Prion Disease Sweeps Europe: 12 Dec 00
Mad Cow Home ... Best Links

Chicken's head found in fast food order
About 2 out of 1,000 "at-risk" cows actually have mad cow disease
Japan bans EU imports of animal-based feed in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics
Fears of new human mad cow' cluster as two men die
German scientists test soil for possible bse link
Companies to work on diagnostics
Origin of Azores' first mad cow case in doubt
France to remove all injured cattle from food chain
France picks secret sites for banned animal feed

Chicken's head found in fast food order

December 01, 2000 Channel 13 Newport News Virginia

A customer at a McDonald's restaurant in Newport News got more than she bargained for when she received her order. Katherine Ortega said she found a fried chicken's head in the box of chicken wings she ordered Tuesday night. She made the discovery at the McDonald's in the 15000 block of Warwick Boulevard.

Ortega said someone who wasn't looking closely could have easily mistaken the chicken's head for another piece of chicken, like the leg or a wing. The chicken's beak, the comb on top of its head and some feathers were visible.

Ortega said she wants to know how the chicken's head could have made it past inspectors and into the hands of a customer. "I usually look at my food, but I shouldn't have to look that closely to see that. My 5-year-old probably wouldn't have looked. He probably would have thought it was a chicken leg and eaten it," Ortega said. The manager at McDonald's offered Ortega another order of chicken and offered to return the chicken's head to the distribution company. Ortega declined.

The health department sent an inspector to the restaurant to look through the rest of the bag of chicken wings. Officials didn't find anything unusual. The incident was reported to the Department of Agriculture. The McDonald's Corporation said it would look into the alleged incident, stating that food safety is its top priority.

McDonald's Europe sales hit by mad cow

Mon, Dec 11, 2000 Reuters Online Service By Deborah Cohen
McDonald's Corp., the world's largest fast-food chain, said on Monday its sees 2000 profits growing at the low end of forecasts as the beef crisis in Europe scares customers away from hamburgers. The Oak Brook, Ill.-based company said it expects earnings to grow 10 to 11 percent this year, after November sales turned out to be surprisingly strong in the United States and Asia-Pacific region but weaker in Europe, where one-quarter of its food is sold.

Europe first began spotting cases of the brain-wasting bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in November, in countries that include Germany, France and Spain. The outbreak has sparked quality control actions by the European Union and concern among consumers who are looking to eat more non-beef products.

"Sales in certain European countries were tempered by the decline in consumer confidence regarding the safety of the European beef supply," McDonald's Chairman and Chief Executive Jack Greenberg said in a statement released early Monday. McDonald's reported November systemwide sales of $3.2 billion, up 4 percent from the same period last year. This was led by the United States, where sales of Big Macs, French fries and other products rose 7 percent to $1.57 billion....

About 2 out of 1,000 "at-risk" cows actually have mad cow disease

Mon, Dec 11, 2000 AP WorldStream
About two out of 1,000 French-raised cows considered to be at risk for mad cow disease are infected with the fatal brain-wasting ailment, according to a government study published Monday.

The national food safety agency, known by its French initials AFSSA, launched a broader screening program in August and has since carried out 15,000 tests on animals considered to have a higher-than-average risk for the disease: cows that died naturally, and cows that had to be killed after an illness or accident.

On Monday, AFSSA said it had discovered 32 cases of mad cow disease since launching the program, in which the cow's brain is probed for traces of an infectious protein, prion.

"We're not surprised,"Didier Calavas, a member of AFFSA's epidemiology unit, said at a news conference. "The results line up with our expectations."

In 1999, the agency had forecast that it would discover up to 3 cases per 1000 tested in the new screening program. Animals born in or after 1996 could not be studied, as it takes time for prion to develop in the brain. In the study, AFSSA discovered that cows killed after being injured in accidents had a slightly higher level of risk than the others screened, with 3 out of 1000 infected. The group said it would take steps to pull such animals from the food chain.

The final results of the study are to be published in spring 2001. France has been hit by a new wave of mad cow panic since it was discovered in October that potentially infected beef wound up on supermarket shelves. The meat was quickly pulled, but consumer confidence was shaken.

Since then, many school cafeterias have taken beef off their menus, and the government has taken stringent measures to wipe out risks, including banned several specialties such as the T-bone steak. At the same time, more cases of mad cow disease have been reported here this year after the government began screening a wider sample of cows. In total, about 125 cases have been discovered this year, compared to 31 cases in 1999.

Experts believe eating infected meat can cause people to contract the brain-wasting ailment Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. Two people have died of the disease in France, compared to about 87 in Britain, where the disease was identified in 1995.

Scientists follow "mad cow" disease trail

Thu, Dec 14, 2000 COMTEX Newswire 
Some 100 animals infected with the agent that causes the so-called "mad cow" disease were likely slaughtered for human consumption in France this year, researchers estimate. The study, reported in the British journal Nature, comes as the cow disease -- formally called bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE -- and its human equivalent spread across Europe, creating panic among consumers and anger among butchers.

In her analysis of the current French BSE spread, Christl Donnelly, a statistician in the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Imperial College in London, concludes that at least 1,200 French cows have been infected since mid-1987. The actual number is probably much higher -- perhaps 7,300 -- because of under-reporting of such cases in French herds, she said.

"The 100 (animals thought slaughtered in France for food in 2000) was estimated allowing for under-reporting in France prior to 2000; if you assume complete case reporting, the estimate is reduced to 49," Donnelly told United Press International.

An analysis of the epidemic in Britain, where more than 140,000 cows were reported infected in the 1980s and another 40,000 since then, and of current data from the French Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries makes the higher figure more likely, she said.

The number of people who might be exposed to the potentially infectious meat would depend on how the meat was consumed -- steaks, hamburgers, meat pies or pates, researchers said. A 1999 report by the European Union Scientific Steering Committee indicated that, at the upper limit, thousands of people might eat material from a single animal.

"However, our group's analysis of new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, or nvCJD, the human form of BSE, epidemic in Great Britain suggested that on average, no more than two cases of the disease could arise from the consumption of one infectious bovine," Donnelly said. It is impossible to track the infected meat because the animals showed no signs of the disease before being butchered, scientists said.

It is important to keep the current findings in perspective, scientists cautioned. A total of nearly 1 million British cattle are estimated to have been infected with the BSE agent, and more than 700, 000 of these were slaughtered for consumption in Britain before they showed any signs of infection, Donnelly said.

"Given the magnitude of the British epidemic, compared with that in France, there is no reason to think that the CJD cases reported to date -- 87 definite and probable British cases as of Dec. 1 -- have any link to BSE in France," Donnelly said. "It is worth noting, however, that there has been one confirmed case in the Republic of Ireland and two confirmed and one suspected case in France."

"Provided French cattle are slaughtered before they are 30 months old (when they are less likely to be infected) and the ban (on meat and bone meal in animal feed) is effective, the risk to British consumers from eating imported French beef is no higher than from consuming domestic meat," said Sir John Krebs, chairman of the United Kingdom's Food Standards Agency, recently established to ensure food safety, who wrote an accompanying commentary. Unlike Britain, which stopped the practice in 1996, France has been allowing cattle over 30 months old to be butchered for food.

As more and more cases of the disease pop up across Europe and public concern mounts, the European Agriculture Council decided last week to step up protection measures across the continent, including a ban, effective Jan. 1, on slaughter for consumption of cattle older than 30 months unless they have tested negative for BSE.

The new study also reveals that the risk of infection of French meat fell sharply from 1988 to 1991, then gradually rose to 1996, when tissue from the bovine central nervous system was banned in French meat and bone-meal fed to ruminants.

"The rise in infection risk between 1991 and 1996 reflects the recycling of infectious material within the French feed industry," Donnelly found. "Although the inclusion of ruminant tissue from the central nervous system in French meat and bone meal was banned in mid-1996, it is too soon to judge the effectiveness of this ban."

The cow disease and its equivalents of CJD and kuru in humans and scrapie in sheep are caused by abnormal forms of a protein called prions. The diseases slowly attack brain tissue, often leaving sponge-like holes. Emaciation and an agonizing death can follow.

The British epidemic in the 1980s appears to have been caused by a protein feed supplement that contained rendered remains of scrapie-infected sheep brains. In 1996 a suspicion that BSE had been transmitted to humans who died of a new variant of CJD in England caused a scientific and economic furor as the European Union imposed a ban, from 1996 to 1999, on the export of British beef.

"The new epidemiological analyses indicate that the relative potential risks posed by the consumption of British and French beef warrant re-examination," Donnelly concluded.

The study comes at a time of growing panic among European consumers. Hot lines set up in Germany to answer questions about the disease collapsed under a flood of calls. In Athens, angry butchers threatened to close shop unless they were assured the meat they were selling was safe.

The European Union has ordered the destruction of the remains of all cattle older than 30 months that had not tested free of BSE and the testing of at-risk cattle, starting Jan. 1. EU officials also discussed extending a 6-month continent-wide ban on the use of meat and bone meal in animal feed.

UK Scientist Estimates Scale of French BSE Crisis

Thu, Dec 14, 2000 By Patricia Reaney Reuters Online Service
People in France are more at risk of eating beef contaminated with mad cow disease this year than their British neighbors, new research released Wednesday said. A risk assessment by a British scientist at Imperial College in London shows that more infected cattle were slaughtered for consumption this year in France than in Britain, where the mad cow, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), epidemic started.

"It shows that the number of late-stage infected animals, which would be the ones to be potentially the most infectious, was actually higher, considerably higher in France, than in Britain this year," Dr. Christl Donnelly said in a telephone interview. She has been closely involved with the British epidemic while working at Imperial College since 1996. She was previously head of the statistics unit of the Wellcome Trust center at Oxford University monitoring the disease.

One or two infected British cattle were killed for consumption in 2000, compared to 49 or 24 in France, depending on assumptions about under-reporting, she added.

"No published work that I am aware of has looked at the estimates of how many animals have been infected in France throughout the epidemic and then working on from that how many infected animals would be slaughtered for consumption in France this year," she added. But Donnelly, whose research is published in the science journal Nature, said it should be kept in mind that there are about twice as many cows in France as in Britain.

Despite the increased risk this year of eating tainted beef, the overall epidemic in France is just a fraction of what it was in Britain. "There has certainly been a lot of speculation but this is providing the evidence on which people can base a solid risk assessment," she added.

French consumers have been alarmed by the steep increase in the number of reported cases of the brain-wasting disease in French herds. Consumer panic ensued after three French supermarkets revealed in October that they had sold beef from a herd potentially contaminated with BSE.

According to French government statistics, 215 animals have been confirmed with BSE since 1991. By Donnelly's calculations 1,200 were infected since mid-1987, assuming that case reporting is complete. So far at least 80 people in Britain and two in France have died from the human equivalent of mad cow disease, a variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (nvCJD) which is linked to eating contaminated beef. Although Britain has a higher incidence of BSE, restrictions on the ages of animals that can be eaten are more stringent in Britain than in France.

"We don't actually eat older animals," said Donnelly.

Last week the European Union approved a plan to buy and destroy cattle aged over 30 months that have not been tested for BSE. It also issued a ban on all meat-based animal feed.

Donnelly, who has worked on the mad cow epidemic since 1996, used information from the French Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and data from the British epidemic in her risk assessment.

Her calculations show the risk of infection of French meat fell sharply from 1988 to 1991 and then gradually rose to 1996. But the top range estimate of infected cattle in France which is about 7,000 since mid-1987 is much less than the 900,000 in Britain. "That alone gives you an order of magnitude," said Donnelly.

French BSE cows in food chain this year

Wed, Dec 13, 2000 By John von Radowitz, Science Correspondent, PA News
About 100 French cows infected with BSE will have been slaughtered for human consumption this year, an expert claimed today. Of these animals, 52 would have been killed within a year of displaying the first signs of BSE, said Dr Christl Donnelly, from Imperial College, London. By comparison, the estimated number of infected animals slaughtered for human food this year in Britain within 12 months of showing symptoms is 1.2.

Dr Donnelly, who reported her findings in the journal Nature, said: "The relative potential risks posed by the consumption of British and French beef warrant re-examination." She argues that the official BSE figures from France have probably been greatly under-estimated.

She analysed incidence data from the French Ministry of Agriculture and combined this with information from the UK to get a realistic picture of the size and course of the BSE epidemic in France. Her conclusion was that since mid-1987, about 7,300 French cattle had been infected with the disease.

She said: "This estimate is reduced to 1,200 if it is assumed that case reporting is complete; however, under-reporting is highly significant and the steady rise in BSE incidence from 1987 to 1996, estimated on the assumption of complete reporting, is difficult to explain."

Similarly, official reports suggested that 49 infected French animals were slaughtered for human consumption this year, said Dr Donnelly. Taking into account unreported cases pushed the total up to 100. Dr Donnelly's analysis indicated that cannibalistic feeding practices banned in Britain since 1988 had helped fuel France's BSE crisis.

An upsurge in infection risk between 1991 and 1996 reflected the recycling of infectious material within the French feed industry, she said. More cows became infected as they were fed meat and bonemeal feed containing contaminated tissue from other cattle. Although high risk brain and spinal cord material was banned from French cattle feed in mid-1996, it was too early yet to judge if this had been effective.

Dr Donnelly added: "The risk of BSE entering the food chain from British beef has been markedly reduced now that cattle slaughtered for consumption are restricted to those under 30 months' old, but more late-stage infected animals are likely to have been slaughtered for meat this year in France, where no age restriction for slaughter has been imposed." Dr Donnelly used a back-calculation analysis of the UK BSE epidemic to obtain reliable parameters for estimating the course of the disease in France.

Britain's BSE problem dwarfs that of France. Since 1988, 177,490 infections of British animals have been officially reported, but experts estimate the true figure to be as high as 900,000. However the risk to human health has been reduced virtually to zero in Britain by the 30-month rule and other controls. [This is wild speculation on the part of the reporter -- current UK risk levels are not measured. -- webmaster]

Imported meat is also subject to the 30-month restriction. Dr Donnelly said if the legislation was fully enforced there would be almost no risk from French beef consumed in the UK. "Even if this legislation were only 75% enforced, then the risk posed by British and French steaks sold in the United Kingdom would be comparable," she wrote in Nature.

In a letter to Nature, Sir John Krebs, chairman of the Food Standards Agency, said Dr Donnelly's research suggested that despite the UK having 10 times as many cases of BSE as France, the risk of eating meat from a French animal close to developing symptoms was much higher. Sir John said this conclusion depended on a number of uncertain assumptions that BSE followed similar patterns in France as in Britain. Even accepting her evidence, the study indicated there was "no risk case for a ban on beef imports from France to the United Kingdom".

Sir John pointed out that the research focused on carcass meat. But he added: "Comparable if not greater risks to UK consumers could arise from the import of meat products (such as pates and salamis) which usually contain beef, as it is difficult to ascertain the age and provenance of any cattle-derived contents."

He said new European Commission measures being brought in next year should significantly protect consumers from BSE in the future. These included a complete ban on feeding any livestock mammalian meat and bonemeal, and the introduction of a Europe-wide 30-month rule.

Mad Cow risks in France

Wed, Dec 13, 2000 By JOSEPH B. VERRENGIA AP Science Writer
About 100 French cattle slaughtered for human consumption this year were infected with the bovine plague known as mad cow disease, a British public health researcher says. In a report published in the prestigious journal Nature, Imperial College of London statistician Christl Donnelly said at least 1,200 French cattle have been infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, since 1987. She said the number could be as high as 7,300 if French meat producers and officials have underreported the results of inspections.

However, meat from all the animals may not have reached French markets and restaurants, Donnelly says. Nor was it determined how much of the infected meat was eaten. If French reporting was complete and accurate, Donnelly calculated, the number of infected cattle reaching food markets this year could be as low as 49. But if previous experience in Britain and other countries is any guide, underreporting is common in the early years of an epidemic, she said.

Donnelly's estimates are the latest attempt to quantify the scope of the recent mad cow scare in France, in which two people have died. She used data from the French Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries combined with data from the mad cow disease epidemic in Great Britain. The ministry declined to comment Wednesday on the report. ...

In moves to stop the disease's spread, Great Britain has discouraged the slaughter of cattle older than 30 months because older animals are more likely to be infected. And since 1988, it has imposed a ban on using certain parts of the cow in feed. Now, though, the mad cow crisis is intensifying across Europe: In October, France declared that beef from 11 potentially infected cattle had reached markets, and in late November, Germany and Spain reported their first cases of BSE. On Dec. 4, the European Union ordered a six-month ban on almost all animal products in fodder, a move that is expected to cost $1.3 billion.

The figures in Donnelly's analysis suggest that the contamination may now be greater on the continent than it is in Britain. "The relative potential risks posed by the consumption of British and French beef warrant reexamination," Donnelly said. Donnelly's analysis reveals that the risk of infection of French meat fell sharply from 1988 to 1991; it then gradually rose to 1996.

Since 1996, France has required that animal feed be made from BSE-free slaughterhouse wastes. Donnelly said it is too soon to conclude whether the French ban has reduced the spread of BSE there. Neither BSE nor Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease has been detected in the United States. The United States has banned British beef imports since 1997, and unlike European herds, U.S. cattle are fed mostly corn and other grains. However, a disease similar to BSE has appeared in deer and elk herds in western U.S. states.

FSA recommends UK retaining BSE controls

Press release 13 Dec 2000 UK Food Standards Agency
The Food Standards Agency is to recommend that the UK retain its current BSE controls as an added level of protection when new European rules are introduced. New results of a study published in Nature today confirm the importance of these controls on imports in protecting consumers from the risks of BSE.

The European Commission is to introduce the slaughtering of over thirty-month cattle but with exceptions for older cattle that have been tested and shown to be BSE free. This follows an increase in the reported incidence of BSE in France and the first cases in Germany and Spain. The effectiveness of the scheme will depend on proper enforcement and testing across Europe.

The FSA view is that the current methods of testing have not been proven to fully detect sub-clinical BSE. Furthermore, the practicality of testing on a mass scale remains to be demonstrated.

On this basis the FSA is recommending that the UK retain its current rules which make it generally illegal for beef from cattle older than 30 months, including imports, to be sold for human consumption.

Christl Donnelly publishes a study in Nature today on the likely size of the BSE epidemic in France. Her study estimates that there is virtually no risk from French beef imported to Britain if the over thirty month controls are fully enforced. She says that even if the rules were only 75% enforced then the risks posed by British and French meat sold in the UK would be comparable. The FSA estimates that enforcement levels in the UK are currently at around 80%.

Sir John Krebs, Chairman of the FSA, said: 'The latest evidence shows the importance of BSE controls and, in particular, the over thirty month rule for imports. It concludes that on current evidence the risk posed by British and French steaks sold in the UK are comparable.'

'Retaining current BSE controls in the UK is a precautionary measure that will be reviewed in the light of the evidence derived from the new European testing system.'

This latest study indicates that the risks in France of eating French beef are higher than is currently the case in the UK. The risk is comparable to the position in the UK a few years ago.

The FSA has been monitoring the incidence of BSE across Europe. The Agency is commissioning a risk assessment of beef from Ireland following an increase of incidence to 126 cases in the current year. This compares to 1190 in the UK and 126 in France. (Latest available figures)

Europe-wide controls to remove specified risk materials (SRM) were introduced on 1 October 2000. France has had SRM controls since 1996. The SRM controls and the over thirty month rule are the most important consumer protection controls in force. Experts estimate SRM controls remove 95% of the infectivity from cattle. Up to date information on BSE is available from the FSA BSE controls website

Beefing about the risks posed by the French BSE epidemic

14 December 2000 Nature 408, 767 2000 John Krebs Chairman, Food Standards Agency 
Sir,
In my capacity as chairman of the UK Food Standards Agency, I read Christl Donnelly's paper (Nature 408, 787-788; 2000) while it was being prepared for publication, and would like to comment on issues of food safety and policy raised by Donnelly's conclusions. Although the study of the French BSE epidemic is made in the context of the situation in the United Kingdom, there are some points that may have broader implications for the European situation as a whole.

Following the 4 December meeting of the Agriculture Council, the European Commission has announced a series of new measures which will have a significant impact in reducing risk in the future. These include a complete ban on the use of mammalian meat and bone-meal for all livestock, the exclusion of all bovine intestine from the food chain and the introduction of an over-30-month (OTM) rule for all member states. Cattle over 30 months will only be allowed into the food chain if they have been tested for BSE and found negative.

This year, the United Kingdom has had ten times as many cases of BSE as France, and yet, according to Donnelly, the current risk of eating an animal close to developing clinical BSE is substantially higher in France than in Britain (52 such animals going into the food chain in France versus 1.2 in the United Kingdom). The explanation for this is that Britain, uniquely, has not allowed any animals over the age of 30 months to go into the food chain, and virtually no animals are close to clinical BSE by this age. The studies of tissue infectivity carried out so far show that most infectivity occurs in animals within the last 12 months before clinical symptoms appear. Almost all infectivity in these animals is removed in the "specified risk material" that is excluded from the food chain.

Donnelly's conclusions depend on three key assumptions: (1) that the age distribution for the onset of clinical BSE in France, reflecting a combination of the incubation period and the age at infection, is the same as in the United Kingdom; (2) that French and UK cattle populations have similar survivorship curves; (3) that 100% of clinical cases were reported in France in 2000, with under-reporting in earlier years, as was the case in the UK. The assumption of complete reporting this year may prove to be optimistic, in which case, risk from French beef will increase roughly in proportion to the degree of under-reporting this year (in other words, 50% reporting would double the risk).

Because of the uncertainties about these three assumptions, especially the third, it is better to think of the relative risks as being an order of magnitude higher in France, rather than to focus on precise numbers. It is also important to keep the risks in perspective. Under Donnelly's assumptions, the risk of consumer exposure to animals close to clinical infection in the food chain in France today is similar to the risk in Britain, say, three or four years ago. The United Kingdom's risk is going down as the epidemic declines.

For consumers of French beef in other European Union countries, the risks will be the same as for French beef in France. However, in order to look at the risks to British consumers from eating imported French beef, one must make an assumption about how effective enforcement of the OTM rule is for imports.

If the OTM rule is fully enforced, Donnelly estimates that the risk from French beef imported to Britain is essentially zero (no cattle within twelve months of developing clinical BSE). If the rule is not fully enforced, the risk scales in proportion to the frequency of breach. Given informal indications to the Food Standards Agency from local authorities that the rule is generally followed in Britain, Donnelly's example of 75% enforcement seems reasonable, and yields a relative risk from French imports of the same order of magnitude as the estimate for Britain's domestic beef.

Donnelly's study (accepting its assumptions) indicates that there is no risk case for a ban on beef imports from France to the United Kingdom even though this would be a populist move in Britain, given that the French banned UK beef in spite of their own higher risk. It also highlights the importance of effective enforcement of the OTM rule for protecting consumers in Britain, and shows why the European Commission's new plan for an OTM-like rule (the exemption being tested animals) throughout Europe is a key step forward.

Although Donnelly focuses on French carcass meat, comparable if not greater risks to UK consumers could arise from the import of meat products (such as pts and salamis) which usually contain beef, as it is difficult to ascertain the age and provenance of any cattle-derived contents.

The precautionary principle, unfortunately, has come to mean all things to all lobbyists. But in the European Commission's view it should start from the available evidence, acknowledging uncertainties; it should be consistent; it should be proportionate to the risk; and it should require frequent reassessment of the risks in the light of new evidence. Against this background, the UK Food Standards Agency will continue to update its assessment of risk and consequent need for action. However, the European Commission's decision to introduce the new EU-wide measures (including an OTM-like ban) will, when implemented on 1 January 2001, enhance protection against BSE risks for consumers in all member states.

Counting les vaches folles

14 December 2000 Nature 408, 767 2000  David Adam Nature editorial
Steak tartare in Paris may now carry a greater risk of mad cow disease than roast beef in London, if both are prepared from domestic meat. A new model of the current French BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) epidemic, reported in this week's Nature1, suggests that about 100 BSE-infected cows have been slaughtered for human consumption in France this year, compared with just one in the UK.

Combining data from the French Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries with information on the UK epidemic, Christl Donnelly of Imperial College, London, estimates that since mid-1987 at least 1,200 French cattle have been infected with the agent that causes BSE. But under-reporting of BSE cases in French herds means that this figure is probably much higher, she adds although it would still be dwarfed by the up to one million UK cattle infected during that time.

Unlike Britain, France still allows cattle over 30 months old (which are more likely to be infected) to enter the food chain. The European Union (EU) recently agreed to begin incinerating cows over 30 months old that have not tested negative for BSE.

Donnelly's analysis reveals that the risk of infection for French beef fell sharply from 1988 to 1991; but then gradually rose until 1996, when tissue from the bovine central nervous system was banned in French meat and bone-meal fed to ruminants.

The model's predictions seem "quite reasonable", says Herbert Budka, who heads research into diseases such as BSE at the Austrian Reference Centre for Human Prion Diseases in Vienna. "It is fair to assume that a number of infected cows will have entered the food chain in many European countries," he says, "including many countries that have considered themselves BSE-free, like Germany." But perspective is important Budka urges the present risk in France is no higher than the risk in Britain three or four years ago.

Peter Smith of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and acting chair of a committee advising the UK government on BSE, agrees that many more countries could be affected. "It's only within the past six months or so, and partly because of new cases in places like Spain and Germany, that the EU has realized how much of a problem it's got," he says. Still the risk is "miniscule" compared with Britain some ten years ago he says.

Donnelly's work is only a prediction, and such models have been wrong before. Only time will tell how accurate the estimates are, says Matthew Baylis who works on outbreaks of scrapie the sheep equivalent of BSE at the Institute for Animal Health in Newbury, UK. But the model used is "pretty robust", he says. "The underlying assumptions all seem reasonably valid." Nobody at the French Ministry was available for comment.

France to widen BSE testing in January - Jospin

Wed, Dec 13, 2000 Reuters World Report
France will test all slaughtered cattle over the age of 30 months for mad cow disease beginning in January in a bid to prevent infected animals from entering the food chain, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin said on Wednesday. The announcement means France will begin testing older cattle for deadly, brain-wasting mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), six months earlier than the July 1 start date for such tests across the European Union.

"The government has decided to begin the screening of all cattle of 30 months killed in France from January 2001," Jospin said at the end of a meeting of food industry members. "The aim is to test close to 20,000 animals a week as quickly as possible. This figure will grow in importance and could double in order to meet demand," he added.

Meat from cattle older than 30 months that test negative for BSE will be sold and will enter the food chain, while the carcasses of those testing positive for the illness will be destroyed along with the herd of its origin.

"This measure does not guarantee 100 percent screening of BSE because tests available cannot detect the disease in the animal until the end of its incubation period," Jospin said. "That is why it will not be a substitute to existing precautionary measures but will complete them by bringing an added level of safety," he said.

European consumers have massively shunned beef after French supermarkets disclosed in October that they unwittingly sold beef from a herd of cattle containing an animal suffering from the disease. The first cases in Germany and Spain late last month added weight to the theory that many European countries which thought they were BSE-free have in fact been harbouring the disease.

France reported six new cases of BSE on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases seen this year to 135 -- up sharply from 30 last year.

Fears of new human mad cow' cluster as two men die

Wed, Dec 13, 2000 By Jane Merrick, PA News
Health officials said today they are investigating a possible link between the deaths of two men from the human form of mad cow disease who lived within 250 yards of each other.

Steven Lunt, 34, of Adswood, Stockport, Greater Manchester, died in April this year from variant CJD. Experts are expected to confirm that Paul Dickens, 28, also of Adswood, was another victim of nvCJD after he displayed symptoms of the disease before his death two weeks ago.

Dr David Baxter, consultant in communicable disease control for Stockport Health Authority, said a preliminary investigation was already under way. He said once Mr Dickens's case was confirmed a team of experts would travel to the area to investigate a link. Investigations are currently under way into a cluster of five CJD deaths in the village of Queniborough, near Leicester, and into three cases in the Doncaster mining village of Armthorpe.

Dr Baxter said: "Strictly speaking we have one confirmed case of CJD so far, but I am expecting to have results of tests in Mr Dickens' case within the next two weeks. The health authority has undertaken a very preliminary investigation using the same methods as the Leicester and Doncaster clusters, looking at possible links between the two men. We have been looking at things like local butcher shops and particular practices, but so far have not discovered any link. "

If the second case has been confirmed, a team from the CJD Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh and the Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre in London will come to Stockport for a full investigation. Dr Baxter confirmed Mr Lunt and Mr Dickens lived 250 to 300 yards apart, but could not reveal their addresses.

Mr Dickens was said to have begun showing symptoms of nvCJD in June such as memory lapses and loss of co-ordination. He was described as an extremely fit and hard-working family man and a keen amateur footballer.

CJD death toll may be higher -- health expert

Wed, Dec 6, 2000 By Jamie Lyons, PA News
The number of people dying from CJD could be greater than believed because doctors are fearful of carrying out post-mortems following high-profile hospital scandals, an expert warned today.

Dr Roland Salmon of the communicable diseases surveillance centre in Cardiff said doctors were increasingly reluctant to demand post-mortems following the cases at Bristol and Alder Hey hospitals where thousands of organs were removed from babies' and young children's bodies without their parents' knowledge. And he said that meant some CJD deaths could be going "half-diagnosed".

"People might die of dementia but we might not know what the cause of that dementia might be -- is it Alzheimer's disease or is it CJD?" he said. "Cases could be accumulating, particularly among the elderly, and we have no way of knowing."

There have been 87 probable or confirmed cases of CJD in the UK to date. Speaking after giving evidence to the Welsh Assembly's health and social services committee, Dr Salmon said:

"There has been a general cultural shift. People are more concerned to look after their loved ones' body parts. I don't think that has been helped by some of the circumstances that have surrounded some very conspicuous cases like Alder Hey and the Bristol heart surgery.

"One of the things that has permeated into my consciousness and I suppose the rest of the public is that somehow these doctors were holding on to bits of our relatives. I don't know if that is right or wrong but what that has done is it has made pathologists much, much more anxious in terms of the post-mortems they carry out." He said people had to realise that post-mortems were not "ghoulish or idle curiosity" but legitimate practice.

CJD case professor cleared of misconduct

Fri, Dec 8, 2000 By Vik Iyer, PA News
A professor who discussed a Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease case on TV and unwittingly made the patient front page news was today cleared of serious professional misconduct.

Professor Peter Behan, who worked as a consultant neurologist at Glasgow's Southern General NHS Trust Hospital, told BBC2's Newsnight programme that he was treating a girl for the human form of mad cow disease, although she herself had not been informed. The award-winning medical expert gave enough detail to allow the teenager to be identified by journalists and left her family under siege for weeks in June 1996.

But the professional conduct committee of the General Medical Council ruled that while the 64-year-old's actions were "regrettable", he was not guilty of serious professional misconduct. Professor Behan flew out of the country today and was not at the central London venue to hear the verdict.

Professor Kenneth Hobbs, chairman of the committee, said: "As Professor Behan now accepts, there was no need to give the television interview and he should have said nothing to the media. The committee fully accepts that there was no intention on his part to identify the patient and he deeply regrets this breach of confidentiality. There were very serious and regrettable consequences for (the girl) Miss A and the committee wish to express their regret to Miss A and her family for the distress caused."

But Professor Hobbs said that the committee had looked at evidence given as to the neurologist's "personal and professional integrity" in making its decision.

Miss A's mother, referred to as Mrs A, told how she prevented her daughter from finding out about the diagnosis by pretending that press headlines were simply wrong. But she also revealed how Professor Behan said that the "outlook was grim" for her daughter.

He told her how Miss A had just "months to live" but Mrs A emphasised to the committee hearing that - four years on - her daughter was now "very well".

Miss A told how she started to feel depressed in 1995 and developed symptoms of dizziness and unsteady balance. By April 1996 tests for CJD were eventually confirmed to be positive.

Professor Behan, who has now retired from his professor of neurology post at Glasgow University, insisted that he never meant to breach patient confidentiality. He thought it was an extremely important case for the public to be aware of and that was why he went on television to discuss it.

Professor Behan reminded the committee of how the Government was still denying young people were at risk from CJD at the time he gave the interview. He had originally mentioned that he was treating the girl for CJD when giving evidence at the High Court just days before his TV appearance. The professor insisted that he had now learnt his lesson and would not be prepared to talk to journalists.

Referring to his original CJD diagnosis, the professor had told the hearing: "It's easy to say I made a mistake. Armed with the details I had it was not such a terrible mistake when I think about it."

Professor Behan was also found to have used misleading information in an article which he published in a medical journal. But the committee also ruled that this act did not constitute serious professional misconduct. The family were not at the hearing today.

German Scientists Test Soil for Possible BSE Link

Thu, Nov 30, 2000 By Douglas Busvine Reuters Online Service
Scientists took soil samples on Thursday from the farm hit by Germany's first case of mad cow disease to try to discover whether cattle can contract the brain-wasting disorder from grazing in fields. The tests came after Environment Minister Juergen Trittin warned this week that the agents causing bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in dung might survive and multiply in the ground. [Survive yes, multiple no -- webmaster]

Separately, Germany's lower house of parliament voted in favor of legislation to ban the use of meat-based feeds for livestock, blamed for spreading the disease. The measure should also clear the upper house of parliament on Friday and take effect on Saturday, making it the fastest act of legislation in Germany in over a quarter of a century.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder met regional leaders on Thursday evening to discuss who would pay the 350 million marks ($155 million) cost of destroying stocks of animal-based feeds. Sigmar Gabriel, premier of the state of Lower Saxony, said he was confident the regional states would not be called on to foot the entire bill. "I believe the federal government will pay its share of these costs," Gabriel told reporters before the meeting. The European Commission on Wednesday urged a ban throughout the European Union on such feed and proposed other tough measures to rebuild public confidence in beef.

German consumers have been unsettled by fears that eating beef could lead to an outbreak of the fatal human equivalent of BSE, new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD), which has killed over 80 people in Britain and two in France.

Seeking to allay those fears, Health Minister Andrea Fischer said her ministry would issue a compulsory order next week for BSE tests on all slaughtered cattle over 30 months old -- the age when tests for the slow-incubating disease become reliable. "Otherwise meat from these animals cannot go on sale," Fischer said in a statement, also calling for tests on younger cattle.

Scientists from the Agriculture Ministry in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein took their soil samples from a field at the farm of Peter Lorenzen where the first German case of mad cow disease was discovered on Friday last week. The rest of Lorenzen's herd of 169 cattle was slaughtered and, of 32 BSE tests undertaken so far, all have turned out negative, sources in the state government said. Results of the remaining tests of brain tissue were due on Friday.

The soil samples were taken to try to establish whether prions -- the proteins which cause BSE -- in an infected cow's excrement can survive in the ground and later transmit the disease to another animal. The link has not been proven, however, and no method for analyzing the samples has yet been set.

Environment Minister Trittin, a leader of the Greens party, issued his warning on the possible ground survival of prions earlier this week, citing an official study which said prions might find their way into the ground via dung containing bonemeal from infected cattle.

The study, published last February, said the agent causing scrapie, a sheep disease believed to have been the original source of BSE, could survive in the ground for up to three years. Trittin said any fields where cattle had been diagnosed with BSE should be quarantined for three years -- a demand which one leading scientist said was overdone. [HW Doerr has never conducted prion research according to Medline. Prions are not viruses. -- webmaster]

"Of course there is a certain risk. But to panic and say we want to quarantine our fields would be going too far," Hans-Wilhelm Doerr, head of Germany's association for fighting viral illnesses, told North German Radio. Doerr said experience in other countries hit by BSE had shown that the best approach was to slaughter herds affected by the disease.

The federal Agriculture Ministry also said it would rent the fields in Lorenzen's farm, near the northern town of Flensburg, to conduct its own research on the possible grazing link to BSE. "This is all new to me," a bemused Lorenzen said as his farm was besieged by camera teams and photographers. "I don't know whether this can prove anything."

Companies to work on diagnostics

Tue, Dec 5, 2000 corporate press releases
Caprion works on mad cow diagnostic tool, wins funds
Reuters Business Report Date: Tue, Dec 5, 2000
Canada's Caprion Pharmaceuticals is developing ways to detect the presence of mad cow disease in live animals, a prospect that lured more than $33 million into the company's coffers Tuesday in a private placement. The cash will let Caprion develop a database of proteins at the sub-cellular level, allowing drug developers to pinpoint which proteins are responsible for a particular disease. Yorkton Securities was the lead underwriter for the private placement, while venture capital firm Ventures West contributed to the oversubscribed offering, following on its prior support for Caprion.

The first protein discovered by Caprion, the prion protein, is licensed to IDEXX Laboratories Inc., and the companies hope their collaboration will lead to a veterinary diagnostic tool to determine if a live animal carries mad cow disease. Previous tests were carried out after animals died or were slaughtered.

"We developed a means to detect the infectious form of the protein, which is behind mad cow disease and developed an antibody for that detection," Caprion Chief Executive Lloyd Segal told Reuters. "Now we take the brain tissue from dead animals to make a diagnosis of mad cow. There is currently no way to draw blood from a live cow and say 'Ah, this cow has mad cow disease.' This is costing governments millions of dollars," added Segal.

Caprion has also developed an early stage detection marker for Alzheimers disease that it hopes to license to a drug developer for advancement into a diagnostic product. Segal said Caprion should be generating royalty revenues based on its protein discoveries within three years. Depending on market conditions the firm hopes to sell shares in an initial public offering next year.

Nancy Harrison, senior vice-president at venture capital firm Ventures West, said Caprion's database of disease causing proteins will within the next five years form a valuable tool for drug developers interested in knowing how proteins react with each other in the body. "What these guys can do on a mass scale is identify proteins in different compartments...and are able to do in proteomics (the study of understanding the role of proteins in disease) what others can't," said Harrison.

Biolabs Inc - New Company Formed 
COMTEX Newswire Thu, Nov 30, 2000
Genesis Bioventures (officially BioLabs, Inc.) is pleased to announce that Prion Developmental Laboratories, Inc., one of GBI's portfolio companies, has started the development of a rapid, sensitive and inexpensive screening test for prion diseases in animals and humans. Prions are the infectious agents that cause a family of fatal neurodegenerative diseases, most notably "Mad Cow Disease" in cattle and a new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (CJD) in humans.

Prion Developmental Laboratories is a private Maryland company that has established research collaborations with three major research institutions in the United States that are considered leading centers in prion diseases and diagnostic test development. The members of this research and product development team include Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) in Cleveland, Ohio; The University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute (UMBI) in Baltimore, Maryland; and The Institute for Basic Research and Developmental Disabilities (IBR) in Staten Island, New York.

The Principal Investigator and head of PDL's Scientific Advisory Board for this project is Robert C. Gallo, MD, Professor of Virology at the University of Maryland and Director of the Institute of Human Virology. The product development collaboration will be coordinated by Dr. Robert Petersen, Chief Scientific Advisor at PDL and an Associate Professor in the Department of Pathology at CWRU.

"Prion diseases in humans and animals are of increasing concern because these diseases are fatal and cannot be diagnosed early," said Dr. Gallo. "The availability of a diagnostic test to detect prions in presymptomatic humans and animals would help to relieve concern about the safety of the human blood supply and assist in maintaining the safety of products from animals. Our approach is to assemble novel and highly sensitive diagnostic techniques and adapt them to detect the abnormal prion proteins in blood."

"Unfortunately, at present the only way to diagnose "Mad Cow Disease" in cattle or the human form of the disease, known as new variant CJD (nvCJD), is after the symptoms have developed and the disease is entering its late stages. By then it's usually too late to ensure that infected meat or beef products have not entered the human food supply," said Dr. Petersen of Prion Developmental Laboratories. "There is still no treatment for prion diseases, including BSE and nvCJD, but a reliable and sensitive diagnostic would permit the testing not only of cattle, but also of human blood products and tissues before they are used in medical procedures. This diagnostic would provide a great deal of peace-of-mind among consumers, agricultural and public health officials worldwide." ...

Urgent Need for Improved Prion Diagnostics Currently there are no rapid, sensitive screening tests that can detect the presence of infectious prions before symptoms appear. There are several tests being used in Europe that can diagnose the disease in cattle once an animal is infected, but these require that a sample of brain tissue be removed at the slaughterhouse and tested in a laboratory. There is an urgent need for a more rapid and sensitive diagnostic that could detect the presence of infectious prions at an earlier stage of the disease and provide accurate results without requiring post-mortem brain samples.

The PDL prion diagnostic test will be developed first in a format that can be used to test cattle at the slaughterhouse, and then secondly for testing human blood at the point of collection, either at a blood bank or plasma center. In the United States each year over 37 million head of cattle are slaughtered and 25 million units of human blood collected. This prion test will be designed to detect BSE before the overt symptoms appear in cattle, with the objective of ensuring that infected meat or cattle byproducts are removed from the market.

In addition to meat and related food products from cattle, certain beef products are used in pharmaceuticals, vaccines, cosmetics and other consumer products. Scientists are not entirely certain that all of these animal products can transmit prion diseases from BSE infected cattle to humans. However, the recent increase in cases of nvCJD in the UK, including the recent death of a 14 year old person, emphasizes the urgent need to have a diagnostic test to exclude infected cattle.

Prion Disease and the Cattle Industry Both public concern and the lack of a diagnostic that can detect BSE before the symptoms appear has led to significantly expanded slaughter of cattle herds to eliminate any herds suspected of having been infected with BSE. Since 1996, when culling of cattle was implemented in an attempt to eradicate BSE in cattle, over 4.5 million cattle have been slaughtered in Europe, with financial losses estimated at over $2.5 billion. Testing on the animals afterward indicated that an estimated 175,000 were infected with BSE. Outbreaks of the disease are continuing to appear in other countries throughout Europe.

In the United States, a recent recommendation has been made to the Food and Drug Administration by a panel of advisors that individuals who have spent in excess of six months in the UK between 1980 and 1996 be prohibited >from donating blood. In addition, there is consideration being given to banning organ or tissue donations from the same category of people. While no cases of BSE have been reported in the United States, "Chronic Wasting Disease", a prion disease similar to BSE, has appeared in deer and elk in Colorado and Wyoming.

PDL Scientific Collaborators PDL intends to develop the prion diagnostic through the expertise of the scientists at the three research institutes. Among the key scientists involved in the product development program are Drs. Gallo, MD and Niel Constantine, Ph.D. of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland; Drs. Pierluigi Gambetti, MD and Man-Sun Sy, Ph.D. of Case Western Reserve University; Drs. Richard Kascsak, Ph.D., and Richard Rubenstein, Ph.D. of the Institute for Basic Research. Each of these scientists is a recognized expert in human and animal prion diseases, or in the development of sensitive diagnostics for hard-to-detect infectious agents.

"The PDL scientific team is composed of an unparalleled group of prion scientists spanning immunology, virology, neuropathology, protein chemistry, molecular biology, and immunodiagnostic development and testing," said David S. Grosky, Chairman and CEO of PDL. "We are pleased that PDL was able to bring together such a highly qualified group of research scientists to develop this urgently needed diagnostic test."

Genesis Bioventures Genesis Bioventures (GBI) is engaged in the business of identifying promising biotechnology companies, acquiring an equity interest in these groups and providing management services to assist with their corporate development. GBI provides the financial resources, management expertise and commercialization strategies to assist early stage biotechnology companies to make the transition from laboratory-based research through to development of commercial products. The focus is on companies that are developing products to address major medical and healthcare needs in the areas of oncology, neurology and infectious disease.

Paradigm Genetics and Prionics Extend collaborative agreement

Thu, Dec 14, 2000 PR Newswire
Paradigm Genetics and Prionics extend collaborative agreement to develop new tests for rapid detection of CJD in humans and mad cow disease in cattle.

Paradigm Genetics, , a functional genomics company, and Prionics AG of Switzerland, have extended a collaborative agreement to co-develop and co-market innovative blood-based diagnostics for the rapid detection of Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease (CJD) in humans and Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE, commonly known as Mad Cow Disease) in cattle.

These blood-based diagnostics could be used to pre-symptomatically detect the diseases in both humans and cattle. Both parties will continue to share development costs and Paradigm will receive a royalty on any product(s) developed as a result of the collaboration.

Paradigm brings to the collaboration its technological expertise and resources required to design and develop novel assays through to product development. Specifically, Paradigm contributes its vast knowledge and experience in the development of rapid, high-throughput testing techniques that can be performed within and outside the research laboratory.

In addition, Paradigm will assist with validation and clinical trials of the diagnostics resulting from the collaboration. Prionics provides proprietary immunological reagents and expertise in the field of prion diseases, jointly described as TSEs (transmissable spongiform encephalitis).

"The recent detection of BSE in France and Germany through the use of Prionics(R)-Check confirms the need for faster, better tests to detect disease during the pre-symptomatic stages. The ability to test for the presence of prions in blood would be a major step forward in developing a rapid, reliable and simple detection assay.

We believe it is possible to develop an effective diagnostic that uses whole blood samples rather than brain and spinal cord tissue that has been taken after the patient has died or the animal sacrificed," said Sandy Stewart, Paradigm's Director of Biochemistry. "We are making significant progress in developing a rapid and high-throughput test format using Prionics' immunological reagents to increase prion detection sensitivity, reduce incubation time, and allow testing of blood instead of tissues for the pre-symptomatic detection of the diseases."

Swiss Tecan to speed up BSE tests

Fri, Dec 15, 2000 Reuters World Report
Swiss medical technology company Tecan Group said on Friday it would accelerate the delivery of what it called the first fully automated BSE testing platform to the European Union. It said its system doubled the speed of test kits for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), known as mad cow disease, by reducing the amount of manual labour. Tecan Germany would be among the first Tecan subsidiaries to roll out the products.

The European Union has put guidelines in place for the mandatory testing of cattle older than 30 months from July, while some member states are starting sooner with wide testing in order to assuage public fears on eating beef.

"We are proud to be the first company to offer a solution for accelerating the detection of BSE, which is a serious concern for millions of Europeans," said Chief Executive Emile Sutcliffe in a statement. At Tecan, nobody was immediately available to comment on financial details.

Signet Pathology Systems

Brian R. Scannell 800-223-0796 ext. 16
Technical Sales Representative
Signet Pathology Systems, Inc.
Signet Pathology Systems, Inc. is a recognized leader in the production of primary antibodies, reagents and detection systems. We recently acquired the rights to several Neuroscience Antibodies that have numerous research applications in the field of Alzheimers Disease, Downs Syndrome, Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (CJD) and Human Prion Disease.
Human Amyloid Beta Protein:	Clone 4G8 & Clone 6E10
Ubiquitin Free & Bound:		Clone 3-39 & Clone 5-25
Human Prion Disease:		Clone 3F4
These antibodies are available in Crude, Purified and Biotinylated formats and have known applications with ELISA technology, Western Blot procedures, Immunohistochemistry and Immunoprecipitation.

We also have plans to release several new Neuroscience Antibodies in the next 6 months: Apolipoprotein E, Batten Disease, Beta Secretase, ERAB, Fragile X Syndrome, Glutamic Acid Decarboxylase, Minibrain Kinase, Neurotensin, Parkin, Presenilin 1 & 2, SNAP-25, Synapsin, Synaptobrevin, Spectrin, Synuclein and Tau.

Origin of Azores' first mad cow case in doubt

Mon, Dec 11, 2000 Reuters World Report
Genetic tests show that the first cow to suffer mad cow disease in the Azores islands was not of German parentage, contrary to initial claims, local authorities said on Monday. If it emerges that the infected animal was not imported, it would be the first local-born case in the Portuguese region, which was exempted from a European Union ban on beef exports from Portugal.

Authorities in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt said tests on a tissue sample from the animal showed it was related neither to the cow from that area supposed to be its mother, nor the animal thought to be its father in neighbouring Lower Saxony.

A Saxony-Anhalt state government spokeswoman also said the European identity number reported by Portuguese authorities for the animal was different from that found in German records, implying a case of mistaken identity.

Azores authorities said in November that the animal, which tested positive for mad cow disease or BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) after being slaughtered on October 2, had been imported from Germany two years ago to the island of Sao Miguel.

The German government had requested a tissue sample from the animal after doubts surfaced over its identity. The animal was one of the first two cases of BSE in cattle thought to be of German origin that surfaced last month. The origin of the second animal, which was born in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein and stayed in Germany, is not in question.

Spain confirms second case of mad cow disease

Thu, Dec 7, 2000  Reuters Online Service
Spain confirmed its second mad cow case on Thursday amid rising consumer concern about the disease which has swept through European countries. Two weeks ago Spain detected a first cow suffering from bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in northwestern Galicia region. The finding coincided with Germany's first BSE case and news that tainted beef may have reached French supermarkets.

When Spain's first case emerged last month, officials said they awaiting results of a suspected second case in Galicia, which was confirmed on Thursday. "This case presented lots of doubts but the final report indicates that it is a case of the disease," Agriculture Minister Miguel Arias Canete told a news conference.

Spanish appetite for beef has slumped since news of the country's first mad cow case broke, with sales down 50 percent over the past two weeks, according to a survey by a national consumer group.

The affected cows were from separate herds in different provinces of the Galicia region. In all, some 83 cattle from Galicia, many from the two herds affected, have also been tested and all were found negative. "We can take it as a positive sign that the other cattle weren't affected," Arias said.

News reports say 46 cattle farms in Galicia have been quarantined as officials attempt to halt the spread of BSE.

The Organization of Small Farmers said it was worried about the risk of further cases and accused the government of failing to take quick action. "This news came as no surprise to us," Fernando Moraleda, General Secretary of the group told Reuters. "Spain was a country at risk but it failed to implement enough preventive measures to keep the disease at bay."

The latest case involved a cow whose pregnant grandmother was imported from Austria in 1987. The animal, named Elvira, was born in Spain in 1995 and was destroyed along with the 82 other tested animals, Arias said. The previous case was of a cow born in Spain of Dutch origin, Arias said.

Scientists believe mad cow disease is transmitted through contaminated animal-based feed, but others say predisposition to BSE might be passed genetically. [All attempts to investigate this have been interfered with. -- webmaster]

On Monday, the 15 European Union countries decided to impose a blanket ban on using meat and bone meal in animal feeds. Plans to provide financial support to affected farmers in Spain would be decided after the European Union clarifies how it will deal with the problem, Arias added.

In Copenhagen, EU Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler said on Thursday BSE was a European problem, which affects all EU member states. "The Commission has proposed far-reaching measures and I am glad the union's farm ministers backed me up."

But Moraleda pushed for state assistance for Spanish farmers struggling for their livelihoods. "The small farmers are the victims of the outbreak. They are suffering most," he said. The EU ban on meat-based animal feeds is seen boosting oilseed crushing, but weak demand for vegetable oils will clip margins and limit any sharp increase in activity, industry sources said on Thursday.

Two Polish deaths linked to mad cow disease

Wed, Dec 6, 2000 Reuters Business Report
A Polish hospital has attributed two deaths in the past 18 months to Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), the human form of mad cow disease, Poland's PAP news agency said on Wednesday. PAP said one of the victims, a 30-year-old man, died several months ago while the other, a woman of unspecified age, died a year-and-a-half ago. [Despite the very young age, confirmation of nvCJD here is unsatisfactory. -- webmaser]

Poland banned the import of beef from many European Union countries after a recent scare over bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the so-called mad cow disease, in France. But the government has moved to reassure Poles that Polish beef is safe to eat.

Ryszard Obiedzinski, head of the neurological branch of the hospital in the northern city of Gdansk, told PAP: "Everything up to this point indicates that this has nothing to do with eating infected beef," but added further tests needed to be carried out. Hospital officials were not immediately available for comment. The brain-wasting BSE in cattle has been linked to the human new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease which has killed more than 80 people in Britain and two in France.

Doctor denies S.African woman died of madcow disease

Mon, Dec 11, 2000 Reuters World Report
A South African doctor on Monday denied newspaper reports that a woman he had treated had died of mad cow disease, but had died of non-bovine Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (CJD) unrelated to meat. Ronel Eckard "died on 22 June from respiratory failure secondary to CJD," Dr. Ben Makgale said in a statement sent to Reuters. "Certain reports have quoted that she died of Varient CJD, which is incorrect as the diagnosis was clearly reported as CJD."

South Africa's Sunday Independent newspaper said Ken Eckard, a 37-year-old electrician from Rustenburg 100 km (60 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, believed his wife had died of Varient Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (nvCJD). The brain-wasting Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease occurs in two forms, one a very rare condition affecting mainly older people and unrelated to meat; the other a variant which is the human form of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), known as mad cow disease.

"Ronel was only 35 years old when she died...although CJD usually affects patients in the age group from 45 to 75, it has been described in females under the age of 30 years," said Dr. Makgale.

Agriculture Department spokesman Moses Mushi said neither BSE nor nvCJD had ever been reported in South Africa and the department was confident that protective measures implemented since mad cow disease occurred in Britain in 1986 had kept it out. Cattle feed including processed cattle products is the main means of contamination with BSE.

Mad cow disease case registered in western Ukraine

Thu, Dec 7, 2000 AP WorldStream
Two cows have died of mad cow disease in western Ukraine, the country's Ministry of Emergency Situations said in a statement Thursday. It was the first confirmed case of the disease in a former Soviet republic. Laboratory tests performed after the animals died confirmed they suffered from the brain-wasting ailment, the statement said. Another 150 cows from the stricken animals' herd in the Rivne region have been isolated, the statement said.

Measures were taken to prevent the disease's spread, a spokesman for the regional emergency ministry office said on condition of anonymity. "Still, there is no prerequisite to kill other cows," the spokesman said.

Farm workers who were in contact with the cows were examined for signs of the illness, he said. Whole herds are routinely slaughtered as a precautionary measure in Western European countries, even while veterinary experts and farmers say the killing is unnecessary. It was not immediately clear how the cows were infected.

Ukraine denies reports of mad cow disease

Fri, Dec 8, 2000 Reuters World Report
Ukraine's veterinary inspectorate said on Friday two cows reported to have died of the country's first cases of mad cow disease had in fact died of rabies.

The emergencies ministry said on Thursday that two animals had died of "cow rage" in the western Rivne region, prompting some news media reports of mad cow disease in Ukraine. "The two cows died due to rabies," said deputy chief veterinary inspector Valentyna Tytorenko. "These cows were bitten by foxes, and we see no links with BSE," she said. Veterinary officials in Rivne also denied the cows died of BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), as mad cow disease is also known.

A spokeswoman for the emergencies ministry said the confusion over its Thursday statement had probably arisen from the fact that "cow rage" can mean either BSE or rabies. "We know that two cows died of rage, but we don't know the exact causes. You should talk to the veterinary service," said spokeswoman Natalia Tsushko.

Ukraine has banned beef and beef products from countries affected by BSE to try to stop the disease spreading to its territory. Three years ago it imposed bans against beef imports from Britain, France, Switzerland, Holland, Portugal and Denmark. Earlier this month it placed a temporary ban on beef from Germany.

Swedes spurn imported beef as madcow scare spreads

Fri, Dec 8, 2000 Reuters World Report By Peter Starck
Demand in Sweden for imported beef has fallen sharply in the past week amid growing fears of mad cow disease in a country with no known cases so far, the meat industry said on Friday. A Temo poll in the daily Dagens Nyheter suggested 62 percent of Swedes would now avoid imported beef. The poll showed 72 percent think bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) could break out in Sweden, too, but consumption of domestic beef remained almost unchanged, Ake Rutegard, managing director of the Swedish Meat Industry Association, told Reuters.

Demand for imported red meat, which at an annual 50,000 tonnes accounts for roughly 25 percent of Swedish consumption, was in decline, he said, but figures were not yet available. Most of Sweden's beef imports originate in Ireland, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands. Mad-cow disease has ravaged farms in Britain and France. On Monday, European Union farm ministers imposed a six-month ban on meat and bone meal regarded as the probable transmitter of BSE.

Three of four Swedes said all cows slaughtered in Sweden should be tested for the brain-wasting cattle disorder, which some scientists say may cause people who eat meat from infected animals to fall prey to the incurable Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Public opinion appeared to contradict the view of Swedish Agriculture Minister Margareta Winberg, who argues that Sweden due to its EU-designated status as a "preliminary BSE-free country" should get by with testing only 20,000 animals.

Were Sweden to carry out BSE checks on an equal footing with its European Union partners, the testing programme -- currently dimensioned for 6,000 animals per year -- would have to cover 200,000 cows, or 42 percent of all cattle slaughtered annually.

Lars Jonsson, head of the food and environment department at the Swedish Consumers' Association, said Winberg's reasoning no longer held water after it emerged last week that animal feeds given to Swedish cows had contained meat and bone meal, which experts regard as the likely transmitter of BSE.

"Many people are calling. They are mainly concerned about meat their children eat at school. Most would now prefer that their children ate Swedish meat rather than German or Irish," Jonsson said.

The Swedish Board of Agriculture has set up a BSE task force, which will seek to remedy the lack of testing capacity and track down animal feeds containing meat and bone meal.

Other urgent tasks are to decide how to destroy existing meat and bone meal feeds and what to do with slaughter waste no longer converted into this product, which Sweden sells as animal feed to mink and fox farms in Finland and the Baltic republics. [Eleven outbreaks of TSE have occured in mink farms worldwide since 1946; the most recent in the US in Stetsonville, Wisconsin. -- webmaster]

Swedish mad cow fears exaggerated - farm minister

Thu, Dec 7, 2000 Reuters Business Report
Growing fears of mad-cow disease (BSE) breaking out for the first time in Sweden are exaggerated and the risk of Swedish cattle being infected is minimal, the agriculture minister said on Thursday.

"I can understand that people are concerned but removing meat from school menus, for example, is an over-reaction," the national news agency TT quoted Margareta Winberg as saying.

A handful of municipalities have decided to strike red meat off their school, hospital and elderly care-centre menus. Sweden has never had a case of BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), the brain-wasting cattle disorder which scientists say can cause people who eat meat from infected animals to fall ill with incurable Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Fears have increased since it emerged last week that Swedish cows, too, have been fed with animal feeds containing meat and bone meal regarded as the probable transmitter of BSE.

European Union farm ministers agreed on Monday to impose a six-month ban on meat and bone meal. But EU heads of state and government, beginning a summit in the French city of Nice on Thursday, said the half-year ban was too short. Spain on Thursday reported its second incident of BSE.

Due to Sweden's EU-designated status as a "preliminary BSE-free" country, Winberg has argued that the EU's decision that all cattle over 30 months of age must be tested for BSE before slaughter should not apply to her country. In Sweden's case, an all-out testing programme would entail checks of 200,000 animals but Winberg hopes the country can get away with 20,000 tests.

She told a news conference on Thursday that Sweden would be forced to extend its test to the EU level if even a single case of BSE were to be detected. "In that case we must be tough. Then we must of course carry out the same extensive programme as the other countries."

The daily Svenska Dagbladet said on Thursday some Swedish farmers may have imported BSE by purchasing foreign animal feeds containing meat and bone meal.

France to remove all injured cattle from food chain

Mon, Dec 11, 2000 Reuters World Report
France has decided to remove all injured cattle from the food chain, a government official said on Monday as she presented preliminary results of a campaign to test thousands of animals for mad cow disease.

"All injured animals will be culled on the farm," said Catherine Geslain-Laneelle, general director of food at the Farm Ministry. "There are 25,000 injured animals per year. They will no longer enter the food chain." [What will become of the carcasses? -- webmaster]

She did not make clear if there was a perceived link between animal injuries and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the scientific name for mad cow disease.

The government presented the results of the first 15,000 tests out of a planned total of 48,000 tests in a campaign, launched in June, to measure the extent of BSE among France's 21 million head of cattle. The first batch of tests revealed 32 cases of the deadly brain-wasting disease, bringing the total so far this year to 129, up from 30 in 1999.

The sharp increase in the number of reported case has caused panic among consumers, which was heightened after three French supermarkets revealed in October they had sold beef from a herd potentially contaminated with mad cow disease.

The crisis rapidly spread to other European Union member states, prompting the EU last week to take tough measures to contain the spread of the illness, including a ban on all meat-based animal feeds. Paris butchers hold giant "sane cow" barbecue

Sun, Dec 10, 2000 Reuters  By Caroline Brothers
Joggers, rollerbladers and freeloaders converged on a Paris park on Sunday for a giant spit roast held by French butchers determined to convince their compatriots they do not sell "mad cow" beef. The butchers of Paris held their "sane cow" barbecue to counter consumer fears after news that French supermarkets had sold beef from a herd to which Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) had been traced.

A small army of white-aproned apprentices ferried steaming platters of meat over the heads of the crowd in Paris' Jardin du Luxembourg as three giant carcasses rotated slowly over their charcoal grills. Two hundred Parisan butchers working in shifts couldn't fill their trays fast enough with steaming, lightly salted beef.

"There is enough meat here to feed three to four thousand people," said Bernard Merhet, president of the Federation of Butchers in the Paris Region.

"We've got three breeds here -- a Limousin, a Charolais and a Blond d'Aquitaine, all of them raised on grass," said Maurice Lormeau, head of the butchers of Saint Denis, who stayed up all night to tend the rotating spits. "This isn't just some electric oven -- it's grilled on wood coal and takes 12 to 14 hours to roast," he added, flipping slices onto a platter for the apprentices to deliver to the hungry crowd.

The so-called "mad cow" panic, which broke out in October, stripped supermarket shelves in Paris, yanked beef off school menus across the nation and left half of France's abattoir workers technically unemployed. France has reported 121 cases of the deadly brain-wasting disease in cattle this year, against 30 in 1999.

But Merhet said Parisians had failed to distinguish between beef from cattle raised for meat and that from dairy herds. "The dairy breeds are the ones that are more at risk," Mehret said. "Given the current situation, we want to show Parisians that we only sell beef from cattle raised for meat."

Most of those lured by the scent of the succulent roast wafting through the park did not need much convincing. "You have more chance of being killed by a car on your way to buy a baguette at the bakery that of dying of mad cow disease," said Amedee de Clairmont Tonnerre, a jogger who stopped by the butchers' tents after his morning run.

"It's a question of probability," added Alexandre Moatti, taking his daughters rollerblading in the park. "You'd really have to eat a lot of bad quality beef to catch mad cow disease."

Parisian butchers saw beef sales plummet 50 percent at the height of the crisis, though Merhet said confidence was returning and sales now were only 5-10 percent below normal.

Lormeau, a native of France's Burgundy region, said that like most butchers he had not stopped eating meat during the mad cow scare and preferred it done in gourmet style. "I like all beef done with sauces -- it's the sauce that's good," he said. "Especially with a little glass of Burgundy."

Steak mailshot promotion for Paris "sane cow" BBQ

Thu, Dec 7, 2000 Reuters World Report
Raising the steaks in their battle against mad cow phobia, Paris's local butchers have sent out raw beef "flyers" to publicise a giant weekend barbecue where they hope to recapture defecting customers. Students from the capital's butcher school took time off to pack steaks into vacuum-sealed bags for dispatch to newspapers and TV stations ahead of BBQ-day, when three spit-roasted cows will be served to strollers in a smart central Paris park.

Around 200 butchers have booked space in the Luxembourg Gardens for the Sunday barbecue in the hope of recovering clients scared away when fears over BSE cattle disease resurfaced a month ago. "Cooking starts tomorrow because it will take 17 hours," said Bertrand de Tilleul, the publicity agent who dreamt up the steak mailshot.

Fearful of "mad cow" but hooked on beef

Thu, Dec 7, 2000 AP WorldStream By MORT ROSENBLUM
At Chez Robert, a butchery boutique in a hardscrabble Provence town, neither the cows nor the customers are particularly mad in spite of a "vache folle" panic gripping France.

"I think my business in beef is actually going up," Robert Dantcikian said, whacking meaty ribs with a cleaver. "It's the supermarket stuff people run from. I know my cows personally, and my customers know me."

Up in Paris, at the classy and costly little Arpege restaurant, three-star chef Alain Passard makes a similar observation. "I can't say my clientele is staying away from beef, not really," he said. "Diners who come here are confident they can trust us." Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human variant of "mad cow" or "vache folle," pits the brain, leading to dementia and death. Once infected, a victim might go for five years, even a decade, without a clue until the disease develops.

But in a nation that pursues its passions, eating well is no small priority. At least until more is known about the mysterious killer, many Frenchmen are choosing to practice safe steak.

"If people know that beef comes from small producers who watch each cow, who know exactly what their herds eat and where it comes from, they feel assured," Dantcikian said. "And they are happy to pay twice as much." He figures the whole scare will blow over within six months, after the European Union forces the slaughter of suspect herds, eliminates dangerous fodder, and institutes testing for susceptible animals.

At this stage, the leading culprit of mad cow, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is feed made from the powdered remains of other cattle. Cuts near the spinal column and ribs are most dangerous.

French authorities have taken stringent measures, along with EU controls reinforced this week, but they stopped short of an outright ban on the beloved "cote de boeuf," a thick standing rib eaten bloody rare.

Along the rue du Faubourg St. Honore in Paris, among shops with other high-ticket items like designer clothes and rare books, Boucheries Nivernaises' window is chock full of cotes de boeuf. It sells briskly at dlrs. 7 a pound, along with aged faux fillet, a sirloin strip that costs a few dollars more.

"Customers stopped buying beef for two or three days when all this panic first surfaced," Jean Ginneck, one of a half-dozen busy butchers on duty, "but now there is no change from before. They have faith in our meat."

Restaurateurs rushed to calm fears. Chez Andre, a popular old-style Paris restaurant off the Champs Elysees, still offers its "magnificent cote de boeuf for one," and there are plenty of takers.

When one recent diner asked a harried waitress about the beef, she plunked down a well-thumbed flyer that circulated with the menus. Because of constant media reports of vache folle, it read, customers are exposed to "the pressure of insecurity." But since the meat in question was "perfectly followed" at every stage, it was "guaranteed."

Even McDonald's displays a sign at each of its 800 franchises announcing that its pure hamburger beef comes from choice cuts well removed from the spine or other suspect parts of cattle.

Scientists say that such assurances may suggest a lower risk and calm anxieties but are hardly ironclad warranties of safety.

Franz Fischler, EU agriculture commissioner, warned reporters in Paris that too little was known about how the disease develops and spreads to be certain about heading off an epidemic.

Although animal feed helps it spread, BSE can also "spontaneous mutate" [dead wrong -- webmaster] in healthy cattle far from infected herds. It might also be carried in underground water supplies, he added.

The most destructive pathogen is tenacious, resistant to heat, alcohol, boiling or such methods as radiation and ultaviolet light. It can survive for years buried in the soil. Testing can detect infected carcasses, but if infection has not reached a certain level, harmful beef can slip through screening.

Already 90 people are dead or dying, mostly in England but also in France. Uncounted others are infected but do not know it.

But upmarket shops like Robert's and Boucheries Niveraises, and restaurants at every level, are ringing up sales. "This is a serious thing, all right," Dantcikian said in Draguignan, as his regulars nodded agreement. "But so is beef. Maybe this will eliminate that junk the industrial people sell. Will it stop good beef? Never."

EU leaders say 6-month bonemeal feed ban too short

Thu, Dec 7, 2000 Reuters Business Report
European Union leaders agreed on Thursday that a six-month ban on meat-based animal feeds, imposed by farm ministers to halt the spread of mad cow disease, was too short, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said. The 15 leaders discussed food safety and the crisis over bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and agreed that any additional financial aid to beef farmers from Brussels must fall within the existing EU budget framework, he said.

"No one could imagine lifting the animal feed ban in six months' time. There must and there will be a permanent ban," Schroeder told reporters.

EU agriculture ministers agreed on Monday a feed ban which will take effect on January 1 after new cases of mad cow disease were discovered in Germany and Spain, following a growing number of cases in France.

Germany's main opposition party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), has demanded a ban on imports of British lamb amid fears that sheep scrapie is behind mad cow disease and its fatal human form.

A government spokeswoman said on Sunday it was studying health risks associated with lamb, but said it was too early to say whether a ban was necessary. "Everything is in flux at the moment," said the spokeswoman for the Federal Agriculture Ministry, which has set up a commission to determine further action after the discovery of Germany's first two cases of mad cow disease last month.

The CDU said Britain, with far more cases of mad cow disease or BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) than anywhere else in Europe, should still be considered the major danger zone despite the spread of the disease elsewhere.

"Unified rules for meat- and fish-based feed in Europe are just a start," said party leader Angela Merkel of the European Union's move to ban for six months meat-based animal feed, linked to BSE. "We also need an export ban on British beef and an import ban on British lamb because the sheep illness scrapie is widespread there," she told the Bild am Sonntag.

Germany pushed strongly for the first EU-wide ban on British beef in 1996 and only removed the embargo earlier this year on condition the meat was clearly labelled in future. Scientists believe mad cow disease was transmitted to cattle through feed made from the carcasses of sheep infected with scrapie, a similar, fatal, brain-wasting illness to BSE. BSE has been linked to its human form, new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (nvCJD), which has killed more than 80 people in Britain and two in France. Scientists suspect the disease is transmitted through eating contaminated beef.

It is not clear what threat, if any, scrapie-infected meat poses to human health.

"This issue has not been cleared up yet," said Agriculture Ministry spokeswoman Sigrun Neuwerth. "But if any trade measures were to be taken, there would have to be a Europe-wide consensus on them," she said, adding attempts by a single country to impose import bans were likely to fail in the European single market.

Beef sales in Germany plummeted after authorities confirmed on November 24 that two cattle of German origin had been found to have BSE. No nvCJD cases have been identified in Germany, although at least one person is suspected to be suffering from the illness, usually confirmed by a postmortem examination. Neuwerth said a panel of experts had been commissioned to study whether further measures were needed. It was not clear when the panel would report its conclusions.

German safety expert sees permanent EU feed ban

Fri, Dec 8, 2000 Reuters World Report
PARIS, Dec 8 (Reuters) - The European Union is likely to make permanent the ban temporarily imposed on meat-based animal feeds in an attempt to curb the spread of mad cow disease, the head of a German public health authority said on Friday.

Dieter Arnold, director of the Federal Institute for Health Protection of Consumers and Veterinary Medicine, said EU measures to combat the deadly brain-wasting illness would have to be re-evaluated in light of new scientific evidence.

"I would assume that we will be in favour after six months of making it final throughout the whole European Union," Arnold said on the sidelines of a meeting of food safety experts at the offices of the Paris-based International Epizootic Office (OIE). "I cannot see any evidence which could come up during the next six months to end this ban after six months," he said. EU leaders meeting in the southern French port city of Nice on Thursday agreed that the ban, due to come into effect on January 1 and valid for six months, was too short.

EU farm ministers on Monday agreed on a tough package of measures after a sharp rise in reported cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the scientific name for mad cow disease, in France this year. Several EU member states imposed full or partial bans on French beef and cattle after French supermarkets disclosed in October that they had unwittingly sold beef from a herd of cattle potentially contaminated with BSE.

But David Statham, director of enforcement and food standards at Britain's food safety watchdog, the Food Standards Agency, said he did not think unilateral action was appropriate.

"I think from the UK point of view, we are convinced that this has to be dealt with on a Europe-wide basis," he said at Friday's OIE conference. "It is not appropriate to be dealt with by individual nations taking their own measures."

France itself is maintaining a long-standing ban on imports of British beef despite the European Commission's decision in 1999 to lift an EU-wide block on British beef exports on evidence that it was successfully tackling the BSE epidemic.

Japan bans EU imports of animal-based feed in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics

Wed, Dec 13, 2000 Reuters North America
Japan decided on Wednesday to ban all imports of meat-based animal feed from the European Union because of growing concerns over mad cow disease, the Kyodo news agency said.

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry imposed the ban on livestock feed made from cow bones and beef, but has yet to decide the duration of the ban, Kyodo said, quoting government officials. The ministry, together with the Health and Welfare Ministry, will also consider soon whether to take action against imports from the EU of beef and processed beef products, Kyodo 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 in a bid to halt the spread of the disease, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

"We were advised to stop importing European meat and bonemeal for use in animal-feed in a meeting, this morning, with experts," a ministry official said earlier. The ministry asked six bioscience and public health specialists to suggest ways of preventing an outbreak of mad cow disease in Japan, he said. "The conventional check methods may be sufficient to prevent a BSE outbreak in Japan, but we decided to make doubly sure," Kyodo quoted panel head, Tokyo University Professor Takashi Onodera, as saying. No cases have yet been reported in Japan.

Japan prohibited imports of beef and beef products from Britain, where BSE is a major concern, in 1996, an official said. Since then, the ministry had advised Japan's cattle industry not to use feed made from meat and bonemeal, he said.

Last year, Japan imported 130,000 tonnes of meat and bonemeal for animal-feed use, accounting for about 30 percent of consumption, mainly from New Zealand, Australia and Argentina. Only 18,475 tonnes came from Europe, mostly from Italy. In September, 33,692 tonnes of meat and bonemeal were used to produce 1,914,185 tonnes of animal feed, according to government statistics.

The Health Ministry said on Tuesday 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 in a statement. 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.

France picks secret sites for banned animal feed

Fri, Dec 8, 2000 Reuters World Report
France, torn between worries over mad cow disease and environmental risks, has chosen 20 storage sites for mountains of suspect animal feedstuffs which have just been banned -- but is keeping the locations secret for now.

"I don't want these 20 towns to be demonised, many of them are tourist towns," said Jean-Paul Proust, the official who has to tackle a rapid pile-up of meat-and-bone meal and animal fats since use of the material as animal feed was banned last month. "I don't want people saying 'I'm not going there because there's an animal feed depot'," he told a news conference.

Proust has to find places for stocking and destroying about a million tonnes a year of the meal and fats suspected of spreading the deadly cattle illness known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease. The storage and destruction is expected to cost at least two billion francs ($273 million).

The government is struggling to reassure the public that the feedstuffs at the heart of a renewed food safety scare will not pose other environmental risks such as emission of harmful dioxins when meal mountains are finally incinerated.

Environment Minister Dominique Voynet has said emissions of the toxic chemical are caused mainly by old incinerators. Environment protection groups were unhappy with Proust's decision. "We expected Proust to give out the list," Jean-Pierre Edin from the Robin des Bois (Robin Hood) ecological group said.

Proust said it would be left to the areas on his list to go public with their selection and that he was making progress on the plan for destruction of the feedstuffs.

Britain vows to save meat-eaters from French beef

Thu, Dec 14, 2000 Reuters World Report By Elizabeth Piper
Britain's food watchdog vowed on Thursday to protect meat-eaters from French beef contaminated with mad cow disease by keeping strict restrictions on the age of cattle slaughtered and imported for steaks and pies. Britain, which has some of the toughest controls against bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), still imports beef from France, where consumers have increasingly boycotted the meat after supermarkets said they might have sold infected products.

John Krebs, chairman of the Food Standards Agency, said research by a UK scientist showed there was virtually no risk of consumers eating contaminated French beef because Britain kept cattle over the age of 30 months out of the food chain.

"The latest evidence shows the importance of BSE controls and, in particular, the over-30-month rule for imports," Krebs said in a statement. "It concludes that on current evidence the risk posed by British and French steaks sold in the UK are comparable." Christl Donnelly, a scientist at London's Imperial College, said people in France were more at risk of eating contaminated beef this year than their British neighbours because more infected cattle had been slaughtered there.

But Britain imported 726 tonnes of frozen beef on the bone from France from September of last year until August, and a further 1,318 tonnes of frozen beef. Imports of fresh meat of both types stood at 679 tonnes, the Agriculture Ministry said.

Scientists have said diseased meat, linked to the human equivalent new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, could be moving from neighbouring countries and back into Britain, which was hit worst by the BSE epidemic that broke out in 1986.

French supermarkets said in October they unknowingly sold beef from a herd with a case of mad cow disease, and on Wednesday France reported six new cases of BSE, bringing the number this year to 135 -- up sharply from 30 last year.

UK scientists also warn that the real incidence of mad cow disease may be masked by inadequate testing and because infected cattle below the age of 30 months may be failing to display symptoms of BSE.

These arguments have worried the Food Standards Agency. "The FSA view is that the current methods of testing have not been proven to fully detect sub-clinical BSE," the agency said. "Furthermore, the practicality of testing on a mass scale remains to be demonstrated."

Some European countries have said they do not have the facilities to conduct mass testing, a policy agreed to start next year at a recent European Union farm ministers' meeting.

"Retaining the current BSE controls in the UK is a precautionary measure that will be reviewed in the light of evidence derived from the new European testing programme," the FSA said, adding it would probe risks from other countries. "The agency is commissioning a risk assessment of beef from Ireland following an increase of incidence to 126 cases in the current year."

Mad Cow Home ... Best Links