Prion Disease: European Reaction to German BSE
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First nvCJD case in Germany?
Germany to fight mad cow disease
Mad cow putting spin on French food
UK ready to ban French beef
Big Swiss supermarkets to test cattle for BSE
French may flood Britain with `risky beef', warn Tories
No country safe -- Byrne
Meal ban too expensive (BSE must be tolerated) -- Fischler
German consumers wary of beef after mad cow scare
Mad cow fears paralyse Spanish slaughterhouses

Germany accused of doing too little, too late as BSE hits home

Telegraph Nov. 26, 2000 By Allan Hall in Berlin and Daniel Foggo
Germany was last night accused of arrogance over its failure to implement measures to stop the spread of mad cow disease, which now appears to have claimed its first human victim there.

German ministers acted only last week to ban the use of meat and bone meal in animal feed- widely believed to have been the cause of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) - although other countries prohibited its use years ago. Germany has also only recently agreed to European Union controls on human consumption of the brains and spinal cords of slaughtered animals after vetoing the measure when it was proposed.

Frances Hall, the secretary of the Human BSE Foundation in Britain, said that any controls brought in would be too little, too late. She said: "They have been arrogant and this should be a warning to the countries that have not yet had any cases confirmed. Just because they have not found them does not mean they are not there waiting to be discovered.

"People seem surprised by this but it was obvious that there would be cases all across Europe," she said. We were exporting cattle feed and the Germans were using it. It's a little late in the day to start regulating things now."

Ben Gill, the president of the National Farmers' Union, said: "The Germans thought they were purer than pure and above all this and felt they could not get BSE in their own cattle. Now they've been proved wrong. Just saying, 'We are free of it and don't need to do anything' is surprising in a country which has such a strong Green movement."

In Germany, the public have been deeply shocked to discover that they have their own beef crisis. There are now two suspected cases of BSE in German cows, a man with suspected variant CJD is fighting for his life in a clinic and a poll showed that 80 per cent of citizens now support a ban on beef imports.

The beef industry is predicting a slump of major proportions. Already this week the price of beef has plummeted by around 33 pence a kilo and is certain to fall still further as butchers and supermarkets report a slump in demand. Just one week ago, before the news of the German BSE cases broke, German farmers were calling for their unions to launch class-action lawsuits against Britain, aimed at protecting German herds and keeping British products out.

Now the farmers' stance has changed. There is no more talk of lawsuits and they are trying not to do anything which will draw more attention to the crisis for fear that it will exacerbate the already hysterical situation. They are acutely aware that the news of German BSE could end up costing them hundreds of millions of pounds and possibly thousands of jobs in the industry.

Germany has insisted that its cattle were free of the sickness that has devastated farms in Britain and France and been linked to scores of human deaths elsewhere. The six previous cases of BSE in Germany were all linked to beasts from Britain and Switzerland.

This weekend, however, the German health minister, Andrea Fischer, admitted that BSE posed a real threat and the agriculture minister, Karl-Heinz Funke, called for nationwide testing of cattle. The agriculture ministry confirmed that a preliminary test showed that one cow from the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein was infected with BSE and a second animal, exported from the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt to the Azores, had also tested positive.

As well as the crisis surrounding the suspected cows, a 60-year-old man in is intensive care at a hospital in Bad Homburg. Staff at the Weilmuenster Clinic are under pressure from the government, media and medical specialists as panic rises in Germany. Professor Claus Hoenig at the clinic said: "We are not yet certain of what he is suffering from but it is brain-related." [This is a long, long ways from a confirmed diagnosis of nvCJD. Often such rumors turn out to be sporadic or familial CJD. -- webmaster.]

Mad cow disease is undoubtedly the number one topic in Germany this weekend. The Berlin tabloid B.Z. devoted two pages to the "safety" of beef in German butchers' shops. The health and environment ministers for the 16 individual states constituting the republic claim that they are receiving hundreds of letters daily from consumers.

Germany has so far escaped the widespread slaughter of beef herds that affected Britain and France. Recently, the Government banned anybody who had spent six months or more in Britain in the past 20 years from donating blood in a bid to keep CJD-tainted blood from the national transfusion system.

Several Britons in Germany on extended holidays or for work have reported being turned away by Red Cross personnel when they attempted to give blood. This ban was extended last week to cover people who had lived in France for a similar period. Switzerland is also gripped by fears over the disease and on Thursday announced a complete ban on cattle imports for breeding purposes, regardless of the country of origin.

Experts were warning last night that BSE could now spread over Europe. Dr Stephen Dealer, the medical microbiologist whose research helped uncover the scale of the problem in Britain, said: "We are probably seeing the start of an epidemic in Europe and although it is impossible to predict its size, it will be bigger than we expect."

Germany delays ban on animal meal in feeds

Mon, Nov 27, 2000 Reuters
The German government said on Monday it was delaying the introduction of a blanket ban on the production and import of meat-and-bone meal in the country amid mounting fears in Europe over the threat of mad cow disease.

Agriculture minister Karl-Heinz Funke said the government considered there was "insufficient legal basis" for the decree needed to institute the measure by Wednesday as previously announced.

Funke told a news briefing parliament would now be called to vote on a law change on Friday. He said he expected a broad majority in favour of imposing a blanket ban but did not say when it could now come into effect.

Schroeder defends government mad cow stance

Mon, Nov 27, 2000 By Mark John Reuters North America
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Monday rejected accusations Germany had ignored the threat of mad cow disease and insisted further action at the European Union level was needed over the scare.

Separately, traces of meat and bonemeal were found in feed intended for cattle at a north German feedstuffs company, suggesting a breach of a 1994 European Union ban on ruminants being fed the substance thought to have caused the disease.

European Health Commission David Byrne said at the weekend Germany had been "complacent" in thinking it was immune from the disease, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), from which two German cattle are now known to have died. But Schroeder said government measures such as a blanket ban on the import, export and use of animal feeds containing meat and bonemeal agreed at the weekend and due to come into effect on Wednesday showed it took the issue seriously.

"I think we have shown that we are capable of acting swiftly and precisely," he told reporters before a regular leadership meeting of his ruling Social Democrats in Berlin. "This is not just a German problem, it's a problem affecting all of Europe," he added.

Schroeder said Germany, which is calling for an EU-wide ban on meat and bonemeal in animal feeds, said the government would "also act on the European level," without being more specific. German politicians have long said the country was BSE-free, citing superior German standards for the treatment of animal feedstuffs.

Officials confirmed at the weekend that a cow born in the northern region of Schleswig-Holstein in 1996 and slaughtered on November 22 had BSE. A second cow exported from the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt to Portugal has also tested positive.

Speaking on German television on Sunday, the EU's Byrne said German confidence that its farming sector was free of the disease had always been misplaced. "Germany long had the view there could be no cases of BSE. That was wrong and I wasn't surprised," he said. "We need transparency. It's important consumers know they're getting all the information available and won't be fooled."

Amid growing popular outrage over the issue, the government has not yet given clear advice on whether it is safe to eat beef.

Regional authorities in the northern state of Lower Saxony said they had found traces of meat and bonemeal (MBM) in feed intended for cattle at a feedstuffs producer in the region. It was not immediately clear how the MBM traces came to be in the cattle feed, contravening a 1994 ban on meat and bonemeal being fed to ruminants. The processing plant was shut down pending further investigations.

Germany to fight mad cow disease

Sat, Nov 25, 2000 Bonn, Germany (AP)
German officials agreed Saturday on emergency measures to fight mad cow disease, including an immediate ban on the use of meat and bone meal in all animal feed. The quick agreement came after the first two German-born cows tested positive this week for the disease. The feed ban, promised Friday by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, was confirmed by a meeting of state and federal agriculture officials. An emergency federal ordinance will likely take effect Wednesday, and spot checks for the disease in German herds also will be stepped up, deputy agriculture minister Martin Wille said. Contaminated meat and bone meal in animal feed is suspected as the source of the disease in cows. Some scientists believe humans can contract a similar fatal brain-wasting disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, by eating infected beef. German testing had previously detected the disease in cows, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, only in animals imported from Britain and Switzerland. Officials had long insisted German beef was safe even as the disease, known as BSE, spread in neighboring countries. The vice president of the main German farmers' lobby, Wilhelm Niemeyer, said Saturday that stockpiles of ground animal meal -- enough for 10 days to two weeks -- would still have to be used up. Germany and Spain were criticized Saturday by the European Union's top health and consumer protection official, David Byrne, for their slow response to the disease. "Germany and Spain may have been too complacent about the risk of BSE," Byrne said in a statement issued in Brussels, Belgium. "Despite scientific risk warning, not enough seems to have been done to guard against BSE in those member states." Sales of beef have dropped throughout Europe as fear spreads about mad cow disease. Scientists believe mad cow disease originated in Britain, when cattle were given feed containing the ground remains of sheep infected with a brain ailment. That practice is now banned throughout the European Union.

German state confirms country's first mad cow case

Sun, Nov 26, 2000 Reuters North America
A German state premier said on Sunday that a second test in Tubingen had confirmed the country has a cow suffering mad cow disease -- the first case in the country that thought it was safe from the brain-wasting disease.

Heide Simonis, premier of the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, said at a news conference that a test by federal health authorities had confirmed the results of an earlier test announced on Friday.

"We have the first BSE case in Germany here in Schleswig-Holstein," Simonis said, referring to the scientific name of mad cow disease -- bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

The BSE cow was born in 1996 and slaughtered on November 22. The animal was part of a herd of 160 animals. All are to be slaughtered. A second cow exported from the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt to the Portuguese

Comment (Markus Moser, Prionics): "The German BSE-case detected by Prionics-Check has been confirmed today by the German BSE-Reference Center in Tübingen. The animal was slaughtered on Wednesday 22 November in an abattoir in north Germany. The respective meat producer has recently started to privately have its slaughtered cattle tested for BSE at the Prionics partner laboratory Artus GmbH in Hamburg."

German struggles with mad cow outbreak

Sun, Nov 26, 2000 By Erik Kirschbaum Reuters North America
A wave of anger hit Germany on Sunday over the arrival of mad cow disease which political leaders and farm experts had long said could not spread across its borders.

"We believed the nonsense the whitewashers told us that Germany was free from BSE," wrote Welt am Sonntag. "There probably isn't any safe haven in Europe anymore.

"They made fools out of us with the long-winded promises that Germany is safe from BSE," said the Berliner Morgenpost.

Butchers reported plunging beef sales amid calls for the resignation of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's farm and health ministers following news that two, and perhaps dozens more, of the country's 15 million cows might be infected.

Opposition politicians and ordinary Germans blasted the government and farm authorities for their arrogant claims that Germany was immune from bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) because of superior testing and tighter controls.

Newspaper editorials denounced the leaders for misleading the public about the safety of beef in Germany and slammed them for resisting European Union-wide efforts to ban the meat-based animal feed.

The government, which had long resisted stricter measures, reversed itself and called on Saturday for tests on cattle throughout the EU. Agriculture Minister Karl-Heinz Funke, who last week was saying he was "absolutely convinced" Germany was immune to BSE, changed his tune on Friday and demanded fast national testing of slaughtered cattle. He later widened the call to urge mandatory testing throughout the EU and on beef imported into the EU.

State and federal ministers also agreed at a meeting in Bonn to back Schroeder's call for an immediate ban on the import, export and use of animal feeds containing meat and bonemeal. The measure will become law on Wednesday, and Germany will push for an EU-wide ban in December. Infected feeds have been blamed for the spread of BSE and the human form of mad cow disease, new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (nvCJD).

"It is disgraceful the way the government put commerce ahead of the public's safety," said Edmund Stoiber, state premier of Bavaria and a leader of the conservative opposition.

Several butchers in Berlin said Friday's shock news that Germany was no longer free from BSE had crippled sales and that many consumers had said they would stop eating beef. "I didn't sell a single piece of beef on Saturday," butcher Harry Kretschmer told the Berliner Morgenpost newspaper. "There are usually about 100 customers in here every day."

BSE hit the headlines in Britain in 1986. The crisis reached fever pitch a decade later after scientists said they believed there was a link between mad cow disease and its human equivalent, which has killed 80 Britons.

"Who could have any faith in German meat now?" said Larissa Hanschke, a Berlin midwife, who said she and her daughter were giving up meat. "It shows Germany is no better when it comes to testing. They act like they're better. It's all a farce." A Dutch scientist and member of the EU's veterinary committee, Albert Osterhaus, told Der Spiegel he estimated there might be several dozen German cows infected with BSE.

"This is horrible and I don't think I'll be eating as much beef anymore," said Juergen Hillbrandt, 45, a Berlin sports official who had until Friday eaten meat almost daily. "I'm going to start eating more fish."

Germany Calls for Fast EU-Wide Madcow Testing

Sat, Nov 25, 2000 By Erik Kirschbaum Reuters Online Service
Germany, shocked by news that mad cow disease may have spread across its borders, called on Saturday for immediate tests on cattle throughout the European Union for the brain-wasting disease. Agriculture Minister Karl-Heinz Funke, who had already demanded fast national testing on slaughtered cattle, widened this call on Saturday to urge mandatory testing throughout the EU and on beef imported into the EU.

State and federal ministers also agreed to back Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's call for an immediate ban on the import, export and use of animal feeds containing meat and bonemeal.

The measure will become law on Wednesday, and Germany will push for an EU-wide ban in December. Infected feeds have been blamed for the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the scientific name for mad cow disease.

France, where two people have died of the human form of mad cow disease, new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (nvCJD), welcomed Funke's idea of EU-wide BSE testing. Paris is pressing other EU members to follow its ban on meat-based feeds.

"We will be able to work more easily at a community level..," Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany told Reuters. "Now we have to convince the others. We still don't have a majority (on animal feeds) but I'll feel less alone at the next meeting of farm ministers."

Germany thought it was safe from BSE

The news that BSE was suspected in two of Germany's 15 million cows led to angry finger-pointing in a country that thought its controls were superior and its cattle free of the disease ravaging farms in Britain and France.

BSE first hit the headlines in Britain in 1986. The crisis reached fever pitch a decade later after scientists said they believed there was a link between mad cow disease and its human equivalent, which has killed more than 80 Britons.

France's food safety agency said on Saturday it was investigating a possible case of BSE in an animal born after 1996, when tougher controls were imposed on feedstuffs. If confirmed, this could mean animal feed was not the only means of transmitting mad cow disease.

"We now need BSE tests for cattle in all of Europe," Funke said at a meeting of farmers in the southwestern town of Wallduern. "I'm against unilateral moves because at the end of the day measures are only effective when everyone takes them."

Health and agriculture officials from the federal government and Germany's 16 regions said fast BSE tests should be done on as many slaughtered cattle in Germany as possible.

Funke earlier rejected criticism from Health Minister Andrea Fischer that politicians had resisted measures that would have led to a fast ban on meat-based feed. "There were no such mistakes made," Funke told SWR radio.

Der Spiegel news magazine reported Funke had delivered a blistering speech in a cabinet meeting last week criticizing other ministers for wanting to take action before the facts were known. He also spoke out against a feed ban. Funke, himself a farmer, had said German beef was safe. He said he was surprised BSE had now surfaced in Germany, where there had been 16,000 negative tests before the first positives.

"I was deeply disturbed by the report" of the first BSE-infected cattle, he said. "We didn't expect there to be a positive case in Germany but we are nonetheless ready for it."

Bild, the country's largest selling newspaper, urged quick action to prevent the disease from spreading and warned "millions of lives are at stake."

A Dutch scientist and member of the EU's veterinary committee, Albert Osterhaus, told Der Spiegel he estimated there might be several dozen German cows infected with BSE. "This (first) case clearly confirms that the BSE risk is just as large in Germany as in Switzerland and France," he said.

But as many ordinary German consumers were announcing they would stop eating beef, a leading health expert at the Robert Koch Institute, Dietrich Simon, tried to calm fears. Simon said he believed German beef was far safer than beef in France or elsewhere because a disinfection process used in Germany destroyed the BSE causative agent.

The head of Germany's farm association, Gerd Sonnleitner, blamed EU agriculture authorities. "Brussels is responsible and I expect that they will be confronted with the financial consequences," he said. "The lax practices of the EU agriculture authorities are to blame that BSE has now ended up in Germany."

The Agriculture Ministry announced on Friday a preliminary test showed one cow from the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein was infected with BSE. A second exported from the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt to Portugal's Azores had also tested positive.

Europe's BSE crisis may be years old-UK scientists

Mon, Nov 27, 2000 By Elizabeth Piper Reuters North America 
Mad cow disease spread in Europe several years ago and government blindness at the time may mean radical measures are now needed to fight the brain-wasting disease, UK scientists said Monday. They said Europe should take advantage of lessons learned by Britain to combat bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and should not repeat the mistakes politicians made during earlier campaigns to reassure the public.

"We would have expected cows to start going down with the disease in France, Belgium and Holland in about 1993-94 and really not many appeared. Everybody then was saying 'now that's very odd,"' said Stephen Dealler, a consultant microbiologist who has been working on BSE since 1988. So now, the cows we didn't see in 1993-94 have now been fed to further cows. ... That's why the numbers have risen to such a degree and will continue to rise, because one cow going down with symptoms, or maybe even without symptoms, will infect a large number further on," he told Reuters.

Dealler said scientists had warned governments that Britain's BSE epidemic could spread beyond national borders. Other countries were now finding cases of mad cow disease because they had only just started to look for them, he said.

"If you want to find these cases, you'll find them when you look for them," Dealler said. "The farmers realize that they slaughter all your cattle and you don't get much money for it. Then the last thing you want to do is go around telling everybody ... farmers in Europe have realized its not a desirable disease to have and so there has been a tendency not to find cases."

"Random testing was resisted by our government for a long time and for similar reasons it may have been resisted in Europe," said Iain McGill, who worked for the UK agriculture ministry at the height of Britain's BSE crisis. But now it (random testing) is implemented on a Europe-wide basis, that's very important because that will actually give us a good indication of what the true incidence is," said McGill, now director of the independent Prion Interest Group.
Scientists said the more testing was carried out, the more cases would be found. They called on governments to go further and take more radical measures to halt the spread of BSE. "The main thing Europe needs to do on a Europe-wide basis is to de-intensify the beef and dairy industries," he said, referring to intensive farming which encourages productivity sometimes at the expense of environmental and health protection. He said Europe should also ensure that feed from crushed animal carcasses does not slip back into the cattle food chain.

In worst-hit Britain, such feed, used for chickens and sheep, did slip back into troughs for cattle, he added. "I hope it doesn't degenerate into a slanging war," McGill said. "Britain still has the highest level of cases, but they are decreasing while those in Europe increase. (But) we are all in it together from now on as far as I can see."

Mad cow putting spin on French food

Date: Sat, Nov 25, 2000 By ELAINE GANLEY
 Associated Press Writer
 PARIS (AP) -- "Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are,"
goes the adage penned by famed gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin,
who aptly took the pulse of his countrymen 175 years ago.
 Food, with its symphony of flavors, textures and smells, has long
defined France, where eating is something of a carnal pleasure. But that
last bite of blood-red steak or that final forkful of steak tartare is
going down less easily of late.
 The specter of mad cow disease has darkened the dinner table here,
capping a series of other food-related fears and forcing the French to
revisit their relationship with what they eat.
 Suddenly, "our foods are threatening," said Claude Fischler, an expert
on the sociology of food with France's National Center for Scientific
Research. "We have the feeling of being surrounded and trapped. Wherever
you turn, there is a risk."
 Experts say the well-known French passion for good food is not about to
disappear, but the approach to food is evolving. Globalization, a
faster-paced lifestyle in the cities and food fears are forcing the French
to think twice about what goes on their plates.
 At France's open air food markets, the senses are regaled with the
season's cornucopia of fruits, vegetables, meats, spices and feathered fowl
-- all displayed like fall fashions at a luxury boutique. But a hint of
fear has crept into the conversations that fill the stalls.
 At a Left Bank market, the fish monger was found in a heated discussion
with a customer about the perceived dangers of genetically modified foods.
A few stalls down, Simone Leumenier, presiding over an array of meats, from
calves' tail to roast beef, was telling customers why they should not fear
her faux filets. She patiently explained the difference between bone marrow
-- considered safe -- and spine marrow forbidden because it risks
transmitting the human form of mad cow disease.
 "People don't know what to think anymore," said Leumenier, the fourth
generation of a family of Normandy butchers.
 Mad cow, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is believed to be linked
to the brain-wasting human disease variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, which
is usually fatal. Scientists believe it originated in Britain when cattle
were given feed containing the ground remains of sheep infected with a
brain ailment. That practice is now banned throughout the European Union.
 Fear of the disease were reawakened this fall in France: More than 100
sick cows have been detected here this year, and meat from a possibly
infected herd ended up on grocery store shelves. That came on the heels of
a series of food scares, including listeria contamination, dioxin in
chickens and damage to shellfish from an oil-tanker spill last December.
 France has forbidden a range of cow parts from going to market, from
T-bone steak -- cut too close to the spine -- to cow's thymus glands, used
in "ris de veau," and brains and intestines, used to encase large sausages.
Most recently, the government banned use of bone meal and all cow
meat-based feeds for all animals.
 Leumenier's beef sales have fallen 30 percent since October. They
plunged 48 percent in 1996, when anxiety swept Europe after the extent of
Britain's mad cow problem was disclosed.
 A study by the Center for Research and Documentation, CREDOC, shows that
45 percent of the French people have reduced their intake or stopped eating
beef altogether since October.
 "One of the major findings ... is that the stigma of today will not
disappear in the short term," CREDOC said. Three French out of 10 do not
intend to return to their normal beef-eating habits, it said.
 "The idea that we could no longer control the food chain ... triggered a
real psychosis that risks being durable," said Jean-Pierre Loisel, director
of CREDOC's consumer department.
 Fear of food among the French sounds like an anomaly. Very young, the
French learn to appreciate their gastronomic traditions.
 At some French schools, children in the lower grades are taken on
gastronomic discovery trips. Each year, a nationwide "taste week" promotes
regional foods and inculcates an appreciation of the art of eating. And in
his latest movie, French star Gerard Depardieu portrays the chef Vatel --
who committed suicide in 1602 when two banquet roasts were not ready on
 However, changes in eating habits have been afoot for some time in
France. Frozen foods have gained wide acceptance as women join the work
force. Globalization, and a faster-paced lifestyle, are slowly transforming
traditional long lunches into sandwich breaks, at least in the city.
 Now, there is growing concern over the health and safety aspects of
food. That was the major finding in a 1998-99 CREDOC study of French eating
habits which showed obesity, heart problems and cholesterol rank as top
fears -- not brain damage, food poisoning or other ailments linked to
recent food crises.
 Still, experts say food for the French represents more than just
nourishment; it is intimately bound to social well-being: A recent study by
Fischler with citizens in Nantes showed conviviality to be the most
important aspect of eating.
 Fischler and others predict that the French will continue to cut meat
consumption and demand quality control of what they eat.
 "I think they are dealing with the issues in a typically French way
...," said Fischler. "I'm sure they will devise new ways of enjoying their

Milburn ready to ban French beef

November 26 2000 Sunday London Times
A BAN on beef imports from BSE-infected countries that lack proper safeguards is being considered by Alan Milburn, the health secretary, according to senior aides, write Jonathon Carr-Brown and Deborah Collcutt. As a new European Union-wide health scare was sparked by the discovery of mad cow disease in Germany's previously BSE-free beef industry, government sources confirmed that the health secretary would not hesitate from banning beef imports if that was required to protect consumers. The first test of Milburn's resolve will come on Tuesday when the Food Standards Agency (FSA) expects to receive a reply from the French over measures to prevent beef banned in France from being exported to Britain. A Milburn aide said: "We haven't ruled out banning beef imports. It's not off the agenda. We take the precautionary approach. If there is the slightest evidence French controls are not adequate we will not hesitate to ban French beef as a precaution. "To do anything else would be to make the same mistakes as the Conservatives during the BSE crisis." Britain imports just over 5,000 tons of French beef each year compared with 77,000 from Ireland - which has the highest number of BSE cases outside Britain - and 1,300 tons from Germany. Spain, Austria, Greece, Italy and Holland have all imposed partial bans on French beef but up to now Sir John Krebs, the chairman of the FSA, has insisted there was still insufficient scientific evidence to support a ban on imports of French beef. However, Milburn has already twice gone further than Krebs's advice on BSE matters. On Friday Milburn ignored him by ordering more spot checks on imported meat. Krebs was also forced to concede to pressure to support a Europe-wide ban on a potentially suspect abattoir technique. A government source said: "Krebs is still giving advice like a scientist instead of a consumer health watchdog. If he doesn't become more robust there could be friction."

Food Standards Agency acts on BSE loopholes

23 November 2000 FSA news release
The Food Standards Agency today announced immediate steps to check BSE enforcement controls in the UK as part of an action plan to improve consumer protection and confidence. The Government has accepted Agency advice on the need to press the European Commission for the compulsory labelling of country of origin of all meat products, including processed meat products. >From midnight tonight enforcement authorities will be asked to step up spot checks on beef imported into the UK and investigate any consignments where the documentation may be inadequate. Local authorities are also being instructed to provide monthly returns on their enforcement activity. The Government has also accepted Agency advice on the need to consider tightening regulations governing imported beef and the enforcement of the over thirty month rule, especially in relation to meat products. The Agency will be examining this. Sir John Krebs, Chairman of the Food Standards Agency, said: 'The most significant measures for consumer protection in relation to imports are the over thirty month rule and the specified risk material rules that reduce the risk of BSE infected beef from entering the food chain. 'We have made it clear in our review of the BSE controls that the over thirty month rules are difficult to police on imports, especially in relation to meat products. 'Local authorities have the main enforcement responsibility and these new measures will require them to step up their activities and report monthly on their activity. In addition, enforcement activity will be vigorously audited by the FSA as part of its continuing monitoring of standards throughout the UK.' 'In addition, the Agency will examine carefully the enforcement regulations for imported beef that is over thirty months old and those for meat products.' The Agency wrote to the French authorities yesterday (22nd November) to find out what safeguards will be put in place to prevent beef banned in France being exported to the UK. The Agency has offered to go to France within the next seven days as part of the process. The Agency is convening an expert group in early December to review and update its assessment of any risks that may be associated with imported beef or beef products. The Agency’s draft review of BSE controls highlighted the difficulties of enforcing the over thirty month rule on imported beef and, especially, beef products. The Agency has also called for better labelling of country of origin."

French President Pledges Vigilance In Mad Cow Fight

27 Nov.00 Associated Press
President Jacques Chirac met families of two French victims of a brain-wasting condition believed to be linked to mad cow disease Monday, pledging vigilance in the fight against the malady, a group representing the families said.

"The president confirmed that he would place (public) health ahead of all other considerations," the association of victims of Creutzfeldt-Jakob said in a statement. At the presidential Elysee Palace, Chirac spoke for more than an hour with the brother of Laurence Duhamel, who died from the disease in February aged 36, and the parents of 19-year-old Arnaud Eboli, who is dying.

Chirac said he wanted to forge a working relationship with the victims' association and intended to be "very present" in the debate about the disease and other food scares affecting the French public, said the association's vice president, Olivier Duplessis....

Two people have died of the disease in France, compared to about 80 in Britain, where the disease was identified in 1995, sparking a European beef scare.

The two families filed a lawsuit earlier this month, charging that French, British and European Union authorities did not act quickly enough to stamp out mad cow disease. The suit alleges that Duhamel and Eboli were victims of poisoning and involuntary homicide. Health officials have predicted that the number of human cases will rise in France, given the sharp increase in infected cows this year to around 90 cases, compared to 31 last year.

Public fears about the dangers of eating beef reached panic levels in France last month when it was discovered that potentially-infected meat had made it to supermarket shelves, before being hastily withdrawn. Since then, beef has been taken off the menu in many school cafeterias. Several cuts -- such as the T-bone -- have been banned, and sales have slumped.

Lawyer Francois Honnoret, who is representing the families' interests, said the meeting showed a change of heart among the country's political elite. "There was a real will to discuss, which was totally absent in the past," Honnoret said, calling it, "a very, very clear reversal."

Big Swiss supermarkets to test cattle for BSE

Sun, Nov 26, 2000 Reuters North America
Two of Switzerland's biggest supermarket chains, Migros and Coop, have decided to test all cattle that they process for mad cow disease, a Swiss newspaper reported on Sunday. Migros and Coop will test all cattle they process and that are older than 20 months for the disease, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), according to Coop spokesman Felix Wehrle.

BSE has been linked to new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (nvCJD), the human version of the deadly brain-wasting affliction. It has killed more than 80 people in Britain and two in France.

Switzerland imposed an indefinite ban on Thursday on imports of breeding cattle until it was clear what was being done in Europe about mad cow disease. Switzerland as a rule imports most of its breeding cattle from France, Germany, Italy and Denmark.

After two cows of German origin tested positively for BSE, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said on Friday a ban in Germany on meat-based animal feed was likely to start on Monday and called for an EU-wide ban on meat-and-bone meal.

Meat and bone meal, the ground-up animal parts used as a protein additive in feed, are suspected of spreading the disease.

EU farm ministers agreed on Tuesday to test far more animals for BSE than is now the case and to have scientists advise by the end of November whether recent national bans on beef from France -- facing an outbreak of mad cow disease -- were valid.

Greek cattle feed seized in safety swoop

Sun, Nov 26, 2000 Associated Press
Health inspectors in northern Greece confiscated 50 tons of livestock feed Saturday suspected of containing banned animal products, officials said.

The use of animal-based feed was suspended Saturday for all livestock as part of government safety measures taken amid the continued spread of mad cow disease in Europe. Hundreds of butcher's shops, abattoirs, farms and warehouses have been inspected across Greece over the weekend.

Contaminated meat and bone meal in animal feed is suspected as the source of mad cow disease, which has been linked to a similar brain-wasting ailment in humans. New cases of mad cow disease -- or bovine spongiform encephalopathy -- in France and other countries have caused alarm among consumers across Europe.

Agriculture Minister Giorgos Anomeritis said only about 6 percent of feed used Greece contains animal products. Other safety measures imposed include the mandatory removal of the spine and innards from slaughtered French cattle and a ban on the use of French cattle over 20 months old for reproduction.

Greek butchers, who have already significantly reduced their imports of French beef, are calling for tougher government measures and renewed threats Sunday of carrying out a boycott on all beef imports. The butchers are planning to meet early Monday to decide on possible protest action.

Athens butchers ban beef sales to demand stricter controls

 Mon, Nov 27, 2000  Associated Press
Butchers in the Athens area banned the sale of beef Monday after demanding meat and feed undergo stricter checks for mad cow disease. The move is one of the most sweeping reactions to concern over the spread of the disease, a fatal brain-wasting ailment linked to a similar condition in humans.

The ban covers butcher shops and meat stalls in Athens and surrounding areas -- home to close to half of Greece's nearly 11 million people. It does not effect supermarkets or other parts of the country.

A statement from the Athens area butchers' union demanded that European Union health officials enact "measures to protect the health of the consumer and not the economic interests of the powerful." It also accused the Greek government of weak health checks that "cannot convince the Greek consumers of their protection."

The decision was made after health inspectors confiscated 50 tons of livestock feed suspected of containing banned animal products. Feed with bone meal and other animal fillers is suspected as a source of mad cow disease.

Last week, Greece banned imports of French T-bone steaks. The disease, known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, is believe concentrated in the brain and spinal columns of cattle. Unless their demands are met, the butchers threatened to close their shops 10 days before Christmas. This could cause a meat shortage during the holidays.

Poland bans beef imports from 5 more European countries

27 Nov 00 Agence France-Presse 
Following reports of mad-cow disease, Poland on Monday banned imports of beef and cattle from Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain, the agriculture minister said. The ban begins Wednesday. "Polish beef is 100 percent safe," Arturs Balazs said, trying to reassure consumers following the renewed mad-cow disease scare in western Europe.

Since the beginning of the year, Poland has imported 281 tons of beef, with only 50 tons from EU countries, compared to domestic production of 670,000 tons, the minister said. Poland banned the import of live cattle and beef from France three weeks ago, after reports that potentially infected meat had found its way onto French supermarket shelves. The import of cattle and beef from Britain, Ireland and Switzerland has been banned since 1998 and from Portugal since 1999.

French may flood Britain with `risky beef', warn Tories

Sun, Nov 26, 2000 By Bob Roberts, Deputy Political Editor, PA News
The Tories today warned the French may try to flood Britain with "risky" beef amid new warnings of a Europe-wide epidemic of BSE. Shadow Agriculture Minister Tim Yeo repeated his call for an immediate ban on the meat saying: "The doubts about the safety of French beef are now so serious it is the only responsible action the Government can take."

And he told BBC's Breakfast With Frost programme: "Six other European countries are already restricting French beef imports. "There is a danger that as a result of that France will try to flood the remaining markets with risky beef putting British consumers at greater risk and hurting the price of safe British beef."

Mr Yeo added: "Other countries are waking up to how serious this problem is. "They are going to be forced, four years after we were, to take the same sort of drastic action. It is a great pity that no-one learnt the lessons of BSE in Britain in these other countries."

The warning comes after Dr Stephen Dealer, whose research helped to reveal the scale of the problem in Britain, said new discoveries of BSE in Germany revealed the seriousness of the problem. He told the Sunday Telegraph: "We are probably seeing the start of an epidemic in Europe and although it is impossible to predict its size, it will be bigger than we expect."

Germany has joined calls for European-wide action to stop the spread of BSE after the discovery of its first cases of Mad Cow Disease. Brussels has already signalled that new EU-wide health protection measures are likely in the wake of the first cases of Mad Cow Disease in Germany and Spain. EU health and consumer protection Commissioner David Byrne said he would be pressing for "maximum control measures" when Europe's agriculture ministers hold special talks on December 4.

Precautionary measures are expected to include action to ensure that controls on the feeding of ground-up cattle -- so-called meat and bonemeal -- are fully respected. Earlier this week, EU farm ministers agreed to carry out BSE tests on all cattle over the age of 30 months in a fresh bid to restore consumer confidence in the wake of growing concern over the incidence of the disease in France. French president Jacques Chirac has already urged EU leaders to impose common measures against mad cow disease.

French Defy Mad Cow Fears

Sun, Nov 26, 2000 AP
About 3,000 people gathered in Marseille on Sunday for a barbecue organized by the city's butchers, who handed out free beef to boost consumer confidence amid growing worries over mad cow disease.

About 50 butchers distributed 3.6 tons of beef to meat-lovers in Marseille, who wandered between stands and piled kebabs and dripping slabs of rare roast onto heaping paper plates.

"We told people that, when it comes to safe beef -- in this case, Charolais red label -- they can have confidence in their butcher," said Joseph Emmanuel Mordiconi, the butcher who organized the fete. Several tawny Charolais cows were brought along for the event.

Public fears about the dangers of eating beef reached panic levels in France last month when it was discovered that potentially infected meat had made it to supermarket shelves. Since then, beef has been taken off the menu in many school cafeterias, several cuts -- such as the T-bone -- have been banned, and sales have slumped.

The number of cows found with the brain-wasting mad cow disease, known formally as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, has soared this year in France to more than 90, compared to 31 last year. The government has argued that more rigorous testing accounts for the increase.

Experts believe infected meat can cause people to contract the usually fatal Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. Two people have died of the disease in France, compared to about 86 in Britain, where the disease was identified in 1995.

Elsewhere Sunday, in Kiel, Germany, health authorities ordered a herd of cattle to be destroyed after a cow was found to be infected this week. It was one of the first cases of the infection in a German herd; previously, mad cow had only been found there in cattle imported from Britain or Switzerland. A second cow, exported from Germany to Portugal's Azores Islands, was also found to be infected this week.

Seeking to rebuild consumer confidence, German officials on Saturday imposed a ban on the use of meat and bone meal in all animal feed. Feeding the ground animal remains to cattle has been banned in Germany and other European Union countries since 1994. Contaminated meat and bone meal in animal feed is suspected as the source of BSE in cows.

EU's Byrne says no guarantees on BSE-free beef

Mon, Nov 27, 2000 Reuters
No European Union member state can guarantee its beef is free of mad cow disease, the EU's food safety chief David Byrne said on Monday.

Responding to reports that Ireland planned to market its beef as BSE-free, Byrne acknowledged the country had imposed strict controls but said no guarantees could be given.

"Ireland...has quite stringent applications of the laws in place so a case can be made along those lines, but I don't think any member state can give a guarantee its beef is BSE-free," Byrne told Irish state broadcaster RTE. We can say we're trying to reduce the risk to the minimum but there is no such thing as risk-free," he said.

Irish media reports said that Ireland, in a bid to protect its 1.5 billion Irish pound ($1.6 billion) beef sales, planned to label its beef as BSE-free, citing strict controls already in place and an enhanced testing regime to be introduced before the end of the year. The Ministry of Agriculture declined immediate comment on the media reports.

Ireland has had 550 cases of mad cow disease since 1989. The annual number of cases rose to 104 this year from 74 in 1996.

Sales of beef in Europe have plunged in recent weeks as reported cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy -- most recently in Germany and Spain -- have fuelled consumer panic.

Ireland, whose agri-food sector exports account for some 10 percent of annual gross domestic product, has seen beef sales suffer and domestic cattle prices plummet as public confidence deteriorated.

EU's Fischler says meal ban would cost billions

Mon, Nov 27, 2000 Reuters
The European Union will have to consider carefully a blanket ban on meat and bone meal in animal feed as such a measure would cost billions of euros, the EU's leading farm official said in an interview published on Monday.

"This decision must be carefully weighed because its financial implications are significant," European Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler was quoted as saying by daily newspaper Le Figaro. We estimate the cost of destroying these meals in all of the Union at three billion euros, which would correspond, in addition, to a loss of 1.5 billion euros per year for producers," he added.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Friday called for an EU-wide ban on the suspect feed ingredients after announcing Germany would ban meat and bone meal following the discovery of its first two cases of mad cow disease. U.S. soybean and soymeal prices immediately soared on expectations that the EU, which depends on imports for 70 percent of its protein needs, would sharply increase its purchases of protein-rich oilseeds.

Fischler said the EU had only limited scope to increase its domestic oilseeds production and would remain reliant on soybean imports, which he estimated at 15 million tonnes at present. In addition, he excluded any prospect of a renegotiation of the Blair House accord signed between the United States and the EU in 1992, which limits the amount of oilseeds the EU is allowed to plant.

Fischler confirmed the EU would release 60 million euros for a private storage aid system for French beef, after sales dropped by 40 percent on revelations that some supermarkets had sold beef potentially contaminated with mad cow disease. The scheme subsidises private operators in France to buy meat and keep it in stock for six months from December 2000.

"Contrary to what the French seem to believe, I am aware that their beef industry is going through one of the most severe crises of its history," said Fischler. He also said the EU-wide drop in the price of beef did not yet warrant direct intervention to raise cattle prices.

German consumers wary of beef after mad cow scare

Mon, Nov 27, 2000 By Fiona Shaikh Reuters
Consumers in one of Berlin's busiest shopping districts crossed beef off their shopping lists on Monday as news spread of Germany's first cases of mad cow disease.

"I'm definitely giving up beef," said pensioner Kurt Hermann, pointing to the chicken he had just bought in response to the health scare sweeping Europe over the cattle disease known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). We only have BSE here because Germans eat so much meat. Back in the old days, we only ate meat on Sundays," the retired construction foreman said.

Post-office worker Andreas Eggers, 34, said as he wolfed down pork-based bratwurst: "I'm certainly going to stop eating beef -- at least until all cattle have been tested for BSE."

One Berlin butcher said beef sales in his shop had fallen by about a third since it emerged on Friday that two German cattle had died of the disease.

"I'm going to stop eating beef and switch to pork and poultry instead," said Uwe Obereigner, 34. "Farmers are to blame for BSE. They feed their animals with all kinds of rubbish just to turn a quick profit," the industrial worker said.

"I'm going to give up all meat not just beef, because you don't know how BSE is transmitted between animals," said Petra Steinhorst, 46. "From now on I'm only going to eat fish."

Hermann said Germany's "economic miracle" of the 1950s was partly to blame for the problem. "People could afford to buy as much meat as they wanted, and farmers have resorted to all kinds of measures to keep up with demand," he said.

Even vendors of organic beef have reported falling sales since Friday. "We noticed a sharp drop in beef sales on Saturday, even though we tried to explain to customers that our beef comes from organically-reared cattle," said Babette Mueller, sales assistant at an organic supermarket.

However, one Berlin shopper shrugged off the threat of BSE. "I've always eaten beef and I'm certainly not going to stop now," said pensioner Norbert Walter. "When times were bad in the 1930s we couldn't afford to buy much meat, but things have improved since then," said the sprightly 83-year-old. My wife and I have just celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary, eating meat has kept us young -- we're not going to give it up now."

Soy prices up in Europe on EU animal meal ban fears

Mon, Nov 27, 2000 By Eric Onstad Reuters Business Report
Soy prices flipped higher on Monday in a jittery market on speculation that an expected ban by Germany on meat-and-bone meal (MBM) in animal feed, to combat cow disease, meant the European Union would follow suit.

Prices for soymeal on the European feed market jumped as much as six percent following gains in soy and soymeal futures on the Chicago Board of Trade on Friday and on an after-hours trading system. Offers for Argentine soymeal pellets for November delivery surged $12 to $216 per tonne, traders said.

"People are spooked by the German move," a trader in Germany said. A ban by Poland over the weekend on imports of beef from four more EU states added to the bullish sentiment.

A German ban alone would create the need for about 600,000 tonnes more of soymeal or other feed products as a substitute for bone meal and if the European Union adopts a ban then a total of 3.0 to 3.5 million tonnes extra would be needed, trade sources said.

Traders remained very wary. They said the likelihood of the EU imposing such a sweeping ban were uncertain and once the panic died down, prices could also swoon. "Everybody is anxious they will be on the wrong side of the market -- both buyers and sellers," another trader said.

After the shock of finding its first case of mad cow disease last week, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Friday called for a ban on MBM in all animal feed and said it would take effect on Wednesday. But the agriculture minister on Monday told a news briefing that a ban was being delayed because there was an insufficient legal basis for a decree and parliament would therefore vote on Friday for a change of law to bring about a ban.

Germany uses about 450,000 tonnes of MBM in animal feed yearly and this would mean an additional 600,000 tonnes of soymeal as a replacement, said Amaud Bousin of the EU animal feed manufacturers association FEFAC.

Schroeder also said he would fight for a similar ban throughout the European Union. France recently imposed such a restriction on bone meal in animal feed and supported a sweeping ban throughout the region. "With France and Germany supporting it, the pressure will be very heavy within the EU," a Dutch trader said.

Since the EU now uses about 2.4 million tonnes of MBM annually in feed, an EU-wide ban would mean that the community would need 1.3 million tonnes more imports of proteins or about 3.0 to 3.5 million tonnes of feed materials such as soybeans.

Bone meal is a protein-rich additive to animal feed, but oilseeds have less protein and so more are needed to substitute. The EU now bans the use of MBM in feed for ruminants such as cows and sheep, but it is allowed for pig and poultry feed.

Industry sources said the scientific rationale for a wider ban was unclear since pigs and poultry do not contract BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy). [Pigs have long been known to be highly susceptible to BSE. -- webmaster]


If officials were worried that bone meal was creeping into cattle feed, than a complete separation between production lines was the best solution, Gert Jan van Noortwijk, chairman of the Royal Dutch Grain and Feed Trade Association, told a news conference on Monday.

Any move for an EU-wide ban would turn into a political battle between national politicians and EU bureaucrats, analysts said. EU Health Commissioner David Byrne has so far resisted a blanket ban on feeding MBM to animals, saying that removing tissues such as the brain and spinal cord from the food chain was the most efficient measure to combat BSE.

EU Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler on Monday was quoted as saying a blanket ban on MBM in feed would cost billions of euros. "The situation is more political rather than scientific at the moment," FEFAC's Bousin said.

Bousin said politicians such as French President Jacques Chirac wanted a wide ban on MBMs for domestic reasons. "Mr Chirac would like to get this EU-wide ban for political reasons in his battle with the prime minister. It is a big challenge for him to convince all member states to join in," he said.

Mad cow fears paralyse Spanish slaughterhouses

Mon, Nov 27, 2000 By Laura Urrutia Reuters World Report
Spain's abattoirs stopped slaughtering cattle on Monday as last week's announcement of a first case of mad cow disease in the country took its toll on beef sales, a Spanish meat organisation said.

"There is no market. There's no buying or selling, it's all paralysed," said Fernando Pascual, general secretary of the Spanish Association of Meat Businesses (Asocarne), which represents Spain's leading abattoirs and meat firms.

Spain on Monday started tests on cattle aged more than 30 months in the northwestern Galicia region where the country's first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, was confirmed last week. "The tests will be extended all over Spain over the next few months," an agriculture ministry spokesman said.

On Saturday, Germany called for Europe-wide cattle testing after two suspected BSE cases were detected, making Germany the latest European country to be affected by the disease.

Spain's Agriculture Minister Miguel Arias Canete has said that the Galician case was isolated and did not represent the start of an epidemic in Spain. But he has not managed to reassure consumers, who are buying 10 to 15 percent less beef, according to Spanish meat associations. Business between farmers and slaughterhouses has slowed between 50 and 60 percent over the last week, Asocarne said.

"This could lead to a great drop in prices," Pascual told Reuters. "Until we sell the meat stocks that we've got, there's no need to slaughter more cows," he added.

A government laboratory investigating BSE played down the risk for consumers. "At the moment there's just one case," director Juan Badiola told state radio. "I don't think there is any justified reason not to eat beef."

The president of the National Veterinary Association, Antonio Borregon, questioned widely accepted links between BSE and feed containing animal matter. "The animals (suspected to have BSE) were not of an indigenous race. They were animals whose mothers were imported... and as a result it is thought that there could have been vertical transmission," he told state radio.

But elsewhere in Europe ministers are stepping up calls for a blanket ban on meat-based feed. Concern has spread across Europe with cases detected in France, Belgium, Germany and Britain which was hit by an outbreak of mad cow disease in the 1980s.

Spain has an extensive beef industry and has gradually banned imports of live animals from other European countries that have suffered outbreaks of the disease over the last four years, culminating in a ban on French and Irish cows last month.

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