Prion Disease: BSE fears lead to cosmetics ban for 13 countries
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BSE fears lead to cosmetics ban for 13 countries
Britain sells nvCJD blood to 11 countrie
nvCJD: just a matter of time for US?
At least 100 states at risk from BSE, U.N. says
"America denies having BSE, but has yet to prove it": New Scientist
Will richer countries pay for 3rd world eradication?
Elk herd with disease similar to mad cow found in Oklahoma
Health Canada: politics, not safety, motivated Brazilian beef ban
Concern about vaccines and mad cow disease
Sporadic CJD said grossly under-reported in US
Organic farming could slow mad cow disease, EU says

BSE fears lead to cosmetics ban for 13 countries

China Times- Thursday 8 February 2001
Export story collection
The Department of Health (DOH) will formally announce a ban on cosmetics made of cattle and sheep tissue from 13 European countries in the next few days amid public fears over BSE, or Mad Cow disease, Taiwan government sources said Thursday.

After the announcement, DOH officials said, local importers or distributors must recall all those products from market shelves within six months [ie, assuming any have gone unsold by then. -- webmaster]

The 13 BSE-affected European countries are Britain, Ireland, France, Switzerland, Portugal, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Denmark, Spain, Germany and Italy, the officials said.

The DOH decided to ban the cosmetic and skin care products after British authorities confirmed that BSE-contaminated cattle bone products had been exported to 70-plus countries around the world, including Taiwan.

Hu You-fu, director of the DOH's Bureau of Pharmaceutical Affairs, said the Republic of China is the second Asian country to ban animal tissue-containing cosmetics from the Mad Cow disease-affected areas. Japan took the lead by imposing a ban last year.

Hu said the DOH has sorted out at least 26 batches of skin and hair care products and lip gloss that contain placenta or collagen made of cattle and sheep tissue from the BSE-affected areas. Among those products, Hu said, 12 came from the United Kingdom, one from Switzerland, two from Germany, four from Italy and seven from France.

Under current cosmetics health regulations, the DOH is authorized to ban imports and sales of cosmetics harmful to human health. Hu said local distributors who fail to take banned cosmetics off store shelves before the DOH-set deadline will face up to one year in jail or a maximum fine of NT$150,000 (US$4,659).

As cosmetics makers in BSE-affected areas may use animal tissue from non-affected regions, Hu said that in six months' time, local cosmetics importers and manufacturers of products made of placenta and collagen must produce certificates proving that their raw materials come from non-affected areas.

Hu said there is still no direct evidence proving that the BSE prion that causes the brain-wasting cattle disease is linked to an equally fatal human ailment -- new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which has killed some 80 Europeans since the mid-1990s, mostly in Britain.

But Hu said the possible spread of the BSE prion from cattle or sheep to humans has caused alarm in Europe and the United States and that the World Health Organization has suggested a ban on meat and other products from BSE-infected cattle and sheep.

Hu also urged local consumers to avoid applying animal tissue-containing skin care products to their skin wounds, eyes and mucous membranes to reduce the risk of infection. [This advice is in accord with suspected routes of exposure in kuru in New Guinea. -- webmaster]

Meanwhile, Hu said the DOH will check to find out how many of the 260,000 kinds of medical products available in the local market contain animal tissue from BSE-affected areas. According to Hu, current Taiwan law bans the use of human and animal placenta in the production of any such products.

Comment (webmaster): What is going on here: sensible application of precautionary principle, over-reactive panic, or merely trade protectionism? Probably Taiwan, a global scientific power, is looking at the news and confusion, thinking 'we don't need the risk.' The focus is on collagen (conceivably purfied in part from spinal column) and unspecified ingredients derived from bovine and sheep placenta and other tissues from EU countries reporting BSE. Bovine brain ceramide, a common cosmetrics ingredient in certain formulations, is not specifically mentioned here.

As chemicals, these ingredients can survive multiple rigorous purification steps used in manufacture; on the other hand, the prion protein is quite sticky, resistant to high temperatures and other processes, and could conceivably go along for the ride. One hopes that experimental testing has validated that this hypothetical contamination does not actually occur to any significant extent.

Global containment of this disease -- is it not a futile and divisive exercise to focus on bans and reassurances at this late date? Surely over the last 15 years many people in Taiwan and elsewhere have already applied cosmetics, lip gloss, hair and skin care products. While few, if any, will develop disease, scientists can't put a number on the risk.

Would it not be better to focus global resources on researching sensitive product tests, early diagnosis of disease in people and animals, and a cure? There is an appalling lack of information on the very questions needed to calmly and objectively evaluate risks. Indeed public risk perception, rather than solid risk information, is in the driver's seat.

With everyone on the same page (eg, risk is low but not zero; one cow in a million but US slaughters 35 million) the public sits down to dinner and wonders if they have drawn the short straw. Meal time is supposed to be family relaxation, not Russian roulette. No one wants to apply an infectious presenile dementia to their skin given the experience with kuru in New Guinea.

True, they finish eating their organically grown salad, light up a cigarette and get out on the freeway drinking a cup of coffee talking on a cell phone. The webmaster must bow in sincere respect to anyone who can get the public to rationally rank the risks in their lives and adjust their riskiest behaviors accordingly.

FDA: What about cosmetics?

FDA Cosmetics web sites: home,puffery, imports
by Judith E. Foulke
"A number of biological products in cosmetics have raised consumer concern:

... Human placenta is the nourishing lining of the womb (uterus), which is expelled after birth. When placental materials were first used as cosmetic ingredients in the 1940s, manufacturers promoted the products as providing beneficial hormonal effects such as stimulating tissue growth and removing wrinkles, even though newborn infants emerge from the womb with wrinkled skin!

The hormone content and the tissue-growth and wrinkle-removing claims classified the placenta-containing products as drugs, and FDA declared them to be ineffective and therefore misbranded.

FDA's challenge caused placenta suppliers to change marketing strategies by claiming that hormones in their placenta ingredients had been extracted and were no longer in the product. They then offered placental raw materials without medical claims--only as a source of protein.

Can you get a disease from placental cosmetic ingredients? Bailey says no. Placenta used in cosmetics is washed and processed many times to destroy any harmful bacteria or viruses. Besides that, says Bailey, the cosmetic matrix (components that bind the ingredients in products) is made from a wide variety of substances, such as alcohol and preservatives, that would present a hostile environment to any viruses or bacteria the placenta might have carried. [These treatments cannot be relied on to diminish prion infectivity if any were present initially. -- webmaster]

Amniotic liquid (from cow or ox) is the fluid that surrounds the developing fetus and protects it from physical injury. It is promoted for benefits similar to those of human placenta and has limited use in moisturizers, hair lotions, scalp treatments, and shampoos.

Collagen (from young cows) is the protein substance found in connective tissue. (Connective tissue binds together and supports organs and other body structures.) A great deal of research has been done on the different types and uses for collagen. In cosmetics, collagen has a moisturizing effect. It is not water soluble, but it holds water. FDA says there is no convincing evidence that collagen can penetrate the skin and have an effect below the surface.

Cerebrosides (from animals or plants) are a type of glycolipid produced naturally in basal epidermal cells--the deepest layer of skin. After cerebrosides are formed, they are secreted to the outside of the cells and serve as a protective coating. As new cells form in lower layers of skin, the older skin cells move closer to surface layers and start to dry out. During this process, the cerebrosides are chemically changed and form ceramides, part of a network of membranes between cells. Skin moisture and suppleness comes from this network.

The raw material for cerebrosides in cosmetics comes from cattle, oxen or swine brain cells or other nervous system tissues. Alternatively, the raw material may be isolated from plant sources. Industry cosmetic scientists claim that the use of cerebrosides in skin products results in a smoother skin surface and better moisture retention, effects that translate into marketing claims such as luminosity and ever-improving hydration. FDA has not evaluated the studies on which these claims are based. "

Avoiding prohibited ingredients through FDA's Voluntary Cosmetic Registration Program:

Although cosmetic manufacturers are not required to register with FDA, companies are encouraged to register their establishments and list their products and ingredients through the agency's Voluntary Cosmetic Registration Program (VCRP)....

Imports and FDA

"If the number of FDA-regulated products coming in from foreign shores is any indication, the import business in the United States is flourishing. In the last 20 years, the volume of imported goods the agency regulates has tripled from an estimated half million shipments in 1971 to about one and a half million today."
3001.10.0050: Other Glands And Other Organs, Dried, Whether Or Not Powdered
U.S. Imports for Consumption: December 1998 and 1998 Year-to-Date
(Customs Value, in Thousands of Dollars)
(Units of Quantity: Kilograms)

 <--- Dec 1998 --- 
Country Quantity
WORLD TOTAL . . . . .26,320   
Canada . . . . . . . . . ...17,850 
Denmark . . . . . . . . .10,970 
Italy . . . . . . . . . . ..... 8,530 
Spain . . . . . . . . . .......5,994
Switzerland . . . . . . . ....278 
United Kingdom . . . . ......45

Britain sells nvCJD blood to 11 countries

05 Feb 01 Guardian
See also US Blood Recall/Withdrawal home page
Blood products donated by three people who were later struck down with the human form of BSE have been sold to 11 countries , amid mounting concern that Britain could soon be blamed for exporting the fatal human condition as well as the cattle disease.

Thousands of patients worldwide, and an unknown number of haemophiliacs in Britain, might have received treatments with the products between 1996 and last year. The risk of infection - which health department officials insist is only theoretical - has now been closed off by restricting blood sources to the US.

But advisers fear some hospital trusts are still taking unjustifiable gambles by allowing old surgical instruments to be sent abroad to countries with shortages of equipment. One source said Britain should shut off such supplies and behave "like a village with the black death".

Cattle in scores of countries are already thought to have been exposed to the risk of BSE through exports of animal feed between 1988 and 1996. Last night Malcolm Tibbert, chairman of the Human BSE Foundation which represents the families of victims, said:"Lessons of the past have not been taken on board. It is bad enough we have nvCJD in this country, and it is clear BSE was exported, but this would take it to another level."

It was now more than 12 years since concerns about spreading disease through blood or vaccine were raised, he added.

The number of nvCJD victims in Britain could now have reached 94. Thirteen have been blood donors, and their blood has been used in transfusions for 23 people as well as in other products. The government is considering changing advice that doctors should not normally inform patients exposed to a theoretical risk of contamination because there is no test, no cure and no treatment.

The Irish authorities announced just before Christmas that polio vaccine administered in 1998-99 had included albumin from a British nvCJD victim who had given blood in both 1996 and 1997. Babies and pre-school children received most of the 83,500 doses administered. The Irish government was informed by manufacturer Evans/Medeva.

Brazil received nearly 45,000 vials of albumin, used to restore and maintain blood volume in patients, but a senior official of the country's national agency for medical surveillance said she had never received any formal notification of problems.

There has been no response from the Brazilian company that sold the product on behalf on Bio Products Laboratory, part of the NHS's blood service, which sent products to Dubai, India, Turkey, Brunei, Egypt, Morocco, Oman, Singapore and Russia.

Immunoglobulin, which helps replace antibodies, and factor VIII, a clotting agent, were also exported. The blood service said it was impossible to say how many patients might be involved or treatments administered. One patient might receive a number of treatments from the same batch, and some batches were replaced in 1998-99 after the first two "risky" donors were identified. Some batches were discarded by hospitals and all had now passed three-year expiration dates.

Such plasma-derived products were made up from a large number of individual donations, a typical starting pool involving 24,000 donors. "There is no scientific evidence to suggest that nvCJD can be transmitted through plasma or plasma-related products, nor through blood donations in general," a spokesman said. [There is no shortage of scientific evidence that blood can be infectious 1, 2 at some low level. But is it infectious enough to lead to disease over a long human lifespan? No one knows. --webmaster]

BPL had informed appropriate regulatory bodies abroad that nvCJD patients had donated blood. It had also written to wholesalers in each country and had confirmation they had told their relevant ministries. "We have tried our very best," said a spokesman. Since 1998 most plasma used here has come from the US.

Concerns over donations of equipment were raised recently when it was discovered that an endoscope, used for examining internal organs, just sent to India might have been used on a nvCJD patient. The patient was found subsequently not to have had nvCJD.

The Department of Health said guidelines suggested such sales abroad should not take place. But individual trusts might choose to help hospitals in other countries.

Where it went:

Ireland polio vaccine 83,500 doses

Brazil albumin 44,864 vials, immunoglobulin 80 vials

Dubai albumin 2,400 vials

India albumin 953 vials

Turkey immunoglobulin 840 vials

Brunei albumin 400 vials

Egypt albumin 144 vials

Morocco albumin 100 vials

Oman immunoglobulin 100 vials

Russia factor VIII 23 vials

Singapore immunoglobulin three vials

Singapore officials deny presence of mad cow disease

Times of India, 8 Feb 01
Singapore officials yesterday denied a media report that blood products tainted with the human form of mad cow disease had arrived in the country. They said the blood in question was sent to Hong Kong instead.

The Health Ministry said "there has been no importation into Singapore of immunoglobulin derived from British blood donors, and hence, no administration of contaminated blood products to any patient in Singapore."

The Singapore Straits Times reported Tuesday that a British lab had confirmed it sent three vials of a blood product to Singapore sometime during the last three years. The product was reportedly donated by someone diagnosed with new variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease. gypt: nvCJD tainted blood products were re-exported to Britain or to a third country. 20:28:25 -0500

Egypt denies UK blood products were kept

Fri, 9 Feb 2001  Reuters English News Service
Egyptian Health Minister Ismail Sallam said in remarks published on Wednesday that Egypt had re-exported blood products from British men carrying the human version of mad cow disease.

"A total of 144 ampules of imported plasma were sent back abroad," the official daily Al-Ahram quoted Sallam as saying. He did not say whether the blood products were re-exported to Britain or to a third country.

Britain said on Monday that it had exported to Egypt and 10 other countries blood products donated by three men who were later diagnosed with new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD). Some scientists believe humans can become infected with the fatal, brain-wasting disease through blood products, although there have been no reported cases.

Sallam said Egypt had banned blood product imports since 1985. "Egypt has a surplus of blood exceeding 800,000 units compared to 150,000 units a few years ago...How can blood be imported while we have a surplus?" he said.

Sallam has in the past asserted that Egypt is free of mad cow disease. Egypt banned beef imports from Europe about four months ago,but there have been no restrictions on the import of bone meal feed until recently.

Haemophilia patients and nvCJD in blood products

Mon, 29 Jan 2001 House of Lords
Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the recent report from Bio Products Laboratory that plasma from a person later found to have vCJD had been used in the manufacture of clotting factor for the treatment of National Health Service patients with haemophilia, how many people have been affected by the finding; what individual advice and counselling have been given to patients who may be affected; and what further action they are taking.[HL448]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: No information is held centrally on the number of patients with haemophilia who received clotting factor made from plasma donated by the individual who later developed vCJD.

Haemophilia centre directors were notified in December 2000 of the batch numbers of the clotting factor and are in the process of identifying the recipients from their patient records.

The UK Haemophilia Doctors Association, in consultation with the Department of Health, has agreed a policy of giving all haemophilia patients information about the incident and offering them a choice to know if they or their children received the implicated clotting factor.

Counselling and advice to patients will be provided by haemophilia centres. The Government have asked an expert panel to consider as a matter of urgency how such incidents should be managed in future.

In 1998, the Government took the step of ceasing to use UK plasma in the manufacture of blood products as a precautionary measure against the theoretical risk that vCJD can be transmitted in this way.

Canada denies presence of imported mad cow feeds

Sunday, February 11, 2001 Canadian Press Dennis Bueckert
Canadian Health Coalition tracks this issue closely
Canada imported 125,000 kilograms of British meat and bone meal in the 1990s after it had been identified as a likely cause of mad cow disease, British figures indicate.

The figures from U.K. Customs and Excise contradict claims by Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief, who has categorically denied that Canada ever imported bone meal from countries of the European Union.

"Never," said Vanclief outside the Commons on Friday. "Canada has not imported meat and bone meal from the European Union."

The Sunday Times reported last week that Prosper de Mulder, Britain's largest rendering company, exported potentially contaminated material to as many as 70 countries, including Canada.

U.K. government figures indicate that Canada received 30,000 kilograms of meat and bone meal in 1993; 22,000 in 1994; 31,000 in 1995; and 42,000 in 1996.

In a worldwide alert last week, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization reported that meat and bone meal from Europe was imported by more than 100 countries from 1986 up to today. All those countries are at risk, said the report.

"All countries which have imported cattle or meat and bone meal that originated from Western Europe, during and since the 1980s, can therefore be considered at risk from the disease."

nvCJD: just a matter of time for US?

Sunday,February 4, 2001 By Maria Alvarez NY Post
It's only a matter of time before mad cow disease surfaces in this country, experts told The Post. Scientists monitoring the nation's cattle herds and medical experts who oversee our blood supply fear the brain-eating disease may already have crossed our borders. Although no cases have been reported of mad cow disease in humans or cattle in the United States, officials are demanding that more aggressive action be taken to protect our beef and blood supply:

-- The American Red Cross will soon announce a ban on all blood imports from Western Europe -- and on blood donations from anyone who has lived or traveled in Western Europe for at least three months - in a bid to keep the U.S. blood supply safe from the killer disease. Red Cross officials believe the federal Food and Drug Administration's proposed ban on blood from the United Kingdom, France, Portugal and Ireland isn't stiff enough in the face of the growing spread of mad cow disease - or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) - in those countries.

-- American biochemists and neuropathologists last week called for more testing of U.S. cattle amid reports that a herd of 1,222 in Texas had to be quarantined after it was accidentally fed a mix of bone and meat meal derived >from cattle carcasses - a violation of FDA regulations implemented to prevent BSE.

-- The fruity "Mamba" candy - which contains beef gelatin from Germany, where there have been at least a dozen BSE cases - was banned last week in Poland, prompting panic in the United States. An investigation found the gelatin came from uncontaminated cattle.

"It is undeniable that it will come to the U.S.," said Dr. Rebecca Haley, a chief medical officer at the American Red Cross. "We have to be very responsible and be extremely safety conscious and keep [blood] donations as safe as possible even at the risk of depleting the blood supply," said Haley, warning that mad cow disease could pose as great a threat to the blood supply as AIDS if precautions aren't taken.

Currently there is no blood screening test for BSE, which makes it essential to be "prudent," said Haley. If the ban proposed by the Red Cross is implemented, the New York Blood Center would be devastated, according to blood-bank officials. The center imports 25 percent of its blood supply from Norway, Switzerland and Germany.

Peter Lurie, an FDA advisory-board member, believes the Red Cross is overreacting. "They are under pressure to improve their image," said Lurie, noting that the Red Cross's image was tarnished during the height of the AIDS epidemic when it failed to safeguard its blood supply. Lurie said his board is recommending that the FDA blood ban - now limited to the U.K. - be expanded to Ireland, Portugal and France. He said the FDA has taken steps to protect cattle from the fatal disease by banning feed from Europe and monitoring U.S. herds for BSE.

One longtime critic of FDA enforcement, says "the FDA is taking half-measures. As surveillance - it's weak. It's more than a matter a time before we get our first case of nvCJD," he said. "There will be chaos because no one will be able to trace where the first case of nvCJD came from." [In other words, many Americans satisfy several of these exposure opportunies, so which one was it?: been to Europe, had surgically procedure, ate imported food product from UK or EU, hypothetical homegrown amplication of British byproduct, cosmetics from a country reporting BSE, ... -- webmaster]

Dr. Pierluigi Gambetti, whose mission is to hunt down human mad cow disease here, agrees, claiming there's not enough testing for BSE in cattle here. "Thirty-seven million animals are slaughtered a year for consumption and less than a 1,000 are tested a year - it's too low," he said. "If you don't look, you don't find it," Gambetti said. "Our testing is not on the cutting edge."

A recent FDA report found hundreds of feed handlers violated regulations aimed at keeping U.S. cattle feed free of bone and meat meal from dead cattle - which can cause mad cow disease over time. At least 700 of 5,000 feed handlers inspected were not in compliance, said Dr. Stephen Sundlop of the FDA. And inspections of about 5,000 more have yet to be completed.

Opinion (webmaster): A good blood test here could remove a lot of uncertainty. In the end, anxiety may take a bigger toll than actual disease. Yet the Red Cross cannot help but incorporate its experiences with AIDS and hepatitus C, which too lacked tests for years with non-hypothetical consequences. Reportedly a half-dozen or more blood screening test methodologies are under development.

What is needed is exquisitely sensitive prion detection. If rodent models of disease prove a bit dicey, are we to then use students or prisoners as volunteers, or start from scratch with another species? The experimental problem is first distinguishing normal background levels of prion protein from its immunogenically similar abnormal infectious prion; second determining if there is a safe threshold (non-zero but inconsequential infectivity); and third in determining whether nvCJD and sporadic CJD present different risks (each strain would have to be tested separately).

Why didn't this research get underway 15 years ago? Controversies over infectious agent were largely resolved by the mid-80's: the 1967 theory of JS Griffith was confirmed by Prusiner's group. Governments found it more convenient to harass scientists rather than confront the disease: eg, Dr. Richard Lacey in Britain or Dr. Richard Marsh in the US. History does not record that the disease, which is far more insiduous than a PR problem, then went away. And so we landed in the mess of today.

A blood diagnostic might well extend to product and livestock testing, enabling validated reassurances to the public across the board. If it turns out there wasn't a problem to begin with, or that the problem is limited easily and isolated, so much better.

A cure for CJD is contingent upon diagnostics. CJD is not an appropriate condition to stabilize after extensive brain damage has occurred -- the patient needs to be identified earlier. Therapies such as amyloid vaccination that show promise in Alzheimer, a similar amyloidosis in a different gene, might show the way for CJD.

Questions would remain about side effects (eg, knocking out normal prion function, which remains unclear despite 7,000 publications, might just trade CJD for some other dementia) and so safety in administering treatment prophylactically (without diagnosis) to the entire globally exposed population.

As with AIDS, surveillance and therapy might not be affordable for the poorer of the 100 countries identified by the UN as exposed. Developed countries would then have to solve this problem or risk re-contamination. England may lack deep enough pockets to adequately compensate even its own and French nvCJD victims, much less offset damage to livestock producers and other affected industries in a 100 countries.

At least 100 states at risk from BSE, U.N. says

Wednesday 7 February 2001 Reuters By David Brough 
The United Nations said on Wednesday that at least 100 countries were at risk from Mad Cow disease and urged them to take tough action including a ban on feeding meat-based meal to cattle, sheep and goats.

"FAO estimates that between 1986-96 up to today, meat and bone meal (MBM) from Europe was exported to more than 100 countries,'' Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), told Reuters. "Around 100 countries imported live cattle. Some countries also re-exported MBM to third countries,'' Diouf said in a written answer to Reuters questions on Mad Cow disease, or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE).

"All countries which have imported cattle or meat and bone meal which originated from Western Europe, during and since the 1980s, can therefore be considered at risk from the disease,'' Diouf added. "Regions which have imported sizeable quantities of meat meal from the UK during and since the 1980s include the Near East, Eastern Europe and Asia,'' said the director-general, whose organisation is best known for its drive to reduce world hunger.

BSE was first found in British herds in 1985. Many scientists believe the use of MBM in cattle feed triggers the brain-wasting disease. The EU has banned the use of MBM in animal feed for six months from January 1.

Diouf advised countries at risk from Mad Cow disease to ban feeding MBM to cattle, sheep and goats. The director-general was asked by Reuters what advice he would give to countries outside Western Europe which are concerned about the possible threat of BSE.

"For countries which have imported animals and MBM from BSE-infected trading partners, FAO advises the adoption of a precautionary approach,'' he replied in a written response.

- A ban on the feeding of meat and bone meal to cattle, sheep and goats. To reduce the risk of infection even further, countries could consider a ban on the feeding of MBM to all animals.

- Active surveillance measures for the detection, control and eradication of BSE.

- The requirement to remove specified high-risk materials (like spinal cord, brain, eyes, tonsils, parts of the intestines) from cattle, sheep and goats from the human and animal food chains. These materials account for over 95 percent of infectivity.

- The prohibition of dead animals not fit for human consumption being used for feed production.

- Improved risk management and communication on food safety issues. - From the information presently available, FAO has no reason to believe that milk is not safe,'' Diouf said.

So far Switzerland is the only nation outside the 15-nation EU to report the appearance of BSE. All EU states have reported BSE cases except Finland, Sweden, Austria and Greece. Meanwhile in Brussels, the European Commission on Wednesday proposed a ban on the use of the vertebral column from cattle aged over 12 months in 10 EU countries, effectively curbing the sale of T-bone steaks there.

FAO believed that the United States and Canada were unlikely to have cases of Mad Cow disease, but this possibility could not be ruled out, Diouf said. He said his organisation endorsed a European Commission risk assessment study into BSE.

"According to this study, it is 'highly unlikely that the BSE agent is present' in Argentina, Australia, Chile, Norway, New Zealand and Paraguay,'' Diouf said. "Canada and the USA are unlikely to have BSE in their herds but it cannot be excluded,'' he said.

Comment (webmaster): Following the uproar over the release of the first 70 countries, the UN has apparently decided not to release names of the additional 30 countries. This cannot help but fuel speculation and uncertainty as everyone wonders which trading partners are on the list.

Elk herd with disease similar to mad cow found in Oklahoma

8 Feb 2001 The Shawnee News-Star
A fatal brain ailment similar to mad cow disease (BSE, bovine spongiform encephalopathy) has been found in a captive Oklahoma County elk herd, forcing officials to put 140 of the animals under quarantine.

State Department of Agriculture veterinarian Gene Eskew said "chronic wasting disease" (CWD) has been found in 5 elk that died, and a few others in the herd are suspected to have the disease.

The agriculture department is watching for additional deaths so the tissues can be sent for testing to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa. The tests must be performed on carcasses because there are no live tests for the disease.

The herd, which came from Montana, may have to be killed. "The options are not very good," Eskew said. "There is no money from the state available to purchase them and put the herd down." [In other words, the Oklahoma producer who imported the animals in good faith must bear the huge costs involved. -- webmaster]

The elk will not be used for human consumption and the state is convinced no infected elk have been killed for human consumption. In 1997 and 1999, 3 hunters were reported as suspected victims of CWD (one in Miami, Oklahyoma), [but] those cases have never been confirmed.

Colorado passed a law 3 years ago designed to curb the disease. Whenever a deer or elk dies in that state, the hunter or owner must take in the animal's head for testing. In previous hunting seasons, up to 15 per cent of deer killed in an area north of Fort Collins, Colorado tested positive for the disease.

Wasting disease hits state's deer; risk to humans from brain malady slight, experts say

02/04/2001   Michael Booth and Theo Stein Denver Post Staff Writers
A fatal brain-wasting disease has animals staggering on four hooves, glassy-eyed and slobbering. Government doctors conduct intensive research, acknowledging that what they don't know about the mysterious disease exceeds what they do know. National media suggest that a horrific human health threat is being soft-pedaled by medical and wildlife authorities, leaving an edgy public unsure how to react to each new rumor.

Sound familiar? But it's not a tale from far-off Europe, where 'mad cow disease' has shattered the beef industry and paralyzed the continent with fear. It's the current state of affairs concerning a 'mad deer disease' that has struck wild deer and ranched elk in certain parts of the Rocky Mountains, leaving health officials scrambling to assess the possible threat to humans.

For now, Rocky Mountain veterinarians, wildlife experts and public health officials stress that there has never been a confirmed case of humans becoming sick from the deer illness, which is called chronic wasting disease. And they add that all of the research on the deer disease suggests the risk to humans is exceedingly low, even as inaccurate stories of human cases mistakenly linked to consumption of allegedly infected venison are recycled in the media.

[Actually, no discriminatory diagnostic test exists for CWD in humans at this time, which is now called hCJD for hunter CJD. This makes it impossible to monitor. These experts need to clarify immediately how they monitor it. Would it affect young people like nvCJD, be straintype 4 or florid plaque, require met/met at codon 129? -- why should hunter CJD mimic a distantly related British disease of cattle? It could perfectly well coincide with one of the sporadic CJDs, say type 1. The same mistakes made in England with BSE are being repeated word for word with CWD. -- webmaster]

'The only thing that seems to be spreading rapidly is misinformation in the popular media,' said Mike Miller, a wildlife veterinarian with the Colorado Division of Wildlife. 'And that should certainly be a cause for concern.'

Chronic wasting disease is one member of a family of always- fatal diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, which essentially turn a victim's brain to mush. In cows, the variety is called bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease. The human form is Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, or CJD, which strikes the elderly as a spontaneous mutation in about one in a million adults.

Little is known about the infectious agent that causes both chronic wasting and mad cow disease. What is known is that common proteins called prions change to a renegade, lethal form. But researchers are struggling to understand how those bad prions convert others to cause the virulent diseases.

'The main problem with this issue is that for several of the most important questions, we don't have any scientific-based answers,' said John Pape, an epidemiologist with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Chronic wasting disease was first discovered at Colorado State University in 1977, but researchers think it existed in wild populations for at least 40 years [No published data supports this -- the disease may have transmitted to captive deer from sheep scrapie contamination of the Ft. Colorado Dept of Wildlife's Foothills Research Station in 1967. -- webmaster]

. It is now focussed in a 15,000- square-mile area of northeast Colorado, southeast Wyoming, and a small portion of the Nebraska panhandle. A parallel epidemic is working through captive elk on ranches in South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and several Canadian provinces. Last week, Oklahoma officials announced they would slaughter 140 quarantined elk, after five members of a herd died of CWD. The herd came from Montana.

Researchers don't yet know how deer or elk pass it to each other. They do know, however, that the leap from deer or elk to a human illness is a long and difficult one. First of all, the rogue prions concentrate in brain tissue and spinal cords, not in the cuts of meat most humans consume, . (what about sausage!) said Dr. Ken Tyler, a professor of neurology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. In fact, tests have never identified the infectious prion in muscle tissue. Moreover, eating the tainted material further cuts the chances of transmission, because the digestive system destroys many diseases. [Unfortunately, prion disease is not one of them. The infectious agent is taken up through Peyer's patch in the small intestine. -- webmaster.] Finally, the disease has to cross the species barrier, from beef or venison to humans.

'It is not impossible,' Tyler said, citing the 100-odd cases of mad cow disease now having spread to humans in Britain. 'But it is not a very efficient spreader.' While scientists are working hard to avoid the kind of mass herd slaughter and consumer panic sweeping Europe as a result of mad cow disease, they also say the threat of chronic wasting disease among deer and elk has to be put in the context of other risks to human health.

'Hunters should quit smoking first, and then get their deer heads tested,' Tyler said. 'If I had a choice in patients of a hunter who stops eating venison and a hunter who promises to quit smoking and wear his seat belt, I'd rather have the second one.'

A relief for the wary researchers is that so far chronic wasting is behaving very differently from Europe's mad cow disease. [True, but it is far worse in that CWD spreads rapidly among wild animals in part by adult-to-adult transmission via persistence in the envirnoment, not reported for BSE. Natural selection may occur not only for a rapidly propagating strain within a given host (eg hyper and drowsy in mink) but more worrisome, selection for strains efficiently transmitting horizontally between adults as seen in both CWD and scrapie.-- webmaster]

In England, the practice of feeding cows protein supplements made from rendered animals allowed the mad cow agent to infect entire beef herds. Continued recycling of the infected tissue - a kind of forced cow cannibalism - magnified the problem, leading to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of suspect cattle in England in the early '90s before any human crossover was identified. Despite the tough measures, researchers still had to wait to see whether the disease would cross into humans who had eaten infected beef.

The waiting ended in 1996, when British officials said they had found a new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease caused by beef. As soon as the first cases appeared in Europe, U.S. health officials started worrying, too. While U.S. laws prevent using rendered animal protein in animal feed, an untold number of Americans had traveled overseas and might have consumed the same beef. So far, no cases of the mad cow variant have been found in either humans or cattle in the United States.

Last year, attention shifted as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigated the deaths of three U.S. citizens, far younger than the usual victims of Creutzfeldt-Jakob, who either hunted or ate venison regularly. After extensive post-mortems, all of the patients were shown to have died of the common form of the disease, not the new variant caused by food, said Dr. Ermias Belay of the CDC in Atlanta. [In other words, the cause of their disease was not determined -- that is the meaning of sporadic CJD. -- webmaster]

When mad cow disease crossed over, British health officials identified several traits in the human victims: their youth, their symptoms and the physical effect on their brains all differed from the long-known, spontaneous form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob.

But in the three U.S. deaths the CDC has investigated, there was no evidence that the individuals died of anything other than the spontaneous common form. In fact, the most compelling arguments, Belay said, point away from chronic wasting disease. 'The most significant evidence to us is the cases didn't even have the opportunity to be exposed to venison potentially contaminated with CWD,' said Belay. 'None of them consumed deer or elk meat from the known endemic areas in Colorado and Wyoming.'

Belay said researchers then turned their attention to areas where victims had obtained deer. In collaboration with federal agriculture officials, the center sampled tissue from 1,000 deer and elk carcasses, and none tested positive for chronic wasting disease.

Colorado and Wyoming have issued reasonable and safe guidelines for hunters in their area, Belay said. If people want to protect themselves further, they can avoid consumption of deer brains and spinal cord, no matter where the animals are harvested.

A key for researchers is their assumption that some people have already eaten meat tainted with chronic wasting disease, yet no crossover cases have been proven. [On the contrary -- webmaster]

'No one can tell you that will never happen,' he said. 'But is it causing disease in humans right now? No, it is not. Every test we have done suggests it is not transmitted to humans.'

In 1996, the CDC established the National Prion Disease Pathology Surveillance Center at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland to look for cases. In Colorado, state epidemiologist Pape also monitors traditional Creutzfeldt-Jakob cases, looking for patterns. If any victims under age 55 are reported, the federal center follows up.

The brain-wasting diseases that are causing panic in Europe and increasing concern in the U.S. are forms of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. The diseases are always fatal to humans and animals; in each, essential proteins called prions mutate and eventually eat spongy holes in the victim's brain and nervous system.

Researchers believe most species of mammals can acquire some variant of the disease. Here are the most common forms:

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy is the formal term for mad cow disease. It can appear spontaneously by mutation, or spread when cows eat processed feed containing ground-up parts from infected cows or sheep.

Scrapie, the form that attacks sheep, compels victims to scratch so hard that they scrape away wool and expose their skin.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is a human form of the disease that occurs spontaneously in about one in a million adults. It is occasionally passed down genetically among families.

Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob is the form of the disease identified in humans who have consumed meat tainted with mad cow disease. The first case was identified in 1994; about 100 cases have been diagnosed in Europe.

More Saskatchewan farms infected with CWD

1 Feb 01 By Ed White Saskatoon newsroom Western Producer
Federal officials have discovered that 10 more Saskatchewan elk farms have been infected by chronic wasting disease. There have now been 37 confirmed cases on 17 farms since 1996, all in Saskatchewan. Until now only seven farms with 16 sick animals were known to have the disease.

But even though tests haven't been completed on more than 200 elk sent from the other six known infected farms to 45 so-far uninfected farms, federal officials believe they've shut down the main avenue of infection.

"Our feeling is that for this particular outbreak . . . we've pretty much dealt with it."

The 21 additional infected animals all came from a Lloydminster farm that federal authorities have decided is the source of all infection on Saskatchewan game farms. It was probably infected in February 1990 by an imported South Dakota elk, but the infection was not realized until this year. Many animals from this herd were sold to other herds, including the six that were known to be infected before this week. That's how they became infected, Luterbach said.

Only two of the newly discovered animals showed any signs of having the disease. The other 19 did not show any signs while alive, but the cells in their brains were riddled with the signature holes left by CWD.

Any elk that has been in contact with the 21 new cases will be destroyed, Luterbach said. He did not know how many animals that would be, since the farms may also contain animals that have never come in contact with the diseased animals.

Saskatchewan's first case of CWD occurred in 1996. There was another case in 1998. Then in 2000 seven farms discovered animals with CWD.

Producers receive compensation for any animal destroyed because of CWD worries. The maximum amount of compensation is $4,000 for a bull. Most owners have received the maximum for most of their animals, Luterbach said.

The next set of necropsies, or animal autopsies, will reveal whether animals sold out of the six other infected herds had the disease. The final set will examine all the remaining animals from the six herds that have been exterminated.

Luterbach said this final stage is not necessary to control the disease, because the animals are already dead and can't pass on the infection. However, scientists will gain more knowledge about CWD by examining how many animals in each herd have the disease.

At the same time as the CFIA conducts its necropsies, the Saskatchewan government is examining the brains of about 1,000 wild elk and deer heads donated by hunters this fall.

Truckloads of heads have been rolling into the Canadian Co-operative Wildlife Health Centre at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon.

Veterinarian Trent Bollinger said that full results won't be known until spring because of the mountain of heads to analyze. carrying the disease. But no elk or deer yet examined has had any sign of CWD.

"America denies having BSE, but has yet to prove it" -- New Scientist

New Scientist, 10 February 2001 By Debora MacKenzie
Opinion (webmaster): Whether intended or not, some people will see a former senior authority at the Swiss Federal Veterinary Office "sending a message" here to Canada and the US through a Brussels-based science reporter about levels of testing that will be acceptable to Europe, though the EU itself is confused at this time about what testing levels are adequate domestically, for either cows or sheep.

"As BSE casts its menacing shadow across much of the globe, the US is becoming increasingly nervous that its $400 billion beef industry may not escape. Officials have taken precautions to keep BSE out. But New Scientist has established that even if the US has as high an incidence of BSE as France, where it has sparked a health and farming crisis, American surveillance efforts would not spot it.

The US imported a mere 44 tonnes of British meat and bone meal (MBM) before 1996, plus 126 cattle that escaped a subsequent round-up and could have ended up as feed. But last year, the European Commission's scientific advisers warned that any infection in those imports would have been spread and amplified by American rendering and feeding practices (New Scientist, 10 June 2000).

American officials strongly deny this. "We have no BSE," says Linda Detwiler, who chairs the BSE Working Group at the US Department of Agriculture. Despite this, in 1997 it banned the feeding of ruminants to ruminants to prevent the recycling of any infection. Last week, Texas staged a highly publicised round-up of 1221 cattle that had been fed ruminant MBM by mistake. The source of the contaminated feed was Purina Mills, the country's biggest feed manufacturer, which now says it will no longer use the remains of any mammal in its feed, a move others seems likely to follow.

Last year, the USDA more than doubled its BSE tests on sick cattle and downers - animals that are found dead or cannot stand. But the 2303 tests it carried out are too few to detect a very low incidence of the disease, says Marcus Doherr of the Swiss Federal Veterinary Office, who helped design a similar programme in Switzerland. "That sample size allows you to say only that you have no more than 1.3 infected cows per thousand." This is almost exactly the incidence that France discovered it had in downers last year.

The US disease monitoring system also relies on farmers or abattoirs reporting sick cows. "People who think they have no BSE are unlikely to recognise a case, let alone report it," says Doherr. "That is what happened in Germany."

And BSE is not the only prion disease that might stalk American cattle. In 1985 in Stetsonville, Wisconsin, a disease similar to BSE broke out in mink which the farmer said ate only downer cattle.

Chronic wasting disease, also caused by prions, is striking down elk and deer in some western states and Canada. The USDA denies reports that a handful of CJD cases in young hunters in those areas is linked to elk or deer. Road kill and slaughtered elk and deer may be fed to livestock, however. "In an experiment where cattle ate CWD elk, there's no sign of it after 30 months," says Gary Weber of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. But prion diseases often take longer to incubate.

Detwiler insists that surveillance in the US is adequate. "Over time the rate of sampling should be enough to warn us of any problems, if we make sure we test every region." But knowing you have fewer mad cows than France is not the same as saying you are BSE-free. "Testing to that level of sensitivity is accepted as showing you are free of many animal diseases," says Doherr. But it would not detect an industry-shattering appearance of BSE.

Further clarification (Tue, 13 Feb 2001 Debora MacKenzie Europe correspondent, New Scientist on BSE Listserve

"Last year France tested 40,000 "high risk" cattle - animals found dead or unable to stand, or which had to be destroyed for various reasons. It found 63 BSE positive, for an actual measured incidence in that high-risk population of 1.6 per thousand.

Last year the USDA tested 1895 "downer" cattle. This is similar to the high risk population tested in France, as while not all the French high risk cattle were downers by the US definition, all US downers were high-risk by the French definition, and would certainly have been tested under the French programme. Comments about "random sampling" are misplaced. In both cases we are talking about a directed sample of a high-risk group.

If you can't test every animal - and in a country that does not yet have any evidence it even has the infection (for whatever reason) these resources are unlikely to be forthcoming - then you have to test a certain sample. The more cattle you test, the lower the prevalence of infection you can detect. One widely-used "rule of thumb" is that the sample size should be greater than or equal to 3/p, where p is the minimum prevalence you can detect.

By that rule a sample size of 1895 can at most detect a prevalence of 1.6 per million - precisely the prevalence that was actually measured in France. Note we are comparing like with like in comparing tests done in similar high-risk populations of cattle.

My point here is that the amount of testing the USDA has done is enough to have detected a rate of infection in downers greater than or equal to that measured in France. Given that these cattle have proved a sensitive sample to test to maximise your chance ot finding BSE, then USDA is entitled to say that its tests show it has less BSE than France (France has a totally unacceptable level of BSE -- webmaster.]
But one would expect this, since the French prevalence in downers is associated with a quite visible clinical epidemic. If there is infection in the US, it is very likely to be at a much lower prevalence than in France. Nonetheless, quantitatively speaking, that is all the USDA tests to date permit one to conclude.

Now, I was actually more generous to the USDA in my article, as I did not wish to receive letters accusing me of deliberately not counting all the tests USDA has done. In fact the total number of tests, which I cited, was 2303, a sample size that, by the rough rule we are applying, would detect at most a prevalence of 1.3 per thousand.

This is in fact very generous, given that the 408 non-downer cattle tested had undiagnosed neurological symptoms. Given the history of the testing programme I suspect that many of these will have been cattle initially suspected of rabies which were rabies-negative, although I could not find out how many. Experience in Europe, where several thousand such rabies-negative cattle were retrospectively screened for BSE in the mid-1990s, shows that this is an insensitive population to test, as not one BSE case was found in that retrospective, while we now know that BSE was circulating in cattle in those countries at that time. Properly speaking only the downers should really count in this analysis.

One could also have done the arithmetic based on the number of tests the USDA reports were done using immunohistochemistry, which last year was 1508. This by the rule I am applying would detect at most 2 per 1000. I do not know how many of these were downers.

Now, I don't believe the USDA deliberately chose its sample size in view of the maximum prevalence it wished to detect. But the number of tests the US has done permit it to state at most that if it has any BSE infection, it is less than 1.3 per thousand. The tests on downers give a sensitivity of 1.6 per 1000. It is I am sure a complete coincidence that this happens to be the incidence France actually measured in a similar high-risk population last year.

It is interesting that showing you have less than an incidence of 1 per 1000 is accepted internationally for some animal diseases as being sensitive enough to prove one is free from the disease. Such criteria urgently need to be examined for BSE."

Russia's mad cow checks inadequate, ag official says

13 Feb 01 ITAR-Tass
Russia's checks for beef tainted with mad cow disease are inadequate, a top Agriculture Ministry official said Monday, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.

Nikolai Yaremenko, the ministry's senior veterinary official, said the fact that Russia so far has registered no cases of the disease could reflect only that the testing regime is insufficient, the report said.

ITAR-Tass said that according to the ministry only 400 samples a year are obtained from cattle to test them for the presence of bovine spongiform encephelopathy, or mad cow disease, which has been linked to a similar brain-wasting disease in humans.

Russia has banned imports of beef from Britain, where mad cow disease is believed to have originated and from three states in Germany where the disease has been registered.

However, the head of the National Consumer Advocacy Fund, Alexander Kalinin, said that recent raids on markets in Moscow showed that 60 percent of the beef sold there "came from nobody knows where," ITAR-Tass said.

New Scientist Editorial: The madness spreads

10 February 2001
Hungry children around the world could bear the brunt of BSE

Mad cow scandals just don't stop. In a week when Britain recorded six new cases of vCJD, the biggest real monthly increase so far, it has become clear that it has almost certainly inflicted this curse on the rest of the world.

Britain continued to export animal feed made from the ground-up remains of infected cattle long after it knew that the pellets spread BSE to other cattle. The rest of the European Union, which caught BSE from Britain, was still exporting it until last month. Now the likes of Indonesia and Thailand face a disease that even the richest countries can barely afford to control (see p 10).

Britain insists that the feed was meant only for pigs and chickens. Importers and farmers in Europe might have known not to give the feed to cattle, but you can bet this message didn't reach farmers in South-East Asia.

It seems incredible. In 1990, Britain declared that the most infectious organs had to be removed from cattle carcasses destined for feed in the EU. Yet for feed sold elsewhere, this rule was not brought in for another year. Did nobody think of the consequences of sending this stuff to farmers in the developing world? Even restricting the feed to pigs and chickens may not be safe. These animals too end up in cattle feed, and could pass the infection on.

The newly industrialising nations that bought the tainted feed all have booming livestock industries, and rendering plants that will recycle the infection in feed for local consumption and export. What's a poor country to do? Germany plans to throw 400,000 cattle onto the scrap heap. Can a country where the children are going short of protein afford to do that?

Despite the current worries in Britain and across Europe, the greatest damage will not be from vCJD. Unless the disease turns out to be extremely widespread, it will barely show up beside malnutrition, malaria and AIDS. The real harm will be to food production. Carcasses are cheap protein, and if BSE means poor countries can't use them for fodder, they will not be able to produce as much of the meat and milk their people crave.

In a world dominated by trade, rich countries will force the poor to take draconian measures against BSE--or refuse to buy their meat, as North America is doing to Brazil. The poor will lose industries, jobs and income. So some will hide their mad cows, and the plague will continue.

Britain and other rich countries that exported contaminated feed need to pay now for tests to identify which importers' cattle are infected. Besides the moral responsibility, this could help head off some of the legal action that is already starting against Britain as the source of BSE.

And what about the next surprise that staggers out of our crowded barns? We need to be more wary of new diseases, and we need agencies with the power and the backbone to enforce precautionary measures. This idea is unlikely to go down well with the World Trade Organization. But BSE should have taught us that, in the end, the price of anything less will be too high.

Have contaminated feed exports spread BSE across the globe?

Bew Scientisat 10 Feb 01 By Debora MacKenzie
BSE may be about to go global. Official British figures show that over 80 countries imported animal feed from Britain that was probably infected with mad cow disease (see Map). And according to the UN, the rest of the European Union also trebled exports of potentially contaminated feed during the 1990s to non-EU countries.

Some of the biggest importers, such as Indonesia, Thailand and Russia, may now have the infection. The World Health Organization is holding an emergency meeting on the problem next month.

South-East Asia appears to be at most risk from infected meat and bone meal (MBM) exported by Britain between 1980 and 1996. Indonesia imported 600,000 tonnes during that time, Thailand imported 185,000 tonnes and Taiwan and the Philippines imported over 45,000 and 20,000 tonnes respectively.

Meat production in the region has boomed over the past decade (New Scientist, 18 March 2000). "Any country with an intensive livestock industry feeding MBM to cattle could well recycle the infection," says Andrew Speedy, a livestock specialist with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome. "Most have their own rendering industries."

Britain stopped exporting mammal MBM in 1996. But other EU countries continued exporting until last month. According to the FAO, these countries trebled sales of MBM beyond EU borders between 1991 and 1999 to 562,000 tonnes. And more than half of the MBM that was exported in 1999 went to Poland, which is intensifying its agriculture in preparation for EU membership. Germany, Poland's main supplier, did not remove the brain and spinal cord - organs most likely to harbour BSE - until last October.

This year alone, the EU will have to spend an extra 970 million euros (£620 million) on the massive testing and slaughter programmes needed to stop BSE spreading. Other countries may be hard pressed to pay for similar measures. "Developing countries can start by reporting sick cattle to veterinary authorities," suggests Speedy. "Maybe European labs can help with testing." In the absence of any testing programme, a BSE epidemic could go unnoticed until doctors start finding cases of vCJD.

BSE's long incubation time in cattle, and the increasing global trade in cattle and feed increase the dangers. Most of Britain's mad cows were infected by MBM circulating in the early to mid-1980s. Britain exported that feed throughout that period.

Britain's MBM exports soared after it stopped feeding MBM to cattle in 1988. From 1989 to 1993, Britain had its largest number of infected cows at the most infectious pre-clinical stage eligible for rendering. Until 1991, British MBM sold outside the EU contained "high-risk" organs such as brain.

EU countries may also have re-exported British MBM. "I am especially worried about Eastern Europe," says Marcus Doherr of the Swiss Federal Veterinary Office. The Middle East is also vulnerable. "Meat and dairy production has increased massively throughout that region, and it is all fed imported, manufactured feed," says Speedy. Much of that comes from Europe, especially Italy.

Britain exported MBM after 1988, because it was considered safe for feeding to pigs and poultry. Keith Meldrum, then Britain's chief veterinary officer, told the BSE Inquiry that importing countries should have known not to feed it to cattle, because Britain's ban on this was reported in "widely read journals for example New Scientist".

Yet it seems clear that not all importers realised this, and are only now facing up to the possibility that their cattle may have eaten infected MBM. Last week Bulgaria, Slovenia and Morocco announced plans to screen their cattle for BSE, while South Korea, Romania and Hungary banned feeding ruminants to ruminants, to avoid amplifying any BSE already infecting their herds.

Arnon Shimshony of the Israeli embassy in London, formerly Israel's chief veterinary officer, says export figures for British MBM are a rough guide to who may be at risk as they also include feed made from pigs and chicken. But these are likely to have been contaminated with cattle material.

China To Test for Mad Cow

9 Feb 01 AP
China will begin testing cattle for mad cow disease amid public concern that imported animals and feed could have infected domestic herds, the government-run China Daily newspaper said Friday. While the disease has not been detected in China, inspectors will test hundreds of imported cows, their offspring and all cattle fed with foreign-made bone or meat meal, the newspaper said.

The report didn't say how many cattle the examination will cover, but it said none of the 180,000 tons of ground meat and bone or the 500 cows that China imported in the first 10 months of last year came from Europe. Still, it noted growing concerns that the disease, which scientists have linked to a fatal brain-wasting disease in humans, could turn up in Chinese beef. Mad cow disease was first diagnosed in Britain in the mid-1980s. China responded in 1990 by banning imports of European cattle and most cattle products, the China Daily said.

On Jan. 1,2001 China stopped importing European-made meat and bone animal feed, which has been blamed for spreading the disease among cows.

Random tests show high incidence of BSE in North of Ireland

Friday February 9, 2001 Irish News
Random tests carried out by the Department of Agriculture in the North have detected a higher incidence of BSE in cattle over 30 months old. Agriculture Minister Brid Rodgers confirmed that 54 cases of the disease were detected among the 2,500 cattle tested. Cattle over the age of 30 months are banned from the food chain unless they are tested for BSE and cleared.

The test results will have dealt a serious blow to hopes that EU restrictions on the North's beef exports will soon be lifted. The tests were carried out in advance of an EU-wide screening programme and were designed to help the province's case for a lifting of the restrictions on its beef exports. Minister Rodgers stressed that the tests also revealed no cases of BSE among cattle under 30 months old, proving that measures introduced in 1996 are working. The SDLP minister added that the cattle tested were "those which were most likely to be harbouring BSE, those aged over 30 months and suffering from injury or illness". She added that there was no danger of the cattle ever entering the human food chain.

Health Canada officials: politics, not safety, motivated Ottawa to ban Brazilian beef

Friday, February  9, 2001 MARK MacKINNON With a report from Agence France-Presse 
Canada's controversial ban on Brazilian beef is a ruse motivated by politics and a trade war rather than health concerns, two senior Health Canada scientists say. In interviews with The Globe and Mail, they said there is no sustainable argument for singling out Brazilian beef products ahead of those imported from other countries. One of them added that the ban was decided upon by managers without consulting the scientists who actually study the beef.

"There was no consultation with us, the scientists," said a senior scientist close to the file who asked not to be named. "Brazilian beef poses no danger that we know of. No more than any other country. Why not Australia, Argentina, India or any other country we import beef from? Why is Brazil picked on? It's the trade war."

Canada banned Brazilian beef products last week, citing a "theoretical risk" they could be contaminated with mad-cow disease. While Brazil has never had a case of the disease, Canada had one in 1993. Some experts say Brazilian beef is among the world's safest, because many of its herds have been grass-fed since as far back as 1983. Mad-cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is spread through feeding animals parts of dead animals. The practice was legal in Canada until 1997.

"What happened with the Brazilian beef was, in my opinion, a ruse," the senior scientist said. "They already had a fight going on with Brazil because of the plane thing and the WTO. They felt they may as well hit Brazil with this, since we don't import very much beef from them anyway." He said Health Canada also benefits from the perception that it is taking action on mad-cow disease.

Margaret Haydon, a Health Canada scientist once reprimanded for speaking out about pressures to approve a bovine growth hormone, also said she believes the ban has nothing to do with health concerns. "In my opinion, I don't think there's any difference [in risk] between Brazilian beef and Canadian beef. With the aircraft dispute, it's more a political move than a health one for the Canadian government."

The ban has sparked an uproar in Brazil, which believes the move is related to a continuing trade dispute between the two countries over subsidies to Montreal-based jet maker Bombardier Inc. and its Brazilian rival Embraer SA. The affair has made Canada a target of resentment in the South American country. Restaurant owners have begun displaying signs advertising that they don't sell Canadian food, and have been dumping Canadian whisky out by the bottle.

Brazilian politicians are considering blocking the import of Canadian goods, and are talking about backing out of a proposed free-trade agreement of the Americas because of the ban and the aircraft dispute. Brazil is also considering suing Canada at the International Court of Justice in The Hague over losses resulting from the beef ban.

Protesters in Brasilia delivered a cow to the Canadian embassy yesterday and offered to barbecue it to prove it safe. The embassy's business attaché, Jose Herran-Lima, said he would hold off on the barbecue until Canada is sure Brazil is free of mad-cow disease.

Industry Minister Brian Tobin, embroiled in the Brazil file since he announced $2-billion in new subsidies to Bombardier last month, said yesterday that the trade dispute and the beef ban aren't connected. "I think it's important the people of Brazil appreciate that. It's purely a food issue, purely a safety issue."

While Canada only imports about $10-million worth of Brazilian beef annually, most of it canned, the ban has been damaging. The United States and Mexico, Canada's free-trade partners, were obliged to follow suit, though both have since announced they're reviewing the ban.

Michael McBain, the national co-ordinator for the Canadian Health Coalition, said that if Canada was serious about cracking down on BSE, it would have introduced much broader measures than simply targeting Brazilian beef. He pointed out that according to Statistics Canada, Canada imported 2.8 million kilograms of meat products between 1996 and 2000 from European countries known to have mad-cow outbreaks.

"This move against Brazil has no credibility whatsoever as a health measure. They picked a country way down the risk list -- you can't get safer meat," he said. "All the evidence points to this being a trumped-up pretext."

Health Canada scientists gagged

Tuesday, February 13, 2001MARK MacKINNON Globe and Mail
Just months after a Federal Court of Canada judge upheld their right to speak out, Health Canada reimposed a gag order Monday on its scientists after two of them questioned a decision to ban Brazilian beef.

Sources say that Dr. Margaret Haydon, one of two scientists who questioned the ban last week in The Globe and Mail, was sharply reprimanded by her acting manager, Dr. Diane Kirkpatrick. Dr. Haydon was told that the department's public relations officers were the only ones authorized to speak to the media about Health Canada policies.

"This certainly qualifies as harassment," one scientist said, on condition of anonymity. Others would not speak on the topic. The gag order was reimposed less than five months after Madam Justice Danièle Tremblay-Lamer ruled it was "unreasonable" for Health Canada to ask its scientists not to speak out on public health matters.

Health Canada spokesman Jeffrey Pender said: "Health Canada managers have met with the individual concerning this issue." He said he could not comment further for reasons of privacy. The reaction was swift from groups who fought to have the previous gag order lifted.

"In a democracy, people who speak out in the public interest should be allowed to speak out in the public interest — no matter who they work for," Angela Rickman, deputy director of the Sierra Club of Canada, said.

Maude Barlow, national chairwoman of the Council of Canadians, said the government is censoring the wrong people. "These are highly trained scientists who are the only ones who should be advising the public on health matters, rather than the politicians and the bureaucrats," she said. "The government is clearly backpedalling like crazy because of a silly and short-sighted ban on Brazilian beef."

The Sierra Club and the Council of Canadians said they would support scientists' right to speak out again, in court if necessary. Dr. Haydon was involved in the previous case: She and a colleague spoke out several years ago about pressure put on them within the department to approve a bovine growth hormone the safety of which they questioned.

Responding to a question in the House of Commons about Dr. Haydon's censure, Deputy Prime Minister Herb Gray said scientists should not speak out on matters in which they aren't directly involved. "I think it is quite proper for questions to be asked of them by their superiors as to why they were taking a position on some matter for which they were not responsible."

Dr. Haydon and another scientist who asked not to be named said the ban was motivated by a continuing trade dispute with Brazil over aerospace subsidies rather than health issues. There is no scientific basis for the ban, they said. Officials with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which Dr. Haydon does not work for, say the ban was prompted by news that Brazil had imported cows from Europe in the midst of the mad-cow disease scare.

Consumption of beef contaminated with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, as mad-cow disease is technically known, is believed to cause new-variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans, and is blamed for scores of deaths in Europe. Brazil, however, has never had a documented case of mad-cow disease. Canada has had one, in 1993.

Canada has hinted it may soon lift the ban, which was imposed on Feb. 2 and immediately followed by Canada's free-trade partners, the United States and Mexico. A team of Canadian inspectors obtained visas from the Brazilian embassy Monday and may leave for Brazil as early as Tuesday. Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief has said the ban will be lifted "immediately" if the inspectors are convinced the beef is safe.

Canada imports less than $10-million worth of beef from Brazil a year, most of it canned.

The ban has caused outrage among Brazilians, who have targeted Canada with some poignant, if bizarre, protests in the past 10 days. Almost 200 protesters dressed as Mounties and wearing red noses staged a beef barbecue Monday in front of the Canadian consulate in the country's largest city, Sao Paulo.

Leaders of the powerful Rural Society declared Monday "a day of protests against Canada," and longshoreman at Brazil's largest port, Santos, are considering refusing to unload Canadian products. Bar and restaurant owners in the country have already begun boycotting Canadian products.

Brazil up in arms

11 Feb 01 By Axel Bugge Reuters
Canada's Feb. 2 ban on Brazilian beef has caused an uproar in Brazil. The government has threatened to retaliate against Canadian companies and to abandon talks on free trade in the Americas. On Friday Brazil's president had given Canada three weeks to revoke the ban.

Brazil, home to South America's largest commercial cattle herd, says there has never been a single case of mad cow disease in Brazil. It suspects that the move was sparked by a bitter 4-year dispute over subsidies to rival airplane makers.

Ottawa says it banned Brazilian beef because Brazil repeatedly failed to provide the necessary documents on the health of its cattle after a 1998 request.

Brazilian newspapers reported this weekend that Canada could revoke the ban this week. Daily Folha de Sao Paulo on Saturday quoted Luiz Carlos de Oliveira, secretary for livestock protection at the Agriculture Ministry, as saying the ban could be lifted on Monday, even before a Canadian team of health inspectors arrives in Brazil.

Canadian government blunders in Brazil

Tuesday, February 13, 2001 Globe Mall editorial
Just when it seemed that the Brazilian beef dispute couldn't get any more ridiculous, we now learn that the federal government has caused our country to be renamed "potato." More specifically, it's now called Batata (Portuguese for potato) by 24-year-old Brazilian Rodrigo Ranieri Araujo, who set up an anti-Canada Web site to protest against our ban on beef imports.

Mr. Araujo claims he received a threatening letter from the federal Department of Public Works and Government Services, warning him he had two days to change his "Canada: The Evil Empire" Web site or face unspecified legal action. So he changed every reference from Canada to Batata throughout the site.

This absurdity is the logical response to an utterly absurd letter. Ottawa's overreaction to legitimate public criticism in Brazil is a heavy-handed stifling of debate -- not to mention a legally dubious threat. Assuming the letter is not some sort of hoax, this touchy sensitivity to criticism just adds to Batata's embarrassment in this matter.

The crybabies who drafted such correspondence should be ashamed of their inability to face debate and criticism for hasty political decisions. It's time for this dispute to end before it further damages relations between Batata and Brazil, especially in the continuing absence of evidence of any health threat from Brazilian beef.

Potato, batata, let's call the whole thing off.

Opinion (webmaster): What have they been smoking up there in Canada? -- three colossal public relations blunders in one week just in TSEs.

The idea of the Brazillian judiciary deciding on behalf of the Evil Empire seems laughable in the current climate. A 24 year old computer geek has nothing to lose and would know that the web site could be transferred to another country (or 20 countries) within seconds; for example the term Evil Empire clearly a parody or spoof fully protected under the American Bill of Rights). Church groups call for boycotts of everything from grapes to Walt Disney in America; people wear bathing suits in the flag pattern and web sites sell hate music. There is no way to get things off the internet -- Napster sites are found already in Tijuana.

However the 24 year old was clever than an office building of clueless Canadian attaches and tweaked the nose of Big Bully from the frozen north in a manner familiar to oppressed people everywhere. Canada has lost not only the two billion subsidy for Bombardier but surely ten times that in ill will across Latin America.

With 3.1 billion web sites to choose from, it is questionable how many people would ever have visited this one -- but then Canadian censorship dramatically boosted its visibility across the globe -- the online world strongly favors free speech and is quick to rally in its defense.

It remains entirely possible that Brazilian government PR operatives obtained a piece of Canadian stationery and wrote the threatening note themselves and then promoted worldwide sympathy for the potato response site.

Concern about vaccines and mad cow disease

February 11, 2001 By JOHN DILLON Rutland Herald
Sick at home with the flu, Rutland resident Justine Farrow began thinking about mad cow disease and the vaccines her kids had recently received. Farrow had heard that drug manufacturers often used bovine products to make vaccines. She wondered if some of that material came from cattle in European countries now experiencing an outbreak of the deadly, always fatal brain disorder.

She began working the phones, calling federal health agencies and vaccine manufacturers. She learned that eight common vaccines contain bovine material from Europe - and that they pose a slight risk for transmitting mad cow disease. "I started calling around because we were looking at the vaccines my kids were given," she recalled. "I pulled out their immunization records ... and started asking questions."

Farrow's phone calls shed light on a little-noticed but potentially explosive aspect of the mad cow disease epidemic that has spread from the United Kingdom to a half-dozen European countries. Cattle are not just used for hamburger and steak. Bovine material - such as beef broth, blood and serum - are used to make many pharmaceutical products and are part of a vast international trade in medicines, animal feed and cosmetics.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration late last year advised vaccine manufacturers to phase out the use of European bovine products. The FDA did not order a recall of the products, and said there are no reports of anyone catching the human version of mad cow disease from vaccines.

An FDA advisory committee last year "concluded that the risk (of infection) posed by vaccinesŠ was theoretical and remote," the Centers for Disease control said in a recent statement.

But to be absolutely safe, the bovine material from Europe should be replaced with product from countries deemed free of the disease, the government said. The FDA says manufacturers will make most of the changes by the end of this year. This "recommendation to replace such bovine-derived materialsŠ is a precautionary measure intended to minimize even the remote risk of (mad cow disease) from vaccines," the FDA said.

The Vermont Health Department late last month followed up on the FDA warning with a letter to physicians advising them of the federal action. Health Commissioner Jan Carney said Vermonters should not let the fear of mad cow disease deter them from vaccinating their children.

"We believe it is critical that Vermont maintain its high rates of immunization to best protect our children's health," she said in the letter mailed to doctors.

Mad cow disease is part of a family of mysterious disorders known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), a term used to describe the sponge-like holes the disease leaves in its victims' brains. Other TSEs include chronic wasting disease, which strikes deer and elk, and scrapie, a TSE that affects sheep...

Laboratory experiments show that the most deadly route of TSE transmission is through the direct injection of infected material. While federal agencies say no humans have caught the disease from vaccines, scientists have documented two cases of accidental transmission in animals through vaccines. In one infamous case in England, a veterinarian in 1935 spread the sheep version of the disease to over 1,000 animals when he inoculated them with material derived from infected sheep brains.

Farrow said she's always been somewhat leery of exposing her children to vaccines, in part because of the risk of reaction to the inoculations. Her recent research did little to reassure here, she said. Farrow said when she called drug manufacturers she was told that the companies rely on the suppliers of the bovine material to certify that the products come from countries that are free of mad cow disease.

"How safe a system is that?" she asked. "The people who are selling these products of course are going to say they are BSE-free. I hope they're right."

According to the FDA, the vaccines that come from countries that could harbor mad cow disease include: type-b flu shots from Aventis Pasteur, also marketed by Smith-Kline Beecham in the U.S. as OmniHIB; combination shots for diphtheria, pertussis (Whooping Cough) and tetanus from North American Vaccine, Inc. and Smith-Kline Beecham; and, Smith-Kline's Havrix hepatitis-A vaccine.

In addition, officials point to vaccines made by Aventis, Bioport and Lederle for polio, anthrax and rabies because the bovine materials used to make them can't be traced to a specific country.

Drug manufacturers use various materials from cattle in vaccine production. Gelatin, often made from hides and rendered bones, is used as a nutrient-rich medium to grow bacteria and cell cultures used to harvest viruses. Beef broths are used to grow bacteria. And drug-makers that need to grow cells to propagate viruses often need calf serum to keep the cells intact and help them grow.

The FDA said the chance of mad cow disease was very low from the vaccines because the type of bovine material used probably do not contain the infectious prions. (Prions are concentrated in brain and nerve tissue) The products are also greatly diluted during manufacturing, the government said. The "benefits of vaccination outweigh any remote risk" for mad cow disease, the FDA said.

Farrow said her days of research have left her with some answers, but more questions. She wonders how the government estimates the risk of the vaccines, how well the drug companies track where the material originated, and what bovine product is used in the vaccine production.

"These are questions that once you start asking, you can't get the answers," she said.

".. My feeling is you need to be informed to make the best decisions you can."

Sporadic CJD said grossly under-reported in US

Tue, 13 Feb 2001 JAMA Vol. 285 No. 6, February 14, 2001 Letters   
Diagnosis and Reporting of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease    

To the Editor:

In their Research Letter in JAMA. 2000;284:2322-2323, Dr Gibbons and colleagues1 reported that the annual US death rate due to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) has been stable since 1985. These estimates, however, are based only on reported cases, and do not include misdiagnosed or preclinical cases. It seems to me that misdiagnosis alone would drastically change these figures. An unknown number of persons with a diagnosis of Alzheimer disease in fact may have CJD, although only a small number of these patients receive the postmortem examination necessary to make this diagnosis. Furthermore, only a few states have made CJD reportable. Human and animal transmissible spongiform encephalopathies should be reportable nationwide and internationally.

  Terry S. Singeltary, Sr Bacliff, Tex    

To the Editor:

At the time of my mother's death, various diagnoses were advanced such as "rapid progressive Alzheimer disease," psychosis, and dementia. Had I not persisted and personally sought and arranged a brain autopsy, her death certificate would have read cardiac failure and not CJD.

Through CJD Voice1 I have corresponded with hundreds of grief-stricken families who are so devastated by this horrific disease that brain autopsy is the furthest thing from their minds. In my experience, very few physicians suggest it to the family. After the death and when families reflect that they never were sure what killed their loved one it is too late to find the true cause of death. In the years since my mother died I think that the increasing awareness of the nature of CJD has only resulted in fewer pathologists being willing to perform an autopsy in a suspected case of CJD.

People with CJD may die with incorrect diagnoses of dementia, psychosis, Alzheimer disease, and myriad other neurological diseases. The true cause of death will only be known if brain autopsies are suggested to the families. Too often the physician's comment is, "Well, it could be CJD but that is so rare it isn't likely."

Until CJD is required to be reported to state health departments, as other diseases are, there will be no accurate count of CJD deaths in the United States and thus no way to know if the number of deaths is decreasing, stable, or increasing as it has recently in the United Kingdom.

  Dorothy E. Kraemer Stillwater, Okla      

In Reply:

Mr Singeltary and Ms Kraemer express an underlying concern that our recently reported mortality surveillance estimate of about 1 CJD case per million population per year in the United States since 1985 may greatly underestimate the true incidence of this disease. Based on evidence from epidemiologic investigations both within and outside the United States, we believe that these national estimates are reasonably accurate.

Even during the 1990s in the United Kingdom, where much attention and public health resources have been devoted to prion disease surveillance, the reported incidence of classic CJD is similar to that reported in the United States. [The elderly demented in a country with a medical system like England's rarely reach a neurologist. However, it is precisely the elderly where the disease is concentrated. -- webmaster]

In addition, in 1996, active US surveillance for CJD and new variant (nv) CJD in 5 sites detected no evidence of the occurrence of nvCJD and showed that 86% of the CJD cases in these sites were identifiable through routinely collected mortality data. [This again was merely "death certificate" CJD. -- webmaster]

Our report provides additional evidence against the occurrence of nvCJD in the United States based on national mortality data analyses and enhanced surveillance. It specifically mentions a new center for improved pathology surveillance. We hope that the described enhancements along with the observations of Singeltary and Kraemer will encourage medical care providers to suggest brain autopsies for more suspected CJD cases to facilitate the identification of potentially misdiagnosed CJD cases and to help monitor the possible occurrence of nvCJD.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is not on the list of nationally notifiable diseases. In those states where surveillance personnel indicate that making this disease officially notifiable would meaningfully facilitate collection of data that are needed to monitor the incidence of CJD and nvCJD, including the obtaining of brain autopsy results, we encourage such a change. However, adding CJD to the notifiable diseases surveillance system may lead to potentially wasteful, duplicative reporting because the vast majority of the diagnosed cases would also be reported through the mortality surveillance system.

Furthermore, making CJD a notifiable disease may not necessarily help identify undiagnosed CJD cases. The unique characteristics of CJD make mortality data a useful surrogate for ongoing surveillance. Unlike many other neurologic diseases, CJD is invariably fatal and in most cases rapidly progressive and distinguishable clinically from other neurologic diseases. [Essentially all elderly dementia is "fatal" in the sense that no one gets better. -- webmaster]

Because CJD is least accurately diagnosed early in the course of the illness, notifiable disease surveillance of CJD could be less accurate than mortality surveillance of CJD. In addition, because death as a condition is more completely and consistently reported, mortality surveillance has the advantage of being ongoing and readily available.

The absence of CJD and nvCJD from the list of nationally notifiable diseases should not be interpreted to mean that they are not important to public health; this list does not include all such diseases. We encourage medical caregivers to report to or consult with appropriate public health authorities about any diagnosed case of a transmissible disease for which a special public health response may be needed, including nvCJD, and any patient in whom iatrogenic transmission of CJD may be suspected.

  Robert V. Gibbons, MD, MPH Robert C. Holman, MS Ermias D. Belay, MD Lawrence B. Schonberger, MD, MPH Division of Viral and Rickettsial Diseases National Center for Infectious Diseases Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Atlanta, Ga    

Opinion (webmaster): Behind the polite words, CDC is waging a bitter battle to prevent CJD incidences from becoming known, to protect its clients in the blood and transplant industries. The best available study is that of Boller et al. from 1989. In this study 7.5% of Alzheimer patients were actually CJD. Numerous other diseases were confused as well.

With CJD, the real issue is how many people die with it, rather from it in the sense of the death certificate. Even if the true cause of death was a heart attack, as a hypothetical, who would want an untested cornea from someone with preclinical CJD ?

Diagnosis of dementia: clinicopathologic correlations.

Neurology 1989 Jan;39(1):76-79 
Boller F, Lopez OL, Moossy J
Based on 54 demented patients consecutively autopsied at the University of Pittsburgh, we studied the accuracy of clinicians in predicting the pathologic diagnosis. Thirty-nine patients (72.2%) had Alzheimer's disease, while 15 (27.7%) had other CNS diseases (four multi-infarct dementia; three Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease; two thalamic and subcortical gliosis; three Parkinson's disease; one progressive supranuclear palsy; one Huntington's disease; and one unclassified). Two neurologists independently reviewed the clinical records of each patient without knowledge of the patient's identity or clinical or pathologic diagnoses; each clinician reached a clinical diagnosis based on criteria derived from those of the NINCDS/ADRDA. In 34 (63%) cases both clinicians were correct, in nine (17%) one was correct, and in 11 (20%) neither was correct. These results show that in patients with a clinical diagnosis of dementia, the etiology cannot be accurately predicted during life.

Organic farming could slow mad cow disease, EU says

February 13, 2001 By CONSTANT BRAND, Associated Press 
Hoping to counter the mad cow crisis, the EU Commission Tuesday urged a move away from beef production, especially in farms where animals are packed into crowded warehouses and fed mass-produced feed.

EU Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler urged decreased beef production in the face of a flagging market. Otherwise, "we would build up a beef mountain we could not deal with," he said. "We have to find a new direction." Fischler also called for increased support for organic agriculture, saying certain subsidies should be available only to herds that contain 90 head of cattle or less. The mad cow crisis, "demonstrates the need for a return to farming methods that are more in tune with the environment," he said.

Feed containing bone meal and other animal byproducts has been blamed for spreading bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease. Fischler said confidence in beef had fallen to historic lows in the 15 EU member nations and around the globe, where EU exports have plummeted. Other reforms Fischler proposed include lifting the 350,000 ton-per-year limit on the amount of beef the EU can buy back to prop up the market, and extending its program to buy up carcasses of untested older cattle in order to destroy them.

Farmers meanwhile, took to the streets to call for more financial aid to counter the crisis. In Brussels, farmers' trucks blocked traffic in a protest to press the government into providing financial aid to help with the mad-cow crisis. A planned week of demonstrations in France began Monday with burning tires, cows unleashed in the streets and hundreds of farmers demanding more money.

The mad cow crisis has forced the EU to reassess its farming policy, which for most of the last 40 years has centered on promoting intensive agriculture. Over the past months, cries for environmentally friendly farming have become ever more prominent. Beef sales have plummeted in the EU after an upsurge of mad cow cases in several countries late last year and a scandal in France when a batch of potentially infected meat had gone on sale....

Meanwhile, the European Union issued a warning that mad cow disease has probably spread to Lithuania because of the Baltic nation's imports of live cattle and meat-and-bone meal from EU countries. "It is regarded as highly likely that Lithuanian cattle were exposed to potentially BSE contaminated feed and subsequently infected," the European Commission said in a statement.

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