nvCJD monthly statistics for December 2000: 2 new cases
Iceland's experience with soil contaminatin and scrapie eradication
Half measures: Mad cow test results may be unreliable
Crohn's Disease -- another disease you can catch from cows?
Stop factory farming and end BSE, UK scientists say
Sweden soothes fear of possible 'mad cow' outbreak
EU Agrees on Tough Measures for Mad Cow Disease
Europe's move on BSE: mountains of lethal waste
EU meat meal industry wants handout to survive ban
Louisiana man exposed to fatal malady sues hospital
06 Dec 00 original digital artwork by Russell Kightley, medical illustrator from Australia See originals for full size images and explanatory captions: 1, 2, 3
06 Dec 00 By Richard Woodman LONDON (Reuters Health)The test for bovine spongiform encephalopathy that is supposed to protect the public against "mad cow" disease has never been properly validated, The Independent newspaper reported on Wednesday. It said a reliable cattle-testing program is one of the main anti-BSE measures proposed by the European Commission to reassure the public over the safety of beef, yet scientists have never been able to determine how reliable the test is at detecting the disease in animals harboring the early stages of BSE.
The British newspaper pointed out that the European Commission has said that testing cattle more than 30 months old is central to its fight against BSE, and will be one of three new proposals it intends to introduce in the new year to ensure that European beef is safe to eat. However, scientists were unable to say how good the tests are at detecting BSE in cattle that have no symptoms. In effect, they do not know whether a cow that tests "negative" really is free of BSE.
The report adds: "In Britain, all cattle aged more than 30 months are banned from entering the human food chain, but for the rest of Europe the Commission has taken the cheaper approach of allowing older cattle to be eaten, provided they test negative with one of the three tests it has "validated." However, the validation carried out by the Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) in Geel, Belgium, has not included an assessment of how well the tests perform on apparently healthy cattle that are incubating the disease.
"The only validation the JRC has published was carried out using samples from cattle that had obvious symptoms of BSE--animals that would never in any case be slaughtered for food."
Dr. Heinz Schimmel, who carried out the validation exercise told the newspaper that a negative result would not necessarily mean an animal was safe to eat, as the Commission insists.
"The conclusion that a negative test result would mean that the cow has never been infected with BSE was never drawn, but it is obvious that the more sensitive the tests are, the earlier BSE infection can be detected," Schimmel said.
Asked what scientific evidence he could give to reassure the public that a negative BSE test result was not a "false negative," Schimmel replied: "Nobody can do that." The report said it is usual for all biochemical tests used in medicine or animal welfare to be assessed against hundreds or even thousands of different samples to test how sensitive they are at detecting "true" negatives, and how specific they are at determining "true" positives.
However, this has not been done with any of the Commission-approved BSE tests, used in the context of assessing whether an apparently healthy animal is incubating the disease.
Bruno Oesch, the executive director of Prionics, the Swiss maker of the most widely used BSE test, said his company did not have the resources to conduct such elaborate research. After the "validation" by the JRC last year, Prionics issued a press statement saying its test had a "100 percent success rate". However, Oesch said this only referred to tests on animals with obvious signs of BSE.
"No test ever can give a guarantee. It's biochemically impossible to reach 100 percent," he said. When samples from 4,000 British cattle over 30 months old were analyzed by the Prionics test, it emerged that it was only capable of spotting cases of BSE just before symptoms appear, according to Professor John Wilesmith of the Government's Central Veterinary Laboratory in Weybridge, Surrey.
"What is being proposed by the Commission is really quite worrying. The tests only pull out animals in the very late stages of incubation," Wilesmith said.
Nevertheless, David Byrne, the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, said the introduction of testing for cattle more than 30 months old was essential to Europe's war on BSE outside Britain.
|Commentary (correspendents in Europe): |
Tests cattle over 30 months: apparently subclinical animals will still be used in human and animal food.
Fish meal feed to ruminants, pigs and poultry isforbidden in France, could be forbidden in whole EU, ban against feeding any species with fish meal from fish farms, especially fish previously fed MBM; no risk with fish meal from sea-fish, the only problem might be illegal substitutions. In Norway, it is not allowed to feed farmed fish with fish meal from farmed fish, but sea-fish meal is not banned. Fish farmers have a voluntary ban (since 1997) on feeding mammalian MBM to farmed fish, so fish meal from Norway should be no problem in mammalian feed.
-- In Germany the fight is not over. The agricultural lobbyists were successful in reintroducing animal fat in calf feed. They said that this was necessary in order to safe the lifes of the poor calves which would otherwise die from hunger, forgetting calves used to do quite well on milk
In addition the government decided that Dr. Martin Wille of the German MAFF will be chief of the BSE crisis group. Yesterday evening he made clear that he is not at all interested in scientific advice from an institute like the British Food Standards Agency which is open for comment and correction from outside.
During the public part of our discussion Dr. Wille repeated the old nonsense that the 133 degree C at 3 atmospheric pressures for 20 minutes procedure produces meat-bone-meal absolutely free of TSE infectivity. The Taylor study refutes this; after the public debate I pointed to the sentence where the authors explained why this would be a wrong interpretation of their study. But Dr. Wille prefered not to look at this sentence. After the long debate with him I learned that he is not interested in open discussion, independent advice and real changes in agricultural policy.
This may be one of the reasons why many public health lobbyists inside and outside the parliament want to break up the German MAFF because of its BSE mismanagement. I think that at least the responsibility for consumer interests including BSE safety should go to the ministry of health. The problem is, that the ministry of health is from the green party, whereas the minister or agriculture like the chancellor is from the SPD.
04 Dec 00 UK CJD stats 1+2 See also earlier epidemic estimates and news 1, 2, 3Since last month, there have been 10 further referals: 6 cases assigned to sporadic CJD, 1 more nvCJD still alive, one more dead awaiting post-mortem, 2 more confirmed nvCJD, and total CJD up by 8. This suggests 2 of the 10 referals were not CJD, ie 80% were confirmable as CJD meaning fewer false positives were being sent to the Surveillance Unit for review.
To 1 December 2000, total number of definite and probable cases of nvCJD = 87, which included 7 probable deaths from nvCJD where confirmation will never be possible.
nvCJD nvCJD nvCJD ref sporadic iatro familial gss alive no pm confirmed all CJD 1995 87 35 4 2 3 - - 3 47 1996 134 40 4 2 4 - - 10 60 1997 161 59 6 4 1 - - 10 80 1998 154 63 3 4 1 - - 18 89 1999 169 61 6 2 0 - - 15 84 2000 161 36 0 1 0 5 3 23 68 year 176 39 0 1 0 6 3 25 74 full 12 months estimate * To 31 December 1999. Total number of definite and probable cases of nvCJD = 90 up 38 from 1999 * To 31 December 1999. Total number of definite and probable cases of nvCJD = 52 up 27 from 1998 * To 31 December 1998. Total number of definite and probable cases of nvCJD = 35 up 12 from 1997 * To 31 December 1997. Total number of definite and probable cases of nvCJD = 23.
Tue, 5 Dec 2000 article by Stefanía Sveinbjarnardóttir-Dignum"...In 1878, before the ban on importation in the last century, an Oxford Down ram was imported to a farm in the North of Iceland. From that farm a new disease spread through the district by selling of sons of the Oxford ram. The disease was named "riga" (tremble), we know this as scrapie. It was confined to this area up till the early fifties when it started to spread slowly but with increasing speed as the years went by.
It was not considered a serious threat at that time and it was hoped that in the Maedi/Visna culling it would disappear. It did not. The causative agent for this disease was much more resilient that the Maedi/Visna virus. After Maedi/Visna had been eradicated scrapie was still around. In the next four years the disease appeared on 30 farms all of which and been scrapie farms before the complete Maedi/Visna culling.
Some of these farms had been out of sheep for three years.
The scrapie agent had somehow survived without sheep being on these farms. By 1978 it seemed obvious that scrapie would overflow the whole country unless drastic measures were taken. It was decided to start a new battle against the disease, firstly by stopping the spread of it by culling all flocks where new cases appeared, on the borders of epidemic areas.
Secondly, by culling all sheep in the epidemic areas. This was done with full co-operation between farmers, and the government. In addition to mandatory culling of all sheep on farms where scrapie was confirmed or suspected, conditions for permission to restock were made stricter and minimum of two years of sheeplessness was demanded.
However before full consensus was reached there was some dissent among farmers. some even suggested the losses from scrapie were so low that they could live with it. However, culling according to the new rules was begun in 1978 and restocking from areas where scrapie had never been found or suspected was allowed after the minimum time lapse. In most cases that was two years, in some cases three years and in one experimental case, one year.
In order to be permitted to restock, the following conditions have to be met: One year before restocking, all buildings, machinery and manure storage have to be washed and disinfected. This involves complete emptying of all buildings, scraping all floors and walls, opening all walls and ducts and all places where insects or mites could be hidden. Then the areas have to be sprayed with a jet sprayer using hypochlorite solution or some thing similar.
After this has dried, the area has to be sprayed with iodine with a regular garden sprayer. After inspection by a government approved inspector the buildings are sealed until the new animals arrive. All woodwork that cannot be properly disinfected has to be burned or buried. worn tools and tools that are used to treat the animals, such as hoof clippers, marking tongs, reusable needles, etc. are to be disposed of.
All areas where sheep commonly gathered have to be scraped and the soil buried. Then a minimum of four inches of gravel has to be put on these places. Manure can be spread on fields that are well fenced but not on any place where water runoff is likely. The hay taken from fields of farms where culling has taken place cannot be used for sheep feed.
Hay, sod, manure etc., is not permitted to move from farm to farm. All surfaces that cannot be perfectly disinfected have to be sealed with durable paint on metal and concrete and creosote on wood. All this work has to be inspected and approved by government inspector. Restocking is not permitted without previous disinfection. Farmers do get financial assistance with cleaning and compensation while out of business due to scrapie culling.
Between 1978 and 1987 all sheep on several farms were culled and the new rules applied. Restocking was done from scrapie-free areas. The results were promising. These were in districts where the incidence of scrapie was just a few cases and culling was undertaken before any sign of serious spreading of the disease occurred. The disease was most widespread and serious in the eastern and northern part of the island.
In the fall of 1987 the biggest onslaught was undertaken when 26,000 sheep from 130 farms were culled. In 1988 a further 20,000 sheep were culled from 100 farms. That culling left the eastern part of the country with any sheep. Last fall, in 1990 restocking in these areas began.
Since 1988 all confirmed and suspected cases have been culled. In some instances flocks from farms where no cases have been found have been culled on the grounds that scrapie has been found on neighbouring farms.
At present (March 1991), no cases of scrapie are known to exist in Iceland but it is expected that some will surface in the next few years. In that case, culling of the flock, where scrapie has been found, will be immediately undertaken. Some 280 farms have been restocked since the new regulations took effect, that is in the last 11 years, and in only two cases has scrapie reappeared. In one case the cause could be traced to carelessness, in the other case the new stack was bought from a farm nearby where scrapie was later found.
The veterinarians are not the only ones to report suspected cases. Farmer themselves do so also. Search is furthermore conducted in the slaughterhouses during the slaughtering season, in sheep brain samples. It seems to be that again Icelanders have gotten together to fight a disease in their sheep. Compensation to farmers is reasonable and peer pressure is very strong.
Any one flock that harbors scrapie is a threat to the whole district. Recently, the Chief Veterinarian for sheep disease control in Iceland, Dr. Sigurdur Sigurðarson told me that they were pleasantly surprised over how well the fight was going. He stated that even though no known cases exist at present the battle is far from over.
No country has undertaken eradication on such a large and thorough scale before. Countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Kenya and South Africa have found scrapie and eradicated it, but in all these countries the disease has been found in recently imported animals and has been stopped before spreading into the native sheep populations. scrapie has been known in Iceland for over 100 years and if eradication is successful, as appears to be happening, many countries may benefit from the lesson that is being learned in Iceland today."
Opinion (European expert): "Norway has the same program for eradication of scrapie as in Iceland. The following is from the Norwergian animal health authority pdf:
Scrapie in Norway: The number of sheep herds affected with scrapie has been markedly reduced the last three years after several years of increased occurrence. The following table gives a historical overview of scrapie affected herds in Norway:
Year:# of herds with scrapie 1981: 1 1985: 1 1987: 1 1991: 1 1992: 1 1993: 1 1994: 2 1995: 8 1996: 31 1997: 5 1998: 3 1999: 3 Total 58 casesMost of the cases (52 herds) have been confined to the two neighbouring counties of Rogaland and Hordaland in south-western Norway. The first two cases (in 1981 and 1985) were found in the county of Sogn and Fjordane.
Since 1996, scrapie has also been diagnosed in two herds in the county of Nordland, one herd in the county of Akershus and one herd in the county of More and Romsdal. In flocks where scrapie is diagnosed, all sheep and goats are killed and destroyed. Strict measures are taken to eliminate the scrapie agent from infected premises. There has been a general ban on the movement of live sheep between counties since 1975. No transfer of live sheep from the counties of Hordaland and Rogaland to other parts of Norway has been permitted. General restrictions on contact between sheep flocks in these two counties were enforced October 1995. A nationwide ban on the sale/transfer of live female sheep was enforced August 1997.
In 1997, a national surveillance and control programme for scrapie was initiated. The programme includes clinical inspection of all goat farms and all large sheep farms each year. Smaller sheep herds are inspected every two years. The programme also includes extended observation of suspect animals and of animals prior to slaughtering.
In addition to clinical surveillance on farms, samples from approximately 3,000 brains from sheep older than 3.5 years are collected at slaughter and examined each year. Despite increased disease awareness and surveillance, scrapie was only detected in 5 new farms during 1997, 3 farms in 1998, and 3 farms in 1999, compared to 31 farms in 1996.
The reduced number of outbreaks after 1996 is probably due to the financial stimulation of voluntary slaughtering of contact flocks to flocks with scrapie that was undertaken in 1996, and continued in 1997. In this programme, owners of approximately 600 sheep flocks with known contact to flocks with confirmed scrapie, were financially stimulated to slaughter their flocks and restock with animals from other parts of the country.
All 11 cases of scrapie discovered 1997-99 were the result of clinical surveillance. During 1998, 15,434 sheep and goat farms were visited by district veterinarians and the animals clinically examined. In 1998, this surveillance yielded 195 brain samples from possibly suspect animals, 3 of these were positive for scrapie by histopathology.
During 1999, 11.617 sheep and goat farms were visited. Brain samples from 231 clinically suspect animals were examined by histology, 3 of which were found positive. Randomly sampled brains from slaughtered animals (3,272 samples in 1997, 2,545 in 1998 and 2,878 in 1999) were all negative. "
"Paratuberculosis And Crohn's Disease: Got Milk?" 5 December 2000 research opinion by Michael Greger, MD tel (617) 524-8064 See also:www.crohns.org: non-profit group formed by Crohn's disease patients Heart Failure - Diary of a Third Year Medical Student by Michael Gregor Public Health Implications of Mad Cow Disease by Michael GregorOpinion (webmaster): There are ongoing efforts in Minnesota, a large dairy state, to sequence the entire genome of Mycobacterium paratuberculosis. This could lead to a cure for Crohn's disease, though England is approaching the matter by more thorough pasteurization of milk. There are 11 scientific articles at Medline under the search term " Crohn milk Mycobacterium"
"Microbial foodborne illness is the largest class of emerging infectious diseases. In 1999, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released the latest figures on the incidence of US foodborne illness considered by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be the most complete estimate ever compiled. Seventy-six million Americans every year get food poisoning, more than double the previous estimate. In today's food safety lottery there's a 1 in 4 chance you'll get sick, 1 in 840 chance you'll be hospitalized and 1 in 55,000 chance that an American will die from foodborne illness annually.1
The CDC estimates 97% of foodborne illness is caused by animal foods.2 The latest US Department of Agriculture (USDA) survey, for example, found 9 out of 10 Thanksgiving turkeys-over 90%-are contaminated with campylobacter, the most common cause of bacterial food poisoning in the US.3 And 75% of the turkeys are contaminated with two or more food-borne diseases, most often salmonella as well, which are becoming dangerously resistant to many of our best antibiotics.4
Although thousands die from food poisoning every year in the United States, most sufferers only experience acute self-limited episodes. Up to 15% of those that contract salmonella, however, go on to get serious joint inflammation that can last for years. An estimated 100,000 to 200,000 people suffer from arthritis arising directly from foodborne infections each year it the USA.5
The most feared complication of food poisoning, however, is Guillain-Barré syndrome, in which infection with campylobacter can lead to one being paralyzed for months on a ventilator. Up to 3800 cases of Guillain-Barré are triggered by infection with campylobacter every year in the US.6
Some scientists now fear, though, that an even more serious disease may be contaminating our food supply. Often touted as the Pulitzer Prize of alternative journalism, a Project Censored Award was given to what was considered one of the most censored stories of 1999-the connection between Crohn's Disease and paratuberculosis bacteria in milk.7
What happens is that the immune system starts attacking the lining of the gut, which becomes swollen and inflamed.15 In extreme cases this painful embarrassing condition can affect any part of the digestive system from the mouth to the anus.16 This inflammation narrows the digestive tract and can result in excruciating pain during digestion as well as constant uncontrollable bowel movements. Added discomforts associated with Crohn's disease include severe joint pains, weight loss and lack of energy.17
The intestines characteristically become so deeply ulcerated that they take on a "cobblestone" appearance. The ulcers can actually eat right through the gut wall and cause bleeding, abscesses, fistulas and perforation.18 Passing food, sometimes even just drink, through Crohn's damaged intestines can be excruciatingly painful. In the words of one colon-rectal surgeon, "Crohn's is a surgical disease. We wait until the patient can no longer withstand the pain anymore, and then we perform surgeryand repeated surgeries over timeultimately, as recurrences happen and intestinal damage occurs, we just cut and cut, in some cases, until there is no more intestine that can be cut out."19
Tragically, Crohn's disease typically strikes people in their teens and early twenties-destroying their health.20 Children, adolescents, and young adults suddenly become faced with the harsh reality of a lifetime of chronic pain, in and out of hospitals their entire lives.21
The disease is mostly found in the US, UK and Scandinavia.22 And it's on the increase. The incidence in the US, which has been increasing steadily since the 1940's-doubling, then tripling, then quadrupling23-is now approaching that of an epidemic.24 The most rapid increase has been seen in children. In the 1940's and early 1950's there were no recorded cases of Crohn's in teenagers. Currently one in every six new cases diagnosed are under age twenty.25 Dr. Crohn, who described one of the first series of cases back in 1932,26 wrote decades later "From this small beginning, we have witnessed the evolution of a Frankenstein monster..."27
About two decades earlier in 1895, German doctor H. A. Johne was the first to describe the cause of a disease in cattle characterized by chronic or intermittent profuse intractable diarrhea.30 Clinically, the disease in cattle was virtually identical to that which we now know as human Crohn's disease.31 The gross pathology of the infected cow's intestines likewise had the same cobblestone appearance and microscopically, the Crohn's diseased intestines and the diseased cattle intestines were dead ringers.32 Dalziel wrote that the tissue characteristics were "so similar as to justify a proposition that the diseases may be the same."33 He theorized that the disease in cattle and the disease in people were the same entity.
Mycobacterium paratuberculosis is one of the most enigmatic bacteria known.35 It lives inside the hosts' cells, but has no known toxins and doesn't seem to damage the cells.36 The damage, much like in diseases like hepatitis, comes from the hosts' reaction to it. MAP triggers a massive immune reaction against the body's own tissues in which MAP is hiding, in this case the gut.37 It is known that M. paratuberculosis-MAP-causes Johne's disease in cattle, but does it cause Crohn's disease in people?..."
... long article and 424 footnotes continued
Mon, Dec 4, 2000 By Elizabeth Piper Reuters North AmericaUK scientists urged Europe on Monday to help farmers move away from intensive agriculture, saying the end of factory farming was the only way to kill mad cow disease. The scientists, who advised and criticized the UK government at the height of Britain's mad cow crisis, told EU farm ministers that tests for bovine spongiform encephalopathy were not sensitive enough to guarantee BSE-free beef.
"Action needs to be taken now to initiate plans for the genuine long-term eradication of BSE," the three scientists said in a letter to European Union food safety Commissioner David Byrne. "We would urge that the EU should both promote, and provide substantial funding for an expansion of extensive and organic systems of beef production ... and a scaling down of industrially farmed beef throughout Europe."
EU farm ministers were meeting in Brussels to decide how to curb the spread of the brain-wasting disease, considering a ban on all meat-based livestock feed and measures to keep older cattle out of the food chain unless tested for BSE.
But Iain McGill, who worked for the Agriculture Ministry at the height of Britain's crisis, Stephen Dealler, who has worked on BSE since 1988, and Adrian Holmes, a lobbyist on the matter, warned the EU that a wide cattle cull and increased testing may not halt the disease's spread.
"The current tests for BSE would not appear to be sufficiently sensitive to guarantee that beef is BSE-free," they said, adding that false negative results could allow high-risk cattle tissues back into the food chain. "Regarding the culling of cattle it must be worth flagging up the enormous problems with the disposal of cattle carcasses in the UK."
They said a widespread cattle cull could also expose people to BSE from the carcasses -- whether eaten or not -- through environmental contamination. "There is currently no safe and satisfactory route for disposal of carcasses which is also logistically feasible on such a large scale," they said.
Europe should also adopt France's ban on the tissues most susceptible to the disease, including the ileum and thymus. Moreover, Europe should fund research for a cure to BSE and its human equivalent, new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.
But to end the spread and kill off the disease, Europe has to start farming in a different way, they said. "The German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is calling for the end of factory farming," they said. "The UK BSE inquiry also came to the conclusion that BSE was a product of intensive agriculture -- a recipe for disaster."
Mon, Dec 4, 2000 Reuters World ReportSwedish officials tried on Monday to allay fears that mad cow disease could break out in the Nordic country and described media reports about the risks as misleading.
"The public has been given the impression that the Board of Agriculture could have overlooked traces of meat and bone meal in cattle feed," Leif Denneberg, head of the board's livestock department, said in a statement. "The feed is safe and the risk of contamination is extremely small. Sweden has had no cases of mad cow disease."
Denneberg issued his statement before EU farm ministers decided in Brussels to ban the feeding of all meat-based animal feed to all farm animals for six months from January to combat the spread of mad cow disease or BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy). The board said Sweden had reported the findings of its animal feed tests, including samples containing traces of bone and meat meal, to the European Union and the Swedish control system had undergone three EU inspections.
The daily Dagens Nyheter reported at the weekend that outlawed meat-based animal feed -- seen by many veterinarians as the likely source of brain-wasting BSE -- made up part of the diet of at least some of Sweden's 650,000 cows.
"Sweden cannot pride itself on having control over BSE contamination or mad cow disease," the daily said in an editorial, arguing that Agriculture Minister Margareta Winberg should not demand that Sweden be exempt from an EU-wide obligation to test all cattle for the disease. The Swedish board of agriculture said the EU itself had recommended placing Sweden in the "preliminary BSE-free" category. All meat-based animal feed components used in Sweden are made from domestic raw materials meeting human food quality standards, it said.
Some 40 percent of all Swedish animal feed is currently produced at plants which separate cattle feed from feed for pigs and poultry.
Wed, Nov 29, 2000 COMTEX NewswireFrance said Wednesday that it has discovered five new cases of the mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). All these cows are milk cows aged from five to seven years old. France has discovered a total of 201 BSE cases since 1991, with more than half of them discovered since the beginning of this year after France introduced a new epidemic surveillance network against the disease.
Mon, Dec 4, 2000 By Greg Frost Reuters Online ServiceEuropean Union farm ministers have agreed to impose tough new measures to fight mad cow disease, including tightening controls on animal feed and excluding older cattle from the food chain. EU officials said the measures, agreed during emergency talks on Monday aimed at halting the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), would boost faith in Europe's beef supply.
"These establish a very important set of measures to regain and retain consumer confidence in beef," EU food safety Commissioner David Byrne told reporters following nine hours of negotiations in Brussels.
Ministers approved a six-month suspension on using meat and bone meal -- the products believed to be at the heart of the BSE food scare sweeping Europe -- in all livestock feed.
The EU produces some three million tons of meat and bone meal every year and the Commission has said it would cost three billion euros ($2.66 billion) to destroy the animal waste by incineration. "It will involve huge financial costs. But it is the price that must be paid to restore public confidence in our commitment to protect public health," Byrne said.
The EU outlawed meat-based feeds, also known as meat and bone meal, from cattle feed in the wake of Britain's mad cow crisis in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The feed ban will take effect from January 1 and will initially last for six months.
In a separate move designed to prevent the deadly, brain-wasting illness from spreading to humans, the ministers approved a plan calling for the EU to buy and destroy cattle aged over 30 months destined for the food chain that have not been tested for BSE. The plan, described by British Agriculture Minister Nick Brown as a public protection measure intended to "extinguish" mad cow disease, would be 70 percent funded from the budget of the 15-nation EU.
Britain has already banned the sale of any beef from cattle aged above 30 months in the wake of its BSE crisis, and EU farm ministers agreed two weeks ago to begin testing all cattle over that age for BSE beginning next July. EU officials have said there could be as many as two million cattle across the EU involved in the scheme until member states are in a position to test their animals.
More than 87 people have died in Britain and two in France from BSE's fatal human equivalent, new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease n(vCJD), and scientists fear the toll may rise sharply.
Ministers agreed that member states should lift the import restrictions they recently placed on French beef and cattle by January 1, 2001. At least five EU member states imposed full or partial bans on French beef and cattle after French supermarkets disclosed in October that they had unknowingly sold beef from a herd of cattle contaminated by BSE.
The ministers also agreed to ask the EU's Scientific Steering Committee to decide whether to remove from the food chain other cattle organs and by-products, such as the spleen, thymus, spinal column and T-bone.
Mon, Dec 4, 200 By Geoff Meade, European Editor, PA NewsA three-point plan designed to eradicate mad cow disease once and for all has been agreed by Europe's agriculture ministers in Brussels. An intense nine hours of talks produced a ban on feeding meat and bonemeal to all animals, a ban on all cattle over 30 months entering the food chain unless tested for BSE, and a ban on the use of the whole intestine in food for human consumption.
Agriculture minister Nick Brown declared afterwards: "This is a very good outcome. "The most important element is the ban on the use of meat and bonemeal, backed up by the 30-month limit which is a very powerful and important public protection measure, designed not just to protect the public but also to restore public confidence in beef across Europe."
He said the EU's intention was to "extinguish BSE and make sure it does not come back again. Many of these measures have been in place in the UK for some years," he added. "Those that are new to the UK are welcome and sensible developments. Ensuring the protection of human health has been the first priority of the UK government and its EU colleagues."
The comprehensive meat and bonemeal ban and the 30-month age limit for carcasses which fail a BSE test have been in force in the UK for four years.
From January 1 they will apply throughout the EU in a bid to curb the rising incidence of BSE in France and to nip in the bud the first signs of the disease in Germany and Spain. The ban on feeding meat and bonemeal to any animals, including pigs, poultry and even pets, applies for six months from the start of next year, and was approved by a 13-2 majority, with Germany and Finland opposed. Fishmeal can continue to be fed to fish, pigs and poultry.
The ban on all cattle over 30 months old entering the food chain means that cattle can continue to be traded as usual, but once slaughtered the carcass must be tested for BSE and cleared as fit for human consumption. Failure means the carcass goes for incineration. The cost of testing will be split between national authorities and Brussels, with the Commission picking up 70% of the bill.
The third element of the new scheme involves extending the list of "specified risk materials" currently banned from human consumption - the brains, spinal cords and spleens of cattle - to include the whole intestine. This will hit about 30 million pounds a year of UK intestine exports which go largely for use on the continent as sausage casings. [In other words, sausage casings have been made from British BSE cows for the last 16 years. -- webmaster]
But last night Mr Brown said that was "on the margins" and officials confirmed that, spread across the whole UK industry, the impact on individual farmers would be minimal.
President of the National Farmers' Union president Ben Gill described the meat and bonemeal ban as "an encouraging step". But he hit out at the fact that none of the new measures were not due in force until the start of next year, particularly the ban on cattle over 30 months old entering the food chain. [ie, these will be put into the human food chain before the end of the year. -- webmaster]
He appealed to farmers to use "retention payments" approved by ministers to delay trading cattle as much as possible until the new checking scheme was triggered on January 1.
Tue, Dec 5, 2000 By David Evans Reuters World ReportEuropean Union countries congratulated themselves on Tuesday for avoiding a major row over beef at this week's key summit after farm ministers agreed on sweeping new measures to curb the spread of mad cow disease. Some EU officials fear that French President Jacques Chirac may use the summit -- charged with revamping EU decision-making ahead of the planned enlargement of the 15-nation bloc -- to press for aid to beef farmers, but time is likely to be short.
The summit opening in the French Riviera city of Nice on Thursday already has a packed agenda, with negotiations expected to go round the clock. The deal reached on Monday to ban all meat-based livestock feed and to exclude older cattle from the food chain unless tested for mad cow disease goes a long way to averting a bitter clash over beef at the meeting.
"The good work we have done today is going to take the burden off the agenda in Nice," French Farm Minister Jean Glavany told a news conference in the early hours of Tuesday following nine hours of talks. Diplomats said EU leaders would still hold a discussion on the crisis -- worked into a planned debate on food safety -- but the threat of damaging national splits had diminished.
Chirac, the summit host, said in an advance letter to EU leaders that a discussion on Friday morning could examine subjects linked to Europe's citizens, including food safety. EU officials fear any discussion could quickly turn to money and that if EU leaders agree to spend more than already promised on compensation to cattle farmers it could destroy a delicate agreement last year to cap farm spending at near 40 billion euros ($35 billion) a year until 2006.
But they did not expect a repeat of the scenario during Britain's mad cow crisis in June 1996, when an EU summit in Florence spent its time wrangling over conditions for lifting an export ban on British beef imposed a few months earlier.
There was broad agreement among governments on Monday that swift action had to be taken to tackle the latest scare over beef, sparked by a rising number of mad cow cases in France and the possibility that BSE-tainted meat was sold in the shops.
German Agriculture Minister Karl-Heinz Funke said on Tuesday the six-month ban agreed on using meat and bone meal, due to take effect on January 1, was too short. But EU Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler said later in Paris that ministers could decide to make the ban permanent.
The crisis deepened last month when Spain and then Germany found their first BSE cases in cattle and consumers across the continent turned their backs on beef, sending prices plunging.
Harrowing television pictures showing dying victims of new variant Creutzfedt-Jakob Disease (nvCJD), the human form of BSE, were shown in many European countries, fuelling public calls for tougher health measures to guarantee the safety of beef. More than 87 people in Britain and two in France have already died >from brain-wasting vCJD. Due to its long incubation time, scientists fear the final death toll may be far higher.
Under the deal brokered on Monday, EU funds will be available to buy up and destroy untested cattle over 30 months old to exclude them from the food chain. The "purchase for destruction" scheme could involve up to two million cattle at a cost of over one billion euros.
Ministers agreed the scheme will be 70 percent funded from the EU budget, with the rest financed by member states. The money will take next year's farm budget almost to the maximum allowed under an accord reached last year, and Fischler has warned there is no room for further manoeuvre.
Tue, Dec 5, 2000 By Elizabeth Piper ReutersUK scientists warned Europe on Tuesday over "high-risk" measures to combat mad cow disease, saying politicians had unwittingly given the green light for the creation of mountains of lethal waste. The scientists, who advised and criticised the UK government at the height of Britain's mad cow crisis, said the latest moves in Brussels would leave Europe struggling to transport, store and destroy thousands of tonnes of ground-up cattle carcasses.
At each stage of the process, infected waste could leak into the water supply, disperse into the air or be eaten by other animals -- giving bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) more of a chance to spread to the public.
"This could be a knee-jerk reaction which causes more damage," Iain McGill, who worked for the UK agriculture Ministry at the height of Britain's crisis, said. "While they are alive, these cattle will not give anyone BSE, but as soon as you start culling millions of cattle with nowhere to put them, you're running a risk for the people in those areas. Particularly where the dumps are."
European Union farm ministers agreed during emergency talks on Monday to ban the use of meat-based feed for six months and to buy and destroy cattle aged over 30 months that had not been tested for BSE. The scientists said Europe now had to deal with unwanted animal feed, those ground-up cattle parts that were most prone to transmitting the disease plus maybe hundreds of thousands of animal carcasses.
"It is a lot. Don't forget what they're telling you is that a lot of cows are going to be found negative by this marvellous test. So they're hoping that the numbers will be quite small," said Stephen Dealler, a consultant microbiologist who has worked on BSE since 1988. "Britain had great difficulty destroying it."
Britain has only one incinerator hot enough to destroy prions -- tiny mutated brain proteins that cause BSE and its human equivalent, new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. "Tonnes of meat and bone meal are being stored in huge hangars in Britain," McGill said.
"There have been cases in England where specified risk material has spilled out of the lorry into the environment, there have been incidents of fluids leaking from these piles of meat and bone meal, and of rodents getting in and eating it and then going back into the wild." He said recent flooding across Britain could have put contaminated feed in the water supply system.
"It is a risk. It's possible (people could become infected). We're still at the early stages of finding out exactly how these diseases get around, and all you can say is: 'Yes they are capable of behaving like infectious agents and you don't need a large dose to start the process off'," he said.
"But whether it can be spread through ground water or air, no one knows yet...But you can't rule it out and there is some historical evidence that environmental contamination can spread a disease like sheep scrapie for example."
McGill said politicians should not assume that BSE, which first hit UK herds in 1986 and claimed its first human victim a decade later, could not be transmitted through air or water.
"We cannot contaminate the environment on the assumption that it won't cause a problem," he said, urging Europe to end factory farming.
"We need a different kind of food policy, one where you are aiming at growing BSE-free cattle rather than cattle that might get BSE and we cut the dangerous bits out or kill them."
Tue, Dec 5, 2000 By Denes Albert Reuters World ReportMeat and bone meal (MBM) producers across Europe are looking for government subsidies to overcome a liquidity crisis sparked by Monday's six-month ban by the European Union, industry associations said on Tuesday. Producers in Germany, Italy and Denmark said they hoped for national or EU subsidies, while British farmers saw the decision as creating a level playing field.
"I don't know how many of them will or won't survive, but they will have serious liquidity problems," Christina Mieles, marketing official of the German meat feed producers' association told Reuters. "There will be a (German) federal-level meeting on Wednesday where we will look at financial aid possibilities," Mieles added.
European Union farm ministers approved on Monday a six-month ban on meat-based animal feed as part of measures to combat the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Mieles said German MBM producers had sales of around 340 million German marks ($154.6 million) last year, and that was already considerably below the average of 590 million marks per year in the last five years.
Italy has 40 MBM producers and the country's feed compounders' association Assalzoo said the government is likely to provide some financial assistance now that a ban has been enforced. Confagricoltura, which represents Italy's main agricultural producers, urged the Italian government to call on EU ministers to guarantee producers minimum prices for livestock in line with those before the crisis.
Denmark, with two MBM factories employing a combined 500 staff, exports around 400 million Danish crowns ($47 million) worth of products. Officials of Denmark's Agricultural Council and the farmers' lobby hoped that the EU and the Danish government would offer support, but nothing concrete has been announced yet. But Denmark's worst fears were allayed by the EU's decision not to extend the ban on fishmeal to pigs and chickens. Danish fishmeal producers -- with 500 employed in the sector and no alternative markets -- said they would have faced virtual annihilation from a total ban.
The MBM ban was seen by industry groups as increasing EU-wide animal feed costs by several billion euros (dollars). Additional costs have been estimated at between one billion to 1.8 billion marks a year in Germany, 15 billion pesetas ($80.10 million) in Spain and 100 million pounds in the UK.
A spokeswoman from the UK Agricultural Supply Trade Association (UKASTA) estimated total EU costs of substituting vegetable protein for meat and bone meal at two billion euros.
The disposal of slaughterhouse waste and animal bodies will create additional difficulties, industry sources said.
"MBM producers' warehouses are full or nearly full but we will have to continue to process the waste," Germany's Mieles said. "There is a really urgent need for both additional storage space and extra burning capacities."
Most of the European feed industry grudgingly backed the EU ban, if only not to be seen acting against what was a legitimate health worry for consumers. But Britain, where a ban on MBM has been in force since 1996, was the only one which said the ban wiped away its disadvantage against EU competition.
"We've (UK) have had to bite the bullet and pay for the more costly vegetable protein which has meant that the producers on mainland Europe have had the benefit of cheaper animal feed which is translated into cheaper livestock products. It's been very difficult for UK agriculture to compete with that," the UKASTA spokeswoman said.
"BSE and what happened was one of the contributory factors to the shaking up of the industry, and we've seen a lot of mergers since then. The number of people directly employed in the agricultural supply industry has dropped from around 50,000 in 1990 to 11,000 today."
Sun, Dec 3, 2000 By Laura Elston and Joe Churcher, PA NewsNew restrictions on cattle feed are to be considered by European farm ministers tomorrow in an attempt to control the spread of mad cow disease through Europe. The existing ban on meat and bonemeal (MBM) feed for cattle could be extended to all other animals including pigs, chickens and pets, and feed containing fish meal and chicken remains could also be banned.
Agriculture Minister Nick Brown is prepared to accept the Europe-wide controls on beef production that go further than British scientists think is necessary. Mr Brown will be in Brussels for tomorrow's EU crisis talks to discuss a series of European Commission proposals -- including a ban on MBM for pigs, poultry and pets.
... Mr Brown said Britain, which does not yet ban the use of fish meal and chicken remains in cattle feed, would support the commission's proposals even if they go beyond what UK scientists have said is necessary.
"Our view is that we support the commission's call for measures across the EU," Mr Brown told BBC1's On The Record. "We are trying to protect the public of the EU from vCJD, we are trying to prevent the spread of BSE in the EU herds and thirdly, and of fundamental importance, we are trying not only to exterminate BSE but to prevent a recurrence.
"The majority of member states are in favour of the broad thrust of the commission's proposals, although there may be some discussions around the proposals. If it is a choice between going further than scientific advice or not doing anything at all, we will be arguing for going further."
NFU president Ben Gill welcomed the proposals and said: "It is vital that all member states demonstrate their commitment to tackling this issue jointly. "Confidence among the farming community is at rock bottom and urgent measures are required to alleviate distress and fear for the future."
The feeding of MBM to cows has been blamed for spreading bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the animals. Its use for ruminants has been banned across the EU since 1994, but it had remained in use for pigs and poultry.
The commission is not recommending a blockade on French beef exports, such as that imposed on Britain for more than three years when its first BSE outbreak was discovered. But Mr Brown repeated his call for France to end its unilateral ban on British beef imports, which he said was not justified by the level of risk. He dismissed Tory calls for Britain to impose a ban on French beef.
"We are not going to be able to deal with this in nationalistic terms and it is a mistake to try," he said. "The issue is to protect the public throughout Europe, not get involved in a series of bilateral trade wars."
Wed, Nov 29, 2000 By Karel LuimesThe European Union's proposal on Wednesday to ban meat and bone meal (MBM) in animal feed sparked panic buying of alternative feeds and raised the spectre of higher meat prices, especially for chicken.
"People are searching for soymeal like children hunting for Easter eggs," a German broker said.
Europe's food safety Comissioner David Byrne proposed a six-month ban on MBM in animal feed throughout the European Union from January 1 to combat the spread of mad cow disease. The proposal, which Byrne plans to present to EU farm ministers on Monday, threw European feed markets into tumult as demand for soymeal and other feed products ballooned. The alternative feeds contain less protein than bone meal, so much more of the replacement products will be needed.
"Soymeal is the main target for buyers...they seem to buy anything on offer at the moment. I think you can speak of panic purchases," another broker said. "On the sell side only a few asking prices are available as they are reluctant to part from their (stocks)," another broker said.
Rising consumer fears have cut into European beef sales in recent weeks after cattle infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, the scientific name for mad cow disease, were found for the first time in Spain and Germany and three supermarket chains in France said they might have sold tainted meat. MBM, basically ground-up carcasses and entrails, is widely believed to be the source of BSE in cattle.
Offering prices for Latin American soymeal pellets jumped $2-$6 per tonne while high-protein European soymeal surged as much as $7 per tonne. Argentine soymeal pellets for January shipment rose $6 to $222. Over the past two-and-a-half weeks, soymeal prices in Europe have surged 10-15 percent as speculation of a wide ban on MBMs gained pace amid increasing consumer anxiety about the rising number of cases of mad cow disease throughout Europe.
The after-hours trading system on the Chicago Board of Trade was closed when Bryne made his announcement around midday, but early indications suggested price gains across the complex in the trading pits on hopes of increased exports.
The European Union uses about 2.4 million tonnes of MBM annually in feed, so an EU wide ban would mean the community would need about 3.0-3.5 million more tonnes of feed materials such as soymeal, the EU animal feed manufacturers' assocation FEFAC has said. France has already banned MBM in animal feed and Germany is due to vote on a similar measure on Friday.
As soymeal prices soar, compound feed firms worried about rising costs. "At current prices the bill (to Europe's feed industry) would be about two billion euros, and it is going up by the hour," Alexander Doering, secretary general of FEFAC, told Reuters. Prices of most compound feed formulations would rise five to 10 percent, with some broiler feeds rising 14 percent and more, he added. Pig feed formulations generally use three to four percent bone meal while in broiler feeds the percentage can go as high as eight percent.
This raises the prospect of higher chicken prices since feed typically makes up 70-78 percent of the cost of raising poultry, Doering said.
Fishmeal was included in the ban, an EU official said, but Doering said it was not a big component in most animal feed. The EU produces about 120 million tonnes of commercial compound feed per year, part of the total of 365 million tonnes fed to animals, with the remainder such as silage provided directly by farmers.
Wed, Nov 29, 2000 By Jua Nyla Hutcheson Reuters North AmericaA Louisiana man who may have been exposed to a rare, fatal brain-wasting disease during surgery is suing the university hospital where his operation was performed, his attorney said Wednesday.
Michael Rebert, 28, of New Iberia, Louisiana, was told by his neurosurgeon at Tulane University Medical Center in New Orleans last month that he might have been exposed to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) during an operation in April due to contaminated surgical instruments, said lawyer Alicia Hoover of Baton Rouge.
The disease, the human variant of "mad cow disease," causes rapid deterioration of the brain, with progressive dementia and loss of physical functions, medical authorities said. Death usually occurs within a year after the onset of symptoms. The suit, filed in state civil district court in New Orleans this week, seeks unspecified financial damages.
Hoover said Rebert underwent surgery in April to remove a small portion of his brain that caused him to have multiple and increasingly severe seizures in a form of epilepsy.
"The irony was that there was a big family debate over whether to have the surgery," she said. "His father, who died just three weeks before the operation, had made him promise to take care of his mother and a younger sister who has cerebral palsy."
Hoover added, "That's why he had the surgery, to be able to hold down a job and care for them," Hoover said. Although CJD can take years to develop, she said, "More than 50 percent of those exposed to the disease through contamination from infected brain tissue show symptoms of the disease within 0.6 to 2.2 years."
Last month, Tulane confirmed that eight neurosurgery patients may have been exposed to CJD through surgical instruments that may have been contaminated by use on an earlier brain-surgery patient who had the disease.
The hospital said the instruments received routine washing and sterilization after being used on the earlier patient, but admitted that the risk of spreading the disease may not have been eliminated.
CJD was confirmed during an autopsy of the earlier patient, according to a written statement issued last month by Dr. Alan Miller, vice president for clinical affairs at the hospital. The disease can only be determined after an autopsy, he said. The university Wednesday refused to release any information not contained in the October statement, which said counseling and follow-up medical care was being offered to the eight patients who may have been exposed.
CJD is believed to be caused by a prion, an unconventional pathogen thought to transform normal protein molecules into deadly ones by altering their shape, authorities said. Prions are resistant to normal sterilization procedures, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman Tom Skinner said. Instruments must be treated for an hour in an autoclave, a device used for sterilization employing superheated steam under pressure, at 270 degrees followed by submersion in sodium hydroxide for successful decontamination, Skinner said.