemical contamination as a result of eating this condemned meat.
Three Rotherham Council officers were employed full time during the course of the investigation which lasted three years, eventually leading them to premises across the country from Lincolnshire to Sussex. In addition, more than 50 clerical staff were involved in processing half a million documents which were used as evidence in the trial.
As the investigation progressed, the seriousness and enormity of the case soon became apparent. Towards the end of 1997 South Yorkshire Police and Rotherham Council became jointly involved in taking the investigation further, which led to additional raids and arrests. Hundreds of witness statements were taken and eventually ten people were charged with conspiracy to defraud offences. One defendant died before the case came to trial at the end of 2000. The decision to charge with conspiracy to defraud was taken because under current legislation, the penalties for contravention of the food hygiene law are minor compared to the nature of the offence.
The Environmental Health officers and police involved in the joint investigation team worked effectively together in the gathering of evidence and preparation of the case which has raised a number of important issues.
A spokesman for Rotherham Environmental Health Services said: "This investigation was merely the tip of an iceberg. As it proceeded officers became aware that the same scam was operating throughout England, Scotland and Wales.
"So far, despite what we found no one has yet followed up our findings and undertaken a full investigation into the extent of this illegal trade... We feel that the Food Standards Agency should now appoint a special investigations team to undertake a detailed examination of the illicit trade in unfit poultry and other meat products.
"At present investigations such as these are entirely the responsibility of local authorities. The costs of this investigation - which have been estimated to have been £250,000 - have been met by Rotherham Council tax payers even though the origins of the poultry scam were outside the borough. The authority received no financial assistance whatsoever to conduct the investigation, even though it had implications for public health on a national level.
"This had other implications, in that the huge investigation drained staff and resources, meaning we were unable to provide our basic day-to-day service during the three years. This has resulted in the Environmental Health Services being unable to maintain our statutory performance indicators, which has led to criticism from Central Government.
"During the course of the investigation numerous requests for assistance were made to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF). Very limited assistance was provided on two raids, but no practical help to follow up the investigations we had begun.
"The case raises a number of important points which Rotherham feels require urgent attention. These include
1. At present there is a loophole in the law, in that condemned meat other than poultry has to be stained with an indelible dye to prevent it being re-sold into the human food chain. This has allowed unscrupulous meat traders to divert condemned poultry products - which should have gone to pet food manufacturers - for sale to wholesalers.
2. Until 1993 there was a system in place to allow local enforcing authorities to monitor the movement of condemned poultry meat. The lack of such controls has contributed to the spread of this meat laundering scam.
3. At the moment "food brokers" (the middle men and women who buy and sell meat products over the telephone) are largely uncontrolled, and the responsibility is left with the trader to register with the local authority. Unscrupulous traders can avoid monitoring by exploiting the weakness of the system.
4. Manufacturers should be made aware that not all "food brokers" are legitimate and should make every effort to ensure that the broker they use is registered and reputable.
5. Currently there is no national body which investigates this kind of illegal trade in condemned meat. Urgent action is required in the light of the case in order to prevent continuing risk to public health and the resultant impact upon public confidence in the food industry."
Fri, 22 Dec 2000 Associated PressFrench Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany, laying out a planned program to screen all cows over 30 months old for mad cow disease, said Thursday that France would aim to test 20,000 animals every week when the program starts Jan. 2.
As mad cow fears peaked in November, the 15-nation European Union decided that all cows more than 30 months old would be tested at the slaughterhouse before they could enter the food chain. Older cows are considered to be at higher risk for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease. France is getting six-month head start on the European Union by requiring tests on all such cows starting in January rather than in July.
"The objective is to reach a capacity of about 20,000 tests per week at first, before expanding," Glavany said, laying out France"s testing plans. About 20,000 to 25,000 cows older than 30 months are currently being slaughtered every week.
Thirteen French laboratories are certified to carry out the two tests that are accepted in France -- the Prionics and Biorad tests. Twenty-six other laboratories have asked to be accredited in the broadening program. Of France"s 5.7 million cows, 2.3 million are more than 30 months old.
Public fears about the dangers of eating beef reached panic levels in France after it was discovered that potentially infected meat had wound up on grocery store shelves in October. Since then, many school cafeterias have taken beef off the menu, and several cuts -- such as the T-bone -- have been banned.
Experts believe infected meat can cause people to contract the fatal Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. Two people have died of the disease in France, compared to about 80 in Britain, where the disease was identified in 1995.
Wed, Dec 20, 2000 OTC (COMTEX NewswireFinland will not have to test all dead cattle for BSE, according to a decision from the European Union. In areas where the animal density is low, not all cattle will have to be tested but the specific areas included in the exception are to be determined later. Probable areas are reportedly northeastern Ostrobothnia, Kajaana, northern Karelia and Lapland.
Mon, Dec 18, 2000 Reuters North AmericaHundreds of Spaniards, many of them pushing and shoving, lined up for free beef Monday in a promotion by the beef industry, which has seen its sales plummet since the discovery of mad cow disease in Spain.
The National Association of Beef Producers handed out 5,500 pounds of grilled beef sandwiches and packaged cuts of meat in front of the Agriculture Ministry. It was part of a larger demonstration demanding compensation for losses due to the mad cow alarm.
Cattle farmers unleashed a few calves on the ministry building, but the animals were kept from the entrance by metal barriers erected for the protest. The first case of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), was reported in Spain in November. A second case was confirmed in December, compared with hundreds or thousands of cases detected in other European countries.
The deadly human variant of BSE is believed to be caused by eating tainted beef. The discovery of the BSE cases has led to a fall in sales that the Spanish beef association claims is costing the industry some $55 million a month.
Many in the crowd of mostly elderly people shrugged off the threat and lined up for a free lunch. The beef association is demanding government compensation and Monday displayed banners reading "Our beef is safe and controlled" and "Europe is ruining us, we demand solutions."
Two ministry officials received the protesters, but a ministry spokesman said all compensation programs were being coordinated by the European Union. "We don"t have the power to decide compensation," the spokesman told Reuters, adding that European agriculture ministers were scheduled to meet Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss the compensation issue.
Thu, Dec 7, 2000 (AP)The government reported Spain"s second case of mad cow disease on Thursday. Agriculture Minister Miguel Arias Canete said tests by veterinarians revealed a confirmed case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE.
The cow came from a farm in the northwestern province of La Coruna where the country"s first case was discovered last month. Back then it was strongly suspected that a second cow would test positive too. Arias Canete said that another 46 cows from the region have been sacrificed and have tested negative.
Looking to stem renewed panic over mad cow disease, the European Union on Monday took its most drastic measure yet by ordering a six-month ban on almost all animal products in fodder, seen as the main cause of spreading the brain-wasting disease.
Spain, however, has prohibited using animal-based feed for cows since 1994. Besides grass, cows in Spain are given soya-based feeds. The first case in La Coruna and others in neighboring countries has sparked fears of a plunge in Spain"s meat industry.
December 22, 2000 The Associated PressFour months after shipments were stopped because of concerns about a cattle disease, the United States agreed Friday to resume imports of beef from Argentina. Some 2,000 tons of beef were expected to be shipped by air to the United States next week so that the meat can be counted against this year"s import quota. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman announced the decision after a meeting with his Argentine counterpart, Antonio Berhongaray.
Argentina, in turn, agreed to step up its imports of U.S. pork, which have been restricted because of Argentine concerns about U.S. hog diseases. The two countries also are discussing an end to prohibitions on U.S. peaches, plums and citrus because of Argentine concerns about fruit flies. Berhongaray pledged that Argentina would base its import restrictions on scientific evidence.
Argentina, the world"s fourth-largest beef exporter, suspended shipments of fresh and frozen beef in August after cattle bred near the Paraguayan border were believed to be infected with hoof-and-mouth disease. Beef from the border area will continue to be barred from shipment to the United States.
Under trade agreements, Argentina is allowed to export 20,000 tons of beef to the United States each year. About 12,000 tons had been shipped before the suspension in exports. Berhongaray said he expected Argentina to easily reach its quota next year.
Fri, 22 Dec 2000The European Union"s head office on Friday asked Germany to recall all food exports at risk of infection with mad cow disease. EU Health and Consumer Affairs Commissioner David Byrne said Germany should immediately inform other countries of measures it is taking to combat the recent appearance of mad cow disease there.
Germany, which confirmed two new cases of the brain-wasting disease this week, announced Wednesday a voluntary recall of all domestic meat products that might be infected with the disease.
"I welcome these precautionary measures but I insist that they must apply also to all meat products and meat preparations exported to all other member states and third countries," Byrne said.
"My overriding concern is that consumers in other member states are afforded an equal level of protection as consumers in Germany," he said.
Byrne added that if Germany and the food industry can"t achieve that, the Commission will require the withdrawal of potentially contaminated products across the 15-nation EU. There was no immediate comment from the German government.
On Wednesday, Germany"s health minister urged manufacturers to recall foods made before Oct. 1 with so-called mechanically retrieved meat, where the meat was taken from carcasses. Suspect meat could be lurking in some types of cooked sausage, German Health Minister Andrea Fischer said.
Until October, processors were allowed to include shreds of meat from the stripped carcasses of slaughtered cattle -- including the spine, which can harbor mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
German authorities confirmed two new cases of mad cow disease Thursday, bringing the total to five since the first infections of German-born cattle were discovered last month. Austria this week banned the import of German beef.
Byrne also confirmed that the EU veterinary office conducted inspections of cattle feed samples in September in parts of Germany, including Bavaria, where four of the five infected cows in Germany have been found. He said Berlin has been asked to respond to the findings, which would then be made public.
German media reported Thursday the EU investigators found lax inspections by local authorities and negligence in handling feed containing meat and bonemeal.
Byrne noted that all EU countries have been involved in evaluating the risk of mad cow disease, which emerged in Britain in the 1970s and "80s, of spreading to other countries. He said that in March 1999, German authorities were told that it is "likely that BSE is present even if it is not confirmed."
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization in Geneva said Friday that meat and animal feed infected with mad cow disease may have been sold across the globe. Although Britain -- where BSE was first identified in 1986 -- maintains export records, meat could be sent to one country, processed, relabeled and then moved on, said Maura Ricketts, a WHO specialist.
Fri, Dec 22, 2000 By Geoff Meade, European Editor, PA News, in BrusselsA worldwide ban on German sausages was threatened by the Brussels Commission today in the wake of growing fears about the health dangers of products made with "mechanically recovered meat".
The Germans have already introduced a "voluntary" ban on sausage meat at home, and the Commission says if products are potentially unsafe for human consumption in Germany they should not be exported elsewhere in the European Union or anywhere else in the world.
The threat could devastate a huge German export market for sausages and force British supermarkets to remove from the shelves popular foods like frankfurters and other similar meat-based products from Germany. The Commission has the power to ban EU-generated foods across the world, as it proved when it slapped such a ban on all British beef exports at the start of the crisis over mad cow disease.
The argument is that an EU food safety ban which only applies to trade within the EU could lead to such foods re-entering one or other of the member states, once they have been exported to a third country.
The threat to Germany came in a statement from Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne, which effectively told Berlin to impose such a ban itself or have one imposed by Brussels. Mr Byrne said the Germans should take immediate action to notify all other EU countries about the restrictions already introduced within Germany, including the voluntary recall of food products which contain mechanically recovered meat, effectively sausages, and which were produced before October 1 this year.
"I welcome these precautionary measures, but I insist that they must apply also to all meat products and meat preparations exported to all other member states and to third countries," he said. The Commissioner went on: "My over-riding concern is that consumers in other member states are afforded an equal level of protection as consumers in Germany.
"If this cannot be achieved through the efforts of the federal authorities and the industries concerned, the commission will be compelled to introduce a Community safeguard measure, requiring the withdrawal of potentially contaminated products throughout the EU."
The food scare spotlight turned on to Germany following Berlin"s overdue decision to implement an EU ban on "specified risk material" -- spinal columns, spleen and brains -- from the food chain.
For years Germany refused to implement the ban, arguing that it was was free of BSE. The first recorded German cases of BSE in cattle changed that, and in October, Berlin finally applied the measures, warning the public not to eat sausages or other meat products containing mechanically recovered meat, particularly those produced before the date of the ban.
The impact on sausage sales was dramatic -- although the German Government decided yesterday it could only warn consumers not to eat sausages rather order their removal from the shelves.
The Germans use a high proportion of mechanically recovered meat, including spinal columns, in their sausages and consume annually about 55lbs of sausages per person -- more than 60% of the nation"s total meat consumption.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) today backed the Commission"s stance on the issue of German sausages. A spokesman said: "The policy of the FSA is that UK consumers should not be exposed to food that other countries have banned for their own consumers. "The agency is fully supportive of the European action on this issue."
Sat, 23 Dec 2000 F.A.Z. BRUSSELS/BERLIN. Amid revelations of deficient monitoring by veterinary authorities in Germany, the European Commission has called on the German government to withdraw from the market all meat and sausage products that could be contaminated with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or "mad cow" disease.
The European Union"s commissioner for consumer affairs, David Byrne, demanded that Germany also take back products already exported and threatened that, if necessary, the Commission would invoke EU legislation to force Germany to comply with its demand. Consumers in other member countries must enjoy the same level of protection as those in Germany, Mr. Byrne said.
Germany already has urged manufacturers of meat that is used to make steamed sausages to remove all such products if the meat was processed before Oct. 1. This type of meat is removed from cows" bones at the final stage of the slaughtering process. Until Oct. 1, producers were allowed to use meat taken from cows' spines.
The Commission on Friday also confirmed a story that appeared in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung concerning an EU report on the shortcomings in BSE prevention in Germany. A draft of the inspection report prepared by EU food and veterinary officials has been delivered to the German authorities, the Commission said.
The EU report criticizes Bavaria in particular for inadequacies in its BSE prevention efforts. A September inspection to determine how Germany was monitoring a ban on bonemeal feed revealed that three-quarters of all feed samples taken in 1999 in Bavaria contained traces of bonemeal. The meal is suspected of triggering BSE.
More recent reports were withheld from them, the officials said. The inspectors found that even animals with symptoms of BSE had not been tested for the illness. The responsible official had either frozen most of the brains or let them rot, instead of passing them on to laboratories.
Bavarian Agriculture Minister Josef Miller described the EU report as a "half-truth." Mr. Miller dismissed charges that inspections in Bavaria had been inadequate, arguing that Bavarian feed inspectors had been the first to uncover the existence of bonemeal in ruminant feed on some farms. But Mr. Miller said the contamination of fodder with bonemeal was a problem throughout Germany, not just in Bavaria.
Friday brought some good news in the struggle against BSE. Three suspect animals under examination by a Hamburg-based laboratory were reported to be negative, the state Ministry of Agriculture in Schwerin said on Friday. One of the three was Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, and two were from Schleswig-Holstein. So far, five cases of mad cow disease have been confirmed in Germany: four in Bavaria and one in Schleswig-Holstein.
The German Ministry of Agriculture admitted on Friday to delays in passing on a warning letter from the Federal Institute for Meat Research to the Ministry of Health. In this letter, dated Dec. 5, the institute warned of possible hazards from the meat scraped mechanically from the bone and made into sausage.
Speaking on behalf of Agriculture Minister Karl-Heinz Funke of the Social Democratic Party, a ministry official conceded that the letter had "probably not been forwarded with the necessary urgency." Another week passed before Minister of Health Andrea Fischer, a member of Alliance 90/The Greens, learned of its contents.
On Tuesday, Ms. Fischer saw no reason to take sausage made this way off grocery-store shelves. She changed her mind the next day. Even now she perceives "no imminent danger" to justify recalling these products by express decree. The health minister held a telephone conversation with Chancellor Gerhard Schröder from the SPD on Friday. She had requested this talk to describe the latest developments in the crisis to the chancellor.
Afterward, a government spokesman, Uwe-Karsten Heye, and Ms. Fischer"s spokeswoman, Sabine Lauxen, stressed that Mr. Schröder had "not for one moment" considered giving in to opposition demands for Ms. Fischer"s resignation. On the contrary, the chancellor "backed up" his health minister. But sources said Mr. Schröder had not telephoned with his agriculture minister recently.
Meanwhile, it was announced on Friday that the German armed forces would continue serving sausage to its soldiers. Stocks were not being kept under wraps because of the BSE crisis, a Defense Ministry official said on Friday in Berlin.
Soldiers, however, were not "forced to eat sausage," the official added. They could choose between meat and vegetarian dishes, and any new rules restricting the serving of sausage would be observed, the spokesman said. The armed forces" meat rations have not been checked for possible health hazards so far, he said.
Fri, 22 Dec 2000 y Jae Hur Reuters World ReportIn a largely symbolic gesture, Japan said on Friday it is to ban imports of beef, processed beef and related cattle products from the European Union (EU) from January to ensure against the spread of mad cow disease.
Japan imports virtually no such products from the EU and has already banned imports of animal-based products used in animal feed, including feed made from sheep and cows. Agriculture Minister Yoshio Yatsu said the ban was decided at the suggestion of two panels of experts.
Switzerland and the tiny principality of Liechtenstein, wedged between Switzerland and Austria, will be included in the ban, said an Agriculture Ministry spokesman. Japan imported only 740 tonnes of beef produced in the EU, Liechtenstein and Switzerland in the seven months to October 31.
In all of fiscal 1999, which ended in March this year, it imported 463 tonnes from those areas -- less than 0.1 percent of total beef imports that year, Kyodo news agency said. More than 90 percent of Japan"s beef imports come from the United States and Australia.
The ministry asked six bioscience and public health specialists in early December to suggest ways of preventing an outbreak of mad cow disease in Japan, where there have been no reported cases to date. The experts suggested a ban on imports of beef, processed beef products and meat-based bone meal as well as sperm, fertilised eggs and internal organs of cattle from the EU members, Lichtenstein and Switzerland, the official said.
Detailed procedures of the import ban will be decided by next week and the ban will remain in force until the safety of EU-produced beef and related products can be verified, another official said.
The move follows an agreement among EU farm ministers earlier this month to impose a six-month ban, from January 1, on the use of meat and bonemeal products for animal feed to try to halt the spread of the disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
Japan prohibited imports of beef and beef products from Britain, where BSE is a major concern, in 1996. Since then, the ministry has advised Japan"s cattle industry not to use feed made from meat and bonemeal. The ban, however, will have little impact on Japan"s beef purchasing because most imports come from the United States and Australia, officials said.
On December 12, the Health Ministry said it had decided to ban the use of ingredients derived from cows, sheep and other animals from 29 countries in pharmaceutical products and cosmetics as a precautionary step against mad cow disease.
The use of animal-derived ingredients from nine countries -- including Britain, Switzerland, France and Oman -- that have been hit by BSE, would be prohibited, the ministry said. The ban includes another 20 countries considered to be at high risk of a BSE outbreak.
The ministry has instructed manufacturers to document the component origins and manufacturing sites of every product, within a month. BSE is a brain-wasting disease that has killed thousands of cattle in Europe and can be transmitted to humans through contaminated beef. The human form of BSE, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, has killed more than 80 people in Britain and two in France since 1996.
22 Dec 00 John Hazelwood UK correspondent"This may be of interest. About five years into the BSE catastrophe - BBC Radio 4 had several programmes when the culinary delights of cooked calves brains were extolled, even giving the name of a restaurant in Greenwich, London as a place to eat.
About eleven years into the catastrophe Channel 4 (TV) had a feature programme advocating partaking of a feast of the voided human placenta. (Cooked with onions was recommended).
About three weeks ago a radio programme gave a recipe for oxtail soup [bovine spinal cord is extremely infectious -- webmaster].
All of these broadcasts were in the UK. I am assured the shared consumption of the cooked placenta is an unusual but not unknown event in the UK.---This I find almost beyond believe considering the circumstances. Is this practice found out side the UK?"
Fri, Dec 22, 2000 By Simon Mowbray, Consumer Affairs Correspondent, PA NewsThe mother of Britain"s youngest CJD victim will criticise politicians who she blames for her daughter"s death in a moving Christmas Day address on TV.
Helen Jeffries" Christmas message to the nation will be broadcast on Channel 4 at 3pm on Monday. It will be on at the same time that BBC viewers can see the Queen deliver her own thoughts on the past year.
Millions of TV viewers watched the final days of Mrs Jeffries" 14-year-old daughter, Zoe, in October, as she lost her two-year battle against the human form of mad cow"s disease.
Mrs Jeffries, of Wigan, Lancashire, a widow with three younger children, will tell the nation in no uncertain terms how she feels about her daughter"s death and those who she holds responsible. In the pre-recorded address, she says: "We were told by the politicians not to worry about it. How I wish I hadn"t listened.
"I lie awake at night thinking about what the politicians have done to my daughter and I just wonder if they can sleep at night. Do they feel the anger that I feel, do they feel remorse? I hope so, because they have put us where we are now."
Talking about watching her own child die, Mrs Jeffries adds: "It was as if she had gone to bed one person and got up a different person. "The illness itself is more than anybody can cope with but having to fight for everything. "I feel like somebody"s killed my child and I want to know who"s done it."
Channel 4"s Alternative Christmas Message has been broadcast since 1993. Previous speakers have included the parents of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence, Quentin Crisp, the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Ali G.
Wed, Dec 20, 2000 (Reuters)Britain"s food watchdog vowed on Wednesday to close any loopholes in measures aimed at protecting consumers from mad cow disease, saying it would not hesitate to step up restrictions.
The Food Standards Agency had earlier faced criticism from a government adviser who said Britain might still be selling pies and burgers made from meat infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
FSA chairman Sir John Krebs said the agency was doing all it could to halt the spread of the brain-wasting disease. "BSE has caused a harrowing and invariably fatal disease for humans. No other food-borne disease is currently surrounded by so much uncertainty and carries such dreadful consequences," Krebs said in a statement.
"We have brought to light loopholes in existing controls and are taking action to close them."
Harriet Kimbell, a member of the government"s advisory committee on BSE, said on Tuesday Britain"s restrictions fell short of halting all imports of meat from older cattle, which are more likely to have the brain disease.
She said pies and burgers being sold in Britain, first hit by the disease in 1986, could contain meat from animals over 30 months old, years after the government decided to ban such beef from entering the food chain.
The FSA said, "The review drew attention to issues related to imported beef and beef products and the difficulty in policing the current rules."
It said the European Union would tighten BSE controls as of January 1, which would improve safeguards on imported beef, but the agency had asked for more detailed labeling of where meat came from and had ordered more checks on imports. In the meantime) the FSA instructed local authorities to step up enforcement measures on imported beef.
Thu, Dec 21, 2000 By Sian Clare, Political Staff, PA NewsBritish consumers are being put at risk of eating BSE-infected beef imported from the continent because of the Government"s "craven" attitude to Europe, the Tories claimed today.
Tim Yeo, for the Opposition, said ministers had repeatedly insisted that meat products from animals more than 30 months old were not allowed to be imported into the country, yet this was not true.
"The public are entitled to believe that statements repeated time and again by ministers in Parliament are accurate. Will you now admit that food products made from potentially BSE infected, imported, over 30 months old, cattle may indeed have been, and still be, sold to British consumers.
"Isn"t the only reason that the minister has claimed otherwise in Parliament is that this Government is so craven in its attitude towards France and other European countries that it prefers to put British consumers at risk rather than tell the truth about the dangers of French, or Irish or German meat," he said.
But Agriculture Minister Joyce Quin replied: "If we followed your example we would end up being isolated in Europe on this issue instead of having the rest of the EU on our side."
Tory Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury) repeated press reports that imports were entering the UK from countries with a history of BSE and some of the meat came from cattle over 30 months old. Ms Quin said controls on meat sold throughout the EU would be strengthened following important decisions taken at recent EU agriculture meetings. But she stressed that food safety was a matter for the Food Standards Agency and the Government would take advice from the agency on these issues.
Labour"s David Drew (Stroud) said: "There is a problem with processed meat in particular, and we can only deal with that problem by bolstering the number of consumer protection officers in county councils and in unitary authorities."
Colin Breed, for the Liberal Democrats, said hygiene inspectors were having problems checking meat entering the country because of a lack of proper labelling, a traceability scheme or even any real guidance from government.
Ms Quin said the legislation inherited from the Tories was not perfect. She insisted the Government had been giving guidelines and working with the Food Standards Agency on the issuing of their guidelines.
Labour"s Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington) said the most important thing was to ensure unrestricted access for British beef to all EU countries. "We should in no circumstances follow the hysterical advice being given by the Conservatives who want simply to block French and other imports into the UK for anti-Europeanist reasons," he said.
Ms Quin agreed. She went on to describe the three proof tests used to test cattle over 30 months old which were 100% accurate in spotting BSE at the clinical stage of the disease.
But Liberal Democrat David Heath (Somerton and Frome) said it was an "insufficient tool" for the EU to base its entire BSE strategy on because it was only accurate at the clinical stage.
"Is it not the case that we do still have the import of processed meat from over 30 months old cattle into this country and isn"t there serious questions that need to be asked about that policy and about the future of the EU policy to deal with a developing BSE crisis on continental Europe."
Ms Quin agreed the tests were only accurate at the clinical stage of the disease. But she said the EU was not basing its entire BSE strategy on these tests as the EU had also decided to eliminate meat and bonemeal from animal feed. She said manufacturers and retailers of processed products had indicated that they used meat passed safe for human consumption in this country -- not meat from cattle over 30 months old.
Fri, 22 Dec 2000 Wired magazine by Steve KettmannEurope"s ongoing panic over mad cow disease shows no signs of easing up, which raises the question: Could this happen in the United States?
So far, there have been no reported instances of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in the United States, and strict measures are in place to make sure that remains the case. Whether other related ailments -- that is, other diseases grouped under the heading transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) -- could pose a risk remains open to interpretation.
Lester Crawford, administrator of the USDA"s Food Safety and Inspection Service until 1991, urges calm. Mad-cow disease, or BSE, can be kept from harming American beef, even though the epidemic in Europe makes that harder, he said.
"The new developments in Europe, with one country after another reporting what we call endemic BSE, raises the stakes for the United States considerably," he said. "In effect, we not only have to ban all imports from Europe, in my opinion, we also have to watch trans-shipment, meaning animals that are transported via another country. Our task just got immensely more difficult."
Crawford, now director of the Center for Food and Nutrition Policy at Georgetown University, noted that the U.S. government had taken an aggressive approach to keep out British cattle since 1988, and a still more agressive approach when the discovery was made in 1996 that BSE could spread to humans. He said the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) gets high marks for its clean record on BSE so far.
"They are very effective," he said. "They are very well funded. I think we are doing about all that can humanly be done. It would be correct to say that the U.S. government has taken it very seriously since they first learned what it was in 1988. It"s APHIS" sworn testimony before Congress that they can keep it out. I don"t know whether it"s inevitable or not. I think we can succeed."
John Stauber thinks Americans have a lot to worry about. He is co-author, with Sheldon Rampton, of the November 1997 volume Mad Cow USA: Could the Nightmare Happen Here? available via Common Courage Press -- or from this website.
"People in the United States should be more than worried," Stauber said. "They should be very angry that the U.S. government is covering up the risks of mad deer and mad elk disease to hunters and to those who eat venison products. And also that our regulations in the U.S., with regard to feeding slaughterhouse waste to animals, are inadequate.
"The U.S. has built this huge wall against British mad cow disease, but has done little or nothing to address our own indigenous TSEs. In my opinion, that"s because U.S. policy has been driven by the desire to protect the image of U.S. beef. So the focus is on one disease, called mad cow disease, and ignoring other diseases like scrapie."
If the example of Germany is any indication, Americans should pay attention. Public officials in Germany had considered themselves invulnerable to BSE, even after the brain-wasting disease showed up in livestock in Britain, France, Ireland, Portugal, Switzerland and Spain.
In 1996, European concern over BSE skyrocketed when British scientists traced a link between the animal malady and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a human form of the condition that has claimed 80 lives in Britain and two in France.
Germany"s first confirmed case of BSE came just last month, setting off a full-scale PANIK -- as the tabloids blared -- and endless rounds of self-criticism from public officials who said they had been arrogant in thinking it couldn"t happen here. A fresh case of BSE was confirmed Sunday in the southern state of Bavaria, prompting a whole new round of jitters.
Bavaria accounts for nearly one-third of all beef production in Germany, according to figures from the Bavarian Statistics Office. Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber released a statement describing the BSE case as a "severe blow for our farm industry."
Sales of beef have fallen off dramatically around Germany, and people are rushing to buy horse meat instead. The Telegraph of London reported an 80 percent increase in German sales of horse meat, some of which has been used along with pork to make sausage.
"Everyone is buying it," a horse-meat butcher from southwest Germany told the paper. "Old people, young mothers, young couples, single people. People from all walks of life. They think it is safer and it tastes good, like Argentine beef."
Just Wednesday, Bavaria reported another confirmed case of BSE -- this time in an animal from the Oberpfalz district born in 1996. France, meanwhile, reported that its total number of BSE cases for the year had risen by another two to 141.
"The major mistake that countries make is to assume that it"s a British problem, and to assume that this disease is like other diseases, when in fact this disease is like no other disease in so many ways," Stauber said.
"It"s caused apparently by an infectious protein, not by a virus or bacteria. We don"t know how bad the situation is going to get in the UK and the EU countries because we"ve never seen an epidemic on this scale before."
More confirmed instances of BSE are expected in Germany. The government responded to last month"s bad news by instituting mandatory quick-testing on cattle that had reached the age of 30 months or older. The pharmaceuticals group Boehringer Ingelheim has been working on a type of quick-testing that could detect BSE in animals that are still alive -- a potentially major breakthrough, especially in terms of quelling public outrage and worry.
"I"ve been frankly surprised that this hasn"t occurred a little sooner in Europe," Stauber said. "Back in 1988, when Britain realized that mad cow disease was being spread among cattle by contaminated feed, they began banning the use of rendered byproducts ... in Britain but exporting the contaminated feed abroad, especially to France, from which it moved to most European countries.
"So it was just a matter of time. It was clear when we wrote our book ... that there were cases of BSE throughout Europe that were being covered up. There had to be. All that contaminated feed going to Europe had to result in some cases. I think it"s simply taken until this past year for the European BSE problem to come to light."
Animal remains ending up in feed given to other animals forms the brunt of Stauber"s complaint with U.S. policy.
"What the meat industry has done in Europe and the United States is taken slaughterhouse waste and turned it into feed, and when I say slaughterhouse waste I mean gristle, bones, guts -- everything that"s unfit for human consumption."
This practice may soon come to an end -- as it already has in the case of feed given to U.S. cattle. The U.S. government banned the inclusion of meat and bone meal from feed that is given to cattle, since it could contain prion, which causes BSE.
Stauber worries about other forms of BSE showing up in other animals. He cites the cases of two young hunters who died in recent years from Creutzfeld-Jakob disease. Stauber thinks they died because of exposure to deer that suffered from a form of BSE. But so far, most people think of this as a problem with beef, not with venison or other animal meat.
Stauber may have a point when he argues that the U.S. approach has been in part to talk up U.S. beef internationally as BSE-free, so it can increase its position as the world"s largest beef-exporter. Then again, that approach is not without risk. Even one or two instances of BSE in the United States could set off a panic in a hurry.
Michael Doyle, regents professor of food microbiology at the University of Georgia, said he"s confident that won"t happen.
"If there is an isolated incident, the key is we need to be able to control it and make it a small incident, rather than having a situation where large numbers of herds are affected," he said. "I think our USDA has been very stringent in monitoring imports of live animals, and controlling what"s offered as processed meat."
And does he himself eat beef? "I"m a beef eater, oh yes," he said. "But I eat ground beef well cooked -- because of E. coli, not BSE. I"ll eat steaks medium rare and have no concerns about BSE."
21 Dec 2000 Press Release Maureen Reilly 416 922-4099 CFIA Spokesperson: Andrew Adams (613) 228-6698, ext. 4899 (office) Minister¹s Spokesperson: Vern Greenshields, (613) 759-1020For 5 months earlier this year, tissues from sheep infected with scrapie (the sheep version of mad cow disease) were accidently sent to the Ottawa waste water treatment plant without being adequately treated to kill the infective agents in the tissue. The sludge containing the infectious material was spread on farmland in the Ottawa area as "biosolids".
The sheep tissues contained scrapie "prions" which can remain infective for several years in the soil. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency laboratory was testing infected and uninfected sheep tissue looking for a way to develop a way to test for scrapie in live animals. Currently, animals who are infected with mad cow disease, scrapie, or chronic wasting disease, and humans infected with Creutzfelt-Jacob Disease (the human version) can only be diagnosed after death.
The release of the tissues was publicly acknowledged earlier this year by the federal government Canadian Food Inspection Agency, but the federal laboratory officials were not informed that the waste water sludge containing the tissues was spread on farmland in the greater Ottawa area. The Ontario Ministry of Environment was unaware of the spill.
A provincial officer from the Ottawa Ministry of the Environment stated that spills into the sewer system are not counted as a spill by the Province. Farmers who received the sludge from the Ottawa treatment plant have not been notified that they may have received sludge containing the infective scrapie tissues. For More information call:
July 21, 2000 APAnimal waste inadvertently released at below target temperatures from an animal disease testing laboratory in Nepean posed no threat to humans or animals, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) reported today.
The waste treatment temperature was inadvertently lowered from 134°C to 121°C at the Animal Disease Research Institute (ADRI) on Fallowfield Road between mid-February and July 19.
While 121°C is normal for treatment of liquid animal waste, the temperature had been raised as an added precaution during treatment of waste from post mortems of sheep possibly infected with scrapie. More than 99 per cent of the scrapie agent is destroyed at 121°C. [This is a fantasy at complete odds with the scientific record and practical experience. -- webmaster]
Scrapie infects sheep and goats in Canada but is not considered harmful to humans. Health Canada confirms there is no human health risk. [This contradicts the latest peer-reviewed science. -- webmaster]
Officials emphasize that little, if any, waste containing the scrapie agent would have entered the treatment system or been released into municipal sewers.
The temperature drop occurred during routine maintenance of equipment. The agency immediately notified officials at the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton and the City of Nepean. The lab has returned to a treatment temperature of 134 °C and steps have been taken to avoid a repeat of the incident.
Fri, 22 Dec 2000 Reuters Financial Report By Jan DahintenThe prospect of life without sausages is proving almost unbearable for many Germans despite their fear of mad cow disease.
The innate craving for "wurst," the national dish in this country of simple culinary tastes, persists even though Germans realise that its consumption may eventually waste their brains. The fear of beef has driven many to pork and poultry sausages. Some people are stocking up on horse meat.
"It"s hysterical," said Gernot Stiebig, who sells sausages in Frankfurt. "Since last week customers have only been asking for sausages without beef. They want poultry, game or pork." Stiebig said his sales have fallen by about 40 percent as customers fear infection from bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), which is believed to trigger new variant Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease (nvCJD) in humans.
Other shoppers took a blase approach, arguing that most meats will be found contaminated by something eventually. "Today it"s beef, yesterday it was chicken and tomorrow it will be pork," said a man in between taking mouthfuls of sausage at Frankfurt"s Christmas market.
First discovered in Britain and then in France, Germany declared itself a BSE-free zone as their farmers did not use animal-based cattle feed, thought to be one of the main carriers of the disease. Although no cases of the human equivalent of the disease have yet been confirmed in Germany, five farmers have been forced to destroy their lifestock after nationwide testing detected infected cattle in their sheds.
Friederike Satvary of family-owned Gref-Voelsings butcher, which is famous in Frankfurt for its beef sausages, said she may have to cut jobs due to falling demand for beef. "At present our sales have almost halved, we probably have to eliminate some jobs," she said.
But many Germans find it hard to understand why they should suddenly stop eating the symbol of German cuisine. While most German "wurst" is made from pork, some contain beef and many of the cheaper varieties include meat mechanically recovered from the backbones and other parts of cows.
It is this type of sausage that bears the danger of BSE infection as the virus concentrates in brain and other weak tissues. Butchers say customer demand for cheap meat has pushed down quality, thus increasing the risks.
"I think the main problem is that most people want mainly cheap food. But for good and clean food you have to pay a little more," wurst salesman Stiebig said. And some butchers hope the current crisis will make consumers realise that low-cost food is not without its price.
Gref-Voelsings" Satvary, whose family business is 106 years old, said: "Part of the problem is that everyone wants to eat meat every day and it has to be cheap too. But perhaps the whole crisis will help us make customers understand and accept that one has to pay for quality."
Some shoppers in Frankfurt were nevertheless determined not to let the mad cow disease scare wreck their Christmas. "I have eaten beef sausages for years and years and will keep buying them," said Wolfgang Willkommen, loading up wurst in a downtown Frankfurt butchers shop on Friday.