Prion Disease: US finally bans UK bone meal in December 2000
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US bans UK bone meal imports ... on 6 Dec 00
Mad Cow USA: Could the Nightmare Happen Here? -- full text online!
CWD and elk velvet antler health products
Officials kill 1,700 in mad elk herds to stop spread of CWD
Fourth BSE case confirmed in Germany
Spreading BSE waste on agricultural lands -- MAFF's worst case scenario
Austrian minister calls for ban on German beef imports
Throw-away surgical tools in Britain to cost billions
Mad cow disease waning in Europe: meat safe -- experts
Should the UK have had a whole-herd cull policy?
Secrecy over BSE debates may end
Irish polio vaccine from nvCJD blood donor: 83,500 children exposed
Dioxin from beef incineration

US bans UK bone meal imports ... on 6 Dec 00

12/06/2000 UUKSDA internal memo announcing 6 Dec 00 effective date for ban on UK imports
from Karen A James, DVM Assistant Director TTS, NCIE, VS 
VS = USDA Veterinary Services..PPQ = USDA Plant Protection and Quarantine..NCIE = National Center for Import/Export
Subject: Alert to PPQ regarding VS action regarding BSE
Sensitivity: Personal
Area Veterinarian In Charge

The message below was sent to PPQ. It concerns VS's actions regarding the
BSE situation in the EU. If you have any questions please feel free to
contact Dr.James Asst. Director TTS, NCIE or Dr. Donna Malloy, TTS, NCIE.

Assistant Director TTS, NCIE, VS
Subject: Alert to PPQ regarding VS action regarding BSE
To:VS AHP Chiefs, VS Management Team, VSAreas CR, VSAreas NR, VSAreas SER,VSAreas WR

VS is requesting PPQ to place a hold on all imports of rendered products
such as meat & bone meal (MBM), bone meal, meat meal, blood meal, tankage,
fat, offal, tallow and any product containing such, regardless of species
of origin which originate directly from Europe or any country designated
to be infected with BSE or was rendered/processed in Europe or other BSE
affected country plants because of the risk of cross contamination in
The basis of this recommendation is the finding by the EU that feed of
nonruminant origin has been cross-contaminated with the BSE agent. VS is
in the process of drafting an interim rule that will be completed in a few
days to prohibit the above products from BSE affected countries.

The Effective Date of this prohibition is today, Wednesday, December 6,
2000. If you have any questions please contact Dr. Donna Malloy at 734-3277.
Opinion (webmaster): Better late than never. The USDA fears being dragged into the spreading European BSE problem, so has belatedly upped the ante in reducing exposure risk and disease amplification potential in US livestock. Prior USDA half-measures halted live imports and forbade rendered ruminant feeding (cow-to-cow; sheep-to-cow; deer-to-cow), though rendered cow-to-pig or cow-to-chicken and then back to cow are still permitted in spite of vocal objections from consumer groups.

Cross-contamination of feed is hardly news; regulators have been aware of its risks for well over a decade. It is commonly invoked for BSE found in animals born after Euro feed bans. Worse, the whole concept of a "BSE affected country" is a lagging indicator based on voluntary reporting -- countries such as France, Germany, Belgium, Spain. Portugal, and Denmark were years late in admitting to a problem.

USDA, according to this official internal memo, has banned effective 6 Dec 00 on "all imports of rendered products such as meat & bone meal (MBM), bone meal, meat meal, blood meal, tankage, fat, offal, tallow and any product containing such, regardless of species of origin which originate directly from Europe or any country designated to be infected with BSE or was rendered/processed in Europe or other BSE affected country plants because of the risk of cross contamination in plants." On its face, the product list appears to include a huge number of pharmaceuticals, nutriceuticals, and cosmetics. Gelatin, while not explicitly included, is not listed as an exemption either.

It thus appears that it was okay to import these items until 5 Dec 00. The USDA memo above seems to answer the question once and for all of whether the US has had a comprehensive ban in place for the above-mentioned items during 1985-2000: no. Ironically, the banned items probably have less infectivity now than they did during the peak BSE years when importation was at full swing. This is locking the barn door after the horse is gone.

This raises the question if USDA plans to specifically reveal how much was imported in each category over the last 15 years, who or what consumed it with what level of regulatory tracking, and whether they now plan to recall (or feed out) warehoused stocks and turn away (or still accept) tankage and feed in ships already en route from Europe.

Is this memo about risk reduction, risk perception reduction, or simply posturing for the benefit of export markets? Is it an adminstrative regulation effective today or merely a run-up to formal Federal Register rule-making next year?

While it might well be assumed that a few mega-tonnes of the above mentioned items from the UK and Europe would bring in non-zero amounts of BSE infectivity, it doesn't follow that a single livestock or person has yet become ill from it, much less that BSE has become entrenched here. However, USDA has focused for 15 years on high profile busts of marginally relevent live cow and sheep imports and gerrymandered feed bans while looking away from the big picture of infectivity imports.

With the FDA thinking a million Americans are too exposed to BSE to donate blood, it is just a matter of time before nvCJD is confirmed in the US. Because of USDA half-measures on imports and animal waste recycling, tremendous uncertainties will arise in determining whether a given case was acquired overseas, acquired in the US directly from an intact overseas import, or acquired from an animal, cosmetic, or medical product produced in the US. While the latter scenario is the least likely of the three, the press has unfortunatly laid the groundwork for a dietary panic by routinely equating sporadic CJD with mad cow disease.

While the action taken here surely deserves support, in the webmaster's opinion, it was better done 15 years back if the goal was to protect American livestock producers and consumers from risk of BSE importation. A ban taken on 6 Dec 00 looks simply like a belated reaction to the panic in Europe.

Acknowledging serious gaps in feed ban is not going to reassure anyone in Europe over the short term about past US sincerity in regards to risk reduction measures. Indeed, given the long incubation times of TSEs, the US may have to monitor for years to know itself the impact of these imports.

WHO: BSE may have spread to countries worldwide

Fri, Dec 22, 2000 AP WorldStream
Meat and animal feed infected with mad cow disease may have been sold across the globe, raising the possibility of outbreaks beyond Europe, the World Health Organization said Friday.

Maura Ricketts, a WHO specialist, said it was almost impossible to trace where suspect meat or feed might have gone since mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, was first identified in Britain in 1986.

"How food is exchanged across borders isn't very transparent or easy to understand," she told reporters. "Neither is how cattle feed moves around the world."

Scientists initially were taken by surprise by the disease, which is considered the likely cause of a new variant of the human brain-wasting ailment, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. "The incubation period for this is quite lengthy and the disease appears to be a completely unexpected, novel agent," Ricketts said. "We didn't think that it would make human beings ill."

Governments were slow to impose bans on the import of meat and bone meal and other potentially risky animal products, and the goods were exported for a long time after the disease was identified, she said.

Although Britain maintains export records, meat could be sent to one country, processed, relabeled and then moved on, Ricketts said. "We may have to sensitize countries to the fact that they are at risk," she added.

WHO and other U.N. agencies have agreed to review the scientific evidence linked to BSE and CJD, including infection estimates, abattoir and slaughter practices, how humans are exposed and disposal of material which may be infected. Cases of variant CJD are rare -- 87 cases in Britain, three in France and one in Ireland.

UN health agency sees global mad cow risk

Fri, Dec 22, 2000  By Stephanie Nebehay Reuters
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday expressed concern about what it called "exposure worldwide" to mad cow disease and its fatal human form, new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD). The United Nations health agency said it would convene a major meeting of experts and officials from all regions on the neuro-degenerative diseases striking cattle and humans. It will be held in Geneva in late spring, probably in May....

"Our concern is that there was sufficient international trade in meat and bone meal and live cattle that there actually has been exposure worldwide already," Dr. Maura Ricketts, of WHO's animal and food-related public health risks division, told a news conference....

"We know potentially contaminated materials were exported outside the European Community...We are trying to identify the countries that we should put our largest effort into," Ricketts said.

"The only way to know whether or not different countries are at risk is to ask them...These countries themselves have the information that is required to determine if they are at risk. We are concerned some countries which received materials do not have surveillance systems to detect the disease in animals or the human population," she added. "Countries of the world need to be developing surveillance systems for these diseases."

But Ricketts, a Canadian, conceded it would be difficult to trace exported beef and meat products, often repackaged or transformed before being re-exported with new labeling. "It become very difficult, the trail grows cold," she said.

Experts reviewed issues including: slaughterhouse practices; "chronic low dose exposure" of humans to BSE; mechanically-recovered meat which may contain infected nervous tissue; exposure of sheep and pigs to BSE; testing; and meat and bone meal.

"We thought we had to review how feed moves around the world because of the importance of cattle feed in the transmission of BSE," Ricketts said. "We felt we had to review these tissues that are called 'specified risk materials' and include brains, eyes, the spinal column, parts of the gut find how these materials are being sold for human consumption."

"We are very interested in the movement of 'rendered' materials around the world since it is quite possible that rendered materials contain infectivity," she added.

Mad cow no obstacle to U.S. beef deal -- EU officials

Fri, Dec 15, 2000 Reuters
A scare over mad cow disease in the European Union would be no obstacle to a deal allowing the United States to export more beef to Europe in return for lifting trade sanctions, EU officials said on Friday. But the officials held out little prospect that a deal would be reached at Monday's twice-yearly EU-U.S. summit in Washington, when the two sides are expected to review a series of transatlantic trade disputes.

The United States and EU have for years been at loggerheads over the EU's ban on imports of hormone-treated beef. Washington imposed $117 million of sanctions on EU goods last year after winning a World Trade Organisation ruling against the EU ban. Both sides have talked about converting the sanctions into compensation in the form of greater access to European markets for U.S. hormone-free beef.

U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefky said last week that renewed European concern over mad cow disease could prevent a deal on beef trade at the summit. "They seem to be more reluctant because of the scare," she said in an interview with Reuters Television. Fears over mad cow disease have spread to France, Spain, Germany and other European countries in recent weeks, leading to a sharp drop in beef consumption.

Trade diplomats have speculated that the prospects of a beef surplus could make Europe less likely to accept more U.S. beef. But EU officials said this was not the case. "We believe a satisfactory solution that would shift from sanctions to compensation would be feasible in the current circumstances without that having a deleterious impact on our internal situation," one said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "What we are talking about is certain amounts of beef which are limited," he said.

The U.S. beef was also high-quality and would not necessarily be in direct competition with European beef. "To that extent, we don't believe that there is any reason why we shouldn't press on and negotiate a satisfactory compensation settlement with the Americans," he said. "It is surprising to see that the U.S. doesn't seem to be more anxious to do that," he said. "We will go (to the Washington summit) with the best will in the world to see if we can make progress, but the ball is in their court on hormones and compensation," he said.

Another EU official saw no reason why the latest mad cow scare should decrease the likelihood of a deal over hormone-free beef with the United States.

"It is not logical. In fact, it could work the other way around. Demand could be expected to increase for hormone-free and BSE-free beef from the United States," he said. "We're ready to talk, we always have been."

Barshefky said last week that the United States was still open to a deal on hormone-free beef if European leaders were willing. "If the European Commission feels it can move forward on hormone-free beef that would be very positive and we'd be delighted," she said.

In November, U.S. cattle producers said it might be pointless to continue beef trade negotiations with the EU because of EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy's suggestion that any increased U.S. access to the EU market for hormone-free beef would be temporary.

In an interview with Reuters, Lamy said any compensation deal with the United States would last only until the EU approves new legislation that he said would bring the EU ban on hormone-treated beef into line with WTO rules. The United States currently shares a quota with Canada to sell 11,500 tonnes of hormone-free beef annually to the EU. U.S. cattle producers want that quota substantially increased and a 20 percent tariff eliminated.

Mad Cow USA: Could the Nightmare Happen Here?

Sat, 16 Dec 2000 John Stauber
Mad Cow USA ... free full text online or download pdf

"In 1997 Sheldon Rampton and I wrote Mad Cow USA: Could the Nightmare Happen Here? It has been favorably reviewed in publications including New Scientist, Chemical and Engineering News, and JAMA.

Since we wrote the book three years ago we have witnessed the worsening situation in Europe (very predictable due to exported contaminated feed); the failure of the US government to close dangerous loopholes in US regulations regarding byproduct feeding; the failure of the supplement industry to pull glandular supplements off the market or to warn consumers that they are composed of the most TSE-infectious parts of animals; the deaths of two young hunters in Utah and Oklahoma who might be the first human victims of mad deer and elk disease in the US; and a growing death toll in the UK and Europe among human victims of BSE.

At the same time, there is tremendous confusion and misinformation about TSE diseases. Therefore, we've decided to put our book on the web so that it is available to educate a wider audience."

Opinion (webmaster): Stauber and Rampton have here what is surely the best print risk assessement of TSEs for the United States. They previously authored "Toxic Sludge is Good for You" concerning the public relations industry's attempt to sell toxic waste as a soil additive and have a new book out on "experts" advising the public and government, called "Trust us, we're experts."

Spreading BSE waste on agricultural lands -- MAFF's worst case scenario

September 2000 MAFF WRc Ref: CO 4937/07327-0 7 pdf 
BSE -- Risk Assessment For The Disposal of Treated Rendering Plant Ruminant Condensate To Agr. Land (A Worst Case Scenario)
3.5: A worst case exposure to cattle through grazing on land to which condensate has been spread

Assuming all the effluent was spread to land, and all the MBM remained on vegetation or attached to top soil where it was all ingested by grazing cattle, it is estimated that the cattle would ingest some 10.8 tonnes per year of MBM. This is equivalent to 23 bovine oral ID50 units per year. Since each ID50 unit has a 50% probability of infecting a bovine, on average 11.6 cattle would be infected with BSE each year through grazing on the land. This works out at about one new case of BSE in the UK every 31 days for each rendering plant (Table 3.2).

It should be emphasised that this is a completely unrealistic estimate of the actual risk. For the purposes of identifying the treatment necessary for ruminant condensate, worst case assumptions have been used in the risk assessment as a precautionary measure. These worst case assumptions are listed:

1. All BSE-infected cattle in the OTMS herd have the same high levels of BSE agent as those with full-blown clinical symptoms. It should be noted that all suspect or known BSE cases are destroyed by incineration and are not rendered. It is these cattle which have the highest levels of BSE infectivty. Cattle incubating the disease and in early stages of infection have much lower levels of infectivity.

2. there is no decay of the BSE agent in the environment;

3. there is no threshold dose for BSE infection in cattle (Gale 1998b). Evidence from cattle feeding studies suggest that the incubation time for cattle increases with progressively smaller doses (Anderson et al. 1996);

4. all of the BSE agent in condensate produced in one year is eaten by cattle through grazing on land;

5. rendering destroys only 98% of BSE agent. In practice, rendering may destroy more than this and has been shown to destroy 99.8% of scrapie agent (Taylor et al. 1997);

6. all suspended solids (130 mg l-1) in the condensate is MBM. Protein analyses undertaken on condensate by the Centre for Applied Microbiology and Research (CAMR) suggest this is not the case;

7. all of the 1.5 Ml of effluent produced per week is condensate. In practice, the contribution of condensate will be a fraction of this.

Fourth BSE case confirmed in Germany

Sun, Dec 17, 2000 Reuters World Report
Germany confirmed its second case of mad cow disease on Sunday and authorities in the state of Bavaria said they were following up two other suspected cases of the brain-wasting illness.

Bavaria's state health secretary Georg Schmid said in a statement tests had confirmed that the cow, born in 1995 and slaughtered this week in the southern town of Kempten, had bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease. All cattle related to the infected cow would be slaughtered and destroyed as well as all animals born in the same herd of 80 during the first 12 months of the life of the infected cow.

Officials are also looking at how the animals were fed, as contaminated bone and animal meal in cattle feed are believed to cause mad cow disease. Some scientists suspect the disease causes a similar fatal brain-destroying ailment, variantCreutzfeldt-Jakob disease, in people who eat infected beef.

Two other animals in Bavaria have also tested positive in initial testing and the herds are being isolated as further investigation continues.

Earlier on Sunday, Schmid said Bavaria was following up two other suspected BSE cases, with final results expected from Germany's main testing centre in three or four days. Schmid said he could not realistically rule out further cases of BSE in the southern state and said he sympathised with the fears of consumers. "I would only buy from a butcher I trust from whom I know where he gets his meat," he told Reuters.

The new cases of the brain-wasting cattle disease came to light under a new testing programme Germany introduced for all cattle over 30 months old after reporting last month its first incident of BSE in a German-born cow.

Until then Germany had prided itself on being free of the disease that has been linked to its human equivalent new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (nvCJD), which has killed more than 89 people in Britain and two in France.

Germany Confirms Third, Fourth Mad Cow Cases

Wed, 20 Dec 2000 Associated Press
Officials confirmed the third and fourth cases of mad cow disease in German-born animals Wednesday, both found in cows in the southern state of Bavaria.

The fourth case was found in a 4-year-old cow slaughtered Nov. 2, which was tested after it fell sick with a disease causing disturbances to its central nervous system. Earlier Wednesday, officials said a 4-year-old animal at another farm slaughtered Friday was confirmed to have the disease. The farms of both cows have been quarantined.

The first domestically born and bred animal with mad cow disease, as bovine spongiform encephalopathy is commonly known, was identified in northern Germany last month and a second confirmed over the weekend in Bavaria.

The Bavarian Health Ministry said Wednesday that yet another case is also suspected there.

Already, Austria has announced plans to ban imports of German beef as a result of the first two cases. On Tuesday, Germany's health minister reassured Germans that no sausage or meat would be pulled from the market and that the country's food was safe.

Mad Cow Fears Hit Favorite German Food: Sausage

19 Dec 00 (Associated Press) 
German officials rushed to reassure consumers Tuesday that their sausages are safe after a European Union official hinted the country's beloved bratwurst, currywurst or even weisswurst could also be considered suspect in the mad cow disease scare.

The veiled warning from Brussels was a bit like telling Germans they can't drink beer or drive fast, with worries over a potential sausage ban headlining newspapers across the country.

Still, the suggestion that sausages may contain contaminated products could prey easily on the consciousness of sausage-loving Germans, who each eat an average of 31.3 kilograms (69 pounds) of sausage a year.

According to a German saying, there are three things that even God doesn't know: how a trial will end, what a woman is thinking and what is in a wurst.

To prevent hysteria, the German health minister said Tuesday the government believes there's no need for a sausage and meat recall, though she said she personally would avoid sausage containing beef. "One shouldn't gloss over the dangers, but also not stir up fears," Andrea Fischer said.

Germany just last month joined the growing list of European countries where mad cow disease, as bovine spongiform encephalopathy is commonly known, has been identified from an animal born and raised domestically. A second case was confirmed over the weekend, and experts have said it is likely yet more infected cows will be discovered in Germany.

Germany also will likely soon join the list of nations whose beef is shunned abroad: Austria said Tuesday it was asking the EU to approve its plan to ban beef imports from Germany.

EU Commissioner David Byrne's statement Monday repeated warnings that cattle brain and spinal cords - both contained primarily in sausage and canned meat -- are "risk materials." He said Germany shouldn't take "half measures in regards to public health and safety," and cited the example of Denmark, which immediately pulled all beef off the shelves when a mad cow case was discovered earlier this year.

The German Association for Meat Products said that cattle brain and spinal cords are not used in German sausage, adding that it was crazy to single out the sausage.

"What is in ravioli, what is in pizza? There are many products made with meat, and not wurst alone," association head Thomas Vogelsang said. But experts say even sausage labeled non-beef could in some cases contain beef parts.

The Health Minister for Germany's largest state, Baerbel Hoehn in North-Rhine-Westphalia, told the Cologne Express newspaper: "Whoever wants to be totally certain shouldn't eat beef at the moment." Bavaria state, where the second mad cow case was confirmed Sunday, also said Tuesday it would spend 20 million marks ($9.1 million) for research how to combat the disease.

Also by Fischer's side Tuesday was the president of the German Nutrition Society, who offered his suggestions for safe sausages. Helmut Erbersdobler said non-cooked sausages like salami were relatively safe, while those that are cooked and liverwurst are less safe because they can contain muscle, fat or also possibly lymph nodes.

Another item on the risky list: ex-Chancellor Helmut Kohl's favorite dish, stuffed pork stomach. At the Damisch snack bar in Berlin's Friedrichstrasse train station, a red sign on the counter assured customers their sausages are beef-free.

"A lot of people ask what's in the sausages, but we've seen no drop in business," said server Ben Amor, watching over half a dozen slowly grilling wursts.

Digging into a mustard-lined bratwurst on her way home from work, 53-year-old Monika Wall said she doubted a sausage scare would cause Germans to lose their appetite.

"I'm very skeptical," she said looking down at her evening snack. "There's coloring, spices and pork in there, and if I'm lucky, no beef."

BSE Case in Live Cow Feared

Dec. 20, 2000 F.A.Z. MUNICH.
For the first time in Germany's crisis over bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), "mad cow" disease may have broken out in a live animal.

Reports on Wednesday said a 6-year-old cow from the Upper Bavarian region of Weilheim-Schongau had shown abnormal symptoms in its central nervous system. The Bavarian Social Ministry confirmed that the disease-stricken animal had been slaughtered on Nov. 2, and that a first test had shown the cow to be BSE-positive.

Should a second examination by the Federal Research Institute for Viral Diseases in Tübingen confirm the result, it would point to a clinical outbreak of BSE in Germany for the first time. In the four previous BSE cases, the disease was discovered through tests in cows that had been slaughtered.

Meanwhile, Bavaria's health minister, Barbara Stamm, said that another cow -- 4 years old -- from the Upper Palatinate county of Cham had been tested positive in Tübingen in what she described as "a serious blow for consumers and agriculture." The animal, born in March 1996, was slaughtered in Furth im Wald last Friday. It came from a herd of 200 cattle belonging to a family-run business.

In a further effort to combat the spread of BSE, the federal health minister, Andrea Fischer, on Wednesday urged manufacturers of meat that is used to make steamed sausages to remove all such products from circulation if the meat was processed before Oct. 1. This type of meat is removed from cows' bones at the final stage of the slaughtering process. Until Oct. 1, producers were allowed to use meat taken from cattles' spines.

Austria on Wednesday confirmed that a ban on German beef imports would take effect on Thursday pending any objections by the European Commission.

Comment (webmaster): This is so bizarre and brazen that Germany could go all these years not reporting a single case of BSE, yet now we are to believe that there is a sudden blizzard of them.

Obviously, they knew full well years ago that they had quite a bit of BSE and have simply been covering up past cases to protect their ag sector. They couldn't very well stop the steam extraction of spinal cords without admitting that they had a BSE problem.

So they went ahead and let millions of people eat this spinal cord sausage extract knowing full well that this process would not inactivate the prions. This policy obligated years and years of strenuous objection to testing, feed bans, and offal rejection because this was not necessary because there was no BSE in Germany.

Now Germany is headed for a fairly substanial nvCJD epidemic.

France bans blood donations from former UK tourists

Tue, Dec 19, 2000 COMTEX Newswire By Agence France-Presse
France will outlaw blood donations from people who lived in Britain and Ireland from 1980 to 1996 as a precaution against the spread of the human form of mad-cow disease, an official said Tuesday.

The ban will apply to people who have lived for "an accumulated period of more than a year" in the British Isles during this time, Lucien Abenaim, director-general of the French health ministry, told a press conference. Bernard Begaud, chairman of a panel of health experts, stressed that this measure was purely preventive.

"We are being super-cautious. Transmission (of the infectious agent) by blood is a theoretical risk," he said.

Britain is the seat of the world's biggest outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), as mad-cow disease is formally known. Eating beef infected with BSE may cause a fatal form of the disorder called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD), scientists fear.

Inquest opens into suspected CJD victim

Mon, Dec 18, 2000 By Harriet Tolputt, PA News
An inquest was taking place today into the death of one of two men suspected of having died from the human form of mad cow disease.

Steven Lunt, 34, of Adswood, Stockport, Greater Manchester, died in April and experts are still trying to confirm whether Paul Dickens, 28, who lived just 250 yards away, died of new variant CJD last month. Mr Lunt's inquest will be heard at Stockport Magistrates Court. A preliminary investigation into possible links of the deaths was under way.

Dr David Baxter, consultant in communicable disease control for Stockport Health Authority, said once Mr Dickens' case was confirmed, further investigations would take place. He confirmed the two men lived 250 to 300 yards from each other but could not reveal their addresses.

Mr Dickens, who was described as being an extremely fit, hard-working family man, was said to have begun to show symptoms of CJD in June, including memory lapses and loss of co-ordination.

Mad cow disease waning in Europe: meat safe-experts

Fri, Dec 15, 2000 By Peter Starck Reuters
Swedish experts said Friday that mad cow disease is on the wane in Europe, with new slaughtering and animal feed production rules combining with intensified quality controls to make EU beef safe.

"BSE as a problem is becoming extinct," Stig Widell, a senior official at the animal department of the national board of agriculture told a seminar on bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the brain-wasting cattle disorder commonly called mad cow disease.

The upbeat Swedish assessment came at the end of a year in which Germany, Spain, Portuguese Azores, Poland, Britain Italy and France either reported new BSE cases or where public health authorities are on the alert for fresh outbreaks.

Widell said, "In all of Europe there will be less than 2,000 reported cases of mad cow disease this year." By 2002, the total number of mad cow incidents in the EU's 15 member states would be a few hundred and in 2003-2004 only a handful compared with the 1992 peak of 36,000 cases, he said.

The EU has now imposed a six-month blanket ban on meat and bone meal (MBM) in all animal feeds, extending an earlier ban on mammal proteins in animal feeds to ruminants.

But some experts warn that unless the carcasses and MBM is disposed of completely, cases of BSE could still crop up, albeit at a more steady rate than so far. This opinion is based on concerns that some MBM stocks have been exported at knockdown prices to Europe and Africa.

Marianne Elvander of the Swedish National Veterinary Institute's laboratory said negligent compliance with the meat and bone meal ban was the main reason for the spread of BSE. Lars Plym-Forsell, senior veterinary inspector at Sweden's National Food Administration, said BSE was quite rare, except in Britain, which has reported most cases.

Since the mid-1990s, EU countries have stepped up veterinary checks and tightened slaughter rules to make sure BSE infected tissues do not enter the human food chain, Plym-Forsell said.

"Overall, the probability that a cow infected with BSE would come all the way to the slaughterhouse is extremely low. At slaughterhouses the tissues that can contain prions are removed and prions have never been detected in meat," he said.

The EU recently imposed mandatory BSE checks on all cattle aged over 30 months when slaughtered. Sweden, Finland and Austria, classified as countries unlikely to see a BSE outbreak, do not have to check all animals but will also increase testing.

Secrecy over BSE debates may end

Monday 18 December 2000 By Roger Highfield, Science Editor, Telegraph
Government advisers are debating whether to be more open in their deliberations on mad cow disease and new variant CJD in the wake of the BSE inquiry, which highlighted how the culture of secrecy contributed to the epidemics.

Experts who advise ministers on BSE and nvCJD, the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee, are divided by a proposal to hold committee discussions in public. The Department of Health confirmed that SEAC has held preliminary discussions on the issue.

The move towards greater openness is backed by one of its members, Prof John Collinge of St Mary's Hospital, London, who believes it is necessary "to build public confidence".

Prof Collinge said it was important to show that some scientific and health issues are far from clear-cut, to illustrate the range of opinions and to highlight the uncertainties. But other committee members fear that Seac would be misrepresented by the media.

The report by Lord Phillips that resulted from the BSE inquiry emphasised how "Whitehall secrecy is at the crux of the whole problem", according to Prof Collinge. Although there could be teething problems, Prof Collinge believes that, in the long run, it would be beneficial to open up SEAC to public scrutiny.

Prof Collinge acknowledges that when it comes to certain matters, to do with commercial or patient confidentiality, closed sessions will be necessary. "But I don't see why the majority of discussions can't be held in public."

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "What we want is for the public to have as much information as possible, even where some of that evidence or data may be uncertain."

Comment (webmaster): Civil servants blamed in BSE inquiry will not be disciplined.

BSE loophole allows old beef imports (SEAC misled)

Tuesday 19 December 2000 By Valerie Elliott, Consumer Editor London Times 
British food manufacturers can legally import beef over 30-months-old - which may harbour BSE - and use it in their pies and burgers, it emerged last night. The Government and the Food Standards Agency has so far given a warning about the possible use of beef over 30-months-old in salami , corned beef and other processed beef imported from the continent or of cowboy meat traders operating illegally in Britain.

There was never any hint, until now, that British food processors could lawfully process this potentially dangerous older meat in the UK and then sell it on to the public.

A member of the Government's main BSE advisory committee, the Spongiform Encepalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC), suggested last night that the committee had been misled about the safeguards for British consumers.

Harriet Kimbell, the consumer representative on SEAC, flagged up the anomaly at a Ministry of Agriculture press briefing and said the matter was cause for great concern . "The regulations are not as tight as we thought they were." She said she had no evidence that manufacturers were actually exploiting the loophole but said she suspected it was happening.

Tim Yeo, Shadow Agriculture spokesman, demanded clarification last night from Ministers and from Sir John Krebs, the Food Standards Agency. He said: "This is incredible news and it makes a farce of all our controls."

SEAC: Public summary of meeting on 28 November 2000
SEAC annual report 1999-2000

Officials kill 1,700 mad elk in effort to stop spread of CWD

Monday, December 18, 2000 Alanna Mitchell, research by Ken Rubin Toronto Globe and Mail
Sources: WHO / Cervid Council of Canada
A federal agency has slaughtered 1,700 domesticated elk in a bid to stop the spread of the elk version of mad-cow disease at six Saskatchewan farms. Every animal on the infected farms, plus those sold from them as long as three years ago, is to be killed. The elk are bred for human consumption of their meat and immature antlers.

The slaughter is by far the largest of its kind. The government will not name the farms.

The disease, officially known as chronic wasting disease, has the potential to damage Canada's billion dollar domestic elk and deer industry if left unchecked. At its theoretical worst, it could sow the seeds of a public-health crisis that could last for decades.

There is so far no evidence that the fatal, brain-wasting illness is transmissible to people [wrong]. Nor is there any sign that the elk version can jump to cattle [wrong] and then to humans, although researchers are still investigating. [How? No one knows if it would look different from sporadic CJD -- webmaster. ] Officials cannot say whether cattle and the infected elk were raised in adjacent fields.

The order comes in the wake of a directive from the World Health Organization stating that products from any animal carrying anything resembling mad-cow disease must not be consumed. The aim is to make sure that the ailment does not enter human food through elk meat products or health-food supplements containing the product known as velvet antler.

"It's a reasonably harsh policy," said Brian Peart, the senior veterinarian at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, who sets policy on the outbreak. "That's partly to make up for what we lack in science."

Experiments are being conducted in the United States in a bid to understand some of the basic ways the disease works. The United States is the only other country where chronic wasting disease is known to exist.

The association that represents the domestic deer and elk industry, the Canadian Cervid Council, applauds the harsh measures, executive director Serge Buy said. Mr. Buy's association would like to see another 94 Saskatchewan elk slaughtered. Those originated from one of the infected herds three to five years ago, he said. The disease has not been detected in any other province where elk are farmed.

Farmers receive $4,000 for every animal killed, plus a fee for disposing of the bodies. Most of the elk are worth twice that or more. "If they are infected, we want to get rid of them," Mr. Buy said. "We want to take care of the reputation of the herd and not take risks with the safety of the people around."

Chronic wasting disease, or mad-elk disease, is one of a family of fatal, untreatable illnesses known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies or TSEs. It is a sister to mad-cow disease -- bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE -- which has broken out in Europe and which led to the slaughter of 4.3 million cattle there after it was shown to have been transmitted to humans.

In humans, the ailment, which invariably kills as it eats away at the brain, is called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The European type, thought to infect humans who eat nerve or spinal tissue in beef products from an infected animal, is called new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. It has killed 89, most of them in the U.K.

Canada's 53,000 domesticated elk are raised primarily for the blood-rich, nerve-filled velvet that grows on the males' heads every year as immature antlers. While the growing antlers are still tender to the touch and soft, farmers anesthetize the elk, saw the soft antlers off and dry them out. The next year, the males grow them again. Female elk do not grow antlers.

It is a lucrative business. Prices per kilogram to the farmer in recent years range from $240 in 1995 to about $100 now. Mature bull elk are capable of producing 45 to 88 kilograms a year.

Last year, Canada produced roughly 52 tonnes of velvet antler from both elk and red deer, making it the fourth-largest producer in the world, behind New Zealand, China and Russia. Much of the Canadian velvet goes to Asia, where it is prized as a remedy for arthritis and other ailments. It is also used as an aphrodisiac. The velvet market in North America is growing, Mr. Buy said. It is increasingly common to be able to buy powdered velvet antler in Canadian health-food stores and even pharmacies.

Canadian elk are also raised for meat and are marketed as a low-fat, healthy red-meat alternative to beef. Elk steaks and elk pate are often found on restaurant menus in western provinces.

This outbreak of the elk disease, the worst in Canada's history, began in February with a single animal that appeared to be affected, Dr. Peart said. The elk show the infection in a number of ways: starving to death after the nerves in their mouth and esophagus stop working, breaking their necks because they are so unco-ordinated they plow into fence posts, getting pneumonia when the food and water they try to ingest goes into their lungs instead.

As with BSE and CJD, it is not possible so far to diagnose the elk disease in a living specimen. Pathologists examine parts of the brain stem and other bits of the nervous system to check for an abnormal, stringy protein in the infective agent, called a prion, that marks the disease. In the months since the first diagnosed case in February, several other elk have been found to be infected. At one point, Canada had three confirmed cases of the rare disease in three months, Dr. Peart said.

By June, the Canadian government, unsure what to do, had quarantined a large infected herd of 400 in Saskatchewan. It is the herd renowned for providing award-winning stock for other farms in the province. Dr. Peart said his agency has a theory that the other cases of chronic wasting disease stemmed from this farm.

Eventually, officials declared six elk farms to be infected, out of roughly 500 in Saskatchewan. As officials tried to ascertain the scope of the outbreak, they killed 36 normal-looking, apparently healthy animals on the stock farm and found that five were infected, Dr. Peart said. But another herd of 64, from which the animal found infected in February had come, was killed and found to be completely free of the disease [Rubbish: all tests have limited sensitivity; generally only late-stages of TSEs are detectable -- webmaster].

The government was shocked at the outbreak. Although the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, along with health and industry officials and the provinces, had developed a plan in early February to combat mad-elk disease, an outbreak was just a vague fear at that point. The agency didn't have a policy to handle an outbreak as serious and widespread as the present one. Canada has had only two previous cases of mad-elk disease among domesticated elk: in 1996 and in 1998.

In October, after much deliberation and a trip to Colorado to visit the world's leading experts on chronic wasting disease, the Canadian government opted to treat mad-elk disease as if it were mad-cow disease.

"Out of all that came this: On a contaminated herd, we kill everything. And we kill everything that moved off the premises in the last 36 months," Dr. Peart said, adding: "We kill all animals exposed, directly or indirectly. Whether they're in the same pen, along the same fence line, using the same feed trough or the same water trough."

It's not yet clear how many of the 1,700 slaughtered elk were infected with chronic wasting disease, although the nervous and lymph systems of each animal are being tested. Those results will take months to be compiled.

Most have already been killed, their bodies burned and then dumped into a ditch lined with clay soil. The 40 remaining were alive "just because they didn't get to them. They're on a different farm," Dr. Peart said.

Some of the soil the killed elk lived on has been buried too. Any wood or metal they came in contact with has been washed down with bleach or lye. These are standard practices in Europe to battle mad-cow disease.

Another 94 elk that were moved from infected herds three to five years ago have been traced to their new herds and are being monitored four times a year, Dr. Peart said.He said the best science available says that if those elk carried the abnormal protein, it would have shown up long ago.

CWD (Elk and Deer; sx herds in Saskatchewan became infected this year) At the end of 1999, there were about 500 diagnosed cases in the world. Most were in the U.S. This year, Saskatchewan had an outbreak. Six herds became infected and 1,700 animals have been killed to prevent the spread. The U.S. has 13 infected herds and has killed about 260 elk. It can also affect deer and may be spread through infected water and soil and possibly saliva, feces and placentas. There are no know cases of it spreading from elk or deer to humans or to cattle [except for successful experimental transmission and in vitro conversion.]

Farmed elk in Canada

Alberta 25,000
Saskatchewan 21,000
Ontario 3,300
Manitoba 2,000
Quebec 2,000
Yukon and NWT 150
New Brunswick 50
Nova Scotia and PEI 35
British Columbia 0

BSE (Cow) (Bovine spongiform encephalopathy)

Between November, 1986, and November, 2000, about 180,000 cases were diagnosed in Britain and another 1,500 in other European countries. For the first 10 years it was recognized, authorities believed it could not be passed to humans. Since then, about 4.3 million cattle have been slaughtered to remove infected animals from the human food chain. The disease is spread from cow to cow through the use of infected animal carcasses in feed.

Scrapie (Sheep)

This is the prototype TSE. It has been around for 250 years in Europe. It first hit the U.S. in 1947, but was not controlled until 1952. Now, it is endemic in the U.S. sheep population. In Canada, 14 of the 12,000 or so sheep flocks had scrapie at last count. It is not clear how scrapie is spread. Theories are that it is spread >from ewe to lamb or from a contaminated environment. There is no evidence that scrapie can affect humans [wrong, in vitro conversion tests are successful]. However, some researchers believe both CWD and BSE may be variants of scrapie.

CJD (Human)

The new variant version is spread through consumption of cattle products. It was first reported in March, 1996, in Britain. It mostly affects young people (average age 29 years versus 65 years for the earlier form) and takes longer to kill (14 months versus 4.5 months). As of November, 2000, 89 had died of CJD in Europe. This disease (BSE, Scrapie, CJD) is transmissable to humans. In Britain, 85 people have died so far. As well, three are dead in France and one in the Republic of Ireland. The disease is untreatable and there is no cure.

Dioxin from beef incineration

Sun, 17 Dec 2000 Henrik Holst-Pedersen. manager of Kambas Danish rendering plant
" After the ban of meat and bone meal it seems as if incineration is the preferred solution for disposal of meat and bone meal. Very limited information on dioxin concentrations in flue gases from incineration of meat and bone meal is available. Therefore the calculation below is done by using the new proposed EU limits regarding dioxin in flue gases.

There is no doubt that modern incinerators can be constructed and equipped with dioxin filters which will limit the pollution from the flue gases to an acceptable level. Such incinerators are not available for the moment and will take many years to construct. Until then existing incinerators and co-incineration will be used. The environmental impact of such solutions is very little investigated.

Co-incineration is incineration together with something else. Typically incineration during cement production, waste incineration, power production. In such cases the flue gases are mixed with the flue gases from incineration of other things and nobody can tell what has really happened to the meat meal. The point is that during co-incineration the pollution from incineration of meat meal is diluted by other types of flue gases.

Often factories doing co-incineration have other requirements than newly constructed incinerators. Therefore there might be space for some extra amounts of polluting substances in the total amount of flue gases. It seems as if co-incineration is the only possibility for incineration of meat meal for the moment as suitable incinerators are not available. The few available incinerators are charging much higher prices for incineration than is charged for co-incineration.

I will try to explain the calculation a little better. First I calculate the amount of dioxin in one kg of meat meal. Next I calculate the amount of dioxin in the flue gases from an incinerator running exactly at the acceptable dioxin level according to proposed new EU norms. In this way the comparison is made. If reliable data were available I could use the exact concentration in the flue gas, but very few measurements are available.

During incineration probably most dioxin in any product will be destroyed. But de-novo synthesis will take place if the incinerator is not constructed well not running well or is designed for other purposes. Therefore high amounts of dioxin might be created due to lack of suitable incinerators. The limit 0.1 ng/ m3 might be exeeded many times. Often concentrations 1000 times higher than the EU limit has been measured.

I do not know how localized the dioxin pollution will be but probably the dioxin will be distributed over very big areas. As nobody really knows what will happen it is difficult to tell how big the problem really is. A simple calculation will give minimum 3 grams dioxin per year in EU. This is not a very big figure, but poor incineration might lead to much higher figures in practice.

My point is that if we use meat meal as fertilizer we are not running any risk from unwanted substances created during poor incineration. In Denmark it seems as if we will get permission to use non ruminant meat meal for fertilizer provided that the product has been properly sterilized at 133 C for 20 minutes. This seem to me as a safe way of disposal as long as feed is banned.

Especially for porcine and poultry based meat meal the pollution from incineration must be compared with other uses as e.g. fertilizer:

The typical dioxin content in meat meal is 1 ng/kg fat ( 1 x 10-9 g dioxin/kg fat) in meat meal with 10% fat. This content is low and comparable to vegetable feedstuffs. Proposed EU limit for dioxin in flue gases is 0.1 ng/m3 Amount of flue gases from incineration of 1 kg meat meal is 8.4 m3

From the data obtained the calculation below can be done:

 In 1 kg meat meal is 0.10 x 10-9 g = 0.1 ng dioxin
 After incineration of 1 kg meat meal in a fluid bed incinerator the flue gases will contain: 8.4 x 0.1 = 0.84 ng dioxin

Based on the above assumptions incineration of meat meal as compared to other uses as fertilizer or bio-gas will release 8.4 times more dioxin to the environment. As the value 0.1 ng/m3 might be difficult to obtain the practical result might be release of even higher amounts of dioxin. If incineration of meat and bone meal should be dioxin neutral the limit for dioxin in the flue gases should be 8.4 times lower than the proposed EU limit.

As it is highly unlikely that porcine and poultry based meat meal is carrying any bse risk it seems to be a much better environmental solution to use such meal as fertilizer instead of running the risk of pollution with dioxin from poorly controlled incinerators.

The typical dioxin content in meat meal is 1 ng/kg fat ( 1 x 10-9 g dioxin/kg fat) in meat meal with 10% fat. This content is low and comparable to vegetable feedstufs. Proposed EU limit for dioxin in flue gases is 0.1 ng/m3 Amount of flue gases from incineration of 1 kg meat meal is 8.4 m3

Meat meal contains app. 2% Cloride measured as NaCl and therefore meat meal contains more than sufficient Cl for de-novo synthesis of nearly any chlorinated compound during an incomplete combustion. The Cloride will be present in the flue gas as HCl if not measures are taken to avoid this.

The problem here as you see is a little complicated and I have only mentioned dioxin , the most scary problem. But you have more or less the same problem with nitrogen oxides, poloyaromated hydrocarbones, furanes, carbon momooxide and hydrocloric acid. If you are interested in this I wrote something about this and other aspects of alternative disposal of meat meal and you can have this if you like.

Opinion (webmaster): Dilution is not the solution to pollution.

CWD and elk velvet antler health products

 Hal Herring is a free-lance writer in Corvalis, Montana.
Opinion (webmaster): This is an excellent article on elk antler velvet, which is yet another unregulated neutriceuticals in widespread use. While CWD is definitely an issue for some game farms which harvest the velvet, and the concentrated blood and nervous tissue from such an animal are not the best of tissues for risk, lack of testing makes it hard to say whether the pills are a significant source of infectivity.

At this time, no one has specified a diagnostic signature for CWD in humans; animal transmission experiments suggest to me that it may be hard to distinguish on gels from type 1 sporadic CJD. Without a diagnostic signature, it is premature to speak to the issue of how many people, if any, have become infected so far.

Tonsil biopsies on a voluntary basis for hunters with confirmed CWD exposure make public health sense, but there has been no follow-up by the State of Colorado. Known exposures might also be excluded from blood, cornea, tissue, and organ donation as a precautionary measure, but no action has been taken on this either.

Cure or curse? As Chronic Wasting Disease appears again, questions arise about the velvet antler trade

December 18, 2000 by Hal Herring High Country News 
June is velveting season on the elk ranches of the United States and Canada. Bulls have to be treated with care - the soft, heavy antler tissue is easily damaged, and a good bull may be carrying as much as 40 pounds.

At the going rate of $70 per pound, nobody can afford a free-for-all in the velveting area. According to instructions on an elk farm Web site,, cut-up pieces of sterile inner tube work best as tourniquets, and a double-edged saw is the best tool for cutting off the antlers. Don't forget to "turn antler bottom up to contain blood" and "treat just like a meat byproduct," freezing as soon as possible, "at a 15-degree angle to conserve all blood."

The sale of velvet antler from domestic elk in North America is estimated by its proponents to be a $3 billion industry. Korea is still the primary destination for most velvet products, but promoters have created a demand in the U.S. alternative medicine and nutritional supplement market.

Beginning next month, most of the 4,300 General Nutrition Centers will be carrying elk-velvet capsules made by Natraflex, a company based in Castle Rock, Colo.

"I eat velvet every day," says Natraflex founder Lloyd Riddle. Riddle is an enthusiastic user of his own product, and has endorsements from athletes, such as professional powerlifter Ron Madison and ultra-marathoner Richard Huff.

Velvet is marketed in North America as a remedy for those suffering from arthritis, sexual dysfunction, and joint ailments of all types, and as a supplement for bodybuilders and extreme athletes.

Elk velvet antler, pumped tight with blood and pulsing with hormones, is the most regenerative mammal tissue known, capable of growing over half an inch in one day. According to Dr. George Bubenick, an anatomist at the University of Guelph, in Ontario, Canada, the density of nerve receptors in velvet approaches that of the human cornea, making it one of the most sensitive tissues in existence. It is no wonder that traditional Oriental medicine holds the material in such high regard, or that aging Western athletes would want to check it out.

But for the past several years, the domestic elk industry has been battling a malady called Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in its herds, and a new outbreak has affected six elk ranches in Saskatchewan.

Chronic Wasting Disease belongs to a group of brain diseases known as transmissable spongiform encephalopathies, or TSEs, a group that includes the so-called "mad cow disease" that destroyed the British beef industry in the early 1990s. Also among the TSEs are scrapie, a disease that has killed sheep for centuries in Europe, and has been recognized in the U.S. for the past 50 years, and Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (CJD), which causes dementia followed by rapid death in human beings.

During the mad cow disaster in England, a new form of CJD began to appear, afflicting younger people than the traditional disease. Scientists called the new disease "variant CJD" because it leaves a distinctly different pattern of destruction in the brain, a "signature" that can be recognized when brain tissue from a victim is examined. Variant CJD has killed at least 80 people so far in Europe, and it is linked to the consumption of British beef products that were contaminated with the mad cow infection.

The disease crossed what scientists call "the species barrier" from the infected cattle, to infect some proportion of the millions of people who ate it before anyone realized that such a leap was possible. As with all TSEs, no one knows the incubation for variant CJD. It cannot be predicted whether the threat to human beings in Europe is over, or just beginning.

There is no TSE researcher working today who will discount the possibility that Chronic Wasting Disease could produce variant CJD in humans, especially if humans are consuming the brains, blood or nerve tissue of infected animals.

No federal agencies regulate the velvet trade. The U.S. Department of Agriculture does not monitor the harvest or the handling of the product, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not follow how it is consumed.

Regulation is voluntary

In 1999, South Dakota had 300 head of elk under quarantine for Chronic Wasting Disease. One herd, tested after all of the animals were destroyed, showed an infection rate of 30 percent. Yet, says South Dakota State Veterinarian Dr. Sam Holland, there was nothing to prevent the owners of those animals from selling their velvet.

"We do apprise the owners of the implications of selling velvet while under quarantine," he said, "but we cannot stop them from doing so, because there is no evidence that CWD is present in velvet, or can be passed to humans."

Holland says that in his experience, elk ranchers in South Dakota have all acted on the side of caution. "One producer who had infected elk burned his whole stockpile - thousands of pounds - of velvet. He didn't have to. He wanted to do the right thing."

In Montana, where two herds have been destroyed for Chronic Wasting Disease, Karen Cooper of the Montana Department of Livestock says the department "does not regulate any animal byproduct and therefore does not have any information (about) which farms sell at what time."

Even where regulations are in place, such as Canada, there is no way to test animals for Chronic Wasting Disease until the animals are dead. At the end of November, 1,500 head of elk from the six infected ranches in Saskatchewan were destroyed. What happened to the velvet that was harvested from those animals in June 2000?

"The animals were not under any kind of quarantine then, so it went into the market," says Dr. George Luterbach, chief veterinarian of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

But Ian Thorleifson of the Canadian Cervid Council says that "partly by luck and partly by design, we are not aware of any velvet that was sold from elk infected now that were not perceived to be infected in June."

In this country, the elk-ranching industry has contributed over $200,000 to wasting disease research, much of the study seeking a test that can determine infection in live animals. Some of the money has gone to Dr. Mary Jo Schmeer, at the USDA facilities in Ames, Iowa, who has been searching for the wasting disease agent in blood samples of infected deer and elk.

"We have detected the agent in blood," she says. "I wouldn't want to be taking any products that contain blood in concentrated form."

In England, she says, "Researchers established the transmission of BSE (mad cow) to a sheep, from a transfusion of less than a cupful of blood." Schmeer says she has a backlog of over a thousand blood samples from deer and elk, and has no idea when, or if, a reliable test will be discovered.

Dr. Byron Caughey and Dr. Bruce Chesebro work at Rocky Mountain Laboratories, a research facility of the National Institute of Health, in Hamilton, Mont. Both men have spent a large part of their lives working on transmissable spongiform encephalopathy diseases, and both have just returned from an international TSE conference in Europe.

Caughey has recently completed an experiment to obtain what he calls "an initial glimpse" of how susceptible to CWD infection humans and traditional livestock might be. "Early results show the possibility of susceptibility to infection," he says. But Caughey is not impressed by the threat of transmission through infected blood.

"Evidence says that a blood-borne transmission is possible, but it would be extremely rare," he says. "But if you are talking about a nerve-borne infection, the potential risk is many orders - maybe millionfold - greater."

"Playing with fire" is how Bruce Chesebro describes the current trade in velvet. "Everybody talks about how scrapie has been present in sheep for hundreds of years and has never been known to pass to people," he says.

"And in England, everybody was hoping that BSE (mad cow disease) would be like scrapie, and pose no threat to humans, but that bubble burst when the variant CJD cases started showing up in young people in 1996. So you've got one TSE that passes to people, and one that doesn't. Will CWD be like scrapie, or like BSE? Nobody knows."

Also, he adds, "People like to say that natural transmission of TSEs has always been rare. But with velvet, we're not talking about natural transmission - you're grinding it up, putting it in capsules, and eating it regularly. That's what I'd call experimental use. It's basically the same thing we do in the lab with mice."

Elk ranchers, velvet promoters, and industry spokespersons, however, want it to be clear that no human being, as far as can be known, has ever contracted variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease from a Chronic Wasting Disease-infected animal.

Thorleifson, of the Canadian Cervid Council, says, "No information is available to suggest that CWD is infective to humans. It is true that Canadian elk producers are concerned regarding the possibility of any negative effect resulting from consumption of an imperfect elk product. That is the justification for the slaughter of over 1,500 Canadian farmed elk, in spite of the fact that only 16 elk from those herds have been found positive for CWD."

Thorleifson adds: "There must be some risk of transmission, but we feel that risk is extremely low."

Steve Wolcott, a Colorado elk producer and chairman of animal health for the North American Elk Breeders Association, also believes that the low numbers of infected animals, and the history of the disease so far, suggest that the risk to humans is minimal.

"We are talking about maybe 13 herds of infected elk," he said, "and six or seven under quarantine now, out of hundreds of herds. Compared to the sheep industry, we are bending over backwards to solve this problem, but because we are a small industry we get attacked from all sides."

He points out that Chronic Wasting Disease has existed in the wild, affecting 1 percent of the elk, and 18 percent of the mule deer in a small but expanding portion of Colorado and Wyoming, and of the thousands of people who hunt there, none have apparently died of variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease.

In Castle Rock, Colo., Natraflex president and founder Lloyd Riddle isn't worried. For one thing, he says, he knows where his velvet is coming from. "I certainly don't buy from pools. I buy directly from ranches that I know have the strictest standards, so I always know the source."

Riddle adds that of the millions of people eating velvet, "Nobody's out there tipping over. It's just not a problem, and I'd hate to see it represented as one."

On the Natraflex Web site, a browser can purchase the new book by California nutritionist Betty Kamen, titled The Remarkable Healing Power of Velvet Antler. On her Web site promoting the book, Kamen does not mention TSE diseases but does discuss the question, "Is it safe to use an antler supplement?" Her conclusion? "The question I feel compelled to ask myself is this: is it safe not to use an antler supplement?"

Natraflex Brands, 888/283-3539
Canadian Food Inspection Agency, 204/983-2624
Canadian Cervid Council, 780/460-9424 
Food and Drug Administration: 888/723-3663 or 888/463-6332; 
Steve Wolcott, North American Elk Breeders Association, 970/527-4586.

Immunohistochemical diagnosis of chronic wasting disease in preclinically affected elk from a captive herd.

J Vet Diagn Invest 2000 Nov;12(6):579-82
Peters J, Miller JM, Jenny AL, Peterson TL, Carmichael KP
Respiratory and Neurologic Disease Unit, National Animal Disease Center, USDA,
Agricultural Research Service, Ames, IA 50010, USA.
An immunohistochemical (IHC) method was used to test brain tissues from 17 elk in a captive herd in which chronic wasting disease (CWD) had previously occurred. The IHC technique detects the protease-resistant prion protein (PrP-res), which is considered a disease-specific marker for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE), regardless of the species affected.

Of the 17 elk tested, 10 were positive by IHC. Only 2 of these 10 animals had shown clinical signs and histologic lesions of CWD, and an additional animal had histologic lesions only. The most consistently IHC-positive tissue was medulla oblongata, especially the obex.

These results show that the PrP-res IHC test on brain tissue, specifically medulla oblongata at the obex, should be considered an essential component of any surveillance study intended to determine the incidence of CWD in captive or free-ranging cervids.

Austrian minister calls for ban on German beef imports

Tue, 19 Dec 2000 Associated Press
Austria's social affairs minister called Tuesday for a ban on beef and catle imports from Germany two days after German officials confirmed a second case of mad cow disease.

Herbert Haupt, a veterinarian, said the move would require approval by the European Commission in Brussels. A commission official said in Brussels that Austria had said it would make the request formally. The decision follows the discovery of a second case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in Germany. The ban would enter into effect 24 hours later.

Haupt said that legal possibilities to take such steps had been narrowed by the recent European Union summit in Nice, France, where bilateral measures had been excluded.

He conceded that a ban on beef imports was a controversial move, adding that the good neighborhood relations with Germany must not be put at risk. In case the EU Commission agrees, the ban could become effective before Christmas, Haupt said.

The latest BSE crisis in the European Union began when infected beef found its way onto French supermarket shelves at the end of October. Since then, EU beef consumption has declined on average by 30-40 percent, dropping as low as 50 percent in France, Germany and Italy, said the Committee of Agricultural Organizations in the EU

Although no BSE case has been reported in Austria so far, beef sales have fallen dramatically and meat sales in general are down.

Due to a more intensive testing program, France announced more than a doubling of BSE cases this year compared with the same period last year.

Should the UK have had a whole-herd cull policy?

Wed, 20 Dec 2000 listserve opinion 
"Records and production information must be kept for feeds sold and bought. But this does not help to identify cross-contaminated batches. Even if feed manufacturers had kept samples of feed batches for 6 years, as long as there is no available test method to detect BSE-contamination of feeds, there would be no proof.

Supposedly whole herd culling "serves no useful purpose other than to ensure a maximal level of concealment for the political reason that the countries wanted to claim bse-free status".

I do not agree. Countries that were _already_ officially BSE-infected (Ireland, Switzerland, France, The Netherlands, Belgium, and later Denmark) could no longer claim to be BSE-free. Concealment may have occurred, and indeed has certainly occurred, especially _before_ a country reports its first indigenous case of BSE.

See the BASES-report on Portugal:

..."(until 1994) a small number of BSE cases were detected, all of them in bovines imported from the U.K. The diagnoses carried out between 1990 and 1993 were kept secret by the Ministry for Agriculture and the Chief Veterinary Officer. Once these diagnoses were made public, the government denied their validity and the existence of BSE in the country"

In 1994 ,12 cattle born in Portugal were declared affected with BSE. Only in May 1997, it was decided to cull the entire herds where BSE had been confirmed. However, tracing of animals at risk sold from these herds was often incomplete.

All BSE-affected countries (except the UK) have or have had whole herd cull programs. In Switzerland, this started in 1996 (retrospective herd cull) and in 1999 Switzerland changed from whole herd culling to cohort culling. Ireland has had whole herd culling since 1990. In France herd culling was voluntary with compensation since the first case (1990) and became compulsory from 1994.

I do not know what culling policy has been chosen by Germany (some newspapers say whole herd, others say cohort cull, some say both.

In the UK, according to the SSC report on culling, up to 57 % of cases in cattle born in 1987-88 could have been prevented if at least cohort culls had been decided early, and up to 38% could have been prevented if cohort culls had started as late as january 1993. However, the selctive cull programme started only in february 1997.

Maybe cohort culling would encourage reporting, but I think awareness and good compensation (not 50% as in the beginning in the UK) would also be very important, and most important, the official BSE-infected status of a country. Volunatary concealment of indigenous cases during the first years in Portugal was not concealment by farmers, but by the authorities. Such concealments may have happened elsewhere.

I can also imagine voluntary concealment in regions of a country where BSE has not yet been detected. However, I can see no point in concealing cases of BSE for example in North West France, the whole region is already "under suspicion".

Another important aspect is traceability - even a cohort cull must target animals of the the same cohort sold to other farms. There is also the kind of concealment where the case itself is not concealed, but appears on another "artificial multiple case farm".

According to a publication in Farmer's Weekly (1996) there were 2.607 UK farms with 11-20 BSE-cases, 704 farms with 21-30 cases, 225 farms with 31-40 cases, 89 farms with 41-50 cases. And 53 farms with from 51 to over 100 cases ...

Many of these "most multiple case" farms probably allowed other farms to retain a "BSE-free status" allowing unrestricted exports. It was also shown that clinical cases had been traded between Northern Ireland and Ireland, because of better compensation in Ireland.

This kind of case concealment will be limited or non existent in countries where whole herd culling is practised, and should be totally avoided if identification and tracing are satisfactory.

CJD bill to soar as NHS cuts surgery risks

December 20, 2000 James Meikle, health correspondent Guardian 
The NHS faces the prospect of paying billions of pounds for throwaway surgical instruments as part of the spiralling costs to cut the theoretical risk of patients catching the human form of BSE. All tonsil operations in Britain - about 85,000 a year - are soon likely to be performed using £400 sets of once only instruments, and this switch to fully disposable equipment in mainstream surgery is likely to be just the forerunner of a change in surgery procedures at NHS and private and military hospitals.

Surgeons and government officials are investigating the use of more disposable instruments in complicated operations including brain and eye surgery where the risks rise for contamination of instruments with rogue prions - the proteins thought to be responsible for variant CJD.

Tonsillectomies, not performed as often these days, are usually carried out only on children with frequent tonsilitis. Dentists and opticians have already been told to buy more single-use equipment and there are tougher measures for decontaminating non-disposable instruments.

Government advisers on BSE and vCJD have said that proper sterilisation can substantially reduce levels of infectivity. A decision about the surgical changes will be made next month. Some of the 88 victims of vCJD in Britain, five of whom are still alive, have been teenagers but it is not certain either how they were infected or how long the disease was incubating before they displayed the symptoms, which include depression, anxiety and loss of bodily control. Cheap beef products are still prime suspects behind the disease.

Government advisers have said the risk of transmitting the disease via surgical instruments was still "theoretical and unquantifiable". None of the vCJD cases so far has been linked to surgical contamination and it is understood a risk assessment has suggested that disposable instruments for tonsil surgery may only prevent one extra case of vCJD.

But the Phillips inquiry into BSE and vCJD called for a "precautionary approach". Advisers have recognised that some precision equipment for single use could be unaffordable. There could also be problems storing disposables before safely destroyiing them.

The costs of the medical consequences of vCJD are mounting. Measures to cut the risk of vCJD contamination through blood donations are costing £83m a year in England and north Wales alone; the change in tonsil operations would cost another £35m yearly.

The treatment of vCJD patients costs beween £6,500 and £40,000. Instruments used on vCJD patients are already destroyed, including medical equipment costing nearly £30,000.

Yesterday, France became the latest among countries to ban blood donors who have been to Britain between 1980 and 1996. The news of the measures coincided with new concerns that loopholes in food regulations allowed manufacturers to get round rules making it illegal to import and sell meat from cattle over 30 months old.

Harriet Kimbell, a member of Seac, the spongiform encephalopathy advisory committee, said: "It is not illegal for an English manufacturer to go to Europe, buy meat and make it into products like frozen beefburgers, and sell it in Britain."

Irish polio vaccine from nvCJD Blood Donor

19 December 2000 Press release 
Minister Martin issues statement about Polio Vaccine distributed in 1998/9.

The Department of Health and Children has been informed that one UK blood donor, the plasma of whose donation was used in Britain to make a batch of the product Human Serum Albumin, has recently been diagnosed as having the new variant form of Creutzfeldt Jacob Disease (nvCJD).

This person's donation was one of 22,353 used to make a pool. This in turn was combined with another pool to give a final dilution of 1/63,866. This Human Serum Albumin was used by Evans/Medeva in the manufacture of Oral Polio Vaccine, as an essential stabilising agent.

Approximately 83,500 doses of the polio vaccine in question were distributed in Ireland between 15 January 1998 and 30 January 1999. More detailed checking is taking place with the Health Boards in relation to the precise usage of this vaccine. It is not possible to state in medicine that there is absolutely zero risk, but expert advice, both national and international, available to the Department of Health and Children indicates that in this situation it is almost certainly the case.

Albumin has a long tradition of safety. This is based partly on the fact that the purification methods used in its manufacture eliminate the potential for infectivity. Albumin is produced at the last stage of a series of purification procedures. Recent studies of the various plasma fractions have shown no infectivity associated with albumin.

Polio vaccine is administered to children as part of the Primary Childhood Immunisation Programme at the ages of 2, 4 and 6 months, and a booster immunisation is given at primary school entry age. Some adults may also have received the vaccine as part of the recommended immunisations for travel to certain countries.

There is no longer any UK-sourced plasma material contained in any vaccine in use in Ireland.

Parents may contact their family doctor if they wish to enquire whether or not their child received vaccine from any of the batches concerned, as part of their primary immunisations. Also, each Health Board has been requested to establish a telephone line which concerned parents can call to enquire whether or not their child received any of the vaccine, as a booster immunisation. This service will also enable reassurance to be given to parents.

Additional information on this issue will be displayed on the Department's website and on the websites of the Irish Medicines Board.

Vaccine Batch Details : The numbers of the batches of Evans/Medeva Polio Vaccine, with the product description POLIOV/10/1EI, are as follows:

Batch Expiry date E7213/01A 10/05/98 E7213/02A 10/05/98 E7213/02B 
 09/06/98 E8214/01A 02/08/98 E8214/01B 15/09/98 E8215/01A 
24/12/98 E8215/01B 31/01/99 

What is Oral Polio Vaccine?

Oral Polio Vaccine abbreviated as OPV is a vaccine given to young children in liquid form by mouth to protect them against infection by Polio virus which can cause a paralytic and sometimes fatal illness.

Who gets the OPV used in Ireland?

This vaccine is administered by mouth to children as part of the Childhood Primary Immunisation Programme at the ages of 2, 4 and 6 months and a booster dose is given at entry to primary school.Some adults may also have received this vaccination as part of immunisation for foreign travel.

Who makes the brands of OPV used in Ireland?

A number of manufacturers make Oral Polio Vaccines: The two companies from the UK who have manufactured the products which have been available on the Irish market in the last number of years are Evans/Medeva and SmithKline Beecham.

What was the problem with this vaccine?

The Irish Medicines Board (IMB) has been informed that a constituent of the vaccine namely human serum albumin (HSA) utilised a blood donation in its manufacture from a UK resident who has recently been diagnosed with nvCJD.HSA is a product which is made from human blood donations. It is a protein (albumin) obtained from blood serum (hence its name). It is used as a stabiliser in some medicinal products and vaccines.

This issue relates only to a constituent known as HSA and sourced in the UK which was present only in the Evans/Medeva product distributed in Ireland between 15 January, 1998 and 30 January 1999.The manufacture of HSA involves pooling together the plasma from a large number of individual donations. The Department of Health and Children has been informed that one UK blood donor, the plasma of whose donation was used to make a batch of the product human serum albumin, has recently been diagnosed as ! having the new variant form of Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (nvCJD).This person's donation was one of 22,353 used to make a pool of plasma. HSA was prepared from this pool and subsequently combined with additional albumin to give a final dilution of 1/63,866.

Is there a risk associated with this event for me or my family?

Expert advice, both national and international, available to the Department of Health and Children indicates that the potential risk, if any, to recipients is essentially non-existent. It is not possible in medicine to state that there is zero risk; however, in this situation, we are confident that it is almost certainly the case.Albumin has a long tradition of safety. This is based partly on the fact that the purification methods used in its manufacture eliminate the potential for infectivity. Albumin is produced at the last stage of a series of purification procedures. Recent studies of the various plasma fractions have shown no infectivity associated with albumin.

If there is no real risk, why is this information being disclosed at all, and why now?

The Minister has disclosed this information as a precautionary step, and on the basis that the public have a right to have it - even though there is no evidence that recipients of the vaccine are at any risk as a result.The Minister was also conscious that the information was likely to come into the public domain in any event, and that it was preferable that it be made available with appropriate expert advice and assurances for the public about the issues involved.

Do other medicines also contain HSA?

There are a number of other medicines which also contain HSA. These use HSA obtained from non UK donors.

Are other vaccines affected?

No other vaccines are affected. No other vaccines in use in Ireland contain UK-sourced Human Serum Albumin. Since January 1999 the Medeva vaccine involved in this issue has not contained UK-sourced HSA. Medeva oral polio vaccine has not been in use in Ireland since September 2000.


The newly recognised condition was first described in the UK in 1996. There are now approximately 88 cases in the UK, including one case from Northern Ireland, two cases in France and one from the Republic of Ireland. Clinically, these cases present at an early age and are different from Classic CJD The presenting features include behavioural disturbances followed by difficulties with balance and walking. The average survival is approximately 13 months which is longer than the Classic/Sporadic CJD. The confirmation of nvCJD is neuropathological.

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