Prion Disease: Spotlight on Canada
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Mad cow concerns prompt tracking system for Canada
French minister: no country is safe
A small Swiss company takes on mad cow disease
FDA may exclude CWD-exposed hunters from blood donation
European nations start mad cow testing programs
France begins screening older cattle for BSE
300 dead cattle dumped in Spanish mine
Canada spreads scrapie sludge on fields
USDA priorities: bovine byproduct imports or bashing Vermont sheep?
Germany found first cases in 1989-91 says professor
Intensive farming may pose health risks -- nutritionist

Mad cow concerns prompt tracking system for Canada

Fri, Jan 5, 2001 Reuters Canada By Kanina Holmes
At a time of mounting public fear about food safety, underscored by the mad cow crisis, all Canadian cattle sold must soon wear an eartag to make it easier to track down the source of any disease. The Canadian Cattle Identification program, which went into effect this week, will see most of the four million calves born annually pierced with a tag carrying a unique I.D. number whenever they leave their herd of origin.

"It's all about animal health, it's all about food safety. It's all about consumer confidence," John Morrison, president of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, told Reuters. "We need to be able to trace back really quickly and eliminate those diseased animals so the rest of the national herd is protected," said Morrison.

The number will identify the exact location of the farm where a beef or dairy cow was born. The new program was designed to trace an animal within hours.

The need for a mandatory and widespread trace-back program, was underscored on Friday as Australia and New Zealand announced they would ban the import all European beef products because of concerns about the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

Starting July 1, Canadian meat processors will begin using the numbers, to be stored in a national electronic database, to identify carcasses from the point of inspection. "We feel it's a huge risk if we don't do something at this point," said Julie Stitt, general manager of the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency. Last November, a European Commission report criticized the ability of Canadian inspectors to track cattle if there ever was an outbreak of BSE in the country.

The United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico already have international livestock identification programs. Canada exports 50 percent of the beef and dairy cattle it produces -- an industry worth C$2.75 billion in 1999 -- with most of it sold to the U.S.

Last August, the United States Department of Agriculture told its cattle producers that they had three years to develop a satisfactory I.D. scheme.

Industry representatives said they're implementing a program now, in part because they wanted to avoid the costs and rigors of a government-imposed I.D. system such as the one administered in the UK. "We're hoping a lot of the enforcement is industry driven," said Stitt >from her office in Alberta.

Canadian producers have until July 1, 2002 to comply. After that, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the federal body responsible for the health of Canada's herds, will begin fining farmers C$500 who haven't tagged their animals.

"It's about ensuring the future of the cattle market, both domestically and offshore," said Morrison. Morrison said that Japan has already informed his association that it would be looking to trade with countries who could guarantee their livestock were diseases free.

Loopholes in Canadian regulations on prohibited material.

Canadian Food Safety

Prohibited Material 

162. (1) In this Part, "prohibited material" means anything that is, or that
contains any, protein that originated from a mammal, other than a porcine or
an equine. It does not include milk, blood, gelatin, rendered animal fat or
their products. 

(2) Prohibited material that has been treated in a manner approved by the
Minister to inactivate the agents that cause transmissible spongiform
encephalopathies is no longer prohibited material. 

163. (1) A person who identifies prohibited material by means of adding to
it a marker or tracer substance that has been approved by the Minister in
the manner specified in that approval, is not required to keep the records
referred to in subsections 165(2) and 166(2) and section 171. 

(2) Every person who identifies prohibited material in accordance with
subsection (1) shall maintain a record of the manner in which the marker or
tracer substance was added to the prohibited material. 
Opinion (webmaster): The UN health authority has called attention to the seeming inevitability of BSE globalization given that an estimated 500,000 tons of untrackable bovine byproducts was exported from the UK despite an ongoing epidemic. One hopes this material had sufficiently low infectivity that it did not establish BSE in countries like Canada or the US which had early bans in place for the worst of these products.

However, for Canada to exclude bovine "milk, blood, gelatin, rendered animal fat or their products" from the ruminant feed ban is a potentially worrisome loophole. The US has scrambled to tighten its import restrictions according to a 6 Dec 00 USDA memo by "placing a hold on all imports of rendered products such as meat & bone meal (MBM), bone meal, meat meal, blood meal, tankage, fat, offal, tallow and any product containing such, regardless of species of origin which originate directly from Europe or any country designated to be infected with BSE." The problem here was that some countries were only designated infected with BSE well after the fact.

Reading between the lines, Canada had substantial bovine byproduct imports from the UK, is being pressured by its market countries for large scale Prionics testing, and may be preparing consumers for a soft landing in the unwelcome event of an isolated BSE case. Canada would be in a position to mitigate the impact of a BSE case announcement by overnight tracking and incineration of potentially affected herdmates.

The US does not have a tracking system in place according to this article, which also implies substantial live dairy imports to the US from Canada, as well as meat and bovine byproducts. The US considers Canada a BSE-free nation (prompt action was taken on an isolated confirmed imported BSE case), but any BSE reported by Canada would nonetheless leave the US in an awkward situation if herdmates have been imported but could not be traced.

With the disease in Canada, the US could drop a notch in international ratings until it has tested on a wide scale, which may be needed for continued participation in global markets for meat, veterinary products, and medicinals. While the US has tested over 11,000 cows -- all reported negative -- over ten years, this is not in line with a 101 million cow herd size in view of new international norms: France is testing 20,000 in a single week with a 5.7 million cow national herd size. To attain credibility, the US may be driven to adopt the Prionics test which has become a de facto international gold standard. More testing would not necessarily reveal a single BSE case, but then again it might.

It is just a matter of time before the first American case of nvCJD surfaces-- the FDA surely has its reasons for prohibiting a million Americans from donating blood -- it is common knowledge that many were seriously exposed to infectious agent. The public, despite USDA press releases stockpiled in advance by the BSE Emergency Response Team, will most likely go into a panic because it will not be clear whether that first victim got their nvCJD over in the UK, or in the US from a medical procedure, domestic diet, or nutriceutical. A lot of Americans qualify on all four criteria. (And Canadians have even closer ties to the UK and its byproducts.)

Thus the US meat industry is positioned to be unfairly stigmatized for a nvCJD case actually attributable to England. Perhaps preparing, like Canada, for a soft landing would be more pragmatic than an unsustainable mantra of "we don't have BSE here, why should we take precautions, no American has died of nvCJD." When that first nvCJD case surfaces, fairly or unfairly, the press is going to point the finger at ongoing bovine blood to calves, cow to chicken to cow, heightening uncertainty about food safety and bovine-derived products. Uncertainty can be worse than the public health reality.

In Germany, rigid stonewalling proved counterproductive: when the inevitable disclosure had to be made, it caused an exaggerated reaction. While in-house testing of cattle may never result in BSE self-reporting in the US (any more than it did in Germany), nvCJD will have to be reported. Damage could be short-lived (it is not recorded that a single American changed their diet because of 11 incidents on mink farms), yet short-term pain would still be very real.

While England must take full responsibility for the BSE epidemic and its subsequent globalization, this is cold comfort for countries sucked onto a growing pile of fallen dominoes despite their own early and prudent precautionary half-measures. If Britain barely has deep enough pockets to compensate nvCJD victim families, how can they even begin to compensate agricultural producers?

The British ran a massive disinformation campaign saying that BSE infectivity was limited to tissues of little economic value such as brain, spinal cord and rectum, in order to continue higher-value export sectors. Now that MAFF has lost its iron grip over BSE samples and the captive agricultural scientists allowed access to them, it is very important to review from the ground up all assumptions on tissue safety. Many MAFF experiments did not try very hard to find infectivity in milk, cheese, blood, pigs, vaccines, face creams, and embryo transplants, quite the contrary.

England's number one priority being to limit economic damage, it followed that infectivity could not possibly be all over the animal like it was in closely related bovidae (sheep). This was all well and good for sheep because eating scrapie-infected animals was, evidence notwithstanding, safe but this was completely unacceptable for cattle because of the vast number of byproducts and industries involved.

The first line of defense was an absolute species barrier (never seen in primates), and if that didn't reassure the public, high-value lower-titre tissue could be declared below a hypothetical threshold needed to trigger infection. And so it came to pass that the lymph system, heavily impacted early on in the preclinical cow, could not possibly manifest itself in dairy products from the cow with mastitis. Thus arose the convenient myth that BSE was confined to worthless tissues and the rest of the cow could still be used, even in injected products such as childhood vaccines.

By the same logic, muscles weren't connected to peripheral nerves nor in contact with lymph cells. Similarly the placenta, the second highest tissue in the body for prion mRNA expression, posed no threat to cosmetics and nutriceuticals. Pigs fed BSE were safe because they were slaughtered before clinical sign could be noticed. An analogy is the cow with rabies -- the virus is indeed somewhat localized to the CNS, but who would eat a steak from a rabid cow? (At least with rabies, thorough cooking can take care of infectivity.)

England is looking at a very awkward situation now where scientists in other countries -- who finally have access to BSE carcasses -- may expose older work as completely fraudulent. This will in turn raise further questions concerning compensation and justice. Massive amounts of byproducts were imported in good faith by trading partners who accepted rigged studies that blood and dairy were safe.

The situation unfolding in Austria may be the new paradigm: a country forced to conduct more Prionics tests by its trading partners, BSE perhaps surfacing soon thereafter despite earlier years of zero self-reporting, along the lines of Germany and Spain. Attention would then surely shift to Italy and Canada.

In the midst of all this turmoil, on the wider canvas of public health, nvCJD (even total CJD) is not a significant source of morbidity at this time, even in England despite the tragedy for individual families. As the Swedish agricultural minister notes, 90 fatalities are not remotely comparable to 500,000 deaths a year attributed to cigarettes in the EU. Yet the public remains very much in the grip of fear of succumbing to mad cow disease, in part because scientists cannot yet reliably estimate the scale of epidemic, test at-risk foods and medicinals with sufficient sensitivity, nor offer timely diagnosis or therapy.

Scientists, by arguing acrimonously among themselves for decades over credit for the nature, distribution, and risk of the infectious agent, have left policy makers, press, industry, and public in a state of bewilderment. The bottom line, after all the nonsense, is the protein seed crystal scenario clearly articulated by Griffith in 1967, validated by amyloid protein sequencing in 1983 by Glenner, settled beyond all reasonable doubt by normal prion gene sequencing in 1986 and its non biological novelty by pig-to-human insulin amyloid infectivity in 1988. Further environmental and genetic susceptibility factors (in addition to codon 129) no doubt modulate disease onset and development; more work is needed to definitively characterize these.

There is little benefit to divisive, expensive, and ultimately futile containment efforts. No constructive purpose is served by finger-pointing to imperfect containment measures adopted by this or that nation. We have painted ourselves into a corner with decades of inadequately supervised global exports of bovine byproducts, veterinary and human medicinals, nutriceuticals, and cosmetics.

It is all well and good to discard the highest risk materials and address the worst of feed and medicinal amplification, but the only way out now may be to put major resources into diagnostics and therapeutics. Yet here is England throwing 200 million into cleaner scalpels -- kinds of sums that researchers have never come close to seeing.

By historical conditioning, societies invest in disease research only in proportion to current incidence. That paradigm is inoperative for long incubation diseases such as TSEs that dramatically impact agricultural economies because of strong disincentives to acknowledging true disease incidence. Wait-and-see as public policy then leaves the world with unknown numbers, possibly millions, of animals and people progressing slowly down a disease pipeline with no therapy in sight.

Belgium mad cow tests find 14 suspect cases in first week

9 Jan 00 Associated Press
The first week of systematic testing for mad cow disease in all cattle over 30 months has found 14 suspected cases among the 2,762 heads of cattle under review in Belgium, the health ministry announced Tuesday.

The suspected tainted carcasses have been destroyed and the farms from which they came are blocked from sending any further animals to the slaughterhouse until final results are available. Slaughterhouses must currently wait 36 hours before receiving the definitive results of a BSE test, according to the ministry.

In a press release, the ministry said that slaughterhouses were currently "saturated" with cattle carcasses given the limited amount of laboratories qualified to perform testing for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, BSE.

BSE Fears Prompt Total Ban on Beef Products from EU

5 Jan 00 PRNewswire 
A total ban on the importation of beef products into Australia and New Zealand from thirty European countries was announced today by the joint food authority, ANZFA. A special report explains that the authorities have announced interim measures until the ban comes into effect, advising retailers to dump all beef products from Europe, and preventing any more products being shipped to Australia and New Zealand.

The ban is a direct response to the news that BSE has spread far beyond the UK. It proves that the European beef industry still has a long way to go to convince other countries of the safety of its produce.

Ian Lindenmayer, managing director of ANFZA, explained the reasoning behind the decision: "Australia and New Zealand have one of the safest food supplies in the world - and the current steps are intended to keep it that way."

Saudi bans beef, mutton imports from EU

Sun, Jan 7, 2001 Reuters
Saudi Arabia ordered on Sunday a ban on the import of beef and mutton from the European Union due to concerns over the spread of mad cow disease.

The Commerce Ministry, in a circular to all chambers of commerce in the kingdom, ordered that "no brand of beef or mutton or their products should be allowed to be imported into the kingdom from all countries of the European Union." It said the decision came after reports of persistent cases in EU countries of the deadly brain-wasting mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Scientists suspect that people eating contaminated beef risk contracting a human version of the disease.

The ministry also cited "cheating and collusion" between some departments in EU states to export products from Britain, where the disease first broke out, to third world countries.

"Since the European Union states represent a single market it is difficult to control the movement of goods, and shipments suspected to be contaminated might find their way to countries outside the European Union," the ministry said. Saudi Arabia had earlier imposed a ban on imports from some EU countries due to fears over the disease.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the kingdom imports about two-thirds of its beef consumption, estimated at 100,000 tonnes in 1999.

Saudi Arabia already enforces a ban on the import of livestock from many African states, following an outbreak of Rift Valley Fever in the southern part of the kingdom last year. The official death toll in the kingdom from the disease, transmitted from infected livestock to humans, stands at 114.

A small Swiss company takes on mad cow disease

January 3, 2001 NY Times By ELIZABETH OLSON
In 1997, Bruno Oesch and two fellow researchers left their jobs at the University of Zurich to found a biotechnology company called Prionics that is now helping determine what beef winds up on European dinner tables.

The three scientists had developed a test the previous year that pinpointed whether animals were infected with mad cow disease, the brain- wasting affliction that, thus far, is incurable.

Although their tiny company is still in the red, its test is beating French and Irish rivals because, Mr. Oesch said, it detects the infectious agent, called a prion, before the damage to the cow's brain is visible.

And as alarm is gripping Europe, Prionics is on the cusp of profiting >from the widespread determination to test beef cattle more widely to prevent mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, from entering the human food chain.

Its test, Prionics-Check, is being used in a half-dozen European countries, including France, Britain, Denmark and Spain. Finland and Austria are also planning to introduce the test. Germany will start testing some 60,000 animals next year, and about half of those will use the Swiss test.

Although the test has yet to arrive in the United States, Mr. Oesch, a molecular biologist, sees potential because chronic wasting disease, a cousin of mad cow disease, is found in elk and deer in the western part of the country.

Mr. Oesch and his fellow researchers set out to form their company as Switzerland was battling the deadly disease in its beef herds. To date, the Alpine country, known for its cows almost as much as for its chocolate and cheese, has the third-highest incidence in Europe after Britain and Portugal.

With a $150,000 grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation and some help from private investors, the scientists set up their business in quarters on the University of Zurich campus. With a staff of 20, they work inside a laboratory suited up in disposable yellow jumpsuits and double gloves for protection against infection by the animal brain matter they are examining. Prion diseases cause the slow degeneration of the nervous system.

Prionics-Check is performed on some 20,000 animals in Switzerland each year, Mr. Oesch said. Earlier this fall, Swiss officials were talking about reducing the number of cows tested because of the cost. But that talk has been silenced by the surge in reported cases of mad cow disease in France and the subsequent significant drop in Swiss beef consumption, particularly in western areas adjacent to France.

Prionics' fortunes have been lifted by the announcement of the European Union's plan to widen testing across its 15 member states. One co-founder, Markus Moser, said he expected to sell three times the current number of kits in the coming year.

Prionics, a private company, is backed by AES Laboratoire of France, which manufactures and supplies laboratory equipment and diagnostic tests in the food, drug and veterinary industries. Prionics has licensed its soon-to-be-patented testing method to AES, which has led to labs in Brittany, the Loire Valley and Normandy uncovering 26 of France's cases, he said.

Based on these results, Mr. Oesch predicts that there will be one case of mad cow disease for every 500 animals. The French government, faced with a doubling of the number of known cases since last year, has announced that it will increase its systematic surveillance program.

Prionics' goal now is to automate its testing method, which takes about six hours and is done by hand. Each test costs $47.

"We would like to get the price down," Mr. Oesch said. That would help commercialize the process, and help the company turn a profit. Right now it is plowing funds into personnel and also into research to find a cure for the human version of mad cow disease, which is called a new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Since the incubation time in animals is so lengthy, meat from animals that do not have visible signs of infection has been getting into the human food chain.

"It's way too early" to expect a cure, Mr. Oesch said, because "we still don't know how much it takes to infect a human being."

France Begins Screening Older Cattle For BSE

2 Jan 01 Agence France-Presse
The French government will from Tuesday begin a major screening program to test all the country's cattle over 30 months old for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, officials said. Under the program, 13 French laboratories will conduct a total of some 20,000 tests each week on cattle across the country.

The program stems from a decision in November by the European Union to order extensive screening of cattle in its 15 member countries to determine the prevalence of BSE among cattle deemed to be most at risk.

At least 153 cases of mad cow disease were discovered in France last year during testing of sick animals, around five times the number detected in 1999.

Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany said in an interview to be published on Tuesday that since the EU took the decision that all cows over 30 months must be screened for BSE, "it has become extremely difficult to sell animals who have passed that age."

"The best way to revive the market is to begin the (screening) process as quickly as possible," Glavany told the French newspaper L'Humanite. He added screening was "the only way to beat the crisis and to restore the confidence of consumers."

The French beef industry has been battling a three-month-old slump in public confidence, partly triggered by disclosures in October that potentially contaminated meat had been distributed to three supermarket chains.

The screening process is likely to add to the consumer cost of beef -- testing will cost 500 francs (76 euros, $72), of which 100 francs will be paid by the state.

Should an animal test positive, its carcass and by-products would be destroyed. If the result was later confirmed by the French food safety agency, the entire herd would have to be slaughtered. Should it test negative, it would be allowed to re-enter the human food chain. [The French are well aware that the test only works in the month just prior to the cow showing clinical symptoms -- webmaster]

Experts say that eating meat from cattle infected with mad cow disease can lead to a fatal human form of the brain-wasting illness, called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD).

Germany Warned Months Ago Of Mad Cow Infection

 2 Jan 01 (Associated Press) 
The European Union renewed its attack on German handling of the mad cow crisis Sunday, with a top official saying the union warned Germany nine months ago that its cattle were probably infected, a newspaper reported.

David Byrne, the group's health and consumer affairs commissioner, told Welt am Sonntag that the European Union sent German Agriculture Minister Karl-Heinz Funke a study in March predicting that German cows were carrying the disease. Byrne said he was puzzled when Funke continued insisting that German beef was safe, the newspaper said.

Funke and German Health Minister Andrea Fischer have come under fire from the European Union, consumer groups and opposition conservatives, who accuse them of acting too late to protect the public.

Seven cows have been found carrying the disease, which is formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Scientists suspect more than 80 people who have died from a similar brain-wasting condition, most of them in Britain, may have eaten infected beef.

Funke said Saturday he had based his assurances that beef was safe on reports from an international agency for animal diseases in Paris. He also said that Germany's 16 states last year refused federal appeals to step up testing.

He said he had made a mistake by not pushing earlier for an EU-wide ban on feeding animals with meal containing ground meat and bone. Feed made from infected carcasses is suspected of spreading the disease across much of Europe.

European Union leaders agreed earlier this month to ban its use for at least six months starting in January, though many countries have already stopped the practice.

In the Sunday newspaper, Byrne forecast that mad cow disease could be eradicated in the European Union within 10 years if all 15 countries impose tough safety standards.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder used his New Year's address to appoint a senior official, Hedda von Wedel, to identify policy mistakes and draw up a plan to combat the disease.

Embattled German officials seek new steps against BSE

Fri, Jan 5, 2001 AP WorldStream By TONY CZUCZKA
Under growing pressure in Germany's mad cow scare, two top government officials went before lawmakers Friday to outline new steps to counter concerns about infected beef and defend their handling of the crisis.

Health Minister Andrea Fischer and Agriculture Minister Karl-Heinz Funke, accused by consumer groups and the opposition of failing to protect public health, sidestepped the charges at an emergency session of parliament committees called to discuss ways of restoring confidence in German beef.

Fischer proposed lowering the age for mandatory testing of beef cattle to 24 months from 30 months, after a 28-month-old cow in Bavaria tested positive for mad cow disease this week. Funke presented a broad eight-point plan to the joint session of the health and agriculture committees.

"Safety must extend from the farm to the shop counter," Funke said, acknowledging that "transparency is often lacking" about what's in the food on Germans' tables. Agriculture Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Lauxen said Germany wants to coordinate new measures with its European Union partners, but may go ahead alone if scientific reports due over the next few weeks support them. Germany has confirmed seven BSE cases.

Funke has taken most of the heat since the disease was first reported six weeks ago in cows born and raised in Germany, sending meat sales down by more than half. The European Union's health and consumer affairs chief has accused him of ignoring an EU warning last March that mad cow disease would likely be found in Germany.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has stood behind both ministers, who have staunchly rejected calls for their resignation -- in Fischer's case, even after she admitted mishaps in her ministry's response to the outbreak. Finger-pointing continued Friday over who was to blame for German herds' infection with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, as the disease is formally known.

Germany's main farmer lobby accused the government of delaying anti-BSE measures with internal squabbling between the health, agriculture and environment ministries. "German farming families feel they are being left in the lurch," the German Farmers' Union said. It urged federal and state officials to present firm plans for establishing the cause of BSE in Germany as well as "comprehensive quality assurance" rules for beef.

Funke insisted Friday that he couldn't be blamed for the problem. Germany's 16 states had resisted his proposal in mid-1999 to step up testing, he said.

His proposals included calls for an EU-wide ban on feed including animal proteins and fats; tougher food safety inspections; more government money for food safety research; and legislation promoting organic cattle raising. Fischer also laid out plans to ban all beef risk materials such as brain and spine from the food chain.

In Spain, the Agriculture Ministry on Friday confirmed three new cases of BSE in the northwestern provinces of Leon and Lugo. Spain has recorded five cases of BSE since November.

BSE found in live animal

Jan. 4, 2001 F.A.Z. MUNICH.
For the first time, a live cow in Bavaria was on Thursday diagnosed as suffering from bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). All of the state's previous cases of "mad cow" disease were confirmed in animals killed for testing.

The cow, born in April 1995 and raised in Lindau, attracted attention when it showed symptoms of a disturbed central nervous system. The animal was transported to research laboratories in Tübingen, after two veterinary officials concluded that BSE was possible. The animal is to be reexamined and then slaughtered.

A second new suspected case of BSE in Bavaria involves a female animal from Freising that was only two years old when it was put down at a university clinic on Dec. 29, 2000. It had been diagnosed as suffering from a strangulation of the small intestine and an infected peritoneum, not "mad cow" disease.

BSE was only discovered by a veterinary team complying with EU rules on examining animals that die or are killed because of sickness. This case marks the first time the disease had been discovered in an animal under 30 months.

German Health Minister Andrea Fischer on Thursday called for spot checks in all cows over 24 months, thus lowering the age limit for testing from the current 30 months. The Lindau cow came from a farm with about 75 cattle, the Freising case from a herd of 78 animals. Both herds will be slaughtered.

Bavarian Health Minister Barbara Stamm said the causes would be investigated "with great care but without bias," adding that one possible source of infection was "mineral dietary supplements produced from bones." Adding bonemeal to such supplements was banned only in July 2000. Although carcasses were used to make the supplements, the meat was allegedly approved for general consumption, Ms. Stamm said. [One sees the games being played with terminology -- feed bans are not at all what they first appear to be -- webmaster.]

Dutch reject German allegations as eighth mad cow surfaces

Sat, Dec 30, 2000 By JEROME SOCOLOVSKY Associated Press Writer
The agriculture ministry Saturday investigated a new case of mad cow disease, but denied Germany's claims that several of its cases were caused by contaminated cattle feed from the Netherlands.

Following the recall of German beef products from Dutch supermarkets last weekend, Dutch press reports quoted the German agriculture minister blaming poorly treated milk-substitutes in Dutch feed.

"It's nonsense," said ministry spokesman Gerard Westerhof. He said the allegations by Karl-Heinz Funke could not be true because mad cow disease is found in animal proteins not present in the Dutch products. Westerhof noted that Germany only in October began banning brains and other cattle parts with a high risk of carrying the disease from consumer products. The Netherlands instituted such a ban in 1997.

Funke has come under fire from German media and European Union officials for doing too little, too late, to counter the spread of mad cow disease -- formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE.

The Netherlands is only one of a number of countries that have banned beef products from Germany since it joined the list of European countries effected by the disease last month. Germany's sixth and seventh cases of BSE were discovered this week in Bavaria and Lower Saxony.

On Friday, a farmer discovered the Netherlands' eighth case in a 6-year-old cow on his farm in Punthorst, near the German border. As a precaution, inspectors Saturday destroyed the farmer's remaining 48 head of cattle while beginning tests to see if the BSE had spread to other animals.

Earlier this week, Dutch cattle feed producers sent German agriculture authorities a letter complaining that the allegations were unfounded. "They haven't learned their lesson yet," Gerard Doornbos of the LTO farmers' association told the national daily Trouw. "A country has to start by looking at its own situation. The Netherlands is three years ahead of Germany."

There have been no cases in the Netherlands of the variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease -- a human form of mad cow disease that is believed to be contracted by eating infected beef. The brain-wasting condition has killed about 90 people, most of them in Britain.

UK nvCJD statistics

To 28 December 2000. Total number of definite and probable cases of vCJD 88, worldwide to 92. The next table will be published on Monday 5 February 2001.

300 dead cattle dumped in Spanish mine

January 2, 2001 Associated Press 
Spanish authorities, overwhelmed by sanitation rules arising from the mad-cow scare, have triggered an uproar by dumping dead cows in an abandoned mine near a village.

The regional government in Galicia -- where Spain's only two confirmed cases of the disease surfaced in November -- said Tuesday that about 100 cows that died in accidents or of natural causes have been put in an unused quartz strip mine outside Lanza in La Coruna province. The carcasses were covered with quicklime.

Spanish farmers used to bury dead cattle on their own land. When the mad-cow cases surfaced, Spain's government ordered that carcasses be turned over to local authorities and incinerated. But Galicia has about a million cattle and only one incinerator, agriculture department spokesman Manuel Cruz said. "It simply can't cope," he said.

Residents of Lanza, a village of about 500 people that falls under the jurisdiction of the municipality of Mesia, are worried the rotting flesh will poison streams or groundwater. They put the number of cows dumped at 300. Mesia Mayor Jose Fraga said the cattle dumping has caused "a grave situation of alarm" and urged the Galician government to halt the operation. He said he has asked a prosecutor to launch a probe.

The mine covers 10 acres and the cow bodies are spread over a patch the size of a soccer field. It is 1,000 feet from a house and half a mile from an elementary school.

Cruz said that although none of the cattle was tested for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad-cow disease, veterinarians had certified the cause of death in each case and there was no health risk from dumping them in the mine.

Officials in Galicia said the mine burials conform with European Union health regulations. They said the operation began Saturday and will go on for a few more days, but would not say how many dead animals would end up in the mine. The dispute comes as officials in another region, Castile-Leon, reported Tuesday two suspected cases of the illness. Test results were expected later this week.

Meanwhile, France got an early lead on its EU partners Tuesday by launching a program to screen 20,000 animals every week for mad cow and require tests on all cows more than 30 months old starting in January, rather than in July.

As mad-cow fears peaked in November, the EU decided that all such cows would be tested at the slaughterhouse before they could enter the food chain. Older cows are considered to be at higher risk. Of France's 5.7 million cows, 2.3 million are more than 30 months old.

Spain finds two more suspected mad cow cases

Tue, Jan 2, 2001 (Reuters) 
Spain reported Tuesday two more suspected cases of mad cow disease in Castille-Leon, raising concern that the illness was not confined to northwestern Galicia where the first two cases were detected.

Initial tests suggested the two cows, which came from separate farms in the northern region of Castille-Leon, died from bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the region's agriculture secretary Jose Valin said. Conclusive results from further tests would be available on Thursday, he told a news conference.

Spain's first two cases were detected over the past two months in northwestern Galicia, prompting the government to draw up a $300-million emergency plan to help improve controls against the disease which has no known cure.

France began tests for mad cow disease on all cattle older than 30 months Tuesday in a bid to restore market balance, farm minister Jean Glavany said. In an interview with daily Humanite, Glavany said France had started testing older cattle for mad cow disease six months before the July 1 deadline for such tests to begin across the European Union.

Glavany said imbalances in the market had made it necessary to start testing older cattle for BSE as soon as possible. "Since the decision was taken at the EU level to test or to destroy all cattle older than 30 months, it became very difficult to sell animals that were past that age," he said. France hopes to test 20,000 animals a week for the deadly, brain-wasting illness.

European Union farm ministers last month approved a program to destroy all older non-BSE tested cattle to keep them out of the food chain. Up to two million cattle may be affected by the scheme. In France, animals that test negative for BSE will be allowed to be sold and enter the food chain.

Spain confirms three new mad cow cases

Fri, Jan 5, 2001 Reuters World Report By Jess Smee
Spain confirmed on Friday three new cases of mad cow disease, taking to five the number of infected cattle found in the country and prompting warnings that the scale of the problem was likely to grow. One of the cases was detected in the northwestern Galicia region, where the previous two infected animals were found, and the other two new cases emerged in neighbouring Castille-Leon, the Agriculture Ministry said in a statement.

"The detection systems set up in Spain have worked correctly," the statement said, adding the animals had been destroyed to avoid contaminating the food chain.

But the Union of Small Farmers (UPA) said the latest case showed Spain needed to expand monitoring for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). "We are worried that there are far more cases that are out waiting to be discovered," Fernando Moraleda, the group's general secretary, told Reuters. "The problem is that Spain has never had a solid system of tests and prevention."

Juan Jose Badiola, director of a laboratory where the latest cases were detected, said more cases were likely to emerge. "By June we will know the full scale of the problem. By then we'll have more detailed research," he told state radio. "Until now we have tested cattle in slaughterhouses but we have started analysing deaths on farms to get a more accurate picture."

More than 80 people in Britain and two in France have died from the human form of the disease, the brain wasting disorder varient Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (vCJD), believed to be caused by eating tainted beef. No case of vCJD has been reported in Spain. Mad cow disease surfaced in Britain in 1986 and has been detected across Europe, with cases confirmed in France, Ireland, Portugal, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany as well as Spain.

Spain's government has drawn up a $300-million emergency plan to improve controls against BSE as well as to compensate farmers for lost income. One fifth of Spaniards stopped eating beef after the country's first BSE case was reported, a poll by radio station Cadena SER estimated.

EU-imposed tests for mad cow disease start in Austria

Tue, Jan 2, 2001 (AP)
Tests ordered by the European Union for possible cases of mad cow disease got off to a slow start Tuesday because of uncertainty about how much they will cost and who will pay for them. Agriculture Minister Wilhelm Molterer suggested the estimated cost of 1,500 schillings (nearly dlrs 100) per test will ultimately be borne by the consumer.

The EU-ordered tests for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, follow confirmation of mad cow disease in several European countries, including in neighboring Germany. Austria banned all beef and cattle imports from Germany on Dec. 20, 2000.

Austrian state radio earlier reported that 200,000 and 300,000 such tests have to be carried out in Austria. Molterer was quoted Tuesday by the Austria Press Agency as saying the cost of the tests is expected to total around 500 million schillings (dlrs 33 million).

Walter Schuller, a leading veterinarian, said results of the first tests should be available on Wednesday. No case of BSE affliction so far has been reported in Austria, but Health Minister Herbert Haupt said last month there was no guarantee that Austria is free of the disease.

Number of Swiss mad cow cases declines

Tue, Jan 2, 2001 (Reuters)
The incidence of mad cow disease has dropped in Switzerland, once the country with the highest number of cases outside Britain, the Swiss Federal Veterinary Office said on Tuesday.

"It looks like the figures are really coming down and that the measures (import restrictions and animal feed bans) are having their effect," Dagmar Heim, head of the BSE project at the veterinary office, told Reuters.

Swiss authorities found 17 new cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in 2000, compared to 25 in 1999. This tally includes animals that were suspected of having BSE on the farm, were tested after slaughter and found positive.

They were all animals born after the 1990 ban on feeding meat-and-bone meal to ruminants, one of the first measures in the fight against BSE, which is suspected of causing a brain-wasting disease in humans.

In the past 10 years Switzerland has had a total of 324 cases of BSE, of which 85 were born after the first feed ban in 1990. The peak was in 1995 when 68 cases were found. From 1993 to 1995, Switzerland had the most BSE cases outside Britain.

From January 1, the use of meat-and-bone meal is banned and remaining stocks will be burnt in cement industry ovens with the state paying 30 million of the estimated 40 million Swiss franc ($25 million) costs.

The latest figures from the Paris-based World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) show that Britain had 1,101 BSE cases in the year up to October 31, 2000. The latest data, updated on December 28 and based on local statistics for end-November to mid-December, show that Portugal had 114 cases of mad cow disease in 2000, followed by 111 in France and 57 in Ireland. There were nine cases in Belgium, six in Germany, one in Denmark and two in Spain.

UK Food Standards Agency probes breach of BSE controls

Tue, Jan 2, 2001 FWN Financial via COMTEX
The U.K. Food Standards Agency is currently investigating a breech of BSE controls after pieces of spinal cord, a specified BSE risk material, were found in a single sheep carcass marked as fit for human consumption, an FSA official confirmed Tuesday. The investigation will be concluded in the next few days, he added. The veterinary surgeon who approved the carcass in a Devon abattoir has stood down pending the investigation's findings.

The carcass concerned was destroyed, and preliminary investigations so far show that the incident was isolated, the FSA official said. "This finding proves that our current system of inspections is working perfectly," he added. Spinal cord is classified as a Specified Risk Material in cattle and sheep and must, by law be removed.

Canada spreads scrapie sludge

Thu, 04 Jan 2001 By A.J. BLAUER, Ottawa Sun
The grass might be greener on the other side of the fence, but how safe is that crud it's growing in?

An environmental researcher is questioning the practice of spreading municipal "biosolids" on agricultural land after some diseased sheep tissue found its way into the local mix.

"Biosolids is just a designed name to make the mind go numb," said Maureen Reilly, founder of Sludge Watch. "We're really turning our farms into landfills."

Between February and July 2000, tissues and fluids infected with scrapie, the sheep equivalent of Mad Cow Disease, were released into Ottawa's sewage treatment stream after being disinfected at a lower-than-ideal temperature by the Animal Disease Research Institute (ADRI) on Fallowfield Rd.

The sewage was then "stabilized" by the region's wastewater treatment plant and some of it spread on local farmland as a cheap source of nitrogen and other nutrients.

Dave Robertson, manager of the region's wastewater treatment branch at the time, said an investigation raised no contamination concerns. About 1,000 metric tonnes of water-separated sludge was spread over 125 hectares of local farm land during the period in question.

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the diseased material would have been rendered 99.9999% sterile [based on what study? -- webmaster] when the ADRI inadvertently "cooked" it 13 degrees cooler than the target temperature of 134C.

"There's no 100% guarantee -- scientists won't go there -- but we don't believe there's a problem," said CFIA spokesman Andrew Adams.

But that incident doesn't put an end to the controversy of using sewage for fertilizer. Even after treatment, Ottawa's spreadable biosolids contain some viruses, bacteria and toxins. Better cleaning equipment would cost $50 million, plus millions more in operating costs.

But even in its current form, some argue that biosolid spreading saves the city money and provides a free source of soil nutrient for cash-strapped farmers.

Paul Cooper, a director at the Ottawa-Carleton Regional Federation of Agriculture, said there's no evidence of health problems after seven years of biosolid spreading in the region. A public meeting on the issue is slated for Jan. 16 at the Manotick Legion Hall.

Comment (Maureen Reilly): "Here's what happened: The Animal Disease Research Institute in Ottawa Ontario is researching a live test for scrapie and is waiting for the sheep in their pen to show signs of scrapie then killing and performing disection. There were 6 infected sheep in the 5 month period. It is not certain to me how much of the infected blood and tissue was placed in the autoclave and treated at suboptimal temperatures.

However for 5 months the temperature was lowered to 121 rather than 134 degrees and the tissues released into the sewage treatment plant. The sewage treatment sludge (including the tissues) is agriculturally applied. However, the scrapie specialists at the lab were never told that the sludge with the tissues was placed on farmland. Therefore, when the lab issued their press release they thought the sludge went to landfil or incineration.

The municipal officials and the ministry of Evironment officials failed to consider the possible infectivity of any unprocessed prions that went to land application. The quality of the 'biosolids' was not considered at any point.

Now, in this instance, the amount of infective prion tissue may indeed have been relatively minimal and relatively diluted by the sludge, but the problem remains that the provincial and municipal officials failed to inform the scrapie researchers of the final fate of the tissues on farmland. The farmers have not been informed. The agriculture Ministry and the provincial scrapie expert for the provincial ministry of agriculture were not informed, the Ministry of Natural Resouces (wildlife) was not informed.

We know so little about the incubation period and infectivity of prions that a prudent course of action would be to determine which farms received suspect sludge and to monitor those farm animals and nearby wildlife for effects for the next few years. Greater accountablilty and transparency is required."

European nations start mad cow testing programs

January 2, 2001 Agence France-Presse
Member states of the European Union kicked off a sweeping campaign Tuesday to test all cows over the age of 30 months for mad cow disease in a move to quell consumer fears about food safety. EU countries decided in November to boost testing programs for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as mad cow disease.

Britain and Portugal have been hardest hit by the mad cow scare, but each EU country has set out its own testing regimen to determine the prevalence of BSE among cattle over 30 months old, deemed to be most at risk. In Britain, no specific screenings are expected this year, as all cows more than 30 months old have been banned from the human food supply since 1996.

The disease is believed to have originated in Britain, with more than 177,000 cases detected since 1985. Some 1,200 cases were found in 2000, compared to 2,254 in 1999.

Portuguese Agriculture Minister Luis Capoulas Santos said Friday that quick tests for mad cow disease would be introduced in April. Authorities have predicted that a total of about 130 cases would be detected in 2000.

In France, 13 laboratories will conduct some 20,000 tests weekly on cattle across the country, starting this month. At least 153 cases of mad cow disease were discovered in France last year during testing of sick animals, around five times the number detected in 1999.

Seven cases of mad cow disease have been confirmed in German-born cows since late November, when the first was discovered. The German agriculture ministry said Tuesday it could not verify the number of screenings to be conducted in the country, as they are to be carried out at the regional level.

In Spain, cows will be tested in two phases: the first, to start immediately, concerns all at-risk animals, including those slaughtered because they were ill; the second, starting July 1, will have all animals over the age of 30 months tested. Only two cases of mad cow disease have been identified in Spain.

Dutch authorities have said they would be able to test 2,500 animals a day for the brain-wasting illness. Eight cases have been found in the Netherlands.

Ireland has been hard-hit by the illness, with 581 cases of BSE reported since 1989.

A total of 19 cases have been identified in Belgium, nine of them in 2000.

In Italy, two animals have been found to be infected with mad cow disease, while in both Luxembourg and Denmark, one case has been reported. No cases of BSE have been reported in Austria, Finland, Greece or Sweden.

EU waits to evaluate tough new mad cow curbs

January 3, 2001 Reuters David Evans
EU officials were cited as saying on Wednesday that tough new steps to combat the spread of mad cow disease are now in force across the European Union but it could be weeks before a first proper evaluation of the measures is made....

Ccountries with no signs of BSE among their cattle herd have won exemption from some of the measures, although they must still apply feed ban for the time being. The Commission has said that Austria, Sweden and Finland could have the option of allowing untested older cattle into their domestic food chains, but exports would have to be tested.

EU president Sweden on Wednesday was cited as bewailing the waste involved in killing cattle en masse to tackle mad cow disease, and said it was a pity the EU did not take a stronger stand on other well-known health risks like tobacco.

Swedish Agriculture Minister Margareta Winberg was quoted as telling a news conference in Lisbon that, "Tobacco and cigarettes kill around 500,000 people in the European Union each year. But we don't care about it, we don't ban tobacco," Winberg did not say she opposed the EU decision to buy and destroy all cattle more than 30 months old and destined for the food chain which had not been tested for brain-wasting Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). But she commented that "in a world where you have 800 million starving people, it seems to be not so good a system to burn all these animals."

Spain farm group wants govt to scrap anti-BSE measure

4 Jan 01 FWN Financial via COMTEX
A major Spanish farmers' association, ASAJA, launched a bid Thursday to get the government to scrap a new regulation requiring cattle farmers to obtain official veterinary certificates for all animals shipped to slaughterhouses, the EFE news agency reported. The rule was adopted two weeks ago as part of the effort to fight bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease. ASAJA called compliance "impossible" because of a lack of veterinarians authorized to issue the certificates.

A Spanish farmers' association in the region where two of the three mad cow cases confirmed Friday originated said the cattle actually died 40 days ago, and criticized the government for the delay and for not yet protectively destroying the rest of the herds they were found in, the EFE news agency reported. Regional officials admitted the other 248 cattle in the two herds won't be destroyed until next week, citing "certain bureaucratic procedures that have to be complied with."

The farmers' association, UPA, also called Spain's program to contain mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), "illogical." A representative said "it is copied from the one put in place in 1996 in England, where the problem was genetic," while the Spanish BSE situation "comes from a problem involving feed."

Efforts by France and Spain to fight BSE by requiring laboratory health tests on large numbers of cattle are descending into chaos, threatening to create major bottlenecks for meat processors that could thwart any immediate rebound in beef demand. The problem stems from implementing the new regulations without enough approved laboratories, veterinarians or equipment in either country to allow for compliance.

French beef wholesalers dread sharp price rise: the French meat wholesaler union warned Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany of a possible shortage of beef and of an "uncontrollable price rise" as a result of the launch of systematic BSE tests on cattle over 30 months old, the union said in a letter.

USDA priorities: bovine byproducts imports or Vermont sheep?

Sun, 7 Jan 2001 Rutland Herald By JOHN DILLON Staff Writer
Opinion (webmaster): We can applaud the effort here of USDA to apply the precautionary principle to live imports of sheep from Belgium, a BSE affected country. However, an extreme form of the precautionary principle cannot sensibly be applied to an isolated component. While continued surveillance of live imports from Europe is warranted, there are far bigger fish to fry in terms of risk abatement of imported bovine byproducts from the UK itself.

The fact remains that no acceptable evidence exists to date showing these sheep have scrapie, BSE, or indeed any TSE, nor that they were ever exposed to potentially contaminated feed in Belgium. Adult sheep nearing 5-6 years of age remain in excellent apparent health. The USDA has reportedly declined to abide by results from the respected Prionics tests on additional animals. The USDA should reconsider this decision because the precautionary principle above all must be science-based.

"Consider, if you can quiet your stomach, the international trade in offal. Commercial animal feed is not all soybeans, wheat or oats. Cows, pigs and even Fido are sometimes fed an unappealing mixture of ground up bones, guts and other animal by-products.

Yet the practice of feeding ruminants to ruminants - sheep to sheep or cow to cows - is considered a likely route for the spread of mad cow disease, an always fatal brain disorder now appearing across Europe.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has moved on a number of fronts to stop the untreatable disease from reaching our borders. It halted the practice of ruminant to ruminant feeding in 1997. It has banned imports of meat and bone meal from England and other European nations. And the government wants to slaughter two flocks of Vermont sheep it says may have been exposed through tainted feed to mad cow disease in Europe.

Yet as the USDA continues to press its case against the Vermont sheep in court, new evidence has emerged that it may not have had an iron-tight ban on the potentially contaminated European feed.

The Vermont flock owners say this evidence - which includes a new report from the European Union - shows they are the victims of a double-standard: While the government wants to kill sheep they insist are healthy, it has allowed the possibly dangerous animal feed products to reach U.S. shores, they say.

"This is exactly what they are going after our sheep for - the feed," said Linda Faillace, who tends a flock of East Friesian dairy sheep in Warren. "But this meat and bone meal is what they've allowed here. They imported it."

The USDA says that the Vermont sheep or their forebears were exposed to the dangerous feed before they left Europe. The Faillaces have produced feed records showing their animals were fed grain, not meat or bone meal. The Faillaces and Houghton Freeman of Stowe, the owner of the other flock, have challenged the USDA seizure order in court. The case is now before U.S. District Judge J. Garvan Murtha.

The USDA says it has not found mad cow disease in this country. And many experts say Americans should not worry about the meat they eat. Yet an absence of cases does not always guarantee an absence of risk. A scientific advisory committee to the European Union concluded this summer that the United States faces a potential risk of mad cow disease.

The little-noticed report looked at the likelihood of a mad cow disease outbreak in the United States. The disease, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, riddles its victims' brains with sponge-like holes. A human version, called variant Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, is believed to spread when people eat the infected animals. So far about 80 people in the United Kingdom have died or are dying of the disease.

The EU report ranked the BSE risk factor here as "unlikely." But the report added that researchers could not rule out that U.S. "cattle are (clinically or pre-clinically) infected with the BSE agent." (The term "pre-clinical" refers to an animal being infected before it shows signs that would lead to a diagnosis of the disease.)

The report cited several factors for the less-than-ideal risk assessment. The authors noted that cattle from the United Kingdom were imported into the United States in the 1980s, when the disease began to spread in England. There is a very slight risk that some of those cattle may have been infected, and that they could have entered the U.S. food supply when they were slaughtered. And the report notes that the international trade in rendered animal products sent meat and bone meal from England to this country through 1997.

Although USDA officials say they banned meat and bone imports from England in 1989 and from all of Europe in 1997, the report says otherwise. Citing UK export statistics, the European Union report says 12 tons of "meals of meat or offal ... unfit for human consumption" were sent to the United States in 1981, 10 tons in 1984, two tons in 1985, 20 tons in 1989, and 37 tons in 1997. Mad cow was first diagnosed in England in 1986. But because of the extremely long incubation period of the disease, imports in the early 1980s are also considered worrisome.

And just last month, the USDA issued a new ban on all imports of "rendered products." A Dec. 6 internal USDA memo said the ban applied to Europe or any country designated as infected with BSE. The ban covered "all imports of rendered products such as meat and bone meal , meat meal, blood meal, tankage, fat, offal, tallow and any products containing such, regardless of species of origin."

The memo is important because it shows that potentially contaminated animal product was continuing to reach the United States, despite the earlier ban. If the product was not coming here, why would the government institute the new import restrictions? It thus appears that it was OK to import those items until 5 December, 2000. The USDA memo seems to answer the question once and for all of whether they US has had a comprehensive ban in place for the above-mentioned items during 1985-2000: No.

Animals products are global commoditites sold around the world. A company in a country considered BSE-free could buy tainted feed, and then sell it into the United States, thus avoiding import restrictions, he said. This shows the globalization of BSE. Once it gets into the global commodity market, there's no way to track it according to the UN.

But Dr. Linda Detwiler, a USDA veterinarian who helps lead the government's BSE prevention efforts, said the United States does not usually import these rendered animal products, primarily because this country produces enough dead animals to meet demand.

Yet when Europe banned the use of those products in December, the USDA put the new ban in place, out of concern that foreign companies would try to sell meat, bone meal and other by-products here because the market had vanished in Europe. "It was done as a precaution so it wouldn't come here if the price dropped," she said.

The latest import ban goes beyond feed made from dead cows to all rendered animal products, including fish meal. The ban was implemented to prevent "cross contamination" of feed - the possibility that processing plants handling cow carcasses as well as other animals could inadvertently spread the disease agent from one batch of feed to another.

Detwiler added that the small quantities that were imported in the past were probably used for pet food or in other products, not as commercial cattle feed. And if contaminated animal products were brought into this country in the late 1980s or 1990s, the disease would have manifested itself by now, she said. "You would have seen cases (of mad cow disease here)," she said.

She said she was familiar with the recent EU risk report, but was not aware of any imports from the United Kingdom in 1997. If that happened, she said, Britain would have violated its own export rules. "That would have been illegal for the UK to ship out," she said.

For Detwiler the events in Europe over the last several months add new urgency to the Vermont case. Cases of mad cow disease began turning up across Europe this fall following the discovery of infected cows in France. Since then, scientists have also discovered the disease in Germany and Spain.

"Germany is a good example of a country that thought they had this thing under control," Detwiler said. "They had reported they had a tight feed ban, yet they've had seven confirmed cases in a little over a month."

But Linda Faillace said European officials have found the disease because they have aggressively searched for it. European scientists have tested tens of thousands of cattle for mad cow in the last few months alone. Yet the USDA has said only 12,000 U.S. cattle - out of about 900 million - have been tested over the last 10 years.

If the USDA applied the same precautionary standard to the domestic cattle herd as it has to the Vermont sheep then it would have to assume the cattle here have also been exposed to the disease through the feed imports, Faillace said.

"They have to use that assumption (that U.S. animals ate the European feed) with the cattle here," she said. "Therefore we can't assume we're BSE-free."

FDA may exclude hunters from blood donation

TSE Advisory Committee meeting are posted on CBER Home Page
The next meeting is January 18 & 19, 2001 (see January meeting announcements). At these meetings we welcome comments from the public on agenda topics. Because of the time restrictions the public presentations are limited to approximately 5 minutes.

The meeting will be held on January 18, 2001, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and on January 19, 2001, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30p.m.

Holiday Inn, Versailles Ballrooms I and II, 8120 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814, (301) 652-2000.

Contact Person: William Freas, Ph.D., or Sheila D. Langford (301) 827-0314, or FDA Advisory Committee Information Line, 1-800-741-8138 (301-443-0572 in the Washington, DC area), code 12392. Please call this Information Line for up-to-date information on this meeting.

Agenda: On January 18, 2001, the Committee will discuss whether recent information about new-variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) in France and bovine spongiform encephalopathy in France and other European countries suggests a need to reconsider FDA policies on suitability of blood donors who lived or traveled in those countries. In the afternoon the Committee will discuss the risks of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) and vCJD transmission by human cells, tissues and cellular and tissue-based products intended for implantation, transplantation, infusion, or transfer that are currently or proposed to be regulated by FDA, and the possible deferral of donors who have resided in the United Kingdom.

On January 19, 2001, the Committee will discuss issues related to deer and elk infected with or exposed to chronic wasting disease in the U.S. and potential for human exposure [Potential? Numerous hunters have already testified to confirmed personal exposure -- webmaster]. In the afternoon the Committee will discuss whether a history of possible exposure to various animal transmissible spongiform encephalopathy agents should be considered by the FDA in determining suitability of blood donors.

Oral Presentations: Between approximately 10:30 a.m. to 10:50 a.m., and 3:00 p.m. to 3:20 p.m. on both days oral presentations from the public will be scheduled. Those desiring to make formal oral presentations should notify the contact person by January 12, 2001. Closed Committee Deliberations: On January 18, 2001, from 5:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. the meeting will be closed to permit the discussion and review of trade secret and/or confidential information [that the public cannot be trusted with -- webmaster] (5 U.S.C. 552b(c)(4)).


 Freas, William, Ph.D.
 Scientific Advisors & Consultants Staff
 Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research
 Food and Drug Administration (HFM-71)
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 TEL: (301) 827-1289
 FAX: (301) 827-0294  


 Brown, Paul W., M.D. 1/31/01
 Medical Director
 National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

 Belay, Ermias D., M.D. 01/31/03
 Medical Epidemiologist
 Bolton, David C., Ph.D. 01/31/03
 Head, Laboratory of Molecular Structure and Function

 Burke, Donald S., M.D. 01/31/02
 Director, Center for Immunization Research
 Cliver, Dean O., Ph.D. 01/31/02
 Professor, Department of Population, Health and Reproduction
 Ewenstein, Bruce M., M.D., Ph.D. 01/31/03
 Clinical Director

 Ferguson, Lisa A., D.V.M. 01/31/04
 Senior Staff Veterinarian
 U.S. Department of Agriculture

 Lurie, Peter G., M.D. 01/31/02
 Medical Researcher  Public Citizen's Health Research Group
 McCullough, J. Jeffrey, M.D. 01/31/03
 Professor, Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, Box 609
 Piccardo, Pedro, M.D. 01/31/02
 Associate Professor Indiana University
 Prusiner, Stanley B., M.D. 1/31/01
 Professor of Neurology
 Roos, Raymond P., M.D. 1/31/01
 Chairman, Department of Neurology University of Chicago
 Walker, Shirley Jean 01/31/04
 Vice President of Health & Human Services Dallas Urban League, Inc.
 Williams, Elizabeth S., D.V.M., Ph.D. 01/31/03
 Professor, Department of Veterinary Service

French minister: no country is safe

Sun, Jan 7, 2001 COMTEX Newswire 
The French agriculture minister issued a stinging rebuke to Britain Sunday claiming it was British animal feed that had spread mad cow disease elsewhere in Europe.

Minister Jean Glavany condemned Britain in an article published Sunday in the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, saying: "Our English friends exported this evil ... They should be morally condemned for this. They spread the animal feed through export which caused it to cross borders even while banning these feeds domestically."

Glavany's published remarks come after he was asked about a lawsuit filed by the French Association of Victims of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. The disease CJD is the human equivalent of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) - mad cow disease. The lawsuit was filed recently against "persons unknown" in the French and British governments and in the European Union bureaucracy. The legal action includes the charge that the British government approved "mass export" of animal feed containing animal products. Such animal feed is now widely believed to have been a prime source of the disease.

Glavany also said France now believed no nation is safe from mad cow disease. "From the moment we all imported hundreds of thousands of tons of animal meal at the worst point in time between 1985 and 1995 there is no reason to suppose that any country is safe," he wrote. He noted that mad cow disease had an incubation period of at least five years -- possibly longer.

Meanwhile, Glavany noted that French investigating judges have already initiated a probe -- led by magistrate Marie-Odile Bertella-Geffroy - to determine if any French, British and EU officials ought to be accused of involuntary homicide.

Magistrate Bertella-Geffroy previously investigated scandals in France related to contaminated blood and human growth hormone. It was made known Friday that the French government now acknowledges there have been a total 161 documented cases of BSE uncovered in France since Jan. 1 of last year.

France has been in high alert over the disease since October when meat from 12 cows which researchers say came from a contaminated herd reached key supermarkets. Those reports and the resulting public fear in France also triggered a Europe-wide scare involving Germany, Spain, Portugal, Belgium and other European nations about the beef sold to consumers.

Just a few days ago, a celebrated French chef surprised the famed French culinary world announcing he had dropped red meat from the menu of his Parisian restaurant. The decision by 44-year-old Alain Passard -- the first vegetarian among the elite group of 38 European chefs to be awarded three stars by the Michelin guide -- stunned the world of fine eating. Put simply, there is now a question as to whether red meat remains an essential ingredient of haute-cuisine, along with fine wine and a selection of cheeses.

Last month, France's food safety agency reported it felt the data showed about that in certain key regions of France some 2 per every 1, 000 at-risk cows were infected with the disease. Officials warned that the findings, >from tests covering a narrow geographical belt of the country, could not be extrapolated to reflect France's entire cattle population.

The European Union has launched continent-wide tests for the disease starting this month. EU agricultural ministers are also contemplating extending a newly issued 6-month ban on animal-based feed for all animals consumed by humans.

Intensive farming may pose health risks -- nutritionist

Sat, Jan 6, 2001 By Emma Pearson, PA News
Evidence is growing that intensively produced foods may contain additives -- from pesticides to hormones -- that could pose long-term health risks, a nutritionist claimed today. Professor Dr Angelika Meler Ploeger, a senior German nutritionist, told a Soil Association Organic Food and Farming Conference that intensive agriculture could be the cause of early puberty, infertility in men and women and several different types of cancers.

"In Germany every third couple who would like a baby have failed in the last five years," she said. "That might be due to other things, but on the other hand, it could be because people are eating the wrong food."

Professor Meler Ploeger has researched intensive farming methods for 15 years and has investigated how sperm quality and can be affected by the food men eat. She said the recent emergence of BSE cases among cattle in Germany had made consumers there more wary of the production techniques used in conventional farming.

Her views were shared by Craig Sams, president of Whole Earth Foods, who said post-war intensive farming to produce as much food as possible had started a cycle which was difficult to break. "By using pesticides and chemical fertilisers -- once you have started down that road you cannot stop," he told the conference in Cirencester.

Explaining the higher price of organic food, Mr Sams, whose firm has been producing it since 1967, said: "It's more expensive because the short cuts that de-nature and adulterate conventional foods haven't been carried out. "It will never be as cheap as conventional foods because, if it was, that would mean we were using the same methods."

With governments across Europe now addressing the organic food issue and more consumers buying organic produce in supermarkets, it was no longer consigned to the shelves of health food shops. But more research is still needed. Professor Meler Ploeger said: "We have to put more effort into understanding the relationship between food and human beings."

Germany found first cases in 1989-91 says professor

Sun, Jan 7, 2001 Reuters North America By Douglas Busvine
The German government faced new accusations on Sunday that it had long ignored scientists' warnings about mad cow disease, triggering calls for the resignation of the agriculture and health ministers. The Welt am Sonntag newspaper published a letter sent by a top zoology professor to Agriculture Minister Karl-Heinz Funke in January of last year saying that the first cases of the disease had been found in Germany a decade earlier.

Funke nevertheless continued to state publicly that Germany was free of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) until a new case was found in November 2000.

"We ran into a brick wall. The first cases of BSE were swept under the carpet," Kiel university professor Sievert Lorenzen told the newspaper.

Since November, Germany has found seven confirmed cases of the brain-wasting disease, which is believed to be responsible for a human equivalent, new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) which has killed over 80 people, mainly in Britain.

The earlier cases, found between 1989 and 1991, were traced back to cattle of foreign origin, but Lorenzen said they were most likely to have been German-born animals infected through eating animal-based fodder.

Funke did not reply to his letter until April of last year: "There was no sign of any political will. The answer said nothing," Lorenzen said. A spokesman for Funke said on Sunday the criticisms were being assessed.

In a separate but related development the health ministry denied a report in Der Spiegel magazine that departmental chief Andrea Fischer had failed to pass on a report on BSE to the agriculture ministry from European Union Food Safety Commissioner David Byrne. A spokesman said the health ministry had received the report on November 9 of last year and passed it on without delay to Deputy Agriculture Minister Martin Wille.

Opposition leaders nevertheless called on Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to sack Funke, a Social Democrat, and Fischer, a member of junior coalition partners the Greens, for bungling their handling of the BSE outbreak. "Chancellor Schroeder has so many weak ministers that he has to act," said Laurenz Meyer, general secretary of the opposition Christian Democrats.

Guido Westerwelle, designated leader of the opposition Free Democrats, said meanwhile that Fischer was "hopelessly out of her depth" and should resign immediately.

But Franz Muentefering, general secretary of the ruling Social Democrats, gave a vote of confidence in the two ministers while admitting that mistakes had been made in Germany's handling of the BSE crisis. "Both ministers will stay on in their jobs," he told German Radio in an interview.

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