Prion Disease
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Mad cow victims' behavior changes
Mad cow confidence crisis spreads in Europe
BSE-free Austria sceptical on total meal ban
France says no proof of post-1996 mad cow case
German BSE hotline collapses from too many callers
EU scientists judge national bans on French beef
Another meat scandal; horses had better watch out
Farmer compensation needed in BSE fight
Waste plant BSE drums moved as danger probe goes on
BSE ground contamination?

Mad cow victims' behavior changes

 Tue, Nov 28, 2000 By JOCELYN GECKERAP Online
When 17-year-old Arnaud Eboli began smashing chairs and dishes in fits of rage two years ago, doctors told his parents it was only adolescent frustration. The hysteria and mood swings subsided a year later. But then, Arnaud lost the ability to walk and speak. Today, the once-vibrant teen lies paralyzed, barely conscious and kept alive through a feeding tube.

Doctors say he suffers from a variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, the human version of mad cow disease. The ailment caused panic across France when it became known last month that potentially contaminated beef had reached supermarket shelves. The fear was fueled by a television special that graphically showed the deterioration of human victims, notably Arnaud. Creutzfeldt-Jakob is commonly described as a "brain-wasting" illness. Families of two victims told The Associated Press the frightening reality of what that means.

In Arnaud's case, the disease transformed a soft-spoken, handsome athlete who excelled at skiing and martial arts into a limp bag of bones. It started in September 1998 with hysteria.

"We couldn't control him, he would break things all over the house. He fought with us all the time," said his mother, Dominique. Anger, agitation and depression lasted nearly a year -- symptoms doctors identified as "normal adolescent behavior," said Mrs. Eboli, 43. "I knew that was wrong."

By September 1999, Arnaud stumbled when he walked, his memory was impaired and speaking took great effort. "It was as if his mouth was full of food and he couldn't push the words out," his mother said. Arnaud could no longer bath or feed himself. Sometimes his eyes bulged; sometimes one eye stayed shut.

New doctors called it "irreversible and premature dementia," his mother recalled. A month later, Arnaud was hospitalized for tests. Doctors delivered their diagnosis last Christmas Eve, after a biopsy of Arnaud's tonsil detected traces of an infectious protein, prion, often found in people with variant CJD. The disease can only be confirmed by a brain biopsy, usually after death, but studies have shown the illness can be detected in tonsil samples.

"They told us there was no treatment. No medicine. They told us he had 18 months," his mother said. The Eboli family ate supermarket-bought beef once a week and said they never ate offal -- an animal's entrails, considered gourmet fare in France. Arnaud ate fast-food hamburgers roughly twice a week.

To calm public fears, France has pulled T-bone steaks and other potentially risky cuts of beef from the nation's markets. The marrow of infected animals can transmit the malady to humans and other animals. France also banned the use of animal feed containing meat and bone meal >from ground-up cow carcasses -- a suspected source of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

Photographs of Arnaud taken this year show his dramatic decline. In a snapshot taken in February he is frail, sitting knock-kneed in a wheelchair. By summer, he had trouble holding his head up. Walking and talking were almost impossible.

"That's June," Arnaud's father, Eric, said softly of a picture of the two in the family's swimming pool. Arnaud, now 19, is curled up like a baby in his father's arms. "He could only speak a few words, but do you remember what he said to you?" Mrs. Eboli whispered to her husband. "When we put him in the water, he liked it so much. He said, 'Thank you dad. Thank you mom.'"

In the final stages of the illness, Arnaud sleeps constantly, though he is not clinically comatose. His once 165-pound frame has shriveled by half.

Not all victims have identical symptoms. Laurence Duhamel died in February at age 36 after battling variant CJD for just over a year. She initially was sullen, her brother Jean recalled, then reclusive -- not wanting to leave the house she shared with her mother and sister in a Paris suburb.

She became paranoid, cried constantly and begged for her mother's help with bathing and other personal chores. But on other days she allowed no one to touch her. Then came the delusions.

"She thought she was pregnant. She told me she'd traveled to India, when I knew she had never left Paris," her brother said.

In May 1999, Duhamel's family admitted her to a psychiatric hospital. Three months later, after she lost control of her limbs, she was transferred to a general hospital, where doctors tested for brain disorders. Duhamel stopped speaking and could no longer move. Suspecting variant CJD, doctors took a brain biopsy.

"In the last few months, I don't think there was any suffering," her brother said. "It was as if her body had already left her -- or her brain had already left her body." She died Feb. 4.

The families of both victims filed a lawsuit this month, accusing France, Britain and the European Union of not acting fast enough to stamp out mad cow disease. The family of France's only other known CJD fatality, who died in 1997, intends to join the lawsuit.

Duhamel never knew her diagnosis, but her brother said she suspected. "In the hospital, her hands would creep up her body until they reached her head. She would hold her head," Duhamel's brother recalled.

Arnaud, his mother said, had a premonition -- shortly after 1996, when the tainted beef scare first alarmed Europe. "He said to me, 'Mom, we're all going to die of this one day."

Mad cow confidence crisis spreads in Europe

Mon, Nov 27, 2000 By Clifford Coonan Reuters Online Service
European governments struggled to contain the political fallout from a widening mad cow disease scare on Monday as German consumers became the latest to lose their appetite for beef amid health fears.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder rejected charges his government had mishandled the situation, after the discovery of the first German cattle infected with mad cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) plunged the country into the center of Europe's mad cow health scare on Friday.

"I think we have shown that we are capable of acting swiftly and precisely," he told reporters before a regular leadership meeting of his ruling Social Democrats in Berlin.

Germany and Spain have been the latest to find cases of BSE, which has been linked to the human form of the fatal, incurable and brain-wasting new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD) that has killed more than 80 Britons.

European Health Commissioner David Byrne said in Berlin that Germany while instrumental in establishing the 1996 European Union ban on British beef had been complacent in thinking itself free of the disease. "I don't believe the German government acted consciously irresponsibly," he said. "They believed they were BSE-free and adopted a particular approach which was not cooperative with EU efforts to introduce legislation to protect consumers.

No EU state could guarantee its beef was free of mad cow disease Byrne said later in response to reports that Ireland planned to market its beef as BSE-free. EU farm ministers were set to hold a special meeting next Monday in Brussels to discuss the disease, French sources said.

In a desperate effort to win back consumer confidence in domestic beef, Germany tried to impose an immediate blanket ban on meat- and bone-meal in animal feed. But the planned ban was delayed until Saturday at the earliest because the government said the original emergency plan was not legally viable.

Rumors of a ban boosted prices of alternative ingredients, such as soy and grapeseed, in commodities markets as traders speculated that the rest of the EU could follow Germany's lead. However, EU Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler said the EU must tread carefully, as a blanket ban could prove expensive.

"We estimate the cost of destroying these meals in the EU at three billion euros ($2.53 billion), which would correspond, in addition, to a loss of 1.5 billion euros per year for producers," Fischler was quoted as saying by French daily newspaper Le Figaro.

Other European countries voted with their stomachs. Poland's farm ministry confirmed that it was banning imports of beef from Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain to protect the country against mad cow disease.

Britain's food safety watchdog wanted assurances from France that beef exports did not pose a threat to public health. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said it would visit France on Wednesday before making a number of recommendations to the British government, including whether or not it should apply a partial or total ban on French beef.

Italy's health minister Umberto Veronesi said that from the beginning of next year, any cow heading to Italian slaughter houses will have to be tested for BSE. He said Italy was also making plans to trace meat from birth to butcher, allowing consumers to know how the animal had been fed, where it had lived and when it had been slaughtered.

Germany has long said mad cow disease was not a threat, citing a superior feedstuff standard. That assertion was blown apart last Friday by the discovery of a BSE-infected cow born in 1996 in the northern region of Schleswig-Holstein. A second cow exported from the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt to Portugal has also tested positive.

German consumers, long told that BSE was essentially a problem for less fastidious countries, were shocked by the news that German cows too had the disease.

"I'm definitely giving up beef," said pensioner Kurt Hermann, pointing to the chicken he had just bought in response to the health scare. "We only have BSE here because Germans eat so much meat. Back in the old days, we only ate meat on Sundays," the retired construction foreman said.

Post-office worker Andreas Eggers, 34, said as he wolfed down pork-based bratwurst: "I'm certainly going to stop eating beef -- at least until all cattle have been tested for BSE." One Berlin butcher said beef sales in his shop had fallen by about a third since news that two German cattle had died of BSE.

British scientists said on Monday they believed the disease had spread in Europe years ago and government blindness at the time may mean radical measures were now needed to fight the brain-wasting disease. They said Europe should learn from Britain's experience in combating BSE and should not repeat the mistakes politicians made during earlier campaigns to reassure the public.

BSE first hit the headlines in Britain in 1986. The crisis reached fever pitch a decade later after scientists said they believed there was a link between mad cow disease and its human equivalent, which causes dementia, blindness, paralysis and eventually death.

BSE-free Austria sceptical on total meal ban

Tue, Nov 28, 2000 By Karin Taylor Reuters
Austria, which prides itself on its healthy beef, is sceptical about a European Union blanket ban on meat-based animal feed championed by Germany following that country's first case of mad cow disease. Feeding meat and bone meal to cattle and sheep has been banned in Austria since 1990, apparently protecting the country from an outbreak of the deadly brain-wasting disease BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy).

However, the environment-conscious Alpine republic is not in favour of extending the ban to pigs and poultry despite demands by consumers and the Green Party.

Agriculture Minister Wilhelm Molterer warned that reducing meat-based protein in animal feeds would lead to soaring imports of protein-rich soybeans from the United States, where many crops are grown from genetically modified seeds. "I can't just replace one emotional debate with another, such as the issue of GM and soya," Molterer said on state radio.

Austria has banned the import of GM crops, and consumers are likely to rally against engineered genes entering the food chain via animal feed. Regarding Germany's recent BSE scare, Molterer said authorities would step up stringent controls on imported meat but beef imports from Germany would not be stopped.

Citing high veterinary standards and little mass animal farming, authorities in Austria say the country's cattle are safe from infection. "The fact that we haven't had a case of BSE in Austria means we're on the right path," agriculture ministry spokesman Daniel Kapp told Reuters.

In contrast to the industrialised meat production typical for bigger EU countries, most of Austria's beef cattle are raised on small farms, with an average of only 21 animals each. A system for marking the origin of beef was introduced on a voluntary basis for producers and supermarkets in 1998.

"You can trace the animal to the farm it came from," said Oskar Wawschinek of state agricultural marketing agency AMA. The measure pre-empted similar registration systems throughout the EU which became obligatory for all member states on September 1.

With more than two million meat cattle, Austria produces more beef than it can consume. Up to a third of its beef is exported, primarily to Italy, Germany and Spain.

Austria voted against an EU programme recently endorsed by veterinary experts under which millions of cattle destined for consumption will be screened for BSE next year. Austria was joined in its opposition by Finland and Denmark, also without a history of mad cow disease.

"What is adequate for the situation in Great Britian is not adequate for Austria," said Kapp, pointing out potential delays in delivery and high restructuring costs. "We want a more differentiated approach."

Kapp said Austria tested all cattle suspected of infection and supported EU measures to test all animals at risk from January. However, consumers, whose confidence has been shaken by the discovery of BSE in Germany, which also believed itself safe from BSE, say they want every animal to be rigorously screened.

"Every animal that is slaughtered must be tested if we want to be sure it is free of BSE," said Herbert Sedy of the state consumer protection agency. "Safety must come first." Sedy said that while consumers could be fairly sure home-grown Austrian beef was not infected with BSE, there could be no guarantee.

No such thing as `risk-free' beef herd

Mon, Nov 27, 2000 By Simon Mowbray, Consumer Affairs Correspondent, PA News
The crisis over mad cow disease in Europe was deepening today as consumers were warned that there was no such thing as a "risk-free" beef herd.

As farm ministers prepared to meet in Brussels next week to discuss the growing problem, European Union Commissioner David Byrne criticised Ireland's plans to promote its beef as being completely free of the disease. Mr Byrne, who is Europe's Health and Consumer Protection Minister and was appointed to the commission by the Dublin government, declared: "There is no such thing as risk-free.

"I don't think any member state can say that. We can say that we are trying to reduce the risks to the minimum -- but there is no such thing as risk-free."

Mr Byrne's comments, broadcast on Irish radio RTE, came as Britain's Foods Standards Agency (FSA) continued checks on imported beef and pressure grew on the Government to ban French imports. Agriculture Minister Nick Brown has signalled his willingness to defy Europe by introducing a ban on French beef, but only if advisers warned that the public was at risk from a BSE threat.

The Conservatives, however, stepped up their campaign to push the Government into action, claiming ministers should stop hesitating and act now to stop increasing risks to British consumers.

Shadow agriculture minister Tim Yeo said: "They must publish the scientific advice which says that French beef is not safe for French schoolchildren but appears to be safe for British consumers. "The public are entitled to that at the very least."

In London, angry skirmishes broke out at the Royal Smithfield Show when anti-meat campaigners tried to bar entry to farmers.

U.S. safe from mad cow disease--Glickman

Mon, Nov 27, 2000 By Randy Fabi Reuters
Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said on Monday that USDA officials were monitoring the mad cow disease scare in Europe and reiterated that the U.S. food supply was safe and would not be affected by the outbreak.

Glickman told Reuters in an interview that the department was closely monitoring the mad cow outbreak in Europe, but has not sent any USDA officials to assess the situation. "We've already taken regulatory steps in terms of feed use for animals," Glickman said.

The European Union has been shaken by fresh outbreaks of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) -- better known as mad cow disease -- in Germany and Spain over the weekend. Beef sales in France have dropped almost in half since major supermarkets said last month they might have sold potentially tainted meat. BSE's human form, known as new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, has killed more than 80 people in Britain and two in France. There is no known cure for the deadly disease that wastes away the brain.

In response to the mad cow outbreak in Britain during the early 1990s, the U.S. government in 1997 closed its borders to all European meat imports, successfully keeping BSE from infiltrating the U.S. food supply, USDA officials said. "Our actions indicate that we felt the situation was coming a few years ago," said Linda Detwiler, senior staff veterinarian for USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

Meat and bonemeal made from ground-up carcasses and recycled into animal feed are widely believed to be the source of BSE.[The US continued to import a vast number of bovine byproducts from the UK, including bone meal. -- webmaster]

On Friday, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder called for an EU-wide ban on bonemeal after government officials reported two German cattle died >from the disease. German officials plan to begin a ban on bonemeal in animal feed on Saturday, immediately after the German parliament passes a law allowing the action.

Germany had long insisted that mad cow disease was not a threat inside its borders because of superior feedstuff standards and strict regulations. Although no cases of mad cow disease have ever been found in the United States, four Vermont sheep in July tested positive for a disease distantly related to BSE. The USDA is seeking legal authority to seize about 350 Vermont sheep suspected of having transmissible spongiform encephalopathy.

France says no proof of post-1996 mad cow case

Tue, Nov 28, 2000 Reuters World Report 
French farm minister Jean Glavany said on Tuesday there was no conclusive proof that an animal found to have mad cow disease was born after 1996, when tougher controls were imposed on feed to halt the spread of the illness.

Food safety agency AFSSA said on Saturday that tests had confirmed a case of the disease in an animal from an unspecified farm in western France that may have been born in May 1998. It said it was conducting further investigations into the case.

"The breeder in question says the cow was born in 1998 but at the same time he cannot prove it. We have done genetic research, but have not arrived at any answers," Glavany told French television channel LCI. If confirmed the case would be the first of its kind and lend support to the theory that animal feed is not the only way of transmitting mad cow disease. [Not really. In many countries, feed bans were mainly a public reassurance ploy with little concern about implementation. --webmaster]

Europe has been in the grip of a new beef crisis since three French supermarket chains said last month that they might have sold meat potentially contaminated with mad cow disease - or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

France introduced stricter tests for BSE in June. The tougher regime has uncovered 112 cases of BSE so far this year, against 30 in 1999, but the AFFSA said it had not confirmed a single case to date in an animal born after 1996.

Glavany said the fact that a case should emerge after 1996 was not a complete surprise, although any incidence would be very limited.

"What is a surprise is that the scientists have discovered that the incubation period of the disease could be two years. They have never seen that. This factor seems to take weight from the argument that the cow was born in 1998," he said.

Germany readies animal-meal ban over BSE fears

Tue, Nov 28, 2000 By Clifford Coonan Reuters
Germany's ruling centre-left coalition will present draft legislation to parliament on Tuesday to ban meat-based animal feeds amid growing consumer anxiety across Europe over mad cow disease.

"We should be able to get the legislation through the Bundestag (lower house) and the Bundesrat (upper house) by Friday," the Greens' parliamentary floor leader Rezzo Schlauch told journalists after meeting party colleagues. "The law should come into effect on Saturday, despite the narrow time schedule," he said.

Parties across the German political spectrum have urged speedy action against meat-based feeds after the discovery of the first German cattle infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) last week. The Greens had hoped to push through a special emergency decree to introduce the ban by Wednesday but the Social Democrats said such legislation could pose legal problems.

Agriculture Minister Karl-Heinz Funke said on Monday that officials were negotiating with farming groups to encourage their members to forgo the use of such animal feeds on a voluntary basis before the legislation came into effect.

Commodities markets are closely watching developments in Germany as there is much speculation that the European Union could follow suit if Germany introduces a blanket ban. Soy prices in Europe have risen strongly on expectations of a ban. The European Commission's scientific advisers are meeting today to assess national measures that already been taken to halt the spread of BSE.

A senior German agriculture ministry spokesman said he was optimistic a meeting of EU farm ministers in Brussels next Monday would come up with a common policy on animal-based feeds.

"The Commission's scientific committee is aware of Funke's proposal and has examined the national measures taken regarding animal-based feeds," Martin Wille, agriculture state secretary with responsiblity for BSE, told ZDF television. A major problem remained dealing with the 2.2 million tonnes of surplus meat waste which would result from a ban, Wille said.

One of Germany's top BSE experts called on the government to set up a special scientific committee to deal with the problem. "We should have had this earlier. This would have helped us know that we had BSE in Germany earlier and we could have protected ourselves better," Hans Kretzschmar, neuropathologist at Munich's LMU university, told Stern magazine.

German opposition conservatives said the government should set aside cash for possible compensation for farmers. "The price of beef is collapsing and those who rely on beef production will find their livelihoods under threat," Peter Harry Carstensen, conservative chairman of parliament's food, agriculture and forestry committee, told Berlin's InfoRadio.

Carstensen said 300 million marks ($131 million) extra funding should be made available to help cattle farmers. Germany and Spain have been the latest countries to find cases of BSE, which has been linked to the human form of the brain-wasting new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD) that has killed more than 86 Britons.

German BSE hotline collapses from too many callers

Tue, Nov 28, 2000 Reuters
An information hotline set up by Germany's Agriculture Ministry to handle queries about mad cow disease received so many calls that the system collapsed, the ministry said on Tuesday.

So many people phoned in when the hotline was set up on Monday that it overloaded, a statement said. People dialling in were told the number was not recognised.

"This should in no way give the impression that the information hotline is trying to confuse the public," the ministry said, adding that the hotline was functioning again.

Germany has been swept up in a health scare over mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), since the discovery of the first infected German cattle was made public on Friday.

EU scientists judge national bans on French beef

Tue, Nov 28, 2000 By David Evans Reuters Online Service
The European Commission's scientific advisers met on Tuesday to assess national embargoes on French beef and cattle as well as the safety of meat-based animal feed, amid a widening crisis over mad cow disease.

After a sharp rise in the number of cases in France of the disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the French government stepped in to quell consumer panic, banning T-bone steaks and meat-based animal feed. But many of France's EU partners went further. Spain, Italy, Austria and the Netherlands were among those to impose national curbs on imports of French cattle and beef.

EU farm ministers agreed last week that all national action in the crisis had to be judged by EU scientists, and dropped if found to be unjustified. The Commission said the scientists' meeting would last "until very late in the evening" and hinted it would not issue an evaluation of the results ahead of a full meeting of the EU executive on Wednesday.

"These scientific opinions are rarely clear-cut. It will be quite complex," Commission spokeswoman Beate Gminder said.

Asked if the Commission would propose an EU-wide ban on meat-based feed for all animals, Gminder said: "it depends on the view of the scientists and on the conclusions the Commission draws from this opinion." The panel also looked at steps taken by France, including its blanket ban on the meat-based feed which is suspected of spreading BSE through the national cattle herd.

The EU executive meets for its weekly session on Wednesday, and may take extra steps to reassure consumers across Europe who are shunning beef and sending prices plunging. The EU's food safety and agriculture Commissioners David Byrne and Franz Fischler may hold a joint a press conference after the meeting, EU officials said.

Any proposals from the EU executive will go to an emergency farm ministers meeting on Monday, called in part to stop the crisis spilling over into the summit of EU leaders scheduled a few days later in Nice, France. The scare has widened almost daily. Last week Germany and Spain found BSE in their own cattle herds for the first time. The discovery hit Germany particularly hard, sending beef sales plummeting, just as in France.

A hotline set up by the German government for worried consumers crashed on Tuesday after being inundated with calls. Germany has joined calls for a total ban on meat-based feed, forming a powerful alliance with France and Britain.

However, not all EU countries support such a move. Austrian Farm Minister Wilhelm Molterer said that extending the existing ban from cattle and sheep to pigs and poultry would lead to much higher imports of protein-rich soybeans from the United States, raising the issue of genetically modified crops.

"I can't just replace one emotional debate with another," Molterer told state radio. And Fischler, the architect of the export ban on British beef that was removed last year, has warned that a ban on meat-based feed would cost billions of euros.

Brazil Bans Import of Beef from European Countries...

Tue, Nov 28, 2000 AP WorldSources Online
Brazil banned on Monday the import of cattle, sheep and goats, as well as meat and other by-products from these animals from France, Germany, Portugal and Spain, where there were reports of "mad cow" disease. In a report, the Agriculture Ministry also banned the purchase of bowel and bovine and ovine semen.

The order was sent to the federal control and agricultural products control institutions, the Foreign Ministry and the embassies of the four mentioned countries in Brazil. Since 1996, after the detection of "mad cow" disease in the United Kingdom's herds, Brazil has refrained from purchasing cattle, sheep and by-products from this European country.

Another meat scandal; horses had better watch out

Tue, Nov 28, 2000 By RAF CASERT  Associated Press Writer
Another meat scare in Europe is a scary thought for horses. Once again, gastronomic thought turns to a tender equine cut. Sales and prices of horsemeat are up since the mad cow scandal in France turned consumers off beef. By comparison, horsemeat is known as clean, lean and healthy.

"There is so much more demand. We just cannot keep up," said Francois Laenens of NV Multimeat sales department. His company near the port of Antwerp specializes in horsemeat and tries to satisfy Belgium's increasing demand.

No country in Europe has been as hard hit by meat scandals as Belgium. The use of illegal hormones in beef was a bane throughout the 1990s, compounded by the murder of a veterinarian who was active against the "hormone Mafia".

The 1996 mad cow crisis in Britain hurt consumer confidence in beef and last year's dioxin scandal, when the toxic chemical poisoned meat and dairy products, further undermined faith. The result? The sale of horsemeat in Belgium rose by 240 percent between 1990 and 1998, statistics from the French meat production organization MHR showed.

Horsemeat, either as sweet steaks broiled in their own fat, raw and hashed with herbs, or in sausages has had its place in continental cuisine for a long time, but steadily went out of fashion as beef rose to prominence. Emotional attachment to horses also had an impact. Horsemeat consumption in the 15 nation European Union has hovered around the 50,000 ton mark over the past years, less than 1 percent of the level of beef or pork production. In horse-loving countries like Britain, it has disappeared almost completely from the menus.

Now again, demand is up, importers from France and Belgium confirmed, although it is still too early for definite statistics since the latest scandal broke in France last month.

And while prices of live cattle have declined by 17 percent in the European Union -- 24 percent in France alone -- horsemeat has risen accordingly, importers estimate. Horses however are generally not raised for their meat but slaughtered at the end of their lives, limiting the production capacity. "There is no endless supply and that is the big problem. The market cannot possibly cope with the peaks we are now experiencing," said Laenens.

This is why the horsemeat traders are not rejoicing in the current crisis. "Prices go up for two three months and once the crisis is over, demand slows again and we end up with an expensive product," said Paul Peeters of the Equinox horsemeat company.

Right in front of Antwerp's slaughterhouse, De Veehandel restaurant, which serves fine beef and horsemeat, doesn't worry about the crisis either way. Whatever the restaurant lost in sales because of the dioxin crisis it recouped in horsemeat. Human ways will not change, said the restaurant's Sven Van Cauteren. "Once a carnivore, always a carnivore," he said.

Farmer compensation needed in BSE fight

Mon, Nov 27, 2000 Reuters
Farmers need to be compensated for telling officials their cows carry BSE and the animal feed industry must be strictly controlled if mad cow disease is to be eradicated, a top animal health official said on Monday.

"If governments decide cattle need to be killed and if compensation for (this) is too low, farmers will not declare the disease," International Epizootic Office (OIE) official Bernard Vallat told a news conference. Vallat will head the Paris-based animal health body OIE from the start of 2001....

"For eradication, we have to work with farmers but also with the feed industry, and it is not easy to control the (production and handling of) feed," Vallat said, adding that the use of meat-and-bone meal (MBM) in animal feed should be restricted until BSE had been eradicated.

The European Union has banned MBM in cattle feed, and is now considering banning the use of the ingredients also in poultry and pig feed, a measure that is expected to cost billions of euros.

"It is very expensive, but if we are to get rid of BSE it is very important to prohibit (MBM in animal feed)," Vallat said. A meeting of European Union farm ministers will be held on Monday to discuss the disease.

EU Takes Steps vs. Mad Cow Disease

Wed, Nov 29, 2000 By CONSTANT BRAND  Associated Press Writer
The European Commission on Wednesday proposed a series of measures -- including mandatory animal testing and a temporary ban on all animal products in fodder -- to eradicate mad cow disease and restore consumer confidence in European beef. The European Union's executive panel proposed a blanket ban on meat and bone meal in fodder for cows, pigs and poultry for six months starting Jan. 1.

The EU agriculture ministers are to debate the proposal next Monday along with other steps put forward to curb the spread of mad cow disease, which is believed to cause a variant of the brain-wasting disease in humans. The proposals follow the discovery of mad cow disease in France and a recorded case of the human form, called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. One way the disease is thought to be transmitted is when cattle eat feed containing the ground parts of other infected animals.

Several EU nations have banned French beef imports, and scientists have reported the first cases of mad cow disease in cattle in Germany, which until recently thought itself free of the illness. "We should adopt an overall approach to address the risks so consumers can see what is done to protect their health," EU Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne told a press conference.

EU Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler told that same news conference that despite enormous progress in fighting mad cow disease in recent years, the illness was still around. "Mad cow disease knows no borders but is moving from one member state to another," he said.

The European Commission also proposed testing all cattle over 30 months old. Any cattle that were not tested would be bought from farmers and destroyed to remove them from the food chain. It would also widen the current list of "specified risk materials" thought to be the key to the spread of mad cow disease to include cattle intestines. The list now includes animal parts such as brain and nerve tissues.

To soften the blow to farmers of the measures, the Commission also proposed raising advances paid for the beef premiums.

Mad cow disease -- formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE -- was first diagnosed in 1986 in Britain where it reached epidemic proportions. There have been close to 180,000 cases in Britain and 1,300 elsewhere in the EU. In Britain it has fallen dramatically because of draconian measures, including wholesale herd slaughtering, mandatory testing and an EU ban on British beef exports that has since been lifted. BSE is believed to cause variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans -- an ailment that, like in cows, eats away brain tissue. There are currently 89 confirmed cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in the EU, mostly in young people.

New Euro plan to curb BSE spread

Wed, Nov 29, 2000 By Geoff Meade, European Editor, PA News, in Brussels
New plans to crack down on mad cow disease and restore consumer confidence in beef were announced today by the European Commission. Proposals to be put to EU farm ministers meeting for crisis talks next week include banning meat and bonemeal (MBM) in feed for all animals including pigs and poultry and banning all cattle over 30-months-old from the food chain unless previously tested for BSE and cleared.

Health and consumer protection commissioner David Byrne is also recommending that an existing list of animal parts banned from use - the brains, spinal cord and spleen - be extended to include the whole intestine.

Mr Byrne told a press conference in Brussels that the measures would enhance existing controls and bolster consumer confidence. He said he had been concerned for some time that the current ban on the use of MBM in cattle feed should be widened to include all animals. The feeding of MBM to cows has been blamed for spreading BSE. Its use for ruminants has been banned across the EU since 1994, but it had remained in use for pigs and poultry.

Today's new moves follows talks between EU scientific and veterinary experts in Brussels to assess what more needs to be done in the wake of the growing BSE scare in France and the first outbreaks of BSE in Germany and Spain.

Mr Byrne has expressed frustration at the return of BSE on the continent, blaming the failure of Germany and Spain in particular to act quickly enough. He said both countries "may have been too complacent about the risk". F

or nearly four years, until June this year, Germany and Spain opposed legislation to remove from the food and feed chain parts of animals which represented a high risk of carrying the BSE agent, including brains, spinal cords, eyes and parts of intestines. But now German health and agriculture experts have ordered that from today there will be a complete national ban on the use of meat and bone meal.

Mr Byrne's plan is to extend that EU-wide, while also advancing the timetable for the removal of all unchecked cattle over 30 months old from, the food chain across the EU. Widening the agreed definition of what constitutes "Specified Risk Material" (SRM) which should be removed from all cattle carcasses is the third plank of his new strategy.

But, despite growing concern about the incidence of the disease in France, he did not recommend the kind of worldwide blockade on French beef exports which the Commission imposed on Britain for more than three years when the first BSE outbreak was discovered in the UK.

Mr Byrne is anxious to shake off claims from the German farm lobby that the Commission and agriculture authorities elsewhere in the EU have so far acted "feebly" in tackling the crisis. Mr Byrne said: "Instead of trying to put the blame for past events elsewhere, it is urgent to address today's problems."

Meanwhile the future of unilateral measures taken against French beef exports by Austria, Italy and Spain remained in doubt today - because unless such action is EU-wide it can be construed as a block on free trade. The Scientific Steering Committee today gave the three countries 24 hours to justify their actions on scientific grounds.

The UK government has rejected Tory calls for a national ban on French beef - although Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has said the Government would be prepared to impose a ban if it was deemed appropriate by the UK's independent Food Standards Agency.

The Food Standards Agency welcomed the European Commission's proposals, many of which have already been implemented in Britain. An FSA spokesman said: "A lot of the proposals are in line with what we have already.

"We are already banning the use of the intestine under our own rules and we recommended a ban on meat and bonemeal for all animals in our BSE review which will now be considered by ministers. The ban is not in force yet but it is something we actively support and would like to see happen. We also have a ban on beef from animals over 30-months-old which includes imports. In this way, we would welcome these moves by the Commission as they are in line with what we are already recommending."

Waste plant BSE drums moved as danger probe goes on

Mon, Nov 27, 2000 By Tahira Yaqoob, PA News
Seven drums of BSE-contaminated waste found stashed at a chemical plant have been taken to be incinerated -- four years after they should have been burned.

The drums containing matter from cows with suspected Mad Cow Disease were discovered at a waste processing plant in Gloucester three weeks ago. The 25-litre containers were uncovered while Environment Agency officials were investigating a fireball explosion at the plant owned by waste firm Cleansing Services Group a month ago.

EA staff found the waste was consigned to be stored temporarily at the site in Sandhurst village en route to the incinerator, but it never completed its journey. Today the seven drums were finally sent on to a waste disposal site in Cheshire, where they were set to be incinerated.

The EA has launched an inquiry together with the waste company into the four-year blunder and the environment body is also investigating the whereabouts of another seven missing drums of BSE waste. They were consigned to the Sandhurst site in 1995, also en route to the incinerator, but have not been traced.

The drums all contained waste from the Ministry of Agriculture's investigations into Mad Cow Disease and contained solvents with fragments of brain from animals thought to be infected with the disease.

An EA spokeswoman said today: "We have served a notice on CSG to confirm the whereabouts of the missing drums." CSG managing director Ken Pee previously said he planned to quiz site managers as part of the inquiry. "I cannot understand how anything could be overlooked for four years," he added.

The clean-up included clearing a drum leaking potentially cancer-causing chemicals into floodwater at the height of recent torrential downpours. It was sealed and is due to be taken off site on Friday.

The EA said tests on air, water and soil showed there would be no long-term effects as a result of the explosion and ensuing chemical leak. The clean-up is expected to continue until the end of January.

BSE ground contamination?

29 Nov 00 Edgar Bauer Der Spiegel full text In German.
A translation says roughly that "German scientists have sufficient suspicion, backed by evidence, that prions survive long-term in the ground.  So animals with BSE, who graze or whose dung is used as fertilizer cause prions to build up in the soil. That even goes for animals that don't get BSE, such as pigs and chicken, but who have been fed BSE containing animal meal."  [Pigs have been shown highly susceptible by oral route -- webmaster] "

This way, prions can find their way into the human food chain other than through meat. The scientists call it "Considerable grounds for concern" BSE research so far concentrated on animals and animal feed and "nobody looked at the ground." They emphasize that so far there is no rigid proof according to scientific principles that BSE can be transmitted in this way, but it is clear that prions get into the ground through excretions of the animals, and we have to assume that there is a danger of build-up." (Werner Klein of the Fraunhofer-Institut for Environmental Chemistry und Ecotoxicology.

Opinion (webmaster): While long suspected in many TSEs, ground contamination still lacks hard evidence, though there is no doubt that horizontal transmission in TSEs can occur after re-introduction of animals to a previously contaminated confined facility, as in CWD and scrapie.

EU-wide bans on mad cow

29/11/2000 News 24 
Brussels - The European Commission on Wednesday proposed tough but costly new anti-mad cow measures aimed at restoring consumer confidence in beef and rescuing a faltering food industry.

David Byrne, commissioner for health and consumer safety, said the commission would propose to the EU Agriculture Council next Monday a temporary EU-wide ban on the use of meat and bone-meal in feed for all livestock destined for human consumption. He said the move, as well as other proposals the commission intended to make on Monday, were "essential for the enhancement of consumer confidence" further damaged by a raft of new cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or mad cow disease) in recent weeks.

"There has been concern," Byrne told a press conference, "as to the controls relating to meat and bone-meal and animal feed. It is banned for feeding cattle. But up to now it has been permissible to feed to pigs and poultry." He also said he was "not convinced that the controls in place pertaining to beef were being fully implemented, and this is particularly borne out by the fact that a number of member states took it upon themselves to take unilateral action, to extend this ban to all other animals."

Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler told the same press conference the annual cost of the proposed measure was estimated at three billion euros (2.55 billion dollars), and the cattle industry alone stood to lose some 1.5 billion euros.

At the same time, the EU's Scientific Steering Committee vindicated France for having taken what were seen as overly stringent anti-mad cow measures. And it said unilateral embargoes imposed on French beef by Austria, Italy and Spain were not scientifically justified. "This view has been confirmed by increased testing and improved surveillance," said the report.

"I have not regarded unilateral actions by states as the appropriate way forward," Byrne said. "And I believe consumers don't like this way forward either. Consumers are confused when individual member states take different actions in relation to the same perceived risks. Action should be done at the community level, under the leadership of the commission and this is exactly what we have decided to do."

In addition to Wednesday's proposed ban on meat and bone-meal, Byrne said he would propose to ministers at the Agriculture Council on Monday that all animals over the age of 30 months be excluded from the human food chain "unless first tested" for BSE. And, he said, it would propose extending the definition of so-called "specified risk material" (SRM) to include the entire animal intestine.

Even beef from organically-fed cattle is not necessarily safe from mad-cow disease due to the possible contamination of grazing fields, German weekly magazine Wirtschaftswoche reported on Wednesday. "Idiotically, as feed containing animal remains was banned in Switzerland and Britain, it was mixed into plant fertiliser and spread everywhere," the magazine quoted Swiss expert Markus Moser as saying.

Moser said it was possible that cows that are raised on organic farms where they graze freely could eat contaminated grass and contract BSE. Moser is a board member of Switzerland's Prionics, a company which has developed a "rapid screening test" for BSE, which is to be introduced throughout the European Union for all "at risk" beef cattle. -

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