Prion Disease: Bone Meal -- to Ban or Not Ban
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Azores, Germany: confirmed BSE
Better diagnosis and cleaner blood coming?
Will Europe ban bone meal in all applications?
Europe may face British-style BSE epidemic
Germany cabinet to study ban on animal-based feed
Third French family to launch madcow law suit
McDonald's faces crisis over contaminated beef
Welsh lamb producers report European sales loss
Canadian crackdown: Vermont sheep owners find they are not alone
Mad Cow hotline rings off the hook in France
Hong Kong beef lover dies from human form of mad-cow disease

Azores, Germany: confirmed BSE

 Fri, Nov 24, 2000 By BARRY HATTON  Associated Press Writer
Official announcement, in German

Stripping cattle carcasses of dangerous tissues
Portugal's mid-Atlantic Azores Islands recorded their first case of mad cow disease Friday in a cow imported from Germany, highlighting the spread of the problem across European borders as countries scramble to calm consumer alarm over food safety.

Germany reported its first case of mad cow disease, stoking fears there about health risks to humans, especially the possibility of catching a fatal brain-wasting condition from eating infected meat.

"The European Union's open borders...and the lack of proper controls...are worsening this crisis," said Joao Dinis of Portugal's National Agricultural Federation, a grouping of private farmers. Many consumers across Europe have dropped beef from their menus, fearing they might contract the human form of mad cow disease called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

In Spain, which recorded its first case of mad cow disease earlier this week, the cabinet on Friday approved two decrees, including one that creates an inter-ministerial committee to monitor the disease, designed to ease consumer jitters which produced a sharp drop in beef sales.

In Switzerland, where authorities on Thursday decided provisionally to halt the import of breeding cattle, regardless of their country of origin, the Federal Veterinary Office on Friday proposed a national control body to speed up the eradication of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease.

Addressing the beef scare, agriculture ministers from the 15-nation EU agreed in principle Monday on a massive upgrade of testing, with mandatory tests on all older cattle. Meanwhile, new cases continue to emerge.

The infected German cow was tested after its slaughter in the town of Itzehoe on Wednesday, authorities in Schleswig-Holstein state said. German testing had previously only detected the brain-wasting disease in animals imported from Britain and Switzerland.

Germany also sought to restore public confidence in food safety by proposing a ban on the use of meat and bone meal in all animal feed, which scientists suspect is the source of the disease in cows.

In mainland Portugal, 467 cases of mad cow disease have been reported since 1990, making it one of the most-affected countries though no human forms of the disease have been reported.

The remote Azores Islands are exempt from the European Union ban, introduced in 1998, on Portuguese beef exports because cattle there can graze all year and do not require special feed supplements. Cattle breeding and dairy farming are a staple industry in the island group of 250,000 people.

The Azores regional agriculture authority announced a plan to slaughter more than 2,600 cows imported in recent years, about half of them from Germany, to assuage consumer fears.

The infected five-year-old cow was born 1995 in the Hanover region of Germany and imported to the Azores in 1998, according to the ministry statement. 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.

Germany confirms outbreak of BSE

November 24 2000 Financial Times By Ralph Atkins in Berlin, Tom Burns in Madrid and Dan Bilefsky in Brussels
Europe's crisis over BSE, or mad cow disease, broadened to Germany on Friday when the first positive tests on German-born cows finally shattered the country's claims to be BSE-free.

The Berlin government called an emergency meeting for Saturday of health and agricultural experts after the results of tests on a slaughtered cow in Schleswig-Holstein, northern Germany, and an animal in Portugal exported from eastern Germany. Andrea Fischer, health minister, said: "The soothing talk that 'Germany is BSE-free' must finally come to an end."

In Spain, which reported its first case of BSE this week in the northern area of Galicia, the government on Friday responded with measures including wider BSE testing, tighter controls on incineration of high risk material and the creation of an inter-ministerial task force to monitor all signs of mad cow disease.

The move came as Spanish consumer concern fuelled an overall 15 per cent drop in meat purchases and a fall of 40 per cent in Galician veal, a top-selling product among Spaniards.

All previous BSE cases in Germany and Spain involved imported cattle, although in August European Union scientists warned the disease was likely to be present in Germany below detection levels.

David Byrne, European Commissioner for health and consumer protection, said he was not surprised by the discovery of BSE in Germany and Spain, stressing that the two countries had trailed other member states in introducing tougher safety measures.

He urged EU countries to ensure that recently introduced EU legislation to remove specific risk materials such as brain and spinal cord from the food and feed chain was implemented. "You cannot take unnecessary risks with public health," he said.

European farm ministers agreed this week that all cattle destined for the food chain above 30 months old should undergo post mortem tests. The programme will start in July 2001 and involve 6m cattle. High-risk animals aged above 30 months - or those arriving at slaughterhouses showing signs of disease - will be tested from the beginning of January.

Before this week's meeting only France had embarked on a large-scale programme of random testing for BSE in cattle. The outbreak in Germany, which has prided itself in strict safety standards, follows the outcry in France last month when it was discovered supermarkets had sold beef from a herd that included an infected cow.

Erwin Jordan, junior health minister in Germany, warned more cases were likely to emerge[But only yesterday you were saying Germany was BSE-free. -- webmaster]. It was not yet possible to gauge how far the disease had spread, "but we have no cause to say that we have a massive BSE problem... as in Great Britain".

Germany is likely to extend the testing programme already under way - despite the costs involved and shortage of laboratory capacity. Mr Jordan said initiatives would "not fail for the lack of money". In Schleswig-Holstein a slaughter house was closed, beef seized and a telephone hotline for customers set up.

Shocked Germany calls for EU-wide madcow testing

25 Nov 00 Reuters By Erik Kirschbaum
Germany, shocked by news that mad cow disease may have spread across its borders, called on Saturday for testing cattle throughout the European Union for the brain-wasting disease. Agriculture Minister Karl-Heinz Funke, who demanded on Friday nationwide testing for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) on slaughtered cattle, on Saturday widened this demand to urge mandatory testing throughout the EU and for beef imported into the EU.

The news that BSE was suspected in two of Germany's 15 million cows touched off an angry round of finger-pointing in the country that thought its security controls were superior and its cattle free of the disease ravaging farms in Britain and France. BSE has been linked to the deaths of scores of people.

Funke's call came shortly after 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 to try to halt its spread. If confirmed, this could mean animal feed was not the only means of transmitting mad cow disease [not really, feed bans receive slack follow-through -- webmaster].

"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." Top health and agriculture ministry officials were in a crisis meeting in Bonn to discuss the issue.

Funke rejected criticism from Health Minister Andrea Fischer that politicians had resisted measures that would have led to a fast ban on meat-based feed believed to cause the disease.

"There were no such mistakes made," he told SWR radio. Fischer told Germany's N-TV television late on Friday night Germany had not acted sooner to ban the use of such feed because politicians, whom she did not name, objected to the proposals. Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said on Friday Germany would introduce a general ban on meat-based animal feeds next week.

Der Spiegel news magazine reported Funke had delivered a blistering speech in a cabinet meeting last week criticising other ministers for their wanting to take action before the facts were known. He also spoke out against the feed ban. Funke, himself a farmer, had said German beef was safe and added 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."

"Shock! First BSE cattle in Germany," read a headline in Bild, the country's largest selling daily. An editorial urged quick action to prevent the disease from spreading and warned "millions of lives are at stake". Most of the country's newspapers put the BSE story on the top of their front pages and it led all broadcast reports. "German madness" wrote Der Spiegel over a report critical of the country's complacent belief it was immune to BSE.

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.

The head of Germany's farm association, Gerd Sonnleitner, said BSE had spread to Germany because the EU's agriculture authorities had been negligent. Sonnleitner, who has in the past said Germany's "active security" would prevent the disease from reaching the country, said the EU had failed to take decisive steps against BSE in Britain. He has often blamed the spread of the disease on "sloppiness and inadequate controls" in other countries.

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

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, new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (nvCJD). The six cases of BSE reported in Germany before Friday involved cattle of British and Swiss origin.

Europe's BSE crisis worsens

Fri, Nov 24, 2000  By Simon Mowbray, Consumer Affairs Correspondent, PA News
Europe's BSE crisis worsened today as the first two cases of BSE in German-reared cattle were recorded. The disclosure came as Germany backed French calls for a total ban on meat and bone meal which has been blamed for outbreaks elsewhere.

It also follows a growing number of claims that infected French beef has found its way into Britain. Britain, meanwhile, remained in the minority after Food Standards Agency chief Sir John Krebs insisted there was still insufficient evidence to support an unlawful ban on imports of French beef.

That decision, however, is now likely to continue to be the subject of more scrutiny from many quarters as Spain, Austria, Greece, Italy and Holland all imposed partial bans on French beef.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said a fullscale ban was likely to take effect in Germany on Monday after it emerged that a cow born and slaughtered in Germany had tested positive for BSE for the first time.

It was also announced that mad cow disease had spread to Portugal's mid-Atlantic Azores Islands through an animal imported from Germany. Both disclosures are crushing blows to long-standing German claims that its home-grown cattle were BSE free. The German-slaughtered cow was tested in the town of Itzehoe on Wednesday, authorities in Schleswig-Holstein state said.

The Portuguese Agriculture Ministry said it had informed the German government and the European Commission about its infected cow, which is the first case of mad cow disease in the islands.

The five-year-old cow was born in 1995 in the Hanover region of Germany and imported to the Azores in 1998, according to the ministry statement. Officials cordoned off the farm and opened an investigation.

Sir John, meanwhile, defended his organisation's handling of the latest BSE crisis despite growing fears that infected beef may have been imported to Britain from France. Guidelines on beef more than 30 months old "are being properly applied", he said, referring to regulations banning the import of older meat from countries with instances of BSE.

The Agency was also stepping up its work with local authorities to check with retail depots, wholesalers and others that no such meat was entering Britain's food chain, he said. Sir John said he would also be seeking assurances from the French government over the safety of future imports when a team from the FSA travels to France next week.

Shadow agriculture minister Tim Yeo said: "Far from cosmetic checks by the Food Standards Agency, what the British consumer wants is an immediate ban on French beef.

"It is scandalous that Tony Blair has not got the guts to tell France that its beef is unsafe and that Britain will ban it. Sending officials from the FSA, which is supposed to be independent of ministers, to France to search for reasons for banning French beef, neither protects British consumers nor preserves the independence of the agency."

German health ministry seeks to calm BSE fears

Fri, Nov 24, 2000 Reuters World Report
The German Health Ministry sought to calm fears of a BSE epidemic on Friday, saying there was no reason to suspect that German beef was not safe to eat.

However, a top official from the ministry called on farmers to take the initiative and stop using animal-based feeds immediately, even before legislation is introduced next week.

"There is no reason to say German beef is not healthy. We've had one suspicious case and there is no reason to assume we have a BSE problem here like in Britain, with thousands of cases," said Erwin Jordan, state secretary at the health ministry.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said earlier that Germany would introduce a general ban on meat-based animal feeds -- which are believed to be behind the deadly disease. Schroeder spoke after two German cows tested BSE-positive, the first domestically reared cows to do so since the health scare began.

Jordan told a news conference it would probably take until Wednesday to push through a law banning meat-based animal feeds but he urged farmers to stop using them immediately. "I'm calling for those who still have stores of animal feed to stop using it even before the law takes effect," he said.

Jordan, speaking in place of Health Minister Andrea Fischer who was delayed in traffic, said the government planned to test over 150,000 high-risk older cows next year, but they want to dramatically increase this number. Health ministry and agriculture ministry officials were scheduled to meet in Bonn on Saturday to discuss the crisis.

EU frees up funds for widespread mad cow tests

Fri, Nov 24, 2000 Reuters World Report
The European Union agreed on Friday to free up 60 million euros ($50.55 million) to part fund a huge screening programme for mad cow disease across Europe.

Under the deal, the EU will pay the full 30-euro cost of the tests during a limited six-month screening phase starting in January. This could affect some 500,000 cattle.

Financing will be scaled back to half the cost, when the full programme is launched in July. All cattle aged over 30 months destined for the food chain will undergo the post-mortem tests, which could be up to seven million animals a year.

"The measures will cost money but it is a good investment and the EU stands ready to play its part," European Commission spokesman Gregor Kreuzhuber told Reuters. The funding was agreed at a meeting of EU budget ministers in Brussels. Member states themselves will have to cover the remainder of the cost.

The European Commission believes the tests are vital to restore consumer confidence in beef following a rising number of mad cow disease cases in France. Spain and Germany, countries previously BSE-free, have announced their first cases this week.

EU measures on cards after BSE spreads to Germany

Fri, Nov 24, 200 By Geoff Meade and Simon Mowbray, PA News
New EU-wide health protection measures are on the cards in the wake of the first cases of mad cow disease in Germany, the Brussels Commission signalled tonight. 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. He is urging EU health ministers to join in the talks.

Mr Byrne said he was "regrettably, not surprised" by the reported discovery of BSE in Germany, hard on the heels of an outbreak in Spain: "The Commission has for years warned of the probability of BSE being found in other member states. In particular Germany and Spain have been identified as countries where there was a likelihood of BSE being discovered."

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said a fullscale ban was likely to take effect in Germany on Monday after it emerged that a cow born and slaughtered in Germany had tested positive for BSE for the first time. It was also announced that mad cow disease had spread to Portugal's mid-Atlantic Azores Islands through an animal imported from Germany. Both disclosures are crushing blows to long-standing German claims that its home-grown cattle were BSE free. ...

Mr Byrne urged member states to ensure that newly-introduced EU legislation on the removal of "specific risk materials" - including brains and spinal cords of cattle - are fully implemented. He said that removing specific risk materials (SRMs) from the human food and animal feed chains remained the single most effective measure to combat BSE and protect public health. SRMs have been removed from cattle in most EU countries for many years - but both Germany and Spain have always refused to do so on the grounds that they were BSE-free.

Mr Byrne bitterly observed tonight that both countries had blocked Commission initiatives on the issue for nearly four years, caving in only very recently to join the rest in filtering out SRMs. He said precautionary measures were now urgently needed 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.

At that time Mr Byrne said existing anti-BSE rules, including a ban on animal feed for ruminants, did provide adequate safeguards if properly enforced. Tonight he promised to press for "maximum control measures to protect consumers" when the farm ministers meet again on December 4, adding: "We may have to take significant EU-wide health protection measures to ensure that consumers are not put at risk."

The new developments came amid growing calls in Britain to ban French bid after a number of claims that infected French beef has found its way into the UK. But Food Standards Agency chief Sir John Krebs insisted there was still insufficient evidence to support an unlawful ban on imports of French beef.

That decision, however, is now likely to continue to be the subject of more scrutiny from many quarters as Spain, Austria, Greece, Italy and Holland all imposed partial bans on French beef.

Guidelines on beef more than 30 months old "are being properly applied", Sir John said, referring to regulations banning the import of older meat from countries with instances of BSE.

The Agency was also stepping up its work with local authorities to check with retail depots, wholesalers and others that no such meat was entering Britain's food chain, he said. Sir John said he would also be seeking assurances from the French government over the safety of future imports when a team from the FSA travels to France next week.

Better diagnosis coming?

Wednesday, 22 November, 2000, BBC News By BBC News Online's Helen Briggs
Swiss scientists are on the brink of developing a diagnostic test for variant CJD and its cattle equivalent, BSE. The test could one day be used to detect whether a patient or an animal is infected with a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, before they show clinical symptoms.

The technology might also be used to screen human blood donations for the abnormal rogue proteins, or prions, that cause such diseases. There is a theoretical risk that humans with undiagnosed vCJD could transmit the infection through blood transfusions or products made from human blood. However, no cases have actually been recorded. The Swiss method is based on a natural substance found in blood that is able to bind to the infectious agents. The work, published in the scientific journal Nature, may also give an insight into how prions cause disease.

Swiss scientists find new way to detect mad cow disease

Wed, Nov 22, 2000  Reuters Online Service By Marcel Michelson
Swiss scientists have discovered a new way to detect the presence of mad cow disease or its human equivalent, which could be the basis for a cure and a way to purify donor blood, they said Wednesday.

But the leader of the team at Zurich University emphasized that what they had done was only the scientific groundwork. "We have not developed a new test," Professor Adriano Aguzzi told a news conference. "It is not up to our laboratory to develop a test or a cure, that is for industry to do. But we are willing to make our results available."

The results of the study by his team at the Institute for Neuropathology of Zurich University Hospital were published in science journal Nature.

"It is our hope that this can lead to a better test, lead to a treatment of the new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob and could be used to remove (infected proteins) from transfusion blood," he said.

The human form of BSE, new variant Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease (nvCJD), has killed more than 86 people in Britain and three in France. There is no known cure for the deadly disease that wastes away the brain. Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), and nvCJD occur when a protein called a prion, that appears naturally in the brain, changes and folds in a unusual way.

The team found that a blood product, plasminogen, played a key role in transmitting the disease. It established a laboratory method to check the plasminogen for the presence of aberrant prions. Aguzzi declined to be drawn on how long it would take to develop a test or a cure on the basis of the plasminogen findings. But he said such a test would be far more accurate than currently available tests.

In humans, surgeons now have to take tissue samples from the tonsils to determine whether the patient is suffering from nvCJD. For the plasminogen test, a sample of cells from the back of the throat would suffice.

In animals, the test would be simpler and faster and could be done by machines. The findings could also be used to purify donated blood of aberrant prions. Aguzzi said his team was still trying to find out the exact way in which the aberrant prions -- ingested as food -- travel from the digestive track into the nervous system and the brain.

Aguzzi said he agreed with a total ban on the use of meat and bonemeal (MBM) not just for feeding cattle but all animals. MBM is ground-up animal parts used as a protein additive in animal feed but now suspected of spreading mad cow disease.

Aguzzi also doubted whether there was really an actual outbreak of new cases of mad cow disease in France, which has triggered renewed consumer panic about the safety of beef. "Now that they are counting accurately, they suddenly find a lot of cases," he noted, saying in general the occurrence of both BSE and nvCJD was declining.

France, which holds the European Union's rotating presidency and is grappling with rising incidence of mad cow disease which has prompted a number of countries to ban French beef, has failed to persuade the EU to ban MBM. EU farm ministers agreed Tuesday to test far more animals for BSE than are currently screened, and to have scientists advise by the end of November whether the national bans on French beef were valid.

Harmful Prions Stick to Blood Protein

Wednesday November 22, 2000 By Merritt McKinney Nature 2000;408:479-483.
A sticky blood protein may help lead the way to better detection and understanding of ``mad cow'' disease and other similar fatal brain-wasting illnesses, researchers in Switzerland report. Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), and its human cousin Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), are marked by the build-up in the brain of abnormal proteins called prions.

Not all prions are harmful, but distinguishing the good from the bad is difficult, according to Dr. Adriano Aguzzi of the University Hospital of Zurich. Writing in the November 23rd issue of the journal Nature, Aguzzi and his colleagues report that plasminogen, a common blood protein, binds to disease-causing prions but leaves harmless prions alone.

The findings may lead to the development of a test to detect BSE or CJD, according to Aguzzi. In addition, the protein might be used to clear harmful prions from blood products, he told Reuters Health. The researchers made the discovery about the sticky protein through experiments involving mice that had been infected with scrapie, a prion disease that is similar to BSE.

Aguzzi's team coated tiny magnetic balls with plasminogen and then placed them in brain tissue taken from the mice. In contrast to the normal prions, the scrapie prions attached themselves to the plasminogen, the authors explain. The researchers were then able to get rid of the infectious prions by removing the tiny balls. Although the exact mechanism by which plasminogen binds with abnormal prions is not well understood, the researchers suggest that the sticky blood protein eventually may be used to detect BSE and other prion diseases. They also suggest that the protein may be used to clean blood products by removing infectious prions.

The research may lead to better understanding of diseases that involve prions, Aguzzi noted. Plasminogen is also present in the brain, where it is possible that it may bind with harmful prions, he explained. By binding with plasminogen, however, the abnormal prions may somehow interfere with the protein's normal activities, the researcher pointed out.

Will Europe be persuaded to ban bone meal in all applications?

Wed, 22 Nov 2000  Barry James, International Herald Tribune, Paris
France failed Tuesday to persuade fellow members of the European Union to follow its lead in banning meat and bone meal in livestock feed, ingredients considered to be responsible for the spread of ''mad cow'' disease. But agriculture ministers meeting in Brussels agreed to start testing as of Jan. 1 all animals ''at risk'' from the disease.

The decision, after an all-night discussion, left France at a huge disadvantage as the only country other than Britain to ban the meal, which is mostly used to feed chickens. Not only has it lost the economic benefit of producing the meal, but it also faces the cost of incinerating it and of growing or importing replacement supplies of vegetable protein, such as soybeans.

Experts said that as a result, French beef may become uneconomic on export markets.

The French government also announced a 3 billion franc ($388 million) aid package for the beef industry, which has seen domestic sales plunge up to 40 percent and export markets shrink in a panic over mad cow disease.

Meal from meat and bone is made from animal carcasses once the meat and such valuable industrial products as tallow and gelatin have been extracted. Since Oct. 1, the material most likely to be infectious, such as brains and spinal cords, has been banned throughout the EU.

Outbreaks of the disease, known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, in Continental Europe almost precisely track exports of feed from Britain in the 1980s and early 1990s, according to scientific experts. Britain has stored or destroyed all meat and bone meal since 1996, when scientists said that cross- contamination among different kinds of feed wasprobably causing repeated fresh outbreaks of the disease, which can provoke a fatal condition known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans.

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy has been reported in only one animal born in Britain since the ban took effect. To prevent the risk of transmitting the disease to humans, Britain produces no meat from cattle over 30 months old, but older cows can continue to produce milk.

The French government reluctantly imposed the ban on meal this month after President Jacques Chirac, reacting to public panic over the safety of beef, called for it to be done immediately. But countries such as Germany, which have no reported cases of mad cow disease, refused to follow the French line, arguing that was unnecessary to protect public health and would be too costly.

A ban across the 15-nation EU would mean destroying 3 million tons of meat and bone meal every year - an additional nearly 1 million tons of animal waste is imported from the United States - and finding replacement supplies.

''I would have gone further,'' the French agriculture minister, Jean Glavany, said after the meeting. ''France had wanted the EU to ban any use of this material in animal feed.''

French anger spilled over against countries like Spain and Italy that have stopped imports of meat from France while failing to put in place the precautionary measures that Paris has adopted. Mr. Glavany said France was being punished for being too cautious. France is the only country in the EU to carry out random testing of animals.

Since the tests began in the summer, several animals were found to have the disease that would have gone undetected by visual means. The test method enables veterinary experts to detect the disease in the preclinical stage, before symptoms have developed. No test exists to detect the disease at a subclinical stage in live animals.

As a result, the number of reported cases has risen to 103, sharply higher than last year. Although the government has been open about these results, the policy backfired as the public realized the extent of the disease in France. The panic started after supermarkets put meat on sale that had come from a herd in which one cow was found to have the disease.

Mr. Glavany said he was convinced that scientific advice would eventually prove that France had been correct to ban meat and bone meal. Once testing is extended to the rest of the Union, EU officials expect mad cow disease to be detected in some countries that now say they are free of it.

How extensive that testing will be was left perhaps deliberately vague Tuesday. Judging on what was meant by animals ''at risk,'' it could embrace anything from a few hundred thousand to several million animals. The most at-risk animals today are ''downer'' cattle that fall on the farm and fail to get up, and animals that are slaughtered urgently.

Old dairy cows used mostly to produce the cheap meat used in beef patties and pies are most likely to contract the disease. In France, few cases of mad cow disease have been reported among cattle bred for beef production.

The EU's Standing Scientific Commission will work out details of the testing program by Nov. 30, and the ministers are scheduled to meet again Dec. 4.

France repeats call for Europe-wide ban on feed

 Fri, Nov 24, 2000  Reuters World Report
France repeated calls for a European Union ban on feed containing meat and bone meal believed to be the source of mad cow disease after the crisis spread to Germany on Friday.

"We must move towards a total ban on meat-containing animal feed as soon as possible," French President Jacques Chirac told reporters in Athens. Chirac, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, is touring European capitals ahead of a summit in Nice. While in Athens, he also sought support for French calls for a pan-European ban on the feed, known as MBM.

Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis backed stricter controls and said measures should not be taken by member states unilaterally. "Effective consumer protection is not possible unless measures are taken on a European level," he said after meeting Chirac.

Greece and other EU members have imposed a partial ban on French beef imports after cases of the deadly disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), were spotted in France in recent weeks.

The first suspected case of the brain-wasting disease has also been discovered in Germany, which backed France's call for a ban on MBM feed containing ground up carcasses and entrails, believed to be the source of BSE in cattle.

There was growing backing on Friday for French calls for a total EU ban on feed containing meat and bone meal (MBM), basically ground-up carcasses and entrails. Feed containing diseased MBM is widely believed to be the source of BSE in cattle.

Speaking in Zagreb, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said a full-scale ban was likely to take effect in Germany on Monday and called for an EU-wide ban to follow. "I am in favor of banning these feeds in the whole EU," he told reporters.

Under EU rules it is already forbidden to feed animal-based feed to ruminants, which include cows and sheep, but not to poultry and pigs. France failed earlier this week to win support for a total ban, though farm ministers agreed to test more animals for BSE.

Support from EU heavyweight Germany could tip the scales in France's favor in the coming weeks. "Support for a feed ban does seem to be gathering momentum," an EU source said in Brussels.

Greece, Italy, Spain, Austria and the Netherlands have all imposed partial bans on French beef imports in an effort to calm consumer panic since the latest scare began. In Britain, inspectors ordered by the national food watchdog to strengthen spot checks for BSE in imported beef warned that the task was almost impossible.

Spain announced on Friday it would start widespread testing for mad cow disease in Galicia, the region where the country's first case appeared earlier this week. Switzerland, which is not a member of the European Union, said it expected to impose a ban on MBMs in cattle feed from March 2001.

Removing tissues known as specified risk materials (SRMs) from the food and feed chain was the single most efficient measure to combat BSE and protect public health, the Commission, the EU's executive body, said. The Commission took a dig at Germany and Spain for being initially reluctant to agree to EU measures to remove SRMs from the food and feed chain.

"Although SRMs have been removed from cattle in most member states for many years now, it is only very recently that countries like Germany and Spain have agreed to do so," it said. "European Commission initiatives in this regard were blocked for nearly four years because of the opposition of those member states who claimed to be BSE-free," it said.

Europe may face British-style BSE epidemic

Wed, Nov 22, 2000 By Elizabeth Pipe Reuters Online Service
Europe can no longer guarantee BSE-free beef and may face a British-style mad cow epidemic if countries fail to implement new measures swiftly and firmly, UK scientists said on Wednesday.

Scientists, some who advised and criticized government inaction and diversion in the early days of Britain's BSE crisis, said preventive measures taken in Europe might fail to head off the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

"Europe is very much in the same position as we are, because Britain is not out of the woods. We still have far more BSE cases in this country than all the countries put together," John Owen, professor of agriculture and animal studies at the University of Wales, said by telephone.

"And still we don't have a completely fool-proof method of testing live animals at a young stage, and although work is going on, it still needs quite a lot of work to get a really good live test for BSE," said Owen, who in 1996 told officials the disease was spreading at a faster rate than they thought.

He said a European Union agreement on Tuesday to extend cattle testing for BSE was wise, but that bureaucracy and lax implementation could lead to a fresh epidemic in Britain or other states with infected beef entering the country.

EU farm ministers agreed at a meeting in Brussels to extend cattle testing to all cattle at risk aged over 30 months. This could be expanded to all cattle destined for the food chain over that age. They met after France outlawed T-bone steaks and imposed a blanket ban on animal feed made from recycled cattle bones and carcasses in an effort to ease anxiety across the continent over mad cow disease.

Earlier on Wednesday Spain said it had detected its first confirmed case of mad cow disease, with the government insisting that it was an isolated case. Owen said he was sure BSE spread to Europe from Britain through infected beef and cheap meat-and-bone meal, and that the same contamination could now spread from France. Britain buys just over 5,500 tons of beef >from France, out of total imports of 147,000 tons a year.

"(Infected beef could find its way from France to England) quite obviously unless regulations are very tight. I mean the way that we handled the regulations to begin with was very lax and that might be the same in Europe," he said. "I hope...that they'll be alert to the problem and that it won't escalate to anything like our proportions, otherwise all of us are going to suffer."

On Tuesday a Times newspaper report said Prime Minister Tony Blair had been warned in a letter from his agriculture minister, Nick Brown, that there was a risk infected French beef could have made its way into the British food chain. Britain has said there is no reason to ban French beef, despite partial bans enforced by other European countries.

Scientists said a ban would be a wise measure and should, like the EU's steps, have been implemented earlier. "I have to say that I have always...suspected that there was a vast amount of BSE being hidden (in Europe)," said Ralph Blanchfield, former president of the independent Institute of Food Science and Technology.

"I think the French have introduced some better regulations than they had in the past, but the problem is exactly the same as it was here, prior to 1996. Just how effectively are they going to be able to monitor and enforce those regulations?"

He said France's policy of culling complete herds after finding a case of BSE might encourage farmers to hide the disease, and that most European countries should have acted faster. He also said scientists in Germany were worried about the disease.

"They should have moved earlier...certainly as far as the French are concerned. Now that they have woken up, they are moving fairly fast, but I suspect that moving on paper and then moving in practice with an infrastructure, traceability and enforcement and monitoring measures is going to take longer," he said. "We may be only now at the tip of the iceberg."

Experts to check French BSE controls

Thu, Nov 23, 2000 By Jon Smith, Political Editor, PA News
The UK Government has ordered the Food Standards Agency to visit France to check on assurances given about French beef, to make sure BSE contaminated meat is not passing into the food chain. Health Secretary Alan Milburn and Agriculture Minister Nick Brown told Cabinet colleagues of their decision to ask the FSA to intervene at their regular weekly meeting today.

Mr Milburn told ministers he had asked the agency "to go to France to satisfy themselves that French procedures are adequate", said a spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair. The spokesman said he expected the visit to take place "in the next few days".

He added: "As ever, the Government adopts the precautionary principle. We have set up the independent Food Standards Agency because we put the consumer first.

"This is an important issue and I think Alan Milburn and Nick Brown are going to ask the FSA to look for assurances about the stringent controls they (the French) say they have. It underlines the importance the Government gives to safety issues. Sometimes it isn't just about being given assurances, sometimes it's about satisfying yourself about those assurances."

Asked if Britain would welcome a reciprocal visit by French inspectors, the spokesman said no such request had been received. No further details of the visit have been given.

A Food Standards Agency spokesman said it had already written to the French authorities asking for details of the safeguards in place to prevent risky beef being exported to Britain. The Agency had asked for a reply within a week, he added.

Mad cow scare spreads across Europe as consumer taste for beef wanes

22 Nov 00 (AFP)
A mad cow disease scare seeped relentlessly across Europe Wednesday as Spain became the latest country hit, more cases were reported in France, Italy called for country-of-origin labeling and distraught retailers watched beef sales plummet.

The Spanish cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, were reported in the northwestern region of Galicia, Agriculture Minister Miguel Arias Canete said. The 46 cows making up the herds with which the infected animals had been in contact were slaughtered as a precaution, he said.

Six new cases of BSE were also found in France, the country's agriculture ministry said, bringing the total number of cases identified there this year to 108. France is in the throes of a growing scare over mad cow disease, which has prompted Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal to ban some imports of French beef and live cattle.

In Spain, beef consumption has dropped 15 percent in a week and prices have dropped 30 percent, according the Spanish Association of Beef Producers. In Portugal, the press reported a 50 percent fall in beef sales, mostly to the detriment of small retail butchers, and 30-40 percent reductions in supermarket sales.

After Britain, France is now the centre of fears over BSE, particularly after it was revealed last month that a batch of contaminated meat found its way onto supermarket shelves. Since then, French authorities have implemented a series of measures to improve consumer confidence and compensate farmers hit financially by the epidemic. In Brussels, the European Union's Standing Veterinary Committee (SVC) was meeting late Wednesday night on an extension of a mad cow detection program voted by EU agriculture ministers after an all-night session Monday. The agriculture council agreed a testing program beginning next January 1 of high-risk cattle over the age of 30 months. Depending on initial results, the tests could be extended to all cattle over 30 months destined for the human food chain. But the ministerial vote must be approved by the SVC, composed of the top veterinary officers of the 15 EU countries.

In France, three people are known to have contracted the human form of BSE, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), of whom two have died, but there is a rising incidence of BSE itself. In Britain, where BSE broke out in 1986 but was not officially recognised until 1996, more than 80 people have been infected with CJD, while 4.5 million head of cattle have been destroyed since the epidemic broke out with 177,000 cases of BSE reported through the end of October.

Italy has asked the European Union to approve its plans to have the origin of beef sold over the counter clearly stated on labels, Agriculture Minister Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio said. Italian cattle abattoirs have lost 70 percent of their work since the scare broke, a representative for the country's meat industry said Wednesday, as cattle farmers continued border blockades at Frejus and Ventimiglia and threatened Wendesday to extend their action to other border points to guarantee Italy's food safety.

German Agriculture Minister Karl-Heinz Funke meanwhile called for stricter madcow tests than those agreed by his EU European Union ministers, in order to detect early infection. He told the Bild newspaper:

"The rapid screening tests only give reliable positive results when the animal shows BSE symptoms or the disease is on the point of breaking out. "That's not good enough," he said. "This testing process therefore has to be urgently refined. We must get to where we can already prove BSE infection."

France, too, feels the ministerial decree was inadequate, and wants testing extended to all cattle over 30 months. That view was supported on Wednesday by Spanish farmers who criticised the measures as not going far enough. The main farmers' union, COAG, said: "They are not entirely appropriate as they do not take a firm enough stand on the crucial issues, which ought to guarantee the openness and safety for farmers and consumers." The EU "should have defined the criteria to be taken into account in considering an animal 'at risk' and the scientific criteria used to define the age an animal should undergo the test".

Germany cabinet to study ban on animal-based feed

Thu, Nov 23, 2000 Reuters World Report
Germany will propose extending a ban on meat and bone meal (MBM) in animal feed amid growing consumer fears about mad cow disease, the Agriculture Ministry said on Thursday. It is already forbidden to feed animal-based feed to ruminants, which include cows, sheep and goats but not poultry and pigs, under an EU ruling introduced in 1994.

"The purpose of this blanket ban is to make sure that no animals are fed animal-based feed," a spokeswoman for Agriculture Minister Karl-Heinz Funke said. France announced a moratorium on meat and bone meal in feedstuffs last week. The human equivalent of mad cow disease, the brain-wasting condition new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD), has killed more than 86 people in Britain and two in France.

Funke had insisted animal-based feeds were safe if they received proper heat treatment, but Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder came out in favour of a ban on Wednesday. In a statement, Funke expressed some reservations about a ban, which he said he would only support if animal-based feed was phased out gradually.

"The government must not act hastily on this matter," Funke said. "The price of protein feed rose sharply after MBMs were banned in France, and further price increases can be expected."

Peter Struck, the parliamentary party leader of the ruling Social Democrats said he had no doubt that the MBM ban would be supported at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

"I have no doubt the chancellor finds this decision correct. Funke has a slightly different position. But I believe the cabinet will pass the decision," Struck told reporters.

Germany has so far reported six cases of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), involving five cows from Britain and one from Switzerland.

Third French family to launch madcow law suit

Thu, Nov 23, 2000 Reuters World Report
The family of a Frenchman who died of the human variant of mad cow disease is following two other families in filing a law suit on poisoning and manslaughter charges, a lawyer said on Thursday.

The family of Henri Rodriguez, who died in Lyon in January 1996 at the age of 27, is the third to take legal action in France. Rodriguez was the first known case in France of new variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease (nvCJD), a deadly brain-wasting disorder which scientists have linked to the cattle disease BSE.

Families of a woman who died in February aged 36 and a 19-year-old man in the terminal stages of suspected nvCJD opened a case in a civil court in Paris last week against "persons unknown." The case could lead to formal charges against officials from France, Britain and the European Union.

The Rodriguez family first filed a law suit in October 1996, but the case was dismissed due to lack of evidence. Patrick Bauland, the family's lawyer, said he would ask a Lyon court to reopen the case next week. "Now that we have new scientific evidence, it is legitimate to relaunch the suit," Bauland told Reuters.

He said the Rodriguez family was in contact with the two families who filed suit in Paris on November 17 and hoped that the three cases would be dealt with jointly by the judicial authorities.

"We are going to carry out a joint battle together, as a tight group, and if justice is properly administered I will also ask for the reopening of the investigation in Lyon to be passed to Paris so that only one investigating magistrate's office is dealing with it," Bauland said.

France's political leaders are struggling to contain consumer panic over bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease. Last week France banned T-bone steaks and meat and bone meal in animal feed after revelations that supermarkets had been forced to clear their

McDonald's faces crisis over contaminated beef

Wed, Nov 22, 2000 COMTEX Newswire (Sunday Business/KRTBN) By Catherine Wheatley
McDonald's famous golden arches have become a beacon for burger addicts around the world, but now the company faces a consumer backlash as fears about contaminated beef spread throughout Europe.

Growing panic that French beef could be infected with BSE has caused sales to slump in France and in Italy, where a significant proportion of the consumer giant's burgers are supplied by Gallic farmers. In France, McDonald's has confirmed that overall turnover has fallen by around 10 percent since it emerged that domestic meat could be infected with mad cow disease, although beefburger sales are thought to have fallen by as much as 40 percent .

The company's Italian headquarters refused to admit that trade had been hit, but judging by the absence of queues at McDonald's outlets in central Milan -- where lunchtime customers were served almost immediately instead of having to wait a more typical 10 minutes -- the crisis is starting to bite.

In Germany, where the government is weighing whether to join Italy in banning French beef, the company's spokeswoman says the scare has prompted McDonald's to "watch the market", although she declined to provide any information on sales for the year.

In fact, throughout Europe the company is reluctant to reveal the full extent of BSE's impact: the national offices in Belgium, Italy, Germany, Spain and Russia all refused to disclose their latest domestic sales figures.

The company will, however, confirm that some consumers are switching away from beefburgers. "We are noticing a shift in demand from beef to chicken, particularly in Happy Meals," admits Alessandra di Montezemolo, McDonald's European head of communications. "Many schools don't serve beef any more so children eat less of it and have less of a taste for it. We don't know how this situation is going to evolve."

Stockwatchers believe that long-term concerns over the safety of beef could force the company to reassess both trends in demand and sources of supply. Like GM food, whether McDonald's is safe to eat could well become less relevant than whether consumers are prepared to accept what large corporations would have them believe.

"It's certainly an issue and it's something the company has to face, but ultimately McDonald's can get through it," says Patrick Schumann, a US analyst at Edward Jones. Shares in the company, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, were less affected by the crisis than European sales, remaining steady at around UKpound 33 throughout the week.

However, four years ago, when former health secretary Stephen Dorrell told the House of Commons that the human form of mad cow disease may have been caused by eating infected meat in the 1980s, and that all cattle over 30 months old would be slaughtered, the British backlash against McDonald's beef products was immediate and powerful.

In the five days after the announcement, total UK sales fell by 15 percent and the company was forced to withdraw 60 percent of its menu range until alternative suppliers could be found. Demand recovered five days later when stores were restocked with beef from other countries.

At that time, McDonald's UK acquired 50 percent of its beef from British farms and the remainder from other European countries including Germany, France and Holland. McDonald's policy is to use domestic meat supplies wherever possible, but today around 70 percent of its beef comes from the UK and the remainder from Ireland.

In France and Italy last week, the company's reaction to the crisis had been to insist that its products are safe to eat, even though the Italian government has banned imports of French meat and foreign animal feed and taken red meat off school menus.

McDonald's, which added 1,773 restaurants to its total of more than 28, 000 around the world in the first nine months of the year, uses no mechanically-recovered meat and carefully monitors its supply chain. The meat contains no offal and comes from the front quarters of milk cows or young bovines, neither of which eat feed containing animal protein.

Meanwhile, consumers throughout France are breaking ingrained habits and avoiding red meat, while in Italy concern verging on hysteria has spread quickly among Italian shoppers. Vincenzo Cremonini, chief executive of Inalca, which supplies McDonald's in Italy, Greece and Cyprus, confirms that meat sales at Italian supermarkets plunged by between 40 percent and 50 percent last week while those at independent butchers were down by 30 percent . Catering and restaurant outlets, the category which includes McDonald's, saw less significant falls of between 10 percent and 15 percent .

In Germany, the beef panic has so far been contained, but in that country McDonald's is facing other food safety issues. Following Greenpeace protests over the use of GM chicken feed, the company has agreed to eliminate from the menu all poultry that has consumed such material by April. According to the company's HQ in Illinois, the German group has played a large role in flat European revenues and increased pressure on margins in the first half of the year.

On 2 November, Russia introduced a ban on beef imports from seven regions of France and here, too, sales are thought to be in decline, although economic rather than health issues are probably responsible.

McDonald's outlet in Pushkin Square, the world's largest branch, attracted queues longer than those outside Lenin's mausoleum when it opened in 1990. Ten years ago the unit served approximately twice as many customers per day as the 15,000-20,000 it attracts today.

As the crisis in Europe continues, McDonald's is sticking to its guns and refusing to change suppliers. Its only nod to public concern has been a two-week corporate advertising campaign in France, adapted to address the quality issue and ending with the line: "The only ingredients we add are salt and pepper."

"What is safe to eat?" consumers ask amid BSE scare

Wed, Nov 22, 2000 Reuters
European consumers, hit by another food scare over mad cow disease, may face a dilemma as they enter supermarkets to buy their weekly food and ask: what is safe to eat?

For many Britons the list of "safe" choices has been whittled away by scares over salmonella in eggs, E.coli in cooked meats and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle and maybe also in sheep.

Fruit and vegetables have been hit by news that they may be covered in so-called pesticide cocktails, and as for pasta -- it may be made out of genetically modified wheat.

So what is on or off the menu in Europe?

Britain -- BSE first struck British herds in 1986 and claimed its first human victim 10 years later. More than 86 people have died from new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD) and Britain registered over 1,000 cases of BSE in cattle this year.

France -- France has banned the sale of T-bone steaks and animal feed made from ground-up cattle after a rise in the number of BSE cases. Two people have died of nvCJD. Spain -- Spain said it had detected the first case of BSE, but officials added they were treating it as an isolated case. European Union -- Farm ministers agreed to test far more animals for BSE.

Pork and poultry may contain highly resistant "superbugs" due to the overuse of antibiotics in animals.

Belgium -- Italian police in June seized some 10,000 imported raw Belgian hams suspected of being contaminated with dioxins. Belgium found carcinogenic dioxin had entered the food chain last year through animal feed.

Britain -- More than 30,000 pigs have been slaughtered in Britain to prevent the spread of swine fever, which is not dangerous to humans but can wipe out pig populations.

Britain -- The advisory Food Standards Agency, called last month for urgent screening of sheep to check whether they had been infected with BSE. Government officials said there was no evidence that the disease had infected sheep.

Britain -- In the late 1990s, surveys found there was a spread among chickens of campylobacter, a bacteria which can cause infection and sometimes paralysis. Other earlier figures said over 50 percent of chicken on sale in Britain had salmonella or campylobacter pathogens.

France -- Last month, French officials said 23 tonnes of duck confit, cooked duck meat preserved in its own fat, turned out to be rotten in a routine inspection last year.

Britain -- The Food Standards Agency has said that almost two percent of 2,500 samples of food, including potatoes, pears and lettuce, had pesticide residues over the legal limit.

Britain -- High-fibre bread can contain pesticide residues because they tend to collect in the outer layers of the grain.

Welsh lamb producers report European sales loss

Wed, Nov 22, 2000 COMTEX Newswire By BridgeNews London
Sales of lightweight Welsh lamb to southern Europe have fallen in recent weeks, amid rising concern on the theoretical risk of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or mad cow disease in sheep.

"We haven't got quantifiable numbers yet, but we started to notice a fall in sales around two weeks ago," Don Thomas, managing director of Welsh Beef and Lamb Promotions, said Wednesday. Thomas reported lost orders from Spain, Italy and Greece, where WBLP has developed significant markets, which he said were possibly a knee-jerk reaction to reports about on the possible BSE risk in sheep.

He called for a pan-European approach to regulation of the meat industry. "There is a lack of information, which is the main driver behind this decline, hopefully we can put our point across about the high standards of regulation and traceability of our meat."

Europe's shoppers question beef amid mad cow crisis

Thu, Nov 23, 2000  By Elizabeth Piper Reuters Business Report
The French and Italians are shunning it, Britain has become numb to it, while the Dutch and the Germans have yet to make up their minds.

Consumer fears aroused by Europe's latest mad cow crisis are rippling out across the region from France, where beef sales have been halved since major supermarkets said last month they might have sold potentially tainted meat.

French industry officials said the crisis was deeper than in 1996, when a link was first established between BSE, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, and its deadly human equivalent. Then sales in France dropped by 27 percent but shoppers still bought organic-style beef, turning to cattle which had not been fed with meal made up of crushed carcasses. This time, all beef is off the menu.

"Today, not single animal is leaving my farm. Abattoirs have slowed down their activity, nobody wants meat," said Guillaume Forzy, who feeds cows with a mixture of beet pulp and dessicated alfalfa of guaranteed origin. "There is really a psychosis in France, not even quality work is recognised anymore," Forzy told Reuters.

European pork and poultry producers were awaiting a repeat of the rush for white meats seen during the last scare, but a spokesman at France's national bovine federation FNB said he feared consumers may abandon meat altogether. "In 1996, during the previous crisis, there was a lesser effect on those who took steps to give consumers additional quality guarantees," the spokesman said. "It is probable that these meats will be more in demand by consumers, as was the case in 1996. But I am not certain of it."

In Italy, poultry and pork was the order of the day. "Italian consumption of beef has slumped and demand for other meats such as poultry and pork is rising," said Paolo Falcioni, an analyst at Italian farmers group Coldiretti. He said consumers were choosing beef from cattle fed on vegetable proteins and buying local meats after Italy banned imports of French cattle aged over 18 months.

In Germany, sales of organic beef have grown since the last BSE scandal, but beef prices prices remained stable. "My sales have risen by five percent since the latest BSE scandal came to light at the end of October," said specialist cattle farmer Hans-Joachim Huhn, who sells speciality beef from his farm directly to customers.

"Demand for organic beef has been strong ever since the BSE scandal broke in 1986. In 1986 I sold just two cattle, but this year I've sold twelve," said Huhn, who is also the deputy managing director of the federation of specialist cattle farmers (Bundesverband der Gallowayzuechter).

Dutch organic farmers were also hoping for a boost, but as yet consumers had only just started pushing beef prices down. "They're (organic farmers) hoping they will profit from this situation but it is too early to tell. The publicity so far in Holland has been quite calm, quite reassuring," Paul Wester, a market analyst at the Dutch Product Board, said. "I don't think consumers have changed their attitude very much towards organic meat but I don't think this story has come to an end. There will be more publicity in the coming weeks and months."

Consumers in Britain already know how long the BSE story can continue. BSE hit the country in 1986, devastating the beef industry and leading to the deaths of over 80 people. This year, Britain has recorded almost 1,000 cases. A spokesman at the government's Meat and Livestock Commission said there was no evidence so far of consumers now shunning beef amid the latest crisis as they had faith in the British product.

"We do have people working at the supermarkets all the time, and so far there isn't even any anecdotal evidence (of consumers shunning beef)," he said. "Basically it's like this, if you're buying some beef and it's got the British mark on it, then it's British meat. So what is there to worry about?"

Food Standards Agency acts on BSE loopholes

23 November 2000 Food Standards Agency press 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.

Vermont sheep owners find they are not alone

November 21, 2000 Vermont Times Argus By Robin Palmer 
In January, Fairburn Farm owners Darrel and Anthea Archer of Vancouver Island, Canada, imported 19 water buffalo from Denmark with the approval of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The Archers' goal was to make gourmet cheeses with the purebred river water buffalo milk, which is high in butterfat.

A month later a Danish dairy cow died of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as mad cow disease, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) contacted the Archers saying their imported water buffalo must be kept quarantined. In September, the Archers were served with notice to remove their water buffalo from Canada before a Sept. 15 deadline.

Since then the Archers have gone back and forth with the CFIA, obtaining extensions, fighting to keep the animals the couple thought would be a new industry for the country and have launched The water buffalo remain quarantined and their future remains uncertain.

Sound familiar? To East Warren sheep farmers Larry and Linda Faillace the story could not be more familiar. The Faillaces and a second Vermont sheep owner, Houghton Freeman, have been battling with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for two years over the fate of their East Friesian sheep, which the two farmers imported from Belgium in 1996 for their remarkable milk production with the goal of making gourmet cheese.

Since 1998, the animals have been under quarantine on the two farms. In July, the USDA ordered the animals seized and destroyed through an emergency declaration signed by Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman after four animals from Freeman's Greensboro farm allegedly tested positive for transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE), which includes BSE.

Trying to fight the USDA in court to keep their beloved sheep, the Faillaces have been overwhelmed with support from the local community. A recent Save Our Sheep fund raiser gathered $1,500 from 200 attendees. But in recent months, others, like the Archers in Canada, are calling the Faillaces to share stories of animal seizures and governmental battles.

"People are finally starting to speak out," said Linda Faillace on Monday. "This is something that we were afraid about. It's spreading," Faillace said.

On Saturday, Alberta, Canada, resident Lillian Chileen called the Faillaces. The Pickardville, Alberta, sheep farmer told Faillace that the Canadian government was trying to take her prized ram, imported from Denmark in 1994 and used for breeding sheep, whose offspring are sold for breeding stock and meat. Named Dagan, after the god of agriculture, the ram came to Canada with 40 others in September 1994. Between 1992 and 1994, a total of 97 sheep were imported to Canada from Denmark by Tom and Bertha Eggerston, Chileen said.

Chileen, and her husband Edwin, paid $4,000 for Dagan. The Canadian government is offering Chileen's Texel Sheep Farm $600 for the animal.

"Our ram is healthy. He's doing his job. He's making us income here," Chileen said. "They're really doing damage to our livestock by taking him away. "I'm trying to fight to save my ram's life," she said of Dagan, who is treated more like a family pet than a farm animal. "If he gets destroyed later down the road, I want to know the truth and I want to know why, why they're doing this."

The why, says Linda Faillace, is pressure from the USDA. "They're going after more sheep and there's no case of mad cow disease in sheep anywhere in the world," Faillace said. "The way it appears is Ag Canada is getting pressure from the USDA."

"It is very obvious that it's a political situation, it's not an animal situation," agreed water buffalo farmer Anthea Archer, who noted that the disease has also never been found in water buffalo. "We have to wonder why we're following a similar pattern to those in the United States. "I know there's a safety issue and we completely agree with that," Archer continued. "But I think they have to justify, whether it's our water buffalo or the Faillaces' sheep, that an actual problem exists."

But CFIA Deputy Director of Animal Health and Production Dr. Claude Lavigne said, while the cases are similar, Canada is not being pressured by the USDA. [Really? -- USDA has reportedly threatened to shut down beef imports from Canada unless they hunt down and kill all imported animals. -- webmaster]

"The principals are all the same here. Denmark is now considered a country infected with BSE, and our policy is we do not import from countries infected with BSE," said Lavigne, who was familiar with the Archers' case, but was not aware that imported sheep were being killed in Canada. "Our policy is to order these animals removed from the country. "We don't need encouragement from the USDA to do that, this is our policy," Lavigne said.

Mad Cow hotline rings off the hook in France

Thu, Nov 23, 2000 Reuters World Report  By Bernard Edinger
"Your cat ate cattlefeed? Are you sure it was cattlefeed?" "No, don't worry, there's no risk if you eat pork." "Yes, of course your call is confidential. We won't divulge anything you tell us."

More than 3,000 times a day, worried, sometimes hysterical, French consumers are phoning a hotline set up to try to soothe public fears over mad cow disease.

The hotline opened on Sunday amid a national panic sparked by a supermarket chain's warning to consumers last month that it had unwittingly sold meat from a herd in which a cow was found to have had bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

Some of those staffing the toll-free hotline, run by a telephone sales company for the Agriculture Ministry, are medical students earning extra money. But none of them knew much, if anything at all, about the disease before the service took off.

Armed with a 24-page document they refer to as "the Bible," which lists the most common questions and simple, understandable answers, the staff are doing a commendable job according to their employers.

The telephone operators involved are used to handling a telephone opinion poll one week and answering public queries about consumer products the next. "The last people in the world we would seek to employ are real specialists," said Stephanie Raynaud of Euro RSCG Corporate, the public relations firm advising authorities in the campaign.

"We spoke to the Agriculture Ministry and it was a real problem getting them to give us simple quick answers the public would understand and which were not steeped in scientific jargon."

Raynaud spoke in a stifling hot room in an anonymous Parisian suburban office building where ranks of operators with headphones sat shoulder to shoulder answering a steady stream of calls precipitated by full-page ads for the hotline in major newspapers.

Pinned on the walls in bold letters were basic guidelines like: "If you don't have an answer, always use a positive tone, jot down the question and say a technician will call them back." "Reply 'Your remark is very astute, I will pass it on,' when the conversation is going around in circles," is another tip.

"These people know their job. They know exactly what tone to use and what pitfalls to avoid. They are always exceedingly polite," said Anne-Catherine, a 29-year-old supervisor who listens in on calls to her colleagues to give advice if needed.

About three-quarters of calls are inquiries about what is safe to eat including many from worried mothers who want to know about baby foods.

According to The "Bible," the answer is: "All the precautions taken by authorities obviously also concern specially prepared baby foods. In the same way as any 'risk' components have been withdrawn from the market, so too of course have they been banned from baby foods."

Hong Kong beef lover dies from human form of mad-cow disease

Thu, Nov 23, 2000 Kyodo World Service
A Hong Kong man has died of the human form of mad-cow disease, the government confirmed Thursday. The deceased, a 45-year-old construction worker, died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), an incurable brain-wasting disease, late last month in the North District Hospital, the Hospital Authority and the Department of Health said in a joint statement. "

The patient...was clinically diagnosed as having classical CJD, not a new variant of CJD. The cause of the majority of CJD remains unknown," the statement said.

The new variant of CJD, thought to be linked to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad-cow disease, has killed more than 85 people in Britain and two in France.

Currently hit by BSE, France has outlawed the sale of T-bone steaks and the use of ground-up cattle, meat and bonemeal in all animal feed. Spain reported its first cases of BSE on Wednesday, causing fear Europe could be facing an outbreak of the disease.

The Hong Kong government said Thursday so far no cases of the new variant of CJD have been reported in the territory. All 18 reported cases of CJD since April 1996 are classical ones, the government said.

But some citizens said they will cut down on beef consumption while butchers indicated their businesses have been affected, a local television news program reported Thursday. The Oriental Daily News on Thursday quoted the wife of the deceased in the case last month as saying her husband was "a beef lover" and had begun to feel unwell in June.

The government explained CJD is a very rare degenerative brain disease, about one case of CJD occurs per one million population per year with a worldwide distribution. In other countries, there are a small number of patients with an inherited form of the disease or who acquired the disease after using human-derived growth hormone or contaminated neurosurgical instruments, the government added.

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