Prion Disease: Bogus BSE in Brazil
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Bogus BSE in Brazil?
Going global: resurgence of disease in Europe raises concerns in U.S.
Might Canada have a wee bit of import risk itself?
US exported live scrapie to Brazil shortly before banning Brazilian beef
DoD says troops in Europe safe from Mad Cow
70 countries named by the British as bone meal importers
nvCJD soaring: 6 new cases, 6 more suspected
First Spanish nvCJD case?
Appeal filed in Vermont sheep case
Mad cow risk strikes fear down on ranch
Mamba chewy candy and Texas feed lot: the follow-up

Brazil: mad cow threat or trade war trashing?

05 Feb 01 By Phil Stewart Reuters
The timing alone is suspicious. Just one day after Canada failed to win a fresh World Trade Organization review of Brazil's aircraft subsidy program, it announced Friday that mad cow fears justify a temporary ban on Brazilian beef imports.

The move was unprecedented. Brazil, home to the world's biggest cattle herd, has never had a case of mad cow disease. Yet it not only lost the Canadian market, but also the U.S. and Mexican markets since Canada's decision applied to the entire NAFTA trade bloc.

Now the big question on everybody's mind is whether Brazil is truly a threat to food safety -- as Canada contends -- or if this is merely the first shot in a trade war between the two countries.

"Canada is highly suspect. Had trade relations with Brazil been better, Canada would never have taken this line of action," said political analyst Andre Pereira Cesar.

Canada's official line is that Brazil was too slow in passing on information on the country's 160 million head of cattle. Canada, on behalf of NAFTA, asked for the documents in May 1998 -- and only received them after it informed Brazil of the ban last week. The lack of information, Canada argued, was enough of a health risk to merit a temporary ban.

But in the background is a seething feud between Brazil and Canada over aircraft subsidies. Canada has already won the right from the WTO to impose sanctions of $233.5 million a year on Brazil over its ProEx aircraft export subsidy program.

Canada alleges ProEx has unfairly helped Brazil's top civilian aircraft manufacturer, Embraer , and robbed sales from Canada's Bombardier Inc. Canada has repeatedly stressed that the ban on Brazilian beef has nothing to do with the subsidy dispute. But Brazilian officials see things very differently.

On Monday, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Lafer issued a statement threatening it would respond if Canada did not not reverse its decision. Brazil exports $5.5 million in processed beef to Canada annually, and some $82.5 million to the U.S.

"If Canada persists in acts that effectively damage Brazil's foreign trade, the Brazilian government reserves the right to take measures it judges convenient," Lafer said, without elaborating. Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Marcus Vinicius Pratini de Moraes extended his stay in the United States to appeal to officials in Washington on Monday -- bypassing Canada entirely.

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture's representatives in Brazil, the South American country's cattle seem just fine. "We've done a preliminary review of the information and there doesn't appear to be any problem," said William Westman, chief Brazil counselor for the USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) at the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia. "From what we've seen from the preliminary results, there's not an issue here."

Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), has led to more than 80 deaths in humans and many scientists believe that people who catch the illness do so because they ate BSE-infected beef. Mad cow has never been reported in the U.S. or in Brazil.

Diplomatic sources in Brasilia said they expect NAFTA nations to scrap the ban on Brazil within six to eight weeks -- the standard review period for phytosanitary reports. But no doubt, damage has already been done. Trade relations between the two countries have clearly worsened -- making a trade war that much more likely. In this environment, the chances of the Bush Administration laying the groundwork for a Free Trade Area of the Americas stretching from Alaska to Argentina are that much more bleak.

Brazil decries beef ban

February 5, 2001 By ADALID CABRERA LEMUZ, Associated Press
Brazil on Monday invited foreign experts to inspect its cattle herds for signs of mad cow disease and insisted there's no reason for a ban on Brazilian beef imports imposed by the United States and other countries.

Brazilian cattle feed in pastures and not on ground cattle parts that have been blamed for spreading the disease in European countries, said Farm Defense Secretary Luiz Carlos de Oliveira. Brazil "is willing to open its borders to allow sanitary specialists to verify that there is not the slightest risk of contamination," he said.

Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Marcus Vinicius Pratini de Moraes was in Washington to push for a suspension of the ban on imports of Brazilian beef products. He was to meet with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman and offer data showing that Brazil is free of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease...

"We're concerned about the domino effect that the U.S. ban could have on Brazilian beef imports in other markets," local news agency Agencia Estado quoted Pratini as saying.

On Friday, Canada suspended Brazilian beef imports until the risk of mad cow was fully assessed. The United States and Mexico quickly followed suit. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said the ban was a precautionary step and there is no evidence mad cow disease has infected Brazilian cattle.

Still, the ban could hurt Brazil's exports just as the country is striving to improve its trade balance. The United States imported some $82 million in processed meat from Brazil last year and Canada purchased $5.5 million, the Agriculture Ministry said. Together, the two countries account for about 10 percent of Brazil's beef exports.

Opinion (webmaster): Canada's action, quickly followed by the US and Mexico, may have opened up a whole new era in BSE, whereby countries deliberately trash each other's cattle industry for unrelated tariff retaliation purposes.

TSEs are diseases believed by many scientists to occur roughly at a one in a million rate per year in all species of mammals due to de novo mutation. Short of knocking out the prion gene with genetic engineering, a background rate of one per million cows of BSE is unavoidable, just like background radioactivity from potassium-40 in rocks. This would be true even of a strictly grass and soy fed animal -- cow cannabalism is strictly an amplification mechansim, not an origination. The strains of BSE arising in this manner would not necessarily resemble British BSE in their properties. The risks to humans from these strains, if any, are unknown. However, health risks cannot be catastrophic because CJD remains a fairly rare disease, even allowing for under-reporting, and the fact that cattle were domesticated millenia ago.

Putting the shoe on the other foot, what if -- in a flurry of worldwide press releases -- Pitcairn Island, with Namibia and Tajikistan joining in, abruptly outlawed Canadian beef products because of alleged BSE risks. After all, unlike Brazil, Canada has reported a confirmed case of BSE (December 1993 cow in Alberta imported from UK in 1987), fails to use the Prionics gold standard surveillance test, and was a member of the Group of 70 countries on the receiving end of British meat and bone meal exports. (Canada imported 125 tons, the US 20 tons, Brazil zero, according to Her Majesty's Excise and Custom table published by the Sunday London Times on 5 Feb 01 -- see below.)

Canada would no doubt be mighty annoyed at Pitcairn Island.

Food fights are different than tariffs on airline parts: the aspersions cast linger on long after the event. Many people hear the initial story but not the followup clarification. Garbage can circulate for years on chat rooms. Canada could have substantive reasons for banning Brazilian beef that they have not yet disclosed: these need to be disclosed. Yes, Canada is following the precautionary form (extreme version): Brazil may indeed have non-zero risk -- but what country has been totally spared?

Now while most of the world frets over containment of the globalization of both BSE and its accompaning nvCJD, other elements have long seen a profiteering opportunity. For every country where domestic producers are hurt, there is another country that benefits. For example, USDA's Glickman was quick to publicly assure the British at the height of their troubles of the continuing availability of US beef.

However, innuendo, if that is all it is, of a developing country that just happens to have the world's largest beef herd that Mexico and the US endorsed this week is an unwelcome escalation that serves no one. Where is this going to end -- with the global consumer not trusting anyone's beef?

South Korean officials move to calm fears about mad-cow disease

February 5, 2001 The Associated Press
Officials moved quickly Monday to calm public fears about mad-cow disease after announcing that 275 cattle were fed with leftover food that included animal meat and bones.

The government planned to test the cattle, but an official at the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry insisted there was no chance the animals had been infected because the meat was from South Korea - which has had no reported cases of mad-cow disease. "Our country has been free of the mad-cow disease, so simply feeding leftover food does not cause the disease," said Lee Sang-joon.

Mad-cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is believed to spread by recycling meat and bone meal from infected animals back into cattle feed. Humans who eat infected meat are feared at risk of getting an equally fatal variant of the brain-wasting disease.

The ministry said 275 cattle had been fed leftover food from local restaurants which included meat and bones for more than a year starting in 1999. Seoul's JoongAng Ilbo newspaper had reported in its Monday edition that around 300 cattle had been fed meat and it quoted experts saying such cattle should be quarantined or slaughtered as a preventive measure.

South Korea's government has obligated all traders importing animal feed and canned food stuffs to South Korea to attach a certificate guaranteeing that their product does not include any cow parts that came from European nations. South Korea currently bans importing cow-related products from 30 European nations, including the 15 European Union members.

South Koreans have been wary of mad-cow disease after reports said last week that a 30-year-old man was suspected of suffering from the variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Government doctors said that they found no evidence that the man suffered from it, but they said they must conduct further tests to be absolutely sure. The patient's family was refusing such tests, however.

Mad-cow disease was first detected in Britain in the late 1980s. A growing number of cases have been reported in European nations. Since the mid-1990s, about 100 Europeans, most of them Britons, have died of the variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, possibly after eating infected beef.

FAO: Countries around the world should be concerned about mad cow disease

 01/03 UN Agriculture and Food Organization Press Release
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today has urged countries around the world, not just those in Western Europe, to be concerned about the risk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and its human form, the new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD). In a statement issued in Rome, FAO called for action to protect the human population, as well as the livestock, feed and meat industries.

"There is an increasingly grave situation developing in the European Union, with BSE being identified in cattle in several member states of the EU which have, until recently, been regarded as free from the disease", FAO said. "Confirmed and suspected cases of nvCJD are occurring in people outside the UK, in various member states. More research needs to be conducted into the nature of the agent and its modes of transmission. Much remains unknown about the disease and the infective agent. There is currently no method of diagnosis at early stages of infection and no cure for the disease, neither in animals nor in humans."

All countries which have imported cattle or meat and bone meal (MBM) from Western Europe, especially the UK, during and since the 1980s, can be considered at risk from the disease, according to the UN agency. Several countries have imported large quantities of MBM in the recent past.

FAO said it supports the EU's action and considers "that there is an urgent need to refine the risk assessment and to extend it to other countries and regions. Countries at risk should implement effective surveillance for BSE in cattle and controls on the animal feed and meat industries. At present, this means: laboratory testing of samples from slaughtered cattle, and correct disposal of fallen stock and improved processing of offals and by-products".

Within countries, FAO recommended applying the so-called Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point system (HACCP) which aims at identifying potential problems and taking corrective measures throughout the food chain. Some of the issues include the production of animal feed, the raw materials used, cross-contamination in the feed mill, labelling of manufactured feeds, the feed transport system, as well as monitoring imported live animals, slaughtering methods, the rendering industry and the disposal of waste materials.

"Strict controls have been implemented in the United Kingdom and are now being implemented in the rest of the EU," FAO said. "Countries outside the EU should adopt appropriate measures to protect their herds and to ensure the safety of meat and meat products. Legislation to control the industry and its effective implementation is required, including capacity building and the training of operatives and government officials."

FAO advised countries to adopt a precautionary approach. As an immediate measure, countries which have imported animals and MBM from BSE-infected trading partners should consider a precautionary ban on the feeding of MBM to ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats) or, to reduce the risk of infection even further, to all animals. Attention should be paid to slaughtering procedures and to the processing and use of offal and by-product parts, FAO said. The rendering industry should be scrutinised and appropriate procedures adopted everywhere.

FAO, together with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Organisation Internationale des Epizooties (OIE), will hold an expert consultation in the near future to draw up advice for countries, particularly developing countries, to protect their people from nvCJD, their livestock from BSE, and their industries from trade restrictions and their repercussions....

Agencies face uphill battle to keep United States free of BSE

25 January 2001 Nature 409, 441 - 442 (2001) MEREDITH WADMAN 
US government agencies are confronting a tough test of their much-vaunted ability to maintain a safe food supply, as they scramble to block possible paths for the entry of mad cow disease into the United States. Their latest action is to extend a ban on blood donors from European countries.

Until late last year the disease, more properly known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), was thought to be largely confined to the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Ireland. In the United Kingdom, more than 80 people have died from variant Creutzfeldt­ Jakob disease (vCJD), an analogous human disease presumed to be contracted by eating infected cattle.

But the BSE panic is fanning out across Europe, with Italy the latest country to succumb (see next article). Its implications are registering with the American public for the first time, putting intense pressure on agencies charged with protecting food safety. These, primarily the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), confront a challenge that is logistically complex, politically delicate and scientifically uncertain.

"The FDA and USDA face a tough balancing act against a frightening, little-known enemy. It's as tough as any [challenge] in the last decade," says Arthur Caplan, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Bioethics. He chairs a committee that advises the Department of Health and Human Services, the FDA's parent agency, on blood safety.

An FDA advisory committee last week recommended extending a ban on blood donors to include people who have, since 1980, spent ten years in France, Portugal or the Republic of Ireland. Previously, the 1999 ban had applied only to those who had spent six months or more in the United Kingdom between 1980 and 1996.

It is not known whether the disease can be spread through blood transfusion, although the epidemiological evidence so far makes this unlikely. But, says Paul Brown, chair of the advisory committee and director of the Laboratory of Central Nervous System Studies at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, "the committee chose a compromise conservative position. They are assuming there's a significant potential risk of exposure in Europe."

The committee had been pressed unsuccessfully by the US Red Cross and others to bar donors who had spent less than six months in the United Kingdom and to extend the ban to the whole of Europe.

BSE and vCJD are caused by abnormally shaped brain proteins or prions. These cause neurological deterioration, leading to dementia, uncontrolled movement and rapid death. There is no diagnostic test for the diseases, which are confirmed by microscopic examination of the brain after death.

No cases of BSE or vCJD have been diagnosed in the United States, according to the USDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The USDA has examined the brains of 11,900 cattle in the past decade.

"Currently we are free of mad cow disease in cows and variant CJD in humans. Every possible effort must be expended to keep us in that category," says Sidney Wolfe, who heads the consumer watchdog Public Citizen Health Research Group in Washington DC.

Regulation of the many routes by which BSE might enter the United States is complex. The FDA monitors animal feed, blood products, vaccines and dietary supplements. The USDA is responsible for safety of meat and the health of 900 million US cattle.

"If we get BSE in this country, our cattle industry goes down the tubes," says Jim Rogers, a spokesman for the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

The FDA has no power to stop the manufacturers of dietary supplements using processed cow parts, including brain, in their products. Similarly, a USDA import ban on bovine tissues applies only if they are destined for use in food and medical products, not if they are to become dietary supplements. One nationally distributed supplement lists 17 bovine organs, including brain, as ingredients.

The United States has not imported British beef since 1985, and it banned imports of live cows from BSE-affected countries in 1989. But a recent report by a scientific advisory panel to the European Union says that tonnes of high-risk European beef products are shipped to the United States annually. They include gelatin, collagen, semen and albumin, and are used in products including cosmetics and vaccines. (In December, the FDA forbade US drug-makers to use bovine serum from BSE-affected countries in certain vaccines, but vaccines produced before the ban are still in use.)

Besides the loopholes for exports, measures to protect the US herd are sometimes disregarded. BSE is believed to have spread through the practice, now prohibited, of using cow and sheep parts in cattle feed. The FDA announced on 10 January that hundreds of US feed producers are not complying with 1997 regulations enforcing the ban.

Beyond the challenge of enforcing current regulations, the US agencies need to examine how to plug loopholes, and to determine the best way to spend limited resources fighting a dimly understood enemy. How much effort should be spent in developing a screening test for the diseases or finding a treatment, or on blocking any imported or home-grown vehicle that might spread the diseases?

Deer and elk herds in the western United States, for instance, are being afflicted in growing numbers with an analogous ailment called chronic wasting disease. Last week, the committee that extended the blood-donor ban was asked to consider if and how blood donations from people exposed to these deer and elk should be restricted. It decided there were not yet enough data to implement restrictions on them.

All of these issues "get into foreign policy questions, trade issues, regulation of hunters, which Americans hate. These are all politically tricky," says Caplan.

At the advisory committee meeting last week, scientists complained of the lack of data on which to base their decisions ‹ including the future curve of the epidemic in Europe, and the risk of exposure in other European countries compared with the United Kingdom. "These decisions . . . are really guesses," said Stanley Prusiner, who won a Nobel prize in 1997 for discovering prions and elucidating how they cause disease.

Resurgence of disease in Europe raises health and financial concerns in U.S.

February 4, 2001 By JOHN DILLON Rutland Herald
Vicki Soukup saw her mother-in-law metamorphose in weeks from a proper, British-born woman of taste and grace to a bewildered invalid who no longer recognized her own family.

The disease struck like Alzheimer's in fast-forward. Her mother-in-law grew confused and agitated and then quickly declined as her brain became riddled with microscopic holes. Over one weekend, the young-looking and active 75-year-old "lost the ability to toilet herself, bathe herself; she lost all orientation with reality,"

Vicki Soukup recalled. "... Her mind just got fried."

Joyce Soukup died on Nov. 18, 1998, about five months after she became ill. Her death was a blessing of sorts, since it ended her horrible suffering. Now Vicki Soukup, who lives near Cleveland, Ohio, is left with many unanswered questions.

How did her mother-in-law contract this brain disease? Was it mad cow disease, contracted by eating infected meat when she lived in and later returned to visit England, where the mysterious brain-wasting sickness originated? Soukup questions whether U.S. health officials have overlooked cases of the disease in this country. And she asks if government agencies are vigilant enough to stop its spread in the United States.

"We need to do more research, get it identified, get more people to understand it's out there," she said.

After four years when the number of cases remained virtually unchanged, mad cow disease is again marching through the United Kingdom and across the European continent, decimating the beef industry in several countries and dashing hopes that the epidemic first seen in the 1980s had peaked.

American health officials have taken strong measures to make sure the disease does not cross the Atlantic. Most experts agree that the risk for U.S. cattle and consumers remains extremely low. Yet recent precautions may already be too late.

The disease is going global, spread by international trade and the bizarre practice of turning plant-eating cattle into carnivores by feeding rendered animal protein back to bovines. And the United States for years allowed a host of questionable food safety practices that could allow it to spread here, critics say.

Sheldon Rampton, a Madison, Wis., researcher and co-author of the book "Mad Cow USA: Can the Nightmare Happen Here?", has followed mad cow disease for over a decade, long before the bizarre illness dominated headlines in Europe and at home. He said government regulations designed to prevent the spread of the disease are not being followed.

"If they continue the lax policies with regard to feeding rendered animal products to other animals, they are just leaving the door wide open to an outbreak in this country, as they have seen in Europe."

In the past few months, infected animals were found in Austria, in Spain and at an Italian slaughterhouse that supplies the McDonald's fast food chain. Belgium has acknowledged 21 cases. And Germany, long proud of its safety measures to avoid the contagion, was shocked by its first case in November and has since uncovered more than a dozen infected animals. As the beef industry evaporates and consumers shun sausage and steak tartare, some restaurants on the continent post signs announcing that only U.S. beef is served.

Halting the outbreak will be costly, not just for meat packers and farmers, but for European taxpayers as well. The cost of containing the disease and compensating farmers could reach $20 billion, BusinessWeek magazine recently estimated.

If the disease took hold in the United States, the financial - and potential public health - impact would be even greater. Bovine products are used for food, but also for pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, lubricants and other products. The beef industry is the largest sector of the U.S. agricultural economy and a pillar of American trade. Any hint that mad cow had surfaced here could send the industry into a tailspin.

Big money is at stake. And so are human lives. An advisory committee to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last month responded to the outbreak in Europe and recommended banning blood donations from people who had lived 10 years or more in France, Ireland or Portugal. People who lived in Britain for six months or more from 1980 to 1996 are already banned from giving blood. No one knows if the human version of mad cow disease could be spread by transfusions, but animal studies suggest it might. The disease can strike decades after exposure, and the government and non-profit blood centers are taking no chances.

It's better to limit blood donations now "than to look back five years from now and say this is what we should have done," said Carol Dembeck, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross blood center in Burlington.

The U.S. government says mad cow disease - which can spread to people who eat infected animals - is not found in this country. The recommendation to protect the domestic blood supply is one of many preventive steps taken by U.S. officials, measures that have included the planned slaughter of two flocks of Vermont sheep. The owners, Houghton Freeman of Stowe and Linda and Larry Faillace of Warren, have fought a government seizure order in court. The decision now rests with U.S. District Judge J. Garvan Murtha.

The sheep case is an example of the government acting with extreme caution in the face of unknown risk. Although no sheep have ever been infected with mad cow disease outside of laboratory experiments, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says the animals or their ancestors may have been exposed to tainted feed before they were imported from Europe. Tests on four of the animals from Freeman's farm in Greensboro showed signs that the sheep were infected with some version of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE), the family of illnesses that includes mad cow disease and a far more common sheep version. A scientist working for the USDA could not say which TSE the animals had. But the flock owners say the tests were inconclusive and lacked proper scientific controls, and that none of the sheep - and their ancestors in Europe - have shown signs of infection.

Agriculture and health officials have banned European meat and bone meal from entering this country, barred imports of beef from the United Kingdom and other countries, and have tested U.S. cattle that show signs of illness. But the blockade erected to prevent mad cow disease from crossing the Atlantic may not be working.

And if the disease is here, the conditions that fostered its spread in Europe existed until recently in this country as well, according to a report by a scientific advisory commission to the European Union that was published last summer.

Mad cow disease swept through the British cattle herd - and later, experts believe, infected European livestock - through the practice of feeding dead animals to bovines. Turning cows into cannibals solved a nasty problem for the meatpacking industry: what to do with the waste. Organs and other offal left after an animal is slaughtered could be converted into high-protein pellets and used to supplement plant-based feeds.

Scientists believe that mad cow disease can occur spontaneously through natural mutations in about one in 1 million animals. But a British government commission concluded this fall that the disease spread to tens of thousands of animals in England when sick cattle were recycled into feed in the early 1980s. Another theory blames the outbreak on diseased sheep that were turned into cattle feed.

In 1997, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration outlawed the practice here of feeding ruminants (such as cattle, sheep, goats and deer) to other ruminants. But before that time, U.S. feed mills had few controls to prevent potentially contaminated products from entering the mills and being distributed throughout the country, the EU report said.

The report's authors concluded that a mad cow disease outbreak in the United States was "unlikely" but nonetheless possible. The report could not rule out that U.S. "cattle are clinically or pre-clinically infected" with the disease-causing agent. ("Pre-clinical" refers to an animal being infected before it shows signs of illness that could lead to a diagnosis.)

And the feed ban - designed to prevent infected cattle or sheep from infecting other animals - has been poorly enforced. Food and Drug Administration officials, who are responsible for ensuring the safety of animal feed, disclosed last month that nearly a quarter of the 180 large companies that render cattle and sheep were not properly labeling their products. In addition, these companies did not have a system to prevent commingling of ruminant-derived feed with other products. Some 6,000 to 8,000 feed mills are also so small they do not require FDA licenses. They are nonetheless subject to the regulations, and of 1,593 small feed producers that handle ruminant material and have been inspected, 40 percent were not using approved labels and 25 percent had no system in place to prevent commingling, officials said.

Meanwhile, potentially tainted animal products have continued to reach U.S. shores, despite a 1989 import ban on most British beef products. The EU scientific advisory commission disclosed last summer that 37 tons of meat and offal were sent from the United Kingdom to this country in 1997, after the shipments were supposedly outlawed.

And in December, the USDA ordered a new ban on "rendered products" from Europe or from any country where mad cow disease is present.

But loopholes remain. Manufacturers of health supplements are still allowed to use imported glandular material, and are not required to list country of origin on their labels. Other imported beef products that can enter this country include blood, fat, gelatin, bone mineral extracts, tallow, collagen and amniotic fluid.

The global trade in food and animal products has hastened the spread of the disease to Europe and possibly beyond. The United Nations recently estimated that at the height of the epidemic in the United Kingdom, British companies exported at least 500,000 tons of untraceable bovine byproducts to Western Europe and other nations, including the United States.

"The potentially contaminated material could be repackaged and re-exported from these countries," Maura Ricketts of the World Health Organization's animal- and food-related risk unit told the Knight-Ridder news service.

There is also an issue of spontaneous cases of mad cow disease in this country and whether those sick animals could get into the U.S. feed supply or be served up as steak. The question is not whether mad cow disease is here, according to some experts. The numerical odds almost guarantee that it is. Since TSEs occur spontaneously in one in a million animals, and 36 million cattle are slaughtered each year, 36 animals annually are probably infected and some of them could have entered the food system, despite stringent regulations designed to ensure that sick cattle are not slaughtered for animal or human consumption.

"Will (mad cow disease) ever come to America?" Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes asks in "Deadly Feasts," his 1997 book that chronicles mad cow disease research.

"The answer seems to be: It's already here, in native form, a low-level infection that industrial cannibalism could amplify to epidemic scale."

Vicki Soukup has seen firsthand the suffering that would take place if the disease spread in this country. In her mother-in-law's case, doctors first suspected Alzheimer's, but she was ultimately diagnosed with Creutzfeld-Jakob disease (CJD), a rare malady closely related to mad cow disease.

Joyce Soukup's decline occurred in a matter of weeks, but even as her brain deteriorated, occasionally her lucid self would return. She loved to play crossword puzzles. And one day as her husband sat in her room completing a game, he tossed out the clues to her. Something clicked and her mind responded. "She didn't have a clue who he was, but she could fire back the answers," Vicki Soukup said.

The disease changed her mother-in-law's personality. "She didn't know who she was. She just panicked. One time she picked up her treasured antiques and began throwing them around," Vicki Soukup recalled.

Mad cow disease is a member of the always-fatal TSE family of illnesses. The sheep form of TSE is called scrapie, while deer and elk are susceptible to a version called chronic wasting disease, or CWD. Cattle get a version called bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE. The strain that has crossed the species barrier from cows to people is known as new variant Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, or vCJD.

TSEs are particularly frightening because of their potentially long incubation period. People exposed to the human version, for example, can be healthy for 30 or more years before it strikes. Eighty-eight people in the United Kingdom and in Europe have died or are dying from vCJD.

Two types of TSEs are endemic in the United States. Scrapie has infected sheep here since 1947 and has been found in 45 states. Chronic wasting disease has struck elk and deer in Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota and Oklahoma. In Canada, authorities destroyed 1,700 elk last year after they were exposed to the disease. Scientists are investigating whether chronic wasting disease could spread from elk or deer to humans.

Three Americans under the age of 30 who had Creutzfeld-Jakob disease ate deer and elk meat when they were young, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The deaths were unusual since CJD rarely strikes young people, although in England most of the victims of vCJD were young.

The three U.S. cases "suggest a possible relationship with CWD" but investigators found "no strong evidence of a causal link" with the patients' illnesses, Dr. Ermias Belay of the Centers for Disease Control told an FDA advisory panel last month.

The family of diseases that killed Joyce Soukup and decimated the British beef industry sounds like something from an implausible "X-Files" episode. TSEs are spread by an infectious agent that is not alive and thus cannot be "killed."

Researchers believe that TSEs cripple and kill their victims when a protein normally found in the brain folds into an abnormal shape and then triggers other proteins to do the same. As these abnormally shaped proteins - dubbed prions - grow, they leave dead spaces inside the brain tissue, giving it a sponge-like appearance. Prions can multiply out of control, yet they lack the RNA or DNA that are considered the building blocks of all life. Prions can remain lethal despite conventional sterilization techniques, heat up to 600 degrees Celsius and blasts of radiation.

Medical studies show that Creutzfeld-Jakob disease occurs spontaneously in about one person out of 1 million. But Vicki Soukup thinks many cases are missed, as her mother-in-law's almost was.

Doctors are not required to report cases of Creutzfeld-Jakob disease to federal health officials. And Soukup said elderly victims may be misdiagnosed as suffering from senility or Alzheimer's. "I believe it's under-counted," she said. "How many cases are treated as Alzheimer's?"

Research supports Soukup's concern. A 1989 study at the University of Pittsburgh found that when patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's or some other dementia were autopsied, 5.5 percent in fact had died of CJD. A similar study at Yale turned up CJD in 13 percent of the cases that were initially classified as Alzheimer's. Michael Hansen, a researcher at Consumers Union, a non-profit organization that publishes Consumer Reports magazine, said it's likely that many CJD cases are overlooked.

"Since there are over 2 million cases of Alzheimer's disease currently in the United States, if even a small percentage of them turned out to be CJD, there could be a hidden CJD epidemic," he said in testimony before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Joyce Soukup lived in England for several years in the 1970s, near a village where epidemiologists have found a cluster of vCJD victims who apparently contracted the illness from eating local beef products. She later returned to visit the area frequently in the 1980s.

"That (village) is right where she was," said Vicki Soukup.

A conclusive diagnosis of vCJD can be made only by examining brain tissue. Joyce Soukup was not autopsied, so no one will ever know if she was the first U.S. victim of mad cow disease.

Dr. William Pendlebury, a University of Vermont pathologist who specializes in diagnosing Alzheimer's disease and other neurological disorders, doesn't believe that many CJD cases are misdiagnosed as Alzheimer's. The two illnesses have quite different characteristics, he said. CJD causes a much faster decline - those afflicted die within months while Alzheimer's patients can live for a decade or more. CJD can be identified by measuring the electronic brain waves of its victims, he said. And scientists have recently developed a test that analyzes a spinal fluid protein that is considered a marker for CJD.

"Given the tools that we have to look at clinical diagnosis, it's highly unlikely to mistake the two," he said.

Doctors can also distinguish the variant vCJD - the strain believed to be caused by eating infected cows - from regular CJD, according to Pendlebury. Patients with vCJD lack the characteristic brain-wave pattern seen in those with the more common strain; they often live longer, and the disease seems to strike younger people, he said.

British researchers were interested in Joyce Soukup's case, because she lived near the village where the cluster of vCJD has been found. The doctors discounted the possibility that she had vCJD, however, because of her age. But then a week later, vCJD was confirmed in a 79-year-old patient, Vicki Soukup said.

"We didn't autopsy her so we'll never know what type she had," she said. "... I just don't buy that we haven't found it yet" in the United States.

Pendlebury noted that vCJD has killed fewer than 100 people in the United Kingdom and Europe, and that Britain has eliminated the feed practices that fostered the spread of mad cow disease. He believes the number of cattle cases will dwindle, and that its human analogue will also decline.

"I think it's premature to predict this is going to become a significant human health problem," he said. "I know there are some experts who are convinced that it is. Š But my guess is that the new variant form will die out, as mad cow disease in England and the United Kingdom is dying out, and that it won't amount to a major epidemic."

The U.S. government's battle to control mad cow disease has been fought in laboratories, feed mills and in Vermont farm fields.

Federal agents no longer prowl the back roads of Warren. Or maybe they're staying out of sight better than they did last summer when officers in unmarked cars patrolled frequently near a small sheep farm, keeping a lookout for errant ewes.

The surveillance has given way to legal arguments. The U.S. Department of Agriculture last month again asked a federal judge to override the objections of the two Vermont flock owners and allow the government to destroy 355 sheep suspected of harboring a version of mad cow disease.

The Warren flock and one in Greensboro stand on the front line of the U.S. war against the deadly brain disease. The owners say the animals are healthy and are simply being used as literal sacrificial lambs in the government's zeal to protect the domestic beef industry.

U.S. officials are concerned that overseas markets for American meat will evaporate if the Vermont sheep are allowed to live, according to internal memos.

Officials noted that Japan and Korea suspended trade with Canada after one cow was found to be infected in 1999. "Japanese officials are monitoring the Vermont sheep case. Japan is the largest export market for U.S. beef, and imports approximately $1.4 billion annually," one USDA memo says.

The Vermont sheep threaten the reputation of the U.S. beef industry, which so far has escaped the blight and market panic that followed the discovery of more mad cow cases in Europe, said Leon Graves, Vermont's commissioner of agriculture. "I have a sickening feeling the genie is out of the bottle in the United Kingdom," said Graves. "The USDA worked very hard to manage this (sheep) situation so we don't have a situation like that. The impact on the livestock industry would be huge, as well as the potential (threat) to human health."

While the Vermont sheep face a possible death sentence, the USDA and other government agencies have allowed other potential routes of mad cow disease infection, said Hansen, the researcher at Consumers Union. Although ruminant-to-ruminant feeding is banned, other animals such as pigs - which also get TSE - can still be fed to cows, a practice that could spread TSEs into the food supply, he said.

Even the ruminant-to-ruminant ban is poorly enforced - as the government last month acknowledged - and has many loopholes, he said. For example, farms are never inspected to see if they follow the labeling guidelines on feed. While feed mills are required to label products, farmers could still be giving cows feed derived from ruminants, he said.

"People can still buy it. The only way to tell if farmers aren't using it is to go out there," he said.

But George Gray, director of the program on food safety and agriculture at the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, said the USDA and FDA have made significant strides in protecting the public against mad cow disease.

Gray, who is conducting a risk analysis for the USDA that looks at the effectiveness of its preventive measures, said U.S. farmers don't use as much meat and bone meal as their European counterparts, and that the ban on ruminant-to-ruminant feeding should be effective in stopping the disease from reaching domestic herds.

"It's extremely unlikely we would have anything like the United Kingdom did," he said. "... Even a leaky feed ban in this country is still awfully effective."

Yet Hansen said there are other routes for the disease to spread. Nutritional supplements intended for people may also legally contain potentially contaminated material, he said.

"Supplements were excluded from the (import) ban," Hansen said. "It wasn't illegal to be shipping brain and organs in from other countries, as long as it was destined for supplements and not animal feed."

Linda Faillace, who with her family tends the flock of East Friesian dairy sheep in Warren, sees a double standard at work in the U.S. effort against her animals. "In a way, this is just brilliant of the USDA. It takes the focus off anything they might have done wrong - the lack of testing (of U.S.) cattle - and puts the attention on these flocks," she said.

Sheldon Rampton, the researcher and author of "Mad Cow USA," agrees that the government has not tested enough cattle to assure that the disease is not here. His book documents cases where ranch-raised mink that were fed with U.S. "downer" cows - animals that died from unknown causes - developed the mink version of TSE, implying that some form of BSE had infected the diseased cattle. He said if U.S. officials tested more cattle in this country, they would likely find the disease. About 12,000 cattle have been tested here over the past 11 years, while France has tested more than 20,000 animals in the past year alone.

"The more you test, the more likely you are to find a problem that will cost somebody a lot of money," he said.

Might Canada have a wee bit of import risk itself?

Contacts: Canadian Health Coalition   
phone:613-521-3400 x 308; fax 613-521-9638 director name:  Michael McBane
This respected public interest group in Canada is making some rather disturbing assertions in the open letter below to the Canadian Minister of Health, especially in the context of the Canadian blast at Brazil, so the webmaster challenged them to produce the primary government documents mentioned:

"In fact, Canada imported 2.8 million kilograms of blood meal, meat scraps, bone meal and waste meat between 1996 and 2000 from European countries since shown to have mad cow disease outbreaks (Source: Statistics Canada, International Trade Division)."

They responded with a massive fax of primary documention which appears to provide the necessary factual support for the their letter. It is too long to enter fully electronically; contact Canadian Health Coalition directly for further details.

Date: Wed, 07 Feb 2001
From: Brad Duplisea 
Organization: Canadian Health Coalition
Subject: Letter to Allan Rock

Canadian Health Coalition 
Letter to the Canadian Minister of Health
Regarding Mad Cow Disease
Monday, January 29, 2001

Hon. Allan Rock       
Minister of Health
House of Commons
Ottawa, CANADA
K1A 0A6

Dear Minister Rock, 

Re: Dereliction of Duty to Protect Canadians from BSE and vCJD

This letter is to seek your immediate commitment as Minister of Health to protect the people of Canada against risks to health posed by the infectious bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or mad cow disease) agent and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD).

For some time now significant evidence of harm and potential future harm to human health from the infectious BSE agent has been made public together with precautionary measures required to avoid exposure to BSE risk.

Why have you not acted on the World Health Organization recommendations to reduce exposure to the BSE agent? In December 2000,

the WHO issued a warning of global exposure to BSE. It therefore recommended that: “all countries must prohibit the use of ruminant tissues in ruminant feed”. The WHO also called for the application of the precautionary principle for human and veterinary vaccines prepared from bovine materials (

To date, your department, Health Canada has taken minimal and lethargic steps which fail to apply the precautionary principle. Instead, federal regulatory officials have characterized precautionary measures to reduce exposure to the BSE agent as ridiculous overkill. (Ottawa Citizen, Jan. 14, 2001, p.A4).

With respect to beef and animal products, Health Canada has taken a blind’ approach denying, together with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the existence of the infectious agent in Canada. But there are not the inspections, testing, surveillance or enforcement needed to substantiate such a claim.

In fact, Canada imported 2.8 million kilograms of blood meal, meat scraps, bone meal and waste meat between 1996 and 2000 from European countries since shown to have mad cow disease outbreaks (Source: Statistics Canada, International Trade Division). Canada also imported 15.5 million kilograms of animal waste meat for feed from the United States last year alone. Recent inspections in the United States revealed that of 9,500 feed mills visited, only 2,700 were abiding by feed regulations to protect against the BSE agent (Toronto Star, January 20, 2001).

Even in the absence of BSE, chronic wasting disease is present in Canada and yet we continue to feed rendered animal protein, including elk and deer from road kill, to animals for human consumption.

With respect to plasma products and vaccines, Health Canada demonstrated poor judgment in failing to act to exclude contaminated British source plasma more than a year after a British ban was imposed. This lengthy delay permitted contaminated plasma to enter Canada without restrictions during that year. As other jurisdictions move to raise standards, Health

Canada consults with industry and delays. We remind you of your statutory duty to take precautionary measures to protect lives.

Justice Krever concluded that Health Canada “must not wait for scientific certainty about the spread of a transfusion-associated disease and the effectiveness of particular risk-reduction measures before they act to reduce risks. (Commission of Inquiry on the Blood System in Canada, Final Report, p. 994). Justice Krever also concluded that Health Canada “must not delegate their functions to others, nor rely on consensus decision making as a substitute for independent judgment”. (Final Report, p.996). What is true for the blood supply is true for the food supply.

Your duty as Minister of Health includes: “the promotion and preservation of the health of the people of Canada” and the “protection of the people of Canada against risks to health and the spreading of diseases” Department of Health Act, 1996, s.4 (1) and s.4 (2) b. This legislation places upon you as Minister the statutory duty to uphold the

Food & Drugs Act. The intent of this Act is : “to protect the public from health hazards and fraud in the sale and use of food, drugs, cosmetics and medical devices”.

The willful blindness that characterized your department’s approach to the hazard of blood contamination in the past is being repeated today with mad cow disease and vCJD. Your officials were quoted on Saturday, January 27, 2001 as saying Health Canada has set up a committee to “review” the situation and added: “We’re not worried” (National Post, 27.01.01, p.A 15).

In so far as your duty as Minister involves the protection of life from a fatal hazard, dereliction of that duty may constitute criminal negligence. If your officials are not worried, you should be.

At a minimum, the precautionary measures urged by the World Health Organization, including a total ban on the feeding of animal protein back to animals and a ban on the dangerous use of plasma containing bovine materials in drug products and vaccines, must be implemented immediately.

You, Mr. Minister, will be at risk if this dereliction of duty continues.

Sincerely yours,

Kathleen Connors, RN
Canadian Health Coalition

Rt. Hon. Jean Chrétien, Prime Minister of Canada
Hon. Lyle Vanclief, Minister of Agriculture
Rt. Hon Joe Clark, Leader of the Progressive Conservatives
Hon. Stockwell Day, Leader of the Opposition
Hon. Gilles Duceppe, Chef, Bloc Québécois
Hon. Alexa McDonough, Leader, New Democratic Party

DoD Says Troops in Europe Safe From Mad Cow

Fri, 02 Feb 2001 By Gerry J. Gilmore American Forces Press Service
Opinion (webmaster): This press release may offer some reassurances, but that fact is substantial numbers of military personnel have already been exposed, particularly in the Air Force. It was very difficult for the US to get ahead of events, eg, not purchase local beef from a country such as Germany that was failing to self-report BSE in a timely manner.

Blood safely is another serious concern, both in the event of theatre hostilities and because of well-intentioned blood donations of returning military personnal (which are far more frequent than those of average Americans).

By following prudent guidelines, U.S. service members and their families living in Europe should not fear catching the human derivative of the so-called mad cow disease, DoD veterinary officials say.

A traveler's advisory issued by the Centers for Disease Control for U.S. citizens in Europe notes that "the relative risk of becoming infected with BSE is very small, if it exists at all," said Army Col. Scott Severin, deputy director of DoD's Veterinary Service Activity. "BSE" is short for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or what the media and public have dubbed "mad cow disease," he said.

Since March 1996, DoD has not purchased beef from the United Kingdom for commissaries, dining halls, post exchange outlets and authorized vendors to avoid possible customer contact with BSE, he said.

"The beef our service members are eating in the dining facilities comes from the United States," Severin said. "The meats being sold through Army and Air Force Exchange Service through the concessions and shoppettes or through the commissaries are all from the United States or from countries outside of Europe where there's no evidence of BSE."

He said DoD took steps in March 2000 to ban the procurement for sale of European-origin ruminant (beef, veal, mutton and lamb) meat and meat products containing them, for consumption by U.S. service members in Europe. "Additionally, DoD has distributed consumer awareness packets throughout European Command and Central Command areas of operations," he said.

Severin said the CDC's guidance to Americans who eat on the European economy and are concerned about exposure to BSE is to stay away from beef and beef products, if possible. "If you do want to eat beef (off installation), go with solid muscle meats like steak or roasts instead of something ground, like hamburgers or sausages," he said. "There is no risk associated with eating pork, poultry, milk or dairy products...."

The European Union banned the export of all British beef products in 1996 in an effort to prevent the spread of BSE to the continent, he said. This action failed to stop the spread of BSE to Europe.

"BSE has shown up on the continent. The most recent countries to have confirmed cases are Spain, Germany and Italy," Severin said.

He said the potential danger to humans from eating infected beef products is real, though remote. CDC has estimated the chances of contracting CJD from eating European beef at "less than one in 10 billion servings...." [The CDC embarasses itself with a ludicrous estimate that has not the slightest grounding in real science. -- webmaster]

Vaccines reformulated over fears of mad cow disease

February 8, 2001 The Associated Press
Cow-derived ingredients from countries contending with mad cow disease are being replaced in certain vaccines as an extra precaution, even though the government's top mad cow experts call any risk theoretical. The Food and Drug Administration discovered last February that a few makers of common childhood vaccines, from diphtheria to polio, had continued using the ingredients for seven years after the FDA told them to stop.

In July, the FDA's scientific advisers publicly debated the issue and "we agreed any risk was very small," said panelist Dr. Peter Lurie, a physician and consumer advocate. "It's not like they used cow cells in the final vaccines. ... It's complicated." As the Associated Press reported this week, the vaccines are being reformulated as a precaution. [When will the new vaccines become available? Will existing stockpiles be used up first? -- webmaster]

To ensure consumers understood the issue, FDA last year created an Internet page stressing the vaccines are safe to use. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reiterated that in a December report recounting what happened.

One of the first steps in making vaccines involves growing bacterial or viral cultures. Certain animal-derived ingredients are added to help the cultures grow; some, for instance, are briefly bathed in blood from calves or sugars from cow's milk. The vaccine mix then undergoes repeated purification. [Fetal calf serum is not exactly blood. Bovine serum albumin is a protein. -- webmaster] The FDA warned manufacturers starting in 1993 that as a precaution [ie, they weren't required -- webmaster], they should not use cattle-derived ingredients from any country infected with mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

Companies caught in violation said they had used the same ingredients for decades and didn't realize FDA was concerned about culturing.

The FDA's scientific advisers determined the risk theoretical, noting many ingredients aren't made of BSE-infectious tissue, such as milk sugars. Last month, the same advisory panel warned that some dietary supplements - products containing raw cows' brains, the most infectious tissue, and other animal organs - are of far more concern but are not being properly checked by the FDA.

The Group of 70: countries named by the British as bone meal importers

04 Feb 01 Sunday London Times
The UN has since upped the ante to 100 nations on 7 Feb 01
Opinion (webmaster): Two explosive articles appeared in the Times on Sunday 4 Feb 2001. The first, by veteran reporter Jonathon Leake, announced a dramatic upsurge in human cases of nvCJD (6 alive but confirmed, 6 additional suspected, bringing Britain's total to 94 confirmed and the world total to 98). These new cases will require an upward revision of the epidemic's expected total, which stands at 100,000 in the "central estimate" used by policy planners.

The second article, by Rosie Waterhouse, provided a long overdue description of British exports of presumably tainted meat and bone meal to 70 countries, exports that accelerated as Britain banned these animal feeds domestically. It is important to recognize that the data was not compiled by the Times but rather represents official data provided by Her Majesty's Customs & Excise Service.

Numerous countries have written this web site, saying that they were not named. But in fact they were named. Some people are confused by the summary graph and have not seen the accompaning table. The feed may have been labelled and intended for hogs and poultry. The webmaster downloaded and stored the entire source html directly from the Times web site, as did numerous other professionals in Europe. There have been no changes or retractions in the data. It is still posted at the Sunday London Times web site.

Countries whose imports were inaccurately described should contact the British government directly and not this website -- it is their trade data. If and when the British retract their data, this web site will make prominent and appropriate revisions. Simply importing feed does not imply that any TSE subsequently developed in the importing country.

The original table is in a small font and covered the years 1988-96 with countries, some of whom had zero imports. This data can be totaled across all years and , re-sorted in decreasing order to show those with the most tons of imported meat and bone meal, as done below. No one knows if the specific meat and bone meal, in theory pig and poultry feed, was in fact infectious nor whether or not any animals in the importing country subsequently became ill. Bone meal is only one of many kinds of bovine products and byproducts that may end up in animal feed or in human products.

Note Canada was ranked 41st highest on the list, the US 57th, and Brazil and Mexico had zero.

Full H M Customs & Excise data
for global bse import list, go to
Country, 1988-96 total imports (tons) according to official British trade statistics
Indonesia, 66391
Israel, 30454
France, 25571
Netherlands, 24162
Thailand, 18559
Irish Republic, 7186
Taiwan, 4598
Italy, 4214
Belgium, 4139
Saudi Arabia, 3904
SriLanka, 3493
Russia, 3099
Philippines, 2018
Singapore, 1488
South Korea, 1354
Hungary, 1322
Iceland, 1322
Malta, 1251
Germany, 1189
Kenya, 824
Sweden, 804
Br Ind Oc, 750
Jordan, 600
Morocco, 525
Denmark, 522
Romania, 466
Lebanon, 414
Sierra Leone, 411
Turkey, 386
China, 345
Japan, 333
Spain, 266
Greece, 249
Hong Kong, 240
Cyprus, 236
Switzerland, 218
Norway, 207
Poland, 177
Faroe Islands, 176
Portugal, 130
Canada, 125
Haiti, 108
Nigeria, 102
Cayman, 86
Finland, 83
South Africa, 55
U.S.Oceania, 43
Pakistan, 43
Malaysia, 39
Austria, 37
Bulgaria, 22
Ghana, 22
Colombia, 21
Malawi, 21
Brunei, 20
Iran, 20
U.S.A., 20
Burma, 15
Canary, 11
Mayotte, 11
Togo, 10
Gibralter, 5
Liberia, 3
Czech, 2
AbuDhabi, 1
Bangladesh, 1
Curucao, 1
Falkland, 1
Australia, 0
Brazil, 0
Chile, 0
Egypt, 0
Liechtenstein, 0
Lithuania, 0
Namibia, 0
Tajikistan, 0
Tanzania, 0
Tunisia, 0
U.S.Virgin, 0
Vietnam, 0
Lesotho, 0
Sharjahetc., 0

Grand Total, 213589
The US is not without its risks for nvCJD from UK imports, according to this offical trade data:

U.S. Imports for Consumption: December 1998 and 1998 Year-to-Date
Subheading 300210: Antisera And Other Blood Fractions, And Modified Immunological Products

3002.10.0010: HUMAN BLOOD PLASMA
U.S. Imports for Consumption: December 1998 and 1998 Year-to-Date
(Customs Value, in Thousands of Dollars)
(Units of Quantity: Kilograms)
                           <--- Dec 1998 --->  <--- 1998 YTD --->
Country                    Quantity     Value  Quantity     Value
WORLD TOTAL . . . . . . .    25,740     1,827   270,357    20,476
Belgium . . . . . . . . .        14         8       145        60
Canada  . . . . . . . . .    13,239       827   170,535    10,862
Denmark . . . . . . . . .       ---       ---         4         5
Federal Rep. of Germany       2,011       386    11,040     3,294
Finland . . . . . . . . .         1         7        94        61
France  . . . . . . . . .       ---       ---       134        60
Japan . . . . . . . . . .        13         3        68        17
Korea, Republic Of  . . .       ---       ---       260        71
Netherlands . . . . . . .       ---       ---        11         5
Republic Of South Africa        ---       ---     1,594        71
Russia  . . . . . . . . .       ---       ---        27         3
Sweden  . . . . . . . . .       ---       ---         9        10
Switzerland . . . . . . .    10,462       597    86,101     5,894
United Kingdom  . . . . .       ---       ---       335        62

Scientists: Mad cow crisis has Asia within its reach

24 Jan 01 Reuters By Elizabeth Piper
Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan and Sri Lanka may become the next victims of mad cow disease after buying potentially tainted animal feed from Britain at the height of the UK epidemic, scientists said on Wednesday.

Britain, which banned the feeding of crushed animal carcasses to cattle in 1986, exported much of its stocks of feed to Europe and beyond until a decade later, when the trade was ended. Scientists suspect the use of so-called meat and bone meal in feed has spread the deadly brain-wasting disorder, and so UK export data may hold a key to which countries are threatened by bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE.

"The countries that stick out because they were importing animal feed at the height of our epidemic in the 1990s are Indonesia, India, Thailand, Taiwan and Sri Lanka. They really stick out a long way," said scientist Iain McGill, who worked at Britain's farm ministry at the height of the BSE crisis. "Europe was importing a lot, but after the link became clear within the European Union they cut down from 1990 onwards. The exception would seem to be Italy. They might have a slightly later problem brewing."

BSE's spread from Britain to Europe has devastated the beef industries of countries such as France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands, all of which imported large amounts of animal feed after UK officials found Britain's first BSE case in 1986.

Indonesia started importing general feedstuffs from Britain in 1991, with the largest consignment of over 20,060 tonnes in 1993, which compared with less than six tonnes into badly hit Germany that year, UK customs data showed. Thailand, Taiwan and Sri Lanka imported lesser tonnages, but the quantities picked up in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Scientists said the spread of the disease depended on how much meat and bone meal was included in animal feed, and how much was fed to cattle -- but the figures did show the potential reach of mad cow disease. "It really depends on what has happened to this meat and bone meal, but it's a very, very messy business and a very, very messy trade indeed," McGill said, noting that other EU countries hit by mad cow disease had exported meal and bone meal.

Ralph Blanchfield of the independent UK Institute of Food Science and Technology said no country was safe. "I don't think any country can say they are 100 percent sure that they are free of BSE," he said. For some countries it could be a matter of time before they unearthed cases of the disease.

"You would expect the first cases (in Asian countries) within three or four years but it really depends on how much they are recycling on their own," McGill said, referring to the practice of using domestic cattle carcasses in feed.

"If they are recycling either within a species or between species...then you might expect a peak round about now or in the next few years -- and that depends on looking for it." In Europe, increased testing of higher-risk cattle over 30 months old, part of a package of recent measures agreed by the European Union, have unearthed more cases of BSE than expected.

For the United States, the risk from European feed is low but the country's beef industry may not be safe, McGill said. "The United States imported just under 20 tonnes (of UK feed) in 1989 when the epidemic started to get going but was not at its peak, so there would be a pretty low risk," he said. [Correct. Compare this to 20,060 tonnes imported by Indonesia. -- webmaster]

But circumstantial evidence suggested that a similar disease in U.S. mink might have been caused on farms where they had been fed cattle remains. "They were if they had an undetected case of the disease...they could be more exposed from their own BSE rather than from Europe."

For McGill, like other scientists, the trade in animal feed should be another nail in the coffin for factory farming. "The industrialised system whereby this potentially toxic material has been exported everywhere does pose a risk...I think we need to look at how industrialised farming got one bad apple in the cart and the entire world is put at risk."

nvCJD soaring: 6 new cases, 6 more suspected.

6 Feb 01 UK Dept of Health statistics 1, 2 
Comment (webmaster): The 6 new cases bring the total of confirmed to 94 in Britain, 1 from Ireland and 3 from France. Some of the affected individuals are still alive, but no one has ever recovered from this disease. Other cases have died but not yet been autopsied. The Sonday Times of London has reported an additional 6 suspected cases. These cases may appear in the 5 Mar 01 statistics bringing Britain's total to 100 and the global total to 104.

The new cases represent a most unwelcome surge in caseload. It will be necessary to revise estimates of the epidemic upward. The "central estimate" used for policy planning (currently at 100,000) may rise to as many as 600,000. Surveillance to date has largely neglected the elderly demented, even though these are the most abundant class, on the thinking that this was a disease of twenty-somethings. However, the confirmed case in a 74 year old man shows that this demographic too must be added to estimates.

 Monday 5th February 2001 


 The Department of Health is today issuing the latest information 
 about the numbers of known cases of Creutzfeldt Jakob disease. This 
 includes cases of variant Creutzfeldt Jakob disease (vCJD) - the form
 of the disease thought to be linked to BSE. The position is as 

 Definite and probable CJD cases in the UK:

 Year        Sporadic       Familial      vCJD           *vCJD  Total
     Referrals     Iatrogenic        GSS probable vCJD  confirmed    
                                          still  probable            
                                          alive   deaths              
                                               p.m. results      
 1985          26      1       1      0     -       -      -      28   
 1986          26      0       0      0     -       -      -      26   
 1987          23      0       0      1     -       -      -      24   
 1988          22      1       1      0     -       -      -      24   
 1989          28      2       2      0     -       -      -      32   
 1990   53     28      5       0      0     -       -      -      33   
 1991   75     32      1       3      0     -       -      -      36   
 1992   96     43      2       5      1     -       -      -      51   
 1993   78     38      4       2      2     -       -      -      46   
 1994  116     51      1       4      3     -       -      -      59   
 1995   87     35      4       2      3     -       -      3      47   
 1996  134     40      4       2      4     -       -     10      60   
 1997  161     59      6       4      1     -       -     10      80   
 1998  154     63      3       4      1     -       -     18      89   
 1999  169     61      6       2      0     -       -     15      84   
 2000  175     39      1       2      0     -       2     26      70   
 2001   11     1       0       0      0     8       1      1      11   

 To 2 February 2001. Total number of definite and probable cases of 
 vCJD = 94.

 * including 7 probable deaths from vCJD where neuropathological 
 confirmation will never be possible.

 The next table will be published on Monday 5 March 2001.

Tonsils operations are cancelled in CJD scare

31 January 2001 By Matthew Beard The Guardian
Thousands of patients are having routine operations to remove tonsils and adenoids cancelled after warnings that there was a theoretical risk they could contract variant CJD from surgical equipment.

The British Association of Otolaryngologists, Head and Neck Surgeons has warned its members against conducting routine surgery until government plans to supply NHS hospitals with disposable equipment have come into force.

Ian Mackay, the association's president, has written to his 1,000 members admitting that the suspension of routine surgery would lead to delays in carrying out operations of between three and nine months. Around 60,000 operations to remove tonsils are conducted every year, most of them on children.

Mr Mackay said: "Tonsillectomy should continue where there are urgent indications for surgery, for example cases of possible malignancy, or significant airway obstruction. In such cases the benefit of surgery considerably outweighs the theoretical risk of vCJD."

CJD in blood sparks therapy boycott

Wednesday January 31, 2001  James Meikle, health correspondent Guardian
The government was last night facing the embarrassing prospect of a "treatment strike" by growing numbers of haemophiliacs seeking to shame ministers into paying for safer blood clotting agents.

As the government sought to calm protests over the way haemophiliacs, as late as 1997, had been exposed to potential infection from the human form of BSE, the Department of Health said patients should first consult their GPs.

People with haemophilia are furious that for the third time in just over three years patients are being told that they have used products that have been found to include material from a variant CJD victim.

The news, first reported in the Guardian this month, has forced ministers to consider whether to give adult haemophiliacs in England access to laboratory-made alternatives, as happened for children in Britain, and for adults in both Scotland and Wales.

The Haemophilia Society said it had heard more patients were refusing treatment with clotting factor from human sources and joining networks that allow patients who do get the synthetic type, called recombinant, to send part of their dose to others without it.

This is almost certainly illegal. But one patient who did this in the autumn forced his local health authority to pay for the more expensive recombinant factor.

Karin Pappenheim, director of the Haemophilia Society, said it was not clear how many people might be affected by the postcode lottery over access to clotting treatment, but it could be as high as 2000.

The government ordered the import of most blood plasma products two years ago because of the theoretical risk of infection by donors who had vCJD. Thirteen of the 88 known vCJD victims had been blood donors. A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said that the risk of vCJD from existing clotting factors was "unsubstantiated".

Judge OKs USDA seizure of suspect Belgian sheep

Wed, 7 Feb 2001 Associated Press
Save OUr Sheep listserve: follow directions to join the list  ""
Opinion (webmaster): This case is very similar to the water buffalo situation in Vancouver except that those animals won their court case but remain under quarintine. There are also parallels to the Texas feed lot incident: posturing to impress trading partners that the US will stamp out any wiff of foreign TSE even if the animals display no sigh of TSE but merely have a hypothetical feed exposure..

. The U.S. Department of Agriculture can seize two flocks of imported sheep suspected of carrying a form of mad cow disease, a federal judge ruled Tuesday. U.S. District Judge J. Garvan Murtha said the owners of the sheep imported from Belgium must comply with an order issued last summer by former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman to give up their herd.

The USDA moved to seize the 355 sheep in July, after a laboratory test indicated that four animals were infected with a form of "transmissible spongiform encephalopathy," a family of illnesses that includes mad cow disease.

The owners, Linda and Larry Faillace of Warren, and Houghton Freeman of Stowe, appealed the ruling in U.S. District Court. They claimed the science used in determining that the sheep were infected was flawed. In November, the owners turned down a government offer of more than $2.4 million for the sheep.

Davis Buckley, a lawyer for the Faillaces, said they would appeal the ruling and asked the USDA not to physically seize the sheep while the appeal is pending. "We're looking at our options, we're considering appealing but we haven't made a decision," said Thomas Amidon, a lawyer for Freeman.

Linda Faillace criticized the Agriculture Department as being selective in its measures to prevent the potential introduction of infected meat and cattle by-products into the United States from Europe.

"The danger of the disease does justify taking preventative measures, but you can't just randomly go out and say 'I don't like those sheep because they come from Europe,' " Faillace said.

Mad cow disease -- formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE -- has been linked to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human version of the fatal brain-wasting ailment that has killed some 80 Europeans since the mid-1990s, mostly in Britain. BSE first appeared in 1984 in a cow in Britain thought to have eaten feed that included offal from sheep that harbored scrapie, a similar illness.

USDA officials have said they were not willing to risk even a remote possibility that mad cow disease could gain a foothold in North America. [These sheep have been in Vermont for years and show no sign of illness. Swiss experts who have examined the western blot data told the Faillaces that the western blot tests run by USDA are worthless. Dr. Nruno Oesch reportedly said that sufficient material waw available to run 20,000 tests (100ml of brain homogenate, 20 microliters needed from 11 gm of brain). The USDA says there was not enough for duplicate tests and that all remaining sample was inadvertently discarded.-- webmaster]

US exported live scrapie to Brazil shortly before banning Brazilian beef

08 Feb 01 JBOnline 19 Jan 2001 [translated & summarized by ProMed Mod.JW]
Opinion (webmaster): The plot thickens. According to this 21 Jan 01 Promed posting, the scrapie sheep originated from the US, not Canada. Ironically, US scrapie originated from a Canadian import in 1947. In turn, scrapie in Canada first turned up in UK imports, shortly after the louping ill vaccine accident in the 1930's caused an explosion in UK scrapie.

Having the US and Canada bash Brazilian BSE controls within weeks of exporting them a little TSE of their own is going to raise some eyebrows in Latin America. It will set off unquenchable rumors of a set-up designed to discredit an unwelcome, growing competitor with a bit of trade bioterrorism (or was it just the usual slop?). A reliable live third eyelid test for scrapie was developed earlier by K. O'Rourke at USDA, Pullman, but wasn't used here by the US to prevent scrapie exports to developing countries.

"3 cases of scrapie were detected this week [January 2000] in a flock of sheep in the township of Candoi, in the south of Parana state, Brazil. The Ministry of Agriculture discounts the possibility that this could spread to cattle, and gives assurances that scrapie is not transmissible to humans.

To avoid spread, 305 sheep in the flock were slaughtered, sheep breeding was temporarily suspended in Candoi, and the outbreak was immediately reported to the Office International des Epizooties (OIE) & the governments of Mercosul (Argentina, Paraguay & Uruguay).

The sheep had been imported from the USA, where scrapie is known to occur..

According to Luiz Alberto Oliveira Ribeiro, of the Veterinary Faculty of the Federal University Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), the first case of scrapie detected in Brazil was in Rio Grande do Sul in 1977. A new focus appeared in Parana in 1985, as a result of which 143 sheep were slaughtered. The sheep had been imported from the UK [the country where scrapie was first found].

Since that time, Brazil has stopped buying sheep from the UK and imports them from Canada & the USA. Nevertheless, another case was identified in Rio Grande do Sul in 1994.

08 Feb 01 Spanish radio station "Cadena SER"; click on 3rd story for full text
Use AltaVista page translator if needed 
Comment (webmaster): While this case is not confirmed, we cannot brush it off as yet another confusion between sporadic CJD and nvCJD because of the early age at onset (28), the met/met genotype, and 16 months of risk factor of exposure in England 7 years ago which may be adequate incubation time (and important information on that as well). A potential for confusion for non-Spanish speakers exists in that the hospital itself is named the 12th of October, ie that is not the date of first neurological sign, which was instead May 2000. It seems that the family has declined an brain biopsy because it is too expensive; thus the diagnosis cannot be taken as definitive until such time as an autopsy is conducted (in consultation with English experts.

Comment (Dr. Ruben Calvino, King's College School of Medicine): Here is a summary of what newspapers and the doctors in Spain that have seen this patient are saying:

"A 27 years old man, who lived in England for 16 months between 1994 and 1995, was admitted to hospital (called 12th of October) in May the 25th, 2000 with symtoms compatible with CJD. The only suggestions of a possible "new variant" are "early age, lived in England for some time, ate cow meat regularly (whatever that means), has the high susceptibility met/met genotype at codon 129." On the other hand, tonsil biopsy was negative (conducted by the CJD Surveillance Unit in Scotland).

The patient is currently in a "vegetative" situation. His mother has stated that the patient used to eat large amounts of meat, hamburgers and milk derivatives.

It's true that a brain biopsy was denied, but who denied the autopsy? That is something that we will never know, because the mother said, after her son was sent home, she asked for his son's medical history (which states "it can not be denied the possibility of a new version CJD") and "everybody assumed it was nvCJD case. So I agreed for a brain biopsy, but after another meeting, doctors said it is going to be quite expensive, with little benefit to my son, and they denied the biopsy".

The hospital spokeman said they suggested the biopsy, but the familiy refused in the first instance but agreed later on, but they say the family now has to give written consent to the operation, but that they are not actually denying the biopsy. As you can see, now everything is a cross-fire shooting, but at the end of the day we will have to wait (probably) until this man die to know what's going on.

And this is what the doctor treating this patient states in the newspapers/radio:

"It cannot be exluded with a 100% confidence that is a nvCJD case. Only the autopsy can stablish it with a 100% confidence. The diagnostic with the person still alive (CJD diagnosis) is quite certain, but I made mistakes myself other times. There was other cases which I though were CJD cases, and the autopsy reveals that in fact it was a different disease. The autopsy refutes the initial diagnosis in a 10% of the cases, aproximately......In fact, I treated a 19-year old patient in the 80s (pointing that the age is not definitive criteria)".

Just a few comments about surveillance in Spain: In Spain there is an administrative divison of the territory (something similar to the different states in the USA). The regions that have the higher numbers of cows are the nortern regions of Galicia (NW) and Catalunha (NE) A great proportion of the spainsh cow population is concentrated in the north part of the country

In the Catalunha region, farming is more "intensive" in the whole sense of the word: young people with technical education running the farms, the use of more concentrated food (simply because agricultural land there is limited and expensive), a "business vision" of farming and milking cows.

In the Galician region you have, even in our days, an opposite picture: more than 60% of the farms with 10-20 cows, the farmers don't have any technical education (don't know what protein or energy is or means), the mean age of more than 50% of the farmers is something like 50 or older, and farming tends to be more "traditional" with traditional meaning a less use (kg/cow) of concentrated food and more grazing (agricultural land in this part of the country is cheaper compared to Catalunha and is not a limited factor for farming in most cases).

This is the general background for both regions. Now, what about analysis looking for BSE?. In Spain, as everywhere else in the EU, any animal older than 30 months (either sent for culling or dead in the farm) is analysed for the presence of any sign of BSE (including the Prionics test). These regions I'm mentioning have regional goverments (called Autonomic Goverment), and one of their roles is the implementation and follow of any health/safety measure, including this bse thing. Anyone from the outside could say that in Spain there is an "active" search measures to eliminate the disease from the conuntry.

The picture differs a little when you look at the analysis made by this different regions and the cases of bse found. In Galicia there is 9 cases of confirmed BSE cases, and around 9,000 tests made on cows from this region (1/1,000 incidence), a similar incidence was found in other regions. But more interesting case in Catalunha where, as I mention before, has similar number of cows as Galicia if not more, and ONLY 40 analysis were made with, of course, not surprisingly not a single case detected.

The question is what is happening to all the cows that die of "natural courses"? Are they piled in the farms? What is the regional goverment doing with the dead or sick cows ?. As I already said, no matter what was the problem with the cow, if it is send for culling and it is more than 30 months old it has to be analysed for bse, and there is nothing to suppose that in Galicia the cows die at a "higher rate" compared with Catalunha, or that in Galicia the cows have more "diseases" compared with Catalunha.

With this I want to point out that the so-called "active programs" are, sometimes, not that active, so you can imagine what I think about "passive surveillance". Economic interests are more important: now in Spain the cows born and breed in Catalunha are BSE-free (until the first case, of course) and you can imagine the benefits (although I can't see any) of this "BSE-free" status.

A Spaniard displays indications of the 'mad cow' desease

9 Feb 01 El Pais by Javier Sampedro AltaVista page translator
The young person lived in the United Kingdom, and the resolution of its case will have to wait for the autopsy

Javier Monge entered the 15 of May of 2000 in hospital Twelve of October of Madrid with symptoms compatible with the disease of Creutzfeldt-Jakob. This disease has " a sporadic " version, that is not related to the consumption of bovine and usually appears around the 60 years of age, and another variant called " new variant " that is related to the consumption of bovine of mad cows and usually affects young people. As Javier were 27 years old, the doctors suspected the second possibility, but they could not prove it. Javier is still alive, and only the autopsy will be able to clear the doubts.

Javier Monge lived in the United Kingdom during about 16 months, between 1994 and 1995. This fact, together with its age, put in alert to the team of neurologists of Twelve of October Hospital , directed by Dr. Felix Bermejo. United Kingdom, where it calculates that more than average million mad cows entered the human food chain inadvertently, is the country with greater risk of infection, although the worse period went from 1986 to 1989.

The patient was first put under a series of tests to determine if she suffered the disease of Creutzfeldt-Jakob, and the team of Bermejo concluded that it was very probable. But those tests could not discriminate between " the classic " form and the " new variant ", not even approximately.

With the alive patient, no test is determining to 100%. But indications with different degrees from reliability can be obtained (see graphic). In the case of Javier Monge, youth and the stay in the United Kingdom aim at the new variant. Nevertheless, always there have been some cases of classic Creutzfeldt-Jakob in young patients. The own Felix Bermejo treated a patient of 19 years in the Eighties, long before the consumption of bovine caused the first human cases of mad cow desease in the United Kingdom.

Another orientative criterion is the time that passes between the appearance of the first symptoms and the death of the patient: a year or less in 90% of the classic, and between one and two years in the new variants. It has spent a year and a month since Javier Monge noticed the first symptoms, reason why this criterion favors slightly to the new variant.

Another difference is that, in the classic version, the prion is almost totally restricted to the central nervous system (brain and marrow), whereas in the new variant also it appears in amygdales and some visceras. Bermejo explains that its team took samples from amygdalas of Javier, and that was sent to the National Unit of Monitoring of the disease of Creutzfeldt-Jakob in Edimburg (Scotland), a center of world-wide reference. The result was negative, which supports the classic version.

The test more trustworthy than can be made live is a biopsy of brain (to take a sample from cerebral weave), a procedure nonfree of risk for the patient. The neurologist Jesus Esteban, of the team of Bermejo, advised this test to the parents of the patient, according to confirmed yesterday both parts to this newspaper.

" Doctor Esteban recommended the brain biopsy to us", explains the mother of Javier, Rosa Maria Sanz. " I asked if that were going to suppose some benefit to him for my son, and she responded to me that no. So I refused ".

The mother continues narrating who, days later, the neurologist added to him that a small possibility that existed the disease was not a Creutzfeldt-Jakob, and that if that one were the case, could not discard that there was a processing hope, by remote that outside. " Then I doubted, but my husband and my daughter were against ". The Bermejos and the direction of the Twelve of October assure that at any moment they recommended the family who practiced the biopsy, and it in spite of his high cost, but they include/understand perfectly that the parents refused it, given to the risk of the intervention and the little or null benefits that had been derived from her.

Javier was registered 4 of September the last before the impossibility to put under to him processing some. He remains since then in house of his parents. Its present state is " the one of a vegetable ", narrate its parents.

" The possibility cannot be excluded totally and the new variant ", recognizes Bermejo. " Only the autopsy can establish it with a 100% of security. The diagnosis with the alive patient is enough safe, but i myself I have been mistaken other times. It has had sometimes about which I have thought that one was a Creutzfeldt-Jakob, and the autopsy has demonstrated to me that it was another different disease. The autopsies refute the previous diagnoses in a 10% of the cases, approximately ".

The doctors also made tests genetic to Javier, that they discarded that a hereditary case outside (around 10% of the Creutzfeldt-Jakob they are it). Javier yes has an innate variation of the gene of the prión that appears in 100% of the cases of the new variant which they have studied genetically in the United Kingdom (it seems to exist a genetic propensity to contract the disease by the affected consumption of bovine). But the same genetic variation appears in 37% of the general population, and also it prearranges slightly to the classic Creutzfeldt-Jakob.

The classic cases raise from 1993 by the improvement of the monitoring system

From the creation of a specific system of monitoring for badly of Creutzfeldt-Jakob, in 1993, the number of proven or highly probable cases increased from the 22 of that year to the 61 of 1998. In both last years, the curve has lowered, although the data of 2000 are still provisional due to the normal delay in the notification of the autopsies to the central registry of Madrid.

All the cases detected until the moment are of the classic version, of which there are three types: hereditary (10%), by I infect in hospitals through the surgical material or processings with contaminated weaves and drugs (5%) and " the sporadic " calls, whose cause is not known. The numbers are very similar anywhere in the world, and they already were thus before the Eighties, when the first affected head of cattle entered the nourishing chain in the United Kingdom.

The apparent differences between independent communities are not statistically significant. Lowest the highest numbers and occur in the smallest communities, where the cases are so few that cause great random fluctuations when expressing itself in cases by million inhabitants. These numbers vary much from a year to another one.

" During four months we went from a doctor to another one " [This is an experience typical of all countries. -- webmaster]

The first symptoms of the disease of Creutzfeldt-Jakob, in anyone of their variants, are very ambiguous: depression, anxiety, insomnia. It is not easy to find a single citizen who has not suffered them sometimes. Watching backwards, the mother of Javier Monge, Maria Rosa Sanz, remember that his son showed signs of downheart in January of the last year. " She left his fiancee, with whom there was been ten years; I do not know if to that him a depression can be called ", says the woman.

" But per February it began to fail a leg to him; that no longer seemed nothing psychological ", remembers Maria Rosa. During the following weeks Javier was noticing who walked every worse time, fell to the ground in a pair of occasions and began to need aid to walk.

" During four months we went from a doctor to another one, with an anguish that was every greater time ", the mother continues. " One did a resonance to him and it did not leave anything, another one electroencefalograma and he did not appear to him nothing, another one electromiograma, nothing. Doctor of insurance, that the truth is that all the short while behaved very or, commanded to a psychologist or to a psychiatrist, never I clarify myself with that ".

Towards the month of April, Javier began to suffer more and more frequent upheavals of memory, and its language was losing fluidity little by little. That same month, difficult his andares jumps or espasmos worsened with muscle...

EU may ban T-bones, other back bone beef

February 7, 2001 By PAUL AMES, Associated Press
The European Union moved closer Wednesday to banning some of the most popular cuts of beef with a package of measures to quell public fear over mad cow disease. The European Commission approved a ban on meat attached to the back bones of cows that are more than a year old, which would rule out the sales of T-bone steaks and cuts such as Italy's bisteca fiorentina and Spain's chuleta de buey.

National veterinary experts will discuss the proposals, already backed by agriculture ministers from the 15 EU nations, later Wednesday. If approved, the measures could become effective March 31. "With today's proposals, we add an additional layer of protection for consumers," EU Health Commissioner David Byrne said.

The proposals exempt countries where no cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy have been discovered or that have clearly demonstrated effective control measures. "Sweden, Finland and Austria may be exempted because they have not to date registered any native cases of BSE and are considered to be countries where BSE is unlikely," the EU executive said in a statement. Britain is also exempted as far as domestic consumption of beef on the bone is concerned, although exports of British on-the-bone beef will continue to be banned. Portugal is also exempt because of measures its has taken to eradicate mad cow disease. All exemptions "will be conditional on continued and improved surveillance for the presence of BSE," including the increased testing of certain categories, the Commission said. Beef sales have fallen 27 percent across the EU since October.

Mad cow risk strikes fear down on ranch

February 7, 2001 Chicago Tribune by E. A. Torriero and Jeremy Manier
Watching his Black Angus steers shove one another toward two long troughs, rancher Marshall King knows that his livelihood and the health of the U.S. beef industry depend on the safety of the coarse yellow feed doled out to cattle like his across the nation.

Mad cow disease a brain-wasting illness believed to be spread through feed containing infected cattle products in Europe has not appeared in the United States. Federal regulators have devised layers of protection to keep it out, or to contain a possible outbreak.

But the feed production and distribution system is vulnerable at many points, regulators say.

Millions of tons of cattle feed are processed at thousands of mills across the country. Along the way from field to feeding trough, the ingredients make several stops, crossing paths with ingredients intended for other feeds. At every step, there is the danger that they could be tainted by cattle products, which are allowed in feeds meant for other animals, such as hogs. At the feedlot, ranchers do their own final mixing, combining corn, hay, soybeans and other additives.

Stringent federal guidelines are designed to ensure that feed is handled safely at every step, but a shortage of inspectors means many producers are never checked. There is no routine screening of feed for contaminants.

If a cow shows symptoms similar to mad cow, its brain is sent to a U.S. Department of Agriculture laboratory in Ames, Iowa, for examination.

"The system is so fragile," said Larry Blunt, head of the feed division for the Iowa Department of Agriculture. Blunt is confident his state's mills have been vigilant all have been inspected but admits, "Human error could happen anywhere at any time."

The system's weakness was exposed last week, when Purina Mills Inc. admitted that a herd of roughly 1,200 cows in Texas received feed containing traces of cattle meat and bone meal.

The news set off alarm among U.S. beef producers especially in Iowa, America's largest feed-producing state who fear that consumer hysteria, if not the disease itself, could cripple the beef industry.

That was evident last week, when cattle futures dipped amid news that candy marketed by a Chicago company contained gelatin derived from European cattle. And this week, a Maryland physician questioned whether consumers can be sure that herbal supplements many of which contain animal parts are safe.

In Europe, where mad cow has killed thousands of head of livestock and has been linked to at least 83 human deaths, the disease is thought to have spread by cattle eating feed containing meat and bone meal of diseased cows.

Allowing meat products into cattle feed would not pose a danger in itself as long as mad cow remains overseas. But if America falls prey to the disease, it could spread through the feed chain of the Midwest.

Since 1989 the FDA has raised an escalating series of barriers to any importation of European beef products. As an additional precaution, U.S. regulators in 1997 banned the use in cattle feed of any meat and bone meal from animals susceptible to brain-wasting illnesses cows, sheep, goats, deer and elk. Cattle protein can be used in hog, horse and poultry feed, however.

Iowa alone produces mountains of feed, 16 million tons annually. The most common ingredients corn and soybeans are grown in the state. After harvesting, much of the grain is sent by trucks to processors who mill it and then distribute it to ranchers.

In a second process, a protein source, usually a hog byproduct such as bone meal, is added with vitamins and minerals to the cattle feed.

At King's ranch in central Iowa, snowdrift-size piles of hay, gluten, soybean and corn products sit next to a grain silo that holds a mixture of vitamins and protein.

Twice daily, King or his son Jon drives a flatbed mixing truck that melds the ingredients and then distributes the feed into troughs several blocks long. Of the 25 pounds a day each one of King's steers consumes, less than half a pound constitutes a protein supplement, usually including a small amount of hog byproducts, he said.

King, 70, trusts that the protein is free of cattle products because he trusts the integrity of the grain mills and distributors. "These are people I have been dealing with for years," said King, who has been fattening cattle here for half a century. "I know they want to do things right." But there aren't enough people checking to be sure things are done right. In Iowa, it took a half a dozen state inspectors nearly three years to crisscross the state and visit more than 750 producers and distributors. A survey released last month by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found that hundreds of producers in the last three years have violated federal regulations. In the survey, involving 1,593 mills, nearly 50 percent lacked proper warning labels and 26 percent had no systems to prevent accidental mixing of meat and bone meal into cattle feed.

The findings so disturbed the FDA that it has threatened to close down, fine and in some cases prosecute feed makers if the violations are not corrected. Last week, representatives of the feed and cattle industry met with federal regulators to assure them and the public that they intend to comply.

Cattle producers nonetheless contend that Americans have nothing to worry about. "Mad cow is not in our system," said Joel Brinkmeyer, executive vice president of the Iowa Cattlemen's Association. "There is nothing to spread."

None of the violations found by regulators involved improper mixing of animal feed. U.S. scientists are still not convinced that mad cow can be spread through the feed system.

Researchers in Iowa tainted cattle feed with infectious material from sheep because scientists in Europe believed mad cow might have originated in sick sheep. But after studying the intentionally infected herd for several years, the American researchers saw no evidence of disease. Only later, when serum from the sick sheep was injected into the brains of cows, did the animals get sick.

"There is so much we don't know about mad cow and its transmission," said Harley Moon, a veterinary professor at Iowa State University who supervised the study for the U.S. government. "In Great Britain, the feed system seems like the suspect. But no one can say for sure."

So far, the main U.S. lookout point for the disease is a cramped laboratory in Ames where USDA scientists examine the brains of cows, looking for the pattern of brain damage that experts have linked with mad cow. The lab technicians study samples from roughly 20 cows a week [France tests 20,000 a week -- webmaster] and have yet to find a trace of mad cow in more than a decade of research.

What seems to motivate many feed suppliers in Iowa is fear not necessarily of mad cow itself, but of what could happen to their business if the public perceives that beef is risky.

At the Land O'Lakes Farmland feed mill in Ft. Dodge, company officials said they process of separating ingredients is mechanized and computerized. "It's not like someone can pull the wrong lever on a chute or something," said John Swanson, vice president for feed operations.


rther west, in Carroll, feed distributor and mixer Bob Raue said his company has separate chutes for hog and cattle feed mixing. A set of posted guidelines for flushing the mixer with ground corn is within viewing of the worker running the machine at Juergens Produce and Feed.

"We believe in the safeguards we have in place," said Raue, who sells more than 50,000 tons of feed a year.

Glenn Kooima, owner of Anderson Feeds in Doon, Iowa, said that like many other small suppliers, he was not even aware of the regulations concerning record-keeping when state officials paid him a visit last year and cited him.

"They happened to hit me first," said Kooima, who supplies about 100 cattle and hog producers in his part of the state. The regulators found that Kooima's invoices had not included adequate warnings against feeding cattle products to other cattle.

The bureaucratic hassle has led Kooima and many other suppliers to drop cattle byproducts from all their livestock feed. Purina Mills decided to do so at all its plants after the contamination in Texas.

As an alternative protein source, feed mills use soybeans, pork products or a liquid protein made from non-animal ingredients.

In Illinois, state Department of Agriculture officials said compliance is improving among state feeders. In 1998, the first year inspectors checked for compliance with the mad cow regulations, about half the state's suppliers were not even aware of the requirements, department officials said. Only 6 percent of the 182 facilities inspected since July 1999 had violations.

Feed producers and farmers worry that the Texas scare is hurting the industry's reputation. "These cattle producers are out here battling the elements, 20-below weather, and Peter Jennings is on the news talking about mad cow disease, scaring the death out of everyone," Kooima said. "It's discouraging that way."

Mad cow scare raised questions about Mamba chewy candy

January 30, 2001 The Associated Press
City health officials are investigating sales of a candy pulled from stores in Poland because one of its ingredients may have been made from beef in a country that has had an outbreak of mad cow disease. The distributor of the Mamba fruit chew, made in Germany, insists it poses no health risks even though it contains a beef-based gelatin. The company, Storck U.S.A., said it had no plans to change the ingredients of the Mamba sold in the United States.

"The product is safe," Storck vice president Tony Nelson said from the company's Chicago office. The company said German health officials have certified its beef gelatin as properly prepared for human consumption. The candy, which comes 18 pieces to a 75-cent pack in lemon, orange, raspberry and strawberry flavors, is sold throughout the city, the Daily News reported Tuesday.

"Obviously, we will look into it," city Health Department spokeswoman Sandra Mullin said. "People should not panic. We have not had animal or human cases of mad cow disease in New York or in the United States." The candy is marketed in 80 countries by the Storck Co., of Werther, Germany.

Germany discovered its first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, late last year in a cow. At least 18 others have been infected. Storck recalled the candy in Poland last week after health officials there banned beef products from countries with confirmed cases of mad cow disease.

The company said it would eliminate the gelatin only from Mamba distributed in Poland.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not received any alerts about the candy, the News said, quoting a spokeswoman as saying: "Just because it's a bovine source doesn't necessarily mean there's a problem." BSE is believed to be spread through livestock feed made from infected animals. As a precaution, the U.S. government has banned cows and sheep from being given feed made from animal parts.

The human version of the disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob, has killed some 80 Europeans since the mid-1990s, mostly in Britain. The disease first appeared in 1984 in a cow in Britain thought to have eaten feed that included offal from sheep that harbored scrapie, a similar illness.

FDA says candy with beef gelatin safe

January 30, 2001 The Associated Press
A candy sold in New York city after it was pulled from store shelves in Poland in scare over mad cow disease is safe, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday. FDA spokesman Brad Stone said the agency had contacted the manufacturer of the Mamba fruit chew and was "able to ascertain that they did have certification that they were in compliance" with U.S. food safety regulations and requirements.

"There should be no problem with the product," Stone said.

New York City officials were looking into sales of the candy because one of its ingredients may have been made from beef in a country that had an outbreak of mad cow disease. There was no immediate indication whether Mamba is sold elsewhere in the United States.

The distributor of the candy, made in Germany, insisted it poses no health risks even though it contains a beef-based gelatin. The U.S. distributor, Storck U.S.A., said there were no plans to change the ingredients of the Mamba fruit chews sold in this country.

"The product is safe," Storck vice president Tony Nelson said from the company's Chicago office. The company said German health officials have certified its beef gelatin as properly prepared for human consumption.

The candy, which comes 18 pieces to a 75-cent pack in lemon, orange, raspberry and strawberry flavors, is sold throughout New York City, the New York Daily News reported Tuesday.

Germany discovered its first case of mad cow disease last year and at least 18 animals have been found infected subsequently. Storck recalled the candy in Poland last week after health officials there banned beef products from countries with confirmed cases of mad cow disease.

The company said it would eliminate the gelatin only from Mamba distributed in Poland. Mad cow disease is believed spread through livestock feed made from infected animals.

FDA Announces Test Results From Texas Feed Lot

January 30, 2001 FDA press release
Today the Food and Drug Administration announced the results of tests taken on feed used at a Texas feedlot that was suspected of containing meat and bone meal from other domestic cattle -- a violation of FDA's 1997 prohibition on using ruminant material in feed for other ruminants.

Results indicate that a very low level of prohibited material was found in the feed fed to cattle. FDA has determined that each animal could have consumed, at most and in total, five-and-one-half grams - approximately a quarter ounce -- of prohibited material. These animals weigh approximately 600 pounds. It is important to note that the prohibited material was domestic in origin (therefore not likely to contain infected material because there is no evidence of BSE in U.S. cattle), fed at a very low level, and fed only once. The potential risk of BSE to such cattle is therefore exceedingly low, even if the feed were contaminated.

According to Dr. Bernard Schwetz, FDA's Acting Principal Deputy Commissioner, "The challenge to regulators and industry is to keep this disease out of the United States. One important defense is to prohibit the use of any ruminant animal materials in feed for other ruminant animals. Combined with other steps, like U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) ban on the importation of live ruminant animals from affected countries, these steps represent a series of protections, to keep American cattle free of BSE."

Despite this negligible risk, Purina Mills, Inc., is nonetheless announcing that it is voluntarily purchasing all 1,222 of the animals held in Texas and mistakenly fed the animal feed containing the prohibited material. Therefore, meat from those animals will not enter the human food supply. FDA believes any cattle that did not consume feed containing the prohibited material are unaffected by this incident, and should be handled in the beef supply clearance process as usual.

FDA believes that Purina Mills has behaved responsibly by first reporting the human error that resulted in the misformulation of the animal feed supplement and then by working closely with State and Federal authorities. This episode indicates that the multi-layered safeguard system put into place is essential for protecting the food supply and that continued vigilance needs to be taken, by all concerned, to ensure these rules are followed routinely. FDA will continue working with USDA as well as State and local officials to ensure that companies and individuals comply with all laws and regulations designed to protect the U.S. food supply.

Opinion (webmaster): Can't go wrong on candy -- FDA announced earlier it doesn't care how a finished product is sourced, it is only regulating raw materials. While Poland has a right to enforce its food purity laws, the Mamba product is only one of many thousands that contains gelatin from a BSE-affected country. Gelatin does not rank with brain and spinal cord as a high risk material although the science leaves a lot to be desired at this point in time.

Purina MIlls has displayed some excellent leadership in shifting out of bovine byproducts in feed in terms of US risk reduction; we shall see if the whole industry is going to follow suit and what becomes of the offal from 35,000,000 slaughtered cattle a year. Rendering served a good purpose historically in the sense that this material got recycled and utilized. If vertically integrated feed giants such as Cargill decline to go along, the US could end up with Balkanized public policy on actual risk reduction, or just as importantly, perceived risk.

The Texas incident was mainly a public relations disaster. Staged to show that "the system worked" (no inspection needed voluntary industry reporting of ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban violations) shortly after an FDA-based New York Times article showed that it wasn't, the incident so confused the press and public that many Americans walked away thinking that 1221 cattle in Texas had to be quarantined by FDA because of mad cow disease. There is no evidence at all supporting this; these cattle are no different than any other. There is no evidence that the feed was contaminated and no time for any amplification to have occurred on feedlot time frames.

US tightens its defences against BSE

Brit Med J 2001;322:318 ( 10 February 01) Scott Gottlieb New York US government officials and the farming industry met last week to discuss whether the United States needs to bolster its defences against bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), which has yet to be detected in US cattle.

The US Department of Agriculture has already made it illegal to bring European cattle and beef products into the country. If the disease did surface, the US government speculates that its spread would be limited because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prohibits giving cattle feed that contains dead mammals, which they say probably led to the disease¹s spread throughout Europe.

The meeting, which was scheduled last November, was held as US regulators kept 1200 Texas cattle in quarantine for fear they had been infected with BSE (they had been given feed that had been found to be mislabelled or unclearly labelled). The FDA confiscated the relevant feed batches‹from manufacturer Purina Mills‹to examine whether it contained meat and bone meal made from other ruminant animals, a practice prohibited in the United States.

The US ban on using dead mammals in cattle feed, according to Dr Murray Lumpkin from the FDA, was designed to contain any potential outbreaks. "If there ever was a case or a cluster of cases, those cattle wouldn¹t be put into the normal process," said Dr Lumpkin, senior medical adviser to the agency¹s deputy commissioner. "When you look at the European experience, that is in theory what happened, and [it] amplified the disease."

US officials have admitted that some banned feed could have found its way into the country in the past decade, but they have yet to find it. The US government asserts that no cases of BSE have been confirmed in the United States "despite 10 years of active surveillance," according to a statement released by the FDA.

Since the FDA instituted the feed ban in 1997, the agency has been making the rounds, with the help of state inspectors, checking for compliance. A report in January found that of the feed manufacturers inspected, several failed to label feed properly, while some others did not have a system set up to prevent mix-ups. To get the inspections done, the agency has taken money from other initiatives.

The meeting between industry and government officials was aimed at finding common ground on how to tighten surveillance without cramping industry activity. Although the quarantine of the Texas cattle captured the national spotlight, consumer advocates believe that other feed producers probably did the same thing but failed to come forward. In recent weeks, they have been calling for a tightening of regulations governing the beef industry.

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