Prion Disease: Texas Quarantines 1,221 Cattle Exposed To Ruminant Feed
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Globalization of BSE: Britain puts 69 countries at risk
Texas quarantines 1,221 cattle exposed to ruminant feed
Mad-cow crisis affecting diets, jobs in Europe
McDonald's blames profit drop on mad cow disease
US panel recommends filtering all donated blood
CJD right to know on surgical tool risk
Portugal begins slaughter of 50,000 cattle
Maine tests for mad cow disease
South Korea impounds Canadian elk antler velvet
CWD found in wild deer in Nebraska
Canadian water buffalo prevail in court
Organic farming: from niche satus to oasis of safety

Purina Mills admits cow rule broken

Jan 27 2001 By Steve Brisendine Associated Press
The quarantine of 1,221 cattle and recall of 22 tons of feed out of fears about mad cow disease may have been caused by a mill that disclosed a possible rule violation.

A Purina Mills Inc. plant may have mixed cow meat and bone meal into a feed supplement that was put on the wrong truck, said Beverly Boyd, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Agriculture.

A Purina Mills spokesman said Friday the company had begun phasing out the use of meat and bone meal from cows in any of its livestock feed. Beef byproducts are banned for cattle or sheep feed but commonly used in swine and poultry feed.

``This (quarantine) just happened to be a matter of timing. But as of last night, we are no longer using it,'' said Max Fisher, a spokesman for St. Louis-based Purina Mills, the nation's largest maker of livestock feed. ``It's a voluntary move on our behalf and takes us down to a zero risk factor for a misformulation in the future.''

The questionable feed supplement was manufactured by a Purina Mills plant in Gonzales, Texas, on the evening of Jan. 16 and recalled on Jan. 17 after a standard check revealed the mistake, Fisher said. The company said it called the Food and Drug Administration after the error was discovered through internal controls.

Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is believed to cause variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the fatal human equivalent of mad cow disease. Some 80 Europeans have died of new variant CJD since the mid-1990s, and beef sales have plummeted on that continent.

The disease has never been found in U.S. cattle, and in its news release, Purina stressed that it only uses meat and bone meal from U.S.-grown animals and only in those products in which it is allowed.

Mad cow scare caused Purina quarantine, government says

January 26, 2001 By Steve Brisendine, Associated Press
The quarantine of a Texas cattle herd that may have eaten feed banned in the U.S. to prevent mad cow disease shows how well government protections on the food supply work, an industry official said. But while industry and government officials stress that the risk is small, cattle ranchers fear the mix-up might be enough to taint public perception, just as beef was rebounding after a decade of flat sales.

"The key message consumers need to hear is that we have taken aggressive steps in the U.S. to keep problem from occurring, and that U.S. beef continues to be wholesome, nutritious food," said Todd Domer, a spokesman for the Kansas Livestock Association.

U.S. beef consumption rose 2 percent in 1999 to 66.2 pounds per person, the highest since the 1980s, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For much of the '90s, a nation long known for its love of burgers and steaks seemed to have had its fill of red meat amid concerns it might be linked to high cholesterol and heart disease.

Cattlemen say just mentioning the possibility of the brain-wasting disease infecting the nation's beef supply could cause consumers to think twice about buying beef and cause those numbers to retreat. "Unfortunately, perception amounts to a lot in a lot of things, and this is not any different than a lot of them," said rancher Adrian Casey, who shoveled manure from a stall late Thursday at a stock show in Fort Worth.

The questionable feed supplement was manufactured by a Purina Mills plant in Gonzales, Texas. The company said the error was discovered through its "quality assurance program" of internal controls, and it called the Food and Drug Administration. Sources who spoke on condition of anonymity identified the feedlot as Vaqueros of Texas Cattle Feeders in Floresville, 28 miles southeast of San Antonio. Purina notified nearby feedlot operators of the FDA investigation.

"It scared us half to death," said Caroline Morris, whose husband owns Morris Cattle Co. in Pearsall, Texas. "It would hurt our business if the housewives thought there was some of that (BSE) in the United States." Burt Rutherford, a spokesman for the Texas Cattle Feeders Association, praised the mill for quickly notifying the FDA and the feedlot. "They've pulled samples of feed and are running tests on it now," Rutherford said. "We should know the results early next week."

Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is believed to cause variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the fatal human equivalent of mad cow disease. Some 80 Europeans have died of new variant CJD since the mid-1990s, and beef sales have plummeted on that continent.

"For some reason, publicity surrounding this has kind of taken on a life of its own, even though the problem is across the big pond," Domer said. The disease has never been found in U.S. cattle, and in its release Purina stressed that it only uses meat and bone meal from U.S.-grown animals and only in those products where it is allowed. As a precaution, the government has banned cows and sheep from being given feed made from animal parts, no matter what their country of origin.

A recent FDA report found hundreds of feed makers were violating labeling requirements and other rules associated with the ban. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association has organized a private meeting Monday involving representatives of the industry and officials from the FDA and the Agriculture Department to press for better compliance.

"We certainly want feed companies to be in compliance," Domer said. "We even have members talking to their feed companies making sure they're in compliance. They're that serious about the situation."

Quarantined cattle may have eaten banned feed

Jan. 26, 2001 By Kathryn A. Wolfe, Houston Chronicle
More than 1,200 cattle on a feedlot near Gonzales have been quarantined amid questions about whether they ate a type of feed that was banned in the wake of mad cow disease deaths in Britain.

Feed containing cow meat and bone, banned for cattle by the Food and Drug Administration in 1997, may have accidentally been distributed to the feedlot by Purina Mills' plant in Gonzales.

"The feed was placed into a feeder, and it may have been that some of the cattle had gotten around to eating it," said Max Fisher, a spokesman for Purina Mills.

Routine quality testing at Purina Mills turned up the mistake, which violated the ban. The next day the 22 tons of feed, which normally would be given to swine and poultry, was recalled and the FDA notified.

"We requested ... that these cattle and any carcasses that had already been made from the cattle not be released into the food chain," said Murray Lumpkin, FDA senior medical adviser. Lumpkin said as far as the FDA is aware, none of the cattle in question left the feedlot before the quarantine was instituted.

The FDA is investigating the violation, including testing the feed and cattle, and expects to make a decision regarding the animals by the end of the month.

Mad cow disease prevention lax

Wednesday, January 17, 2001 Seattle Post-Intelligencer Editorial Board
The federal government needs a much more vigorous approach to prevent an outbreak of so-called "mad cow" disease in the United States. The time to act aggressively is now, when the risk of humans becoming infected is still low.

The barriers meant to prevent its spread to humans from domestic animals or its import from Europe are more illusory than real.

The root of the problem appears to be the practice of feeding cows to cows. For that reason, both the United States and Britain have banned that practice.

But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said last week that hundreds of U.S. animal feed manufacturers and rendering plants are not complying with regulations intended to prevent outbreak of the disease. And of the 9,500 feed manufacturers in the country, only 2,700 have been inspected for compliance with the law, according to the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine.

Nearly half of the smaller companies that handle animal byproducts and wastes do not have any system for putting labels on them warning that the product should not be fed to cud-chewing animals such as cows or sheep. And more than a quarter of the larger U.S. rendering companies have no system of preventing co-mingling of cow and sheep waste with that of other animals such as chickens or fish. Fewer than 12,000 of the nation's 900 million cattle were tested for mad cow disease in the past decade.

All this surely argues that much closer vigilance is in order to keep the food supply safe.

Though it has banned importation of animal feed that might be infected, the United States still imports all manner of glandular material from animals whose health status is unknown, even though that material is the most likely to be infected. Just as worrisome, after British herds became infected, British animal renderers continued to ship contaminated meat and bone meal around the world. At least 500,000 tons of untrackable bovine products left Britain at the height of the mad cow disease epidemic, and at least 57,000 tons of it came to the United States, according to the United Nations -- even though the United States had a ban against such imports

No one knows where it went or for what it was used.

In Europe, meanwhile, many farmers through November still were giving feed made from potentially infected cows to chickens and pigs and were then feeding the pigs back to cows. That practice is now banned in Europe, but U.S. Department of Agriculture officials fear European manufacturers will try to dump their outlawed feed in the United States.

On Dec. 23 the FDA took the sensible precaution of telling U.S. drug manufacturers to stop using bovine serum for vaccines against flu, hepatitis A and diptheria-pertussis-tetanus, though the vaccines already manufactured are still in use; the agency says they are safe.

The agency also is debating whether to ban blood donations from people who lived in Europe for six or more months in the 1990s. That also seems only prudent, at least until transmission of this disease is much better understood.

Another version of mad cow disease is scrapie in sheep and chronic wasting disease in elk, deer and cattle. It's not known if either of those versions is transmissible to humans who eat the animals' meat, but the FDA also is pondering a ban on blood donations by deer and elk hunters just in case. Once again, it's a case of better safe than sorry.

U.S. has detailed contingency plan for outbreak of mad-cow disease

January 29, 2001 By Jill Carroll Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal
The government says the chance of a mad-cow outbreak among cattle in the U.S. is very remote. But, just in case, it has devised an elaborate emergency-response plan. The plan dictates the rapid-fire steps to be taken if an American animal is suspected of being infected.

After extensive laboratory analysis in the U.S., for example, an Agriculture Department pathologist armed with slides would rush to England for confirmation. Scientists there have become leading authorities because of Britain's disastrous experience with the disease.

The emergency plan also outlines when whole herds should be quarantined and how to set up a "situation room" to handle the crisis. If the emergency plan has something of a science-fiction quality, that's because the disease does, too. Technically known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, the affliction is known to cause a new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. The horrific human illness drills holes in the brain, leading to progressive dementia, hallucinations and eventually death. Eighty-six people in Europe, mostly in Britain, have died of the disease. There have been no cases of BSE or new-variant CJD in the U.S., but concern is rising amid reports of new outbreaks among cattle in Europe.

Today, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, an industry group, plans to meet here with representatives of the feed and rendering industries, the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration to discuss ways to prevent the disease's spread to the U.S. The FDA, among other steps, is intensifying enforcement of its ban on feeding animals such as cattle and goats any meal that contains the rendered byproducts of mammals -- one way the disease is thought to be spread. For the first time, the FDA last week quarantined 1,222 cattle in Texas that ate feed containing U.S. cattle byproducts.

The Agriculture Department's action plan on handling mad-cow disease has two main parts -- one known as the Red Book and the other a plan on notifying the public and government and industry officials. Over the years, the department has issued about a dozen Red Books on major diseases that affect poultry, pigs, cattle, goats and other species. The addendum concerning notification came after England in 1996 announced the disease had crossed the "species barrier," causing new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in people.

The department was flooded with calls from the public and the news media. "I don't think we were prepared just for the vastness of the interest" in mad-cow disease, says Linda Detwiler, who, as a senior veterinarian in the department, is its top mad-cow expert. A 16-year veteran researcher, she says she "absolutely" still eats meat.

The department has used parts of its response plan only once: last summer when sheep in Vermont were discovered to have a malady called scrapie, which is related to mad-cow disease. A judge is due to decide whether two flocks of infected sheep should be destroyed. Dr. Detwiler says the Agriculture Department is still determining how well the response plan worked in that case but doesn't expect the critique to result in major changes.

If mad-cow disease were to occur in the U.S., it would be detected by a farmer, veterinarian or government inspector noticing odd behavior that doesn't respond to conventional treatments. Cattle with the disease become uncoordinated, excessively nervous or aggressive and lose weight despite a normal appetite. After the cow suspected to have the disease dies or is killed, tests would be run on its brain tissue. If mad-cow disease is still considered a possibility, samples would go to Department of Agriculture labs in Ames, Iowa. At the lab, the brain tissue would be closely examined under a microscope. If holes are detected, dye would be added to highlight any protein markers for the disease. If the markers were to appear, the brain would be ground up and placed on a special tissue paper. An electrical current would be run through it to separate the marker proteins from the rest of the tissue, and a panel of pathologists would examine the test results.

If mad-cow disease is still indicated, the brain tissue samples would be treated with formic acid (so they wouldn't be contagious) and hand-carried by a pathologist to the Central Veterinary Laboratory in England. The testing process there would take from one to four days.

Agriculture Department staffers, meanwhile, would set up their situation room at the department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in Riverdale, Md., about nine miles from department headquarters in Washington. This room would be outfitted with a phone bank and workstations for department officials. A special emergency center under construction eventually will replace the room.

In the state where the suspect cow lived, Agriculture Department agents would trace the animal's genealogy and put the rest of the herd in quarantine. Only after the British lab provided its final conclusion -- as long as 22 days after the Agriculture Department collected the original sample -- would the American public be informed. [A lot of economic shenanigans could occur in these 22 days on the part of industry players in the know. -- webmaster]

At the same time, department officials would hold conference calls with regional animal inspectors, other federal agencies, foreign embassies and industry and consumer representatives. The Paris-based Office of International Epizootics, the international body that sets standards for animal health and disease testing, also would be notified.

Wenonah Hauter, director of the energy and environment program at Public Citizen, a consumer watchdog group, believes the public should be made aware of a suspected mad-cow case sooner. "It's a bit flawed to wait if there's meat suspected of having mad-cow disease," she says. "I'd be a bit concerned about the time lag."

Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration would trace the history of the animal's feed to determine if it had been infected and what other animals might have received it. Murray Lumpkin, senior medical adviser in the FDA commissioner's office, says the FDA does not have a separate plan for handling mad-cow disease but would institute the same procedures used when there is risk of disease of any kind in the food chain. If the disease comes to light after the cow has entered the food chain, then the FDA would try to figure out how much of the cow's meat and other byproducts, like tissue and fats, had been shipped out and , if so, to where.

The FDA also has drafts of press releases, fact sheets and other documents ready to deal with the media firestorm that would ensue. Dr. Lumpkin says the detailed plans are warranted even though there is "minimal" chance of mad-cow disease reaching the U.S. "One hopes we never need to use this," he says. But he adds, "I think people understand we are not immune just because we live on the other side of the ocean."

Containing Mad Cow: how U.S. government would respond to a suspected case

Brain tissue from the suspect animal is sent to USDA labs in IOWA. Tissue is examined for telltale holes and protein markers. Samples are hand-carried to Britain for confirmation of the disease. Herd is quarantined and offspring progeny traced. Top USDA officials are notified If the British labs confirm mad cow disease.

Day 1. Offspring herds are quarantined. Alerts go out to industry and consumer representatives, foreign embassies, international authorities and news media.

Day 2. Congress is briefed extensively on the situation. Press conference is held.

Day 3. Preparations are made to test progeny, herdmates and other possibly infected cattle. Regular conference calls to other government agencies and industry are started. Updates faxed to animal, plan and food inspection services officials in the field.

Press Release

Carla Everett
Director, Public Information
Texas Animal Health Commission
1-800-550-8242 ext 710.
"Please check your sources and your information more carefully! [If the shoe fits, wear it. -- webmaster]

During the past 48 hours, the media has focused on a situation in Texas regarding a possible feed contamination issue. We are taking this opportunity to advise you of the facts surrounding this situation, in order to avert undue concern:

According to reports from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), about a week ago, some cattle in a Texas feedlot may have consumed some feed that contained mammalian protein (meat and bone meal). Since l997, the FDA has banned mammalian protein in feed for ruminants (multi-stomached animals), such as cattle.

The error was noted within hours and was reported by the feed manufacturer to the FDA. The use of the lot of feed in question was suspended and the feedlot is voluntarily holding the cattle on site. The FDA is analyzing samples of the feed. The feed analysis should be complete by Monday evening, January 29, 2001, at which time, the FDA will evaluate the next step regarding these animals. FDA officials expect to make a decision regarding the animals by Jan. 31.

* This is not a disease situation. [Of course it is. It is all about preventing BSE. -- webmaster]

* The FDA is determining if mammalian protein is contained in this feed. The meat and bone meal, if present, was derived from US-origin animals. This situation is NOT a disease issue. It is a possible contaminated, or adulterated, feed occurrence and is under the jurisdiction of the FDA.

* The US does not have BSE, and the ban on feeding mammalian protein to ruminants is a preemptive precaution. [It was completely unnecessary then? -- webmaster]

* The FDA has not released the name of the feed company or the feedlot and its location. [True enough, but Purina MIlls was named on the front page of the Wall Street Journal and Vaqueros of Texas Cattle Feeders feedlot was named on the Associated Press national wire. -- webmaster]

Please refer interested parties to Mr. Lawrence Bachorik, at the Food and Drug Administration, which is in charge of this situation. Mr. Bachorik's number is 1-301-827-6250.

Opinion (webmaster): This whole thing was a carefully orchestrated media pseudo-event that blew up in their faces -- a lot of Americans will go to their graves believing 1,221 innocent cattle in Texas contracted BSE, whereas the point of the contrived exercise was only to force broader compliance with the existing ruminant to ruminant feed ban.

All day hush-hush secrecy about a unit of the nation's largest producer and marketer of livestock feed, despite it being prominently named on the front page of the Wall St. Journal on 26 Jan 01 in a 13 paragraph article. The feed supplement was supposedly "put on the wrong truck" according to Beverly Boyd, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Agriculture.

In the webmaster's opinion, it was put on the right truck all right, and at just the right time too. The nation's largest feed manufacturer does not shoot itself in the foot to self-report a trivial feed incident to the nation's laziest regulatory agency in an ambient atmosphere of public BSE hysteria without a carefully considered agenda.

The FDA is stated to have quarantined 1,221 cattle with a date of effect that the agency refused to specify to WSJ reporters, conceivably indicative of a delayed response that may have meant some fed-cattle couldn't be tracked or even went off to market (which would have zero significance given the miniscule incubation time frame and zero evidence for the feed carrying BSE in the first place).

Take your pick:

"Purina Mills said Thursday it has decided to stop using ruminant byproducts in any of its livestock products."

"As of Friday, Purina Mills no longer includes cow byproducts in any of the feed it manufactures."

"A Purina Mills spokesman said Friday the company had begun phasing out the use of meat [meal?] and bone meal from cows in any of its livestock feed."

This is progress but still a half-measure. Poultry and pigs could still be used in cattle and pig feed. If a TSE amplification cycle got going in pigs (which would be clinically invisible given the short time to market and lack of testing), cattle remain at risk. Are cattle blood, gelatin, milk, fat, tallow, tankage, etc ruminant byproducts or not included because they are products in their own right?

"If it swims, crawls, walks, or flies, we feed it" -- that is Purina Mills' motto. This event was to be a textbook case of cross-contamination at the mill. The ruminant byproduct (sheep or cow not specified) could legally be used for pig and poultry feed, which the mill also produced. The feed was technically adulterated under FDA rules, thus the cattle become adulterated under the FFDCA, and so on its face the company and FDA did the right thing.

Max Fisher, a spokesman for St. Louis-based Purina Mills, the nation's largest maker of livestock feed, said "This (quarantine) just happened to be a matter of timing. But as of last night, we are no longer using it. It's a voluntary move on our behalf and takes us down to a zero risk factor for a misformulation in the future.''

In other words, by great good fortune, at the time of the incident they not only had alternative formulations worked out and extensively tested across their entire product line, but also had adequate stockpiles of alternative ingredients on hand and under contract that allowed for a seamless switch at production lines at their 49 different facilities.

There is no reason to worry about these particular cattle in any event given the overall levels of non-compliance FDA admitted to over the last couple years. Yet they will probably end up being incinerated, as part of a big show to impress Europeans.

It was then announced that the cattlemen, FDA, and USDA are having a "private" meeting on Monday 29 Jan 01 in DC, that consumer groups and press are not allowed to attend, at which feed issues will be discussed. NCBA has made no secret of its laudable goal of cracking down on risk associated with the ineffectual implementation of the ruminant feed ban disclosed a couple of weeks back in the NY Times.

We are supposed to believe these developments are unrelated? On the contrary, the event appears to have been staged in advance of Monday's meeting as a way of forcing non-compliant elements of feed industry into an actual ruminant to ruminant feed ban.

This outcome should not be confused with segregated facilities whereby a particular mill might accept feed source material unsuitable for cattle feed (sheep, cows, downers, cervids, roadkill?) while producing solely poultry and pig feed, ruling out cross-contamination at least at the mill level. This still allows for re-labelled or ignored-label feed bags to be used to feed cattle.

Purina Mills is going far beyond this: no ruminant byproduct in any feed product is going to be used, not even in their pig and chicken feed. On its face, this is going way beyond a MBM or specified offal ban to a European-style comprehensive ban (except pigs and chickens can still go to cattle feed; cattle blood may or may not be a ruminant byproduct).

What becomes then of the mountain of ruminant byproduct from 35,000,000 annually slaughtered cattle alone, used up to yesterday for pig and poultry feed?

Nobody is talking here about incineration. Is the public to take up the slack by tripling their consumption of hot dogs and face cream?

And exactly whose ox is being gored? -- that mountain of ruminant byproduct will be going into products of lesser value than feed (if greater value existed, they wouldn't have been going to pig and poultry feed in the first place).

And what are the pigs and poultry going to eat? Something more expensive, because if something cheaper had been available they would have been eating it already. Now corn and soybeans would be already contracted up as cattle have largely been off ruminant (though not necessarily chicken and pig) for some time, plus the added demand recently from Europe.

Now it all starts to make sense: cattle producers reassure Euro and Asian trading partners with an guaranteed effective BSE feed ban while at the same time their arch-enemies over in white meat scramble to find more expensive feed and reduced market share. Purina MIlls reduces its exposure to a catastrophic event, soybean growers love it, FDA's enforcement chore vaporizes, and for once, even consumers benefit.

The only missing piece is to find a high value market for the mountain of ruminant byproduct, but hey why not partner up offshore to make cattle feed for developing countries?

If this takes hold, BSE risk is going to be reduced in the US, which is all to the good. But if that risk is simply exported to a country with even less surveillence and no ruminant or specified offal ban, we get a net worsening of global BSE risk. It is just a repeat of Britain exporting BSE to 69 countries.

Will there still be one-stage amplification loopholes like cattle blood as milk replacer for calves, bovine byproducts that are not actually bovine byproducts, and cattle-based feeds that somehow are not feeds? Will two-stage amplification risks, like pig to pig to cattle, still be permitted with zero Prionics surveillance?

[The company emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy on 29 June 00; its relation to the more familiar Ralston Purina, now being taken over by the Swiss-based Nestle (Iowa Beef Packer is being taken over by a huge chicken producer), is a bit baffling:

"Purina Mills is America's largest producer and marketer of animal nutrition products. Based in St. Louis, Missouri, the company has 49 plants and approximately 2,500 employees nationwide. Purina Mills is permitted to use the trademarks "Purina" and the nine-square Checkerboard logo under a perpetual, royalty-free license agreement from Ralston Purina Company. Purina Mills is not affiliated with Ralston Purina Company, which distributes Purina Dog Chow brand and Purina Cat Chow brand pet foods."]

Mad-cow crisis affecting diets, jobs in Europe

January 24, 2001 By BURT HERMAN, Associated Press
The parade of salami in this Berlin meat factory is relentless - richly colored red slabs filing by in orderly rows to be sliced diagonally before falling into formation again for packaging.

But the music of the grinding, cutting and packaging machines is about to die at the Koenecke plant. The factory is to be closed - and owners blame Europe's mad-cow crisis, which is making beef and meat an increasingly rare presence on people's dinner tables.

"It's like the movie 'Jaws' when nobody went swimming," said Hartmut Droemert, who has worked in the Koenecke factory for 10 years. "We are losing our jobs and it's totally crazy."

Across town at the rustic wooden tables of the Austria restaurant, the menu is missing a couple of musts: Tafelspitz, a kind of stewed beef, and beef goulash. Instead, chefs are cooking venison goulash and have put an apology about the missing dishes in the menu.

In the climate of worry over seemingly daily revelations about mad-cow disease - as bovine spongiform encephalopathy is commonly known - customers aren't complaining.

"We have gotten quite a positive response from the consumers who say it's great we've done something so quickly," restaurant manager Bodo Blum said.

Across Europe, it seems no national dish is safe from the scare over mad cow, a brain-wasting ailment that scientists believe is linked to variant Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, which afflicts humans:

-- German newspapers have taken to rating the mad-cow risks of the nation's many types of sausage.

-- In Italy, Florence's famous specialty, the T-bone steak, is a target for a possible ban.

-- France already has banned similar cuts of beef, often seen as the indispensable accompaniment to a glass of fine Bordeaux.

-- Greeks still are reeling from a European Union decision to outlaw the sale of some brains and other animal parts. Many traditional and holiday meals are built around dishes from innards, when Greeks savor lambs' heads, a sort of spleen hot dog called splinandero and kokoresti, a giant intestine-wrapped collection of sheep organs sometimes flavored with diced-up lung.

-- Spain also faces the potential loss of a national delicacy: meat from fighting bulls. The country's Agriculture Ministry is to make a decision on that before the bullfighting season takes off in mid-March. The bulls would have to be tested for mad-cow disease right after they die in the arena, but there aren't enough veterinarians to test all the estimated 11,000 bulls killed in 2,000 bullfights every season.

Across Europe, chicken sales have skyrocketed, while beef sales have dropped as much as 80 percent. In Germany, organic farmers are hoping for a boom as the government pushes already environmentally conscious Germans to realize that safety and quality come at a price.

But that's not going to help the white-clad workers at the Koenecke factory. A yellow flier announcing the closure notes: "An end to the crisis is not in sight at this time." The factory already had stopped producing beef salami because of a reduction in demand caused by consumer fears and was using turkey instead. Still, production dropped from 6,000 tons a year to negligible amounts, company headquarters in Bremen said, though it would not give precise figures.

The 62 workers who will lose their jobs when the factory closes at the end of May, along with another 30 part-time workers, are being offered jobs at the company's three other factories in Germany. Koenecke is the first factory known to have closed because of mad cow, and there are no total figures for closures nationwide. But unions and industry associations warn more shutdowns won't be far behind.

Job losses from mad cow could reach 40,000, unions say, and 1,000 seasonal jobs have already been cut nationwide. Another 4,000 workers are on reduced shifts and pay, with 1,000 more waiting to have their hours cut. "We expect more firms will be forced to close if the situation continues this way and if the politicians don't help," said Thomas Vogelsang, spokesman for the meat industry association.

Rather than close their doors, some businesses in Europe have simply changed their signs. Sandro Belardinelli had worked as a butcher for 38 years in his downtown Rome shop that dates to the turn of the 19th century. But with the mad-cow crisis reaching Italy, he converted his store last month into a fish shop.

"My father and grandfather worked here as butchers. This decision was a heavy one for me but business is better now, so I feel better," he said. "I've kept the same customers and maybe gained a few."

Near the Colosseum, Paolo Cafini continues to sell meat despite the mad cow scare but things aren't going well, even though he's offering alternatives such as chicken.

"It's not bad - it's a tragedy!" he said. "Business went bad a few weeks ago, after television started showing explicit footage of cows being slaughtered. People were switching the channel because it was too disgusting for them. "It's like people are afraid to set foot in a butcher's shop."

Mad cow crisis could cost EU $1 billion

January 22, 2001 The Associated Press
The European Union estimated Monday that handling the mad cow crisis across Europe would cost the EU about $1 billion, possibly jeopardizing other agricultural programs. The EU's executive office said that the costs of carrying out mandated BSE tests on cattle over 30 months, in addition to spending money on a so-called "purchase for destruction" program, could cut deeply into the EU's agricultural budget for this year.

To combat mad cow disease, EU countries this month initiated a mass slaughter program, which foresees buying and incinerating up to 2 million head of cattle by the end of June, to restore public confidence in beef consumption.

"The additional costs as compared to the budget 2001 ... amount to one billion euro," said EU spokesman Gregor Kreuzhuber. EU countries also began requiring all cattle over 30 months to be proved BSE-free before the beef can be sold. Meat from any old cattle that is not tested cannot be consumed. Beef sales have slumped by 27 percent across the EU as a result of the latest outbreak.

"If the severe crisis in the beef market persists, there are two options," he said. The EU could either decide to increase the agricultural budget or could absorb the costs and draw the funds from other programs, Kreuzhuber said. The EU set aside an emergency fund of around 1 billion euros in its last agricultural policy reform agreement which was negotiated in 1999.

Injunction to be sought to halt Irish cattle slaughter

Friday, January 19, 2001 By Sean MacConnell, Agriculture Correspondent 
The Associated Craft Butchers has announced it will seek a court injunction to stop the EU slaughter and destruction scheme for cattle. So far, 13,500 Irish cattle have been killed.

The Associated Craft Butchers said it had met representatives of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development to demand equitable support for the domestic meat trade, particularly for small abattoirs supplying local butchers.

The small abattoirs must buy cattle under 30 months old for the Irish market, as they have no facilities to test animals over 30 months for BSE. They face the same waste disposal problems but with no compensation from Government....

Meanwhile, the Minister for Agriculture, Mr Walsh, travelled to Germany yesterday for the Green Week food fair and met the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Franz Fischler. According to a spokesman for Mr Walsh, their meeting was "quite constructive".

He said Mr Walsh had briefed Mr Fischler on the implementation of the SFD slaughter for destruction scheme and the testing of over 30-month old animals here.

Mr Walsh also last night met the new German Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Agriculture, Ms Renate Kunast, who had earlier told a shocked parliament in Berlin that Germany expected up to 500 BSE cases by the end of the year. Ms Kunast said the forecast was based on internal government estimates. Sixteen cases of the disease have been confirmed since November 22nd. Until then, Germany claimed to have no cases. A Co Galway farmer with a confirmed case of BSE in his herd has been left waiting for almost five weeks without any move by the Department of Agriculture to process the destruction of his remaining livestock. The Gort dairy farmer, who has had to dump his milk since the confirmation of BSE in one of his cows, has been waiting for over a month for Department valuers to examine his herd. All of his animals now face destruction. The case has been described as an absolute scandal by the Fine Gael TD, Mr Paul Connaughton, who said he could not believe someone in the front line of the BSE problem should be waiting for so long for the Department to get back to him.

A Department spokesperson confirmed there had been delays in the process of valuing herds because of a scarcity of trained valuers. "We have trained additional valuers who are actually working this week on the ground," said the spokesperson. "There have been pressures on staffing levels due to the BSE crisis, but we are doing everything we can to clear any backlog."

Once a farmer has a suspected BSE case, the head of the animal is removed for a post mortem examination. If the disease is confirmed, the entire herd must be destroyed.

Maine tests for mad cow disease

26 Jan 01 By Sharon Mack, Of the Bangor News Staff
Although there has never been a case of mad cow disease in Maine or the rest of the country, state veterinarians and U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists frequently test Maine-slaughtered cow and deer heads as part of a nationwide prevention program.

Mad cow disease ‹ bovine spongiform encephalophy, or BSE ‹ has infected cattle in 11 European nations, and the European Union¹s Scientific Steering Committee released a study recently that found ³it is still unlikely, but cannot be excluded that BSE is present in the USA and Canada.²

In an attempt to prevent BSE from entering this country, Maine participates in an intensive testing program along with the other New England states, according to state officials. ³We do pay attention to these developments,² Chip Ridky, Maine¹s state veterinarian at the Department of Agriculture said Thursday. ³We have been watching this and testing for it for a number of years.²

Mad cow disease was first diagnosed in England in 1986 and spread rapidly when healthy cows were fed meal made with infected cows¹ organs and meat. The epidemic required the slaughter of 3.7 million British cattle and collapsed Great Britain¹s cattle industry. As humans ate the BSE-infected meat, they also became ill and died.

Because the human form of BSE, called new variant Creutzfeld-Jacob Disease, or nvCJD, has killed at least 90 people in Britain and two in France, countries around the world have banned imports of British meat or meat from Western Europe. Saudi Arabia has turned to Australia for its supplies of meat. Japan went as far as banning the import of sperm, fertilized eggs and internal organs of cattle from 17 European countries.

To prevent the spread of BSE to U.S. cattle, Maine officials, under a USDA-sponsored program, regularly test the brains of slaughtered cattle and inspect animal feed to make sure none are meat-based. [Maine is not disclosing its testing method, the miniscule fraction of total slaughter cows tested, whether inspectors have ever seen a positive case in training, whether samples are occasionally salted with bona fide UK cases to test whether known cases would be detected. --webmaster.

The USDA declares that no case of BSE has been found in America. Although conventional CJD, the kind not connected to infected meat, does strike Americans, federal health officials insist no Americans have been diagnosed with nvCJD.

Jeff Beckett is the director of infectious diseases and epidemiology with the Maine Bureau of Health. He said that CJD is extremely rare, limited to about a case a year in Maine ³Three years ago, we participated in a Center for Disease Control [and Prevention] survey looking at the rate of CJD in Maine, particularly in those under age 55,² he said Thursday. The survey revealed that Maine¹s rate of illness mirrored the national rate, he said. CJD is not reportable, he said, but added that the Bureau of Health monitors cases by looking over death certificates. [Here is a person that knows nothing about CJD and its misdiagnosis. -- webmaster] .

³Until fairly recently,² said Beckett, ³CJD was not thought to be related to anything else and was poorly understood.² Because of the incidents of nvCJD internationally, Beckett said that neurosurgeons, neurologists, epidemiologists and others are discussing the disease and reporting suspected cases to the Bureau of Health. Beckett said that the bureau revises its list of reportable diseases every several years and since that was last done in 1997, ³undoubtedly we¹ll be taking another look at [adding CJD.]²

Ridky said his department surveys the brains found in cow heads taken from slaughterhouses, as well as the brains from any cow heads brought into the state laboratory for rabies testing. No cases of BSE have ever been found in Maine, he said. ³We also network with other agriculture departments throughout New England on this issue,² the state veterinarian added.

Two weeks ago, as a precaution against variant CJD being spread through blood products, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned anyone who had lived in France, Portugal or Ireland for a total of 10 years since 1980 from donating blood. The FDA advisory panel stopped short, however, of recommending a similar ban for all of Western Europe, which is currently experiencing a mad cow crisis.

A ban on blood donations from those who lived in the United Kingdom from 1990 to 1996 has been in place since 1999. A related disease, however, has been infecting elk and deer in western states and is being researched as a possible cause of death in three unusually young CJD victims. All three were venison eaters.

In Maine, Ridky said a study was conducted on more than 300 deer heads taken during the deer harvest last year after a 25-year-old woman died of CJD. Ridky would not identify the area of Maine tested; however he said that the woman had eaten venison hunted and shot at her grandfather¹s property and from deer killed in Montana. More than 300 heads from Maine deer killed during hunting season in the surrounding area were surveyed. [Montana is a known CWD state, at least for game farm elk. This is a signficant new risk factor in this case over deer in Maine. -- webmaster]

³We did not find anything,² he said. Based on these findings, said Ridky, it was determined the woman died of CJD, not the new, variant CJD. Although feeding cows to cows may sound bizarre, American dairy farmers have fed their herds supplements containing fat, bone meal, and blood and meat protein for 50 years.

Ridky said that in Maine¹s rendering industry, ³really, none of that is happening here.² State renderers ³split up² the various parts to be rendered, keeping separate all items from the animals¹ central nervous system ‹ where the disease is located. ³These parts are not fed,² said Ridky.

Last week, however, FDA officials admitted that hundreds of U.S. animal feed producers have not properly labeled their products as containing items from the central nervous system. Although the FDA formally banned mammal proteins from being used in the feed of susceptible animals, such as cows, in 1997, they have continued to allow farmers to use those proteins in feed for poultry and pigs.

Scientists and health officials are currently pressing the FDA for a full-scale ban on making and feeding feed made with animal bones and spoiled animal parts.

McDonald's blames profit drop on mad cow disease

January 24, 2001 By DAVE CARPENTER, Associated Press
McDonald's Corp. reported lower quarterly profits Wednesday for the first time in 2 1/2 years, a drop the world's biggest fast-food restaurant chain operator blamed on the lingering mad cow disease scare in Europe.

McDonald's 7 percent decline in fourth-quarter earnings was slightly worse than Wall Street had expected, and its stock quickly slid 4 percent.

Net earnings were $452 million, or 34 cents a share, in the October-December period, down from $486.2 million, or 35 cents a share, a year earlier. Per-share earnings fell a penny below what analysts surveyed by First Call/Thomson Financial had estimated.

Worldwide sales rose 2 percent to $9.92 billion from $9.75 billion despite a 9 percent falloff in Europe. The company said that excluding the weakening of the euro and other currencies, European sales revenues would have been up 5 percent.

"These results were tempered by the recent decline in consumer confidence in the European beef supply," said Jack Greenberg, McDonald's chairman and chief executive. The first quarter of 2001, Greenberg said, also is proving "very challenging" due to "continuing consumer confidence issues about European beef."

The recent outbreak of mad cow disease hit McDonald's sales particularly hard in France, where it first surfaced, as well as Germany, Spain and Italy, the Oak Brook, Ill.-based company said.

"We're hoping this is of short duration," Greenberg said in a telephone interview. "The impact on our business is much, much less than on anybody else's, which is testament to the power of the brand. The good news is it's country-specific." McDonald's stock was down $1.25, or 4 percent, at $31.62 Wednesday morning on the New York Stock Exchange. It has been recovering since hitting a two-year low of $26.37 in September.

U.S. sales, where growth has been sluggish in a heavily competitive market, edged up 3 percent to $4.82 billion. Analysts say results have been slower than McDonald's wanted with its new customized cooking system, which is enabling the company to expand its menu with numerous new products....

Full-year sales climbed to $40.2 billion from $38.5 billion in 1999. That 4 percent increase for the year partly reflected the addition of 1,606 McDonald's restaurants - 517 of them in Europe.

The chain also added 103 McDonald's dessert kiosks and 792 other restaurants during the year, including 707 Boston Markets. At year's end, McDonald's had 28,707 restaurants worldwide, including 12,804 in the United States.

Germans reduced to eating zoo animals

Mon, 29 Jan 2001 The Independent
What a sad place the little city zoo in Berlin's Kreuzberg district is. Children weep for their missing favourites; Gustav the gander, his wings drooping in sorrow, pines for his harem. All the other geese have vanished in recent days, along with four ducks and seven hens. The staff have eaten them.

Nothing seems sacred any more as Germans, confronted by empty shelves at the supermarkets, go foraging for food. With BSE beef already off the menu, followed by sausages and now pork, filling a German belly is becoming nearly impossible. As hunger grips, no one, not even the dedicated Kreuzberg zoo keepers, will object to a bit of free-range poultry.

Other options are fast running out. Even those still willing to risk steak are finding that restaurants are no longer serving it, while meat counters have at best only a token display of browning beef.

After the first scare in November, shoppers switched to game. Now the consumers are being informed that venison is also dodgy, because deer in German forests are apparently fed on the same kind of bone-meal fodder that has brought BSE to cattle.

Lamb is to be avoided, scientists warn, because of scrapie. Battery chickens come laced with salmonella and occasionally dioxin. Cats and dogs, in case anyone should fancy them, are out because of the low-grade beef they consume.

Other pets, such as hamsters and guinea-pigs, are equally unwholesome because they, too, have been unwittingly munching on the remnants of animal carcasses for years.

That, more or less, leaves fish, largely unknown to German cuisine apart from the roll-mop variety. Fresh fish, in any case, is hard to find.

There was also pork, of course, prepared in hundreds of ingenious ways from the humble fried chop to Helmut Kohl's beloved Saumagen, or stuffed pig's stomach. No German would starve while there was pork around in abundance.

Unfortunately, officials discovered last week that millions of Bavarian pigs have for years been fattened up with the help of illegal drugs, including the sort of anabolic steroids that enabled East German female athletes to swim as fast as men, at the price of growing hair on their chests.

To someone who does not wish to repeat the feat, pork is looking rather unappetising.

It is bad news for most Germans, who would rather die than become vegetarian. What are they supposed to eat? That is the question preoccupying much of the nation's media, with television channels scheduling special programmes every day in search of the elusive answer. But so far, consumers have only learnt from these what they cannot eat, not what they can.

That leaves Alfred Biolek, Germany's best-known TV chef, with the task of educating the masses. Mr Biolek is trying to wean people off their traditional greasy meat and stodgy veg. Viewers learnt the secrets of gnocchi with chanterelle mushrooms last week. They got the recipe for sauerkraut soup a week earlier.

What people can eat is also a political question in certain sensitive areas. For instance, the German parliament's canteen appears to have banned both beef and pork. Its latest offerings include cabbage stew, elk ragout, and organic vegetarian cannelloni.

Beef has also been declared verboten in the armed forces, presumably on the grounds that you cannot have mad soldiers. But too much muscle has never done the troops any harm, so pork is still allowed.

Everyone else must get used to elk, reindeer, ostrich, crocodile and other exotic meats which have recently turned up at the shops, or go hunting. In this frenzy, the sheep in Kreuzberg are probably safe for the moment, but the rabbits had better watch out.

Old Gustav the gander, by the way, survived the zoo keepers' feast because he was thought to be too chewy.

Panel recommends filtering some cells from all donated blood

January 26, 2001 By LAURAN NEERGAARD, Associated Press
The government should require white blood cells to filtered out of all donated blood, but should do so gradually enough that the change doesn't worsen current blood shortages, a federal advisory panel decided Friday. [But wouldn't this mean a lot of people would continue to receive unsafe blood in the interim? -- webmaster]

The panel's recommendation comes as doctors and blood banks are clashing over whether the expensive filtered blood that some patients require should be given to everyone - a move that could cost the nation a half-billion dollars. Filtering the blood supply will ensure that no patient who truly needs filtered blood will get a regular transfusion, members of the Department of Health and Human Services' blood-safety advisory committee said. But they also worried that universal filtration will add up to $40 to every unit of blood, a cost they urged federal health officials and Congress to find some way to pay to avoid hurting cash-strapped hospitals.

The recommendation is not binding, but urges the Food and Drug Administration to begin writing regulations that would force blood banks to filter all blood. Such rules would take more than a year to issue.

At issue are white blood cells called leukocytes, which are important infection fighters. But transfusion recipients need red cells or other blood components, not someone else's leukocytes. Not only do leukocytes offer no benefit during transfusions, they're a main reason some people suffer post-transfusion fever and chills.

Also, people who get repeated transfusions sometimes develop antibodies against leukocytes that can reduce the effectiveness of future transfusions. White blood cells also can carry cytomegalovirus, a common infection that is harmless to most people but can blind or kill premature infants and people with weak immune systems, such as cancer or AIDS patients. Today, all such at-risk patients are supposed to get filtered, or "leukoreduced," blood. Consequently, more than 20 percent of the blood supply already is filtered.

But in two days of hearings before the federal blood panel, scientists clashed bitterly over whether filtering is good for everybody. "I think it's a better quality product," declared Edward Snyder of Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut, which began using only filtered blood in late 1999. The innovation added $300,000 a year to its blood costs, but has almost eliminated transfusion-caused fevers, he said.

Plus, high-risk patients who need leukoreduced blood don't always get it, especially at smaller hospitals with fewer transfusion experts, complained Paul Ness of Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University. "We need to do it (leukoreduce) universally, not just in my hospital," to ensure quality care, he said.

On the other side, "there is no acute public health danger requiring drastic action today," declared Gerald Sandler of Washington's Georgetown University Medical Center, which wants doctors to decide which patients need filtered blood.

Mandatory filtering would steal money that cash-strapped hospitals should use to combat today's main risk from blood - fatal hospital errors that give patients the wrong blood, said Walter Dzik of Massachusetts General Hospital.

At least two dozen Americans die each year from receiving incorrect blood types, and around 50 die when bacteria contaminate platelets, which leukoreduction likewise would not help, said James AuBuchon of Dartmouth University in Hanover, N.H. He calculated that mandatory filtering would cost the nation $500 million a year.

Studies don't prove better patient survival or healthier immune systems from leukoreduced blood, Dzik said. His own hospital just finished a 3,000-patient study comparing unfiltered to filtered blood, and preliminary results suggest filtering did not shorten hospital stays.

Critics cited other problems: Filtering loses about 10 percent of red cells, and the country already experiences periodic blood shortages. Some donations by black Americans couldn't be used, because for unknown reasons the blood of some sickle cell disease gene carriers doesn't filter properly.

FDA Advisers Urge Rules on Tissue Donors

Jan. 18/19 2001 meeting of TSE Advisory Committee Reuters Health
A slight majority of advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday urged the agency to come up with rules to describe whether, or when, people exposed to mad cow disease could donate bodily tissues.

"Our marginal, but definitive decision, is that the FDA should have deferral criteria," said Paul Brown, chairman of the Transmissible Spongiform encephalopathy Advisory Committee and an expert in mad cow disease from the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Strokes.

But the committee did not make any more specific recommendations, saying that it did not have enough data.

The concern is that someone who had eaten beef contaminated with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, might harbor the human form and transmit it through tissues such as skin, corneas or dura mater. The panel was not asked to consider organ donation.

It's fairly certain the human disease, called new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD), can be passed through blood. But so far, there have been no documented cases of a tissue recipient contracting nvCJD. [Really? See below. -- webmaster]

"Clearly the committee is at a loss because we simply don't know," said Brown, adding, that the question is whether the FDA wants to get involved in anything with so little scientific data. The agency usually follows its panels' recommendations.

Some physicians on the panel suggested that transplant surgeons could discuss the tissues' origin with the patient. For instance, if it is known, the surgeon could disclose that a cornea donor had lived in the United Kingdom, a higher-risk area for exposure to mad cow disease.

The committee also discussed requiring tests of cadavers' brain tissue testing for evidence of nvCJD when they are being considered for tissue donation. But an FDA official pointed out that there is no nvCJD test approved by the agency. [This is ridiculous. Autopsied brains have been screened for decades for CJD. -- webmaster]

When that test, which is currently in development, is approved, the agency would consider requiring it to be used, said Jay Epstein, director of FDA's Office of Blood Research and Review. [A test, even if it gave false positives, could still keep some CJD out of transplants. It additionally would yield incidence data, which is what the FDA is afraid of. -- webmaster.]

Iatrogenic cornea CJD: 30 years later

Klin Monatsbl Augenheilkd 2000 Nov;217(5):303-7
Thiel HJ, Erb C, Heckmann J, Lang C, Neundorfer B
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, currently viewed as one of the prionic diseases, occurs in by far the majority of cases sporadically, sometimes in families, and in rare instances as a transmissible disease with every conceivable interval of latency.

This report of a 45-year-old female concerns a spongiform encephalopathy which appeared almost 30 years after penetrating keratoplasty. The corneal material came from a 63-year-old donor with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease; the keratoplasty was performed at a time when the transmissibility of certain diseases was still unknown.

Portugal begins slaughter of 50,000 cattle

January 25, 2001 The Associated Press
Slaughterhouses across Portugal began killing the first of 50,000 cattle Thursday in an effort to purge herds of mad cow disease. Germany also ordered its first herd killed. Portugal has recorded 503 cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, the brain-wasting ailment known as mad cow disease cropping up throughout Europe. Portuguese beef was banned for export by the European Union in 1998.

Hoping to keep infected beef from entering the food chain and to reassure jittery consumers, Portuguese officials ordered the slaughter of cattle older than 30 months at a rate of 3,000 a week. More than 99 percent of the cows found with BSE were older than 30 months.

In Germany, which has recorded 19 cases of BSE in two months, an entire head of 1,012 cattle from one farm was ordered slaughtered Thursday after veterinarians diagnosed one of the animals with BSE.

BSE, believed spread by recycling meat and bone meal from infected animals back into cattle feed, is believed to cause variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the fatal human equivalent of mad cow disease. Since the mid-1990s, some 90 Europeans, most of them Britons, have died of new variant CJD, possibly after eating infected beef. No U.S. cows have been diagnosed with BSE.

As the crisis spreads throughout Europe, farm ministers were warned Thursday not to expect extra money from the European Union's central coffers to help cover the cost of combatting the disease. "We'll spend that $1 billion for mad cow disease, but that's all, because there's no more money left," said Gregor Kreuzhuber, the EU's agriculture spokesman. EU farm ministers are to hold their monthly meeting Monday.

Meanwhile, in Spain -- where beef sales have plummeted by a third since the first case of BSE was announced in November, according to the Agriculture Ministry -- two more cows were diagnosed with the disease Thursday. Spain's total is now nine.

In Italy, farmers took to the streets Thursday to demand more government aid after a second suspected case of BSE turned up. Belgian authorities also reported the country's third case of mad cow disease.

German farmers protest mad cow-related slaughter

Saturday, January 27, 2001 Reuters
Thousands of German farmers protested on Saturday in two towns against the planned slaughter of about 1,350 cows as a protective measure against mad cow disease.

About 6,000 farmers with 500 tractors gathered in the northern city of Rendsburg to protest against the slaughter of 350 cows after officials confirmed a recent case of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Several hundred farmers in the eastern town of Muecheln staged a similar protest over the planned killing there of 1,000 cows.

The beef farmers' anger is over the fact that they will not get properly paid for the slaughter, not over the culling itself. "We need more financial support and are in talks with the ministers, the European Union commission and the states," Gerd Sonnleitner, head of Germany's Association of Farmers, told German radio. "We will not compromise on this."

Germany will decide by Monday whether to slaughter 400,000 cattle under an EU plan to fight mad cow disease, Consumer Protection and Farm Minister Renate Kuenast said on Friday.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has indicated it would be difficult for Germany to exclude itself from the EU-wide "purchase for destruction" plan under which two million cattle are to be culled to maintain beef prices hit by the mad cow scare.

Germany confirmed another two cases of mad cow disease on Saturday, sbringing the total to 21 since November. [This rate suggests that thousands of BSE cattle went undiagnosed in the 15 preceding years. -- webmaster

Sonnleitner said he hoped Germany would proceed with the slaughter of the 400,000 cattle, which would offer farmers near market price in compensation. Seventy percent of the cost will be funded by the EU.

Farmers get less compensation from periodic slaughter of cows in preventive mad cow measures such as in Rendsburg and Muecheln. On Friday, Germany went beyond current EU regulations and reduced the age limit for compulsory mad cow tests on cattle to 24 months from 30 months.

Mad cow products seized

28 Jan 01 Sydney Sunday Telegraph
Quarantine officials have conceded European beef products at the centre of mad cow disease concerns may be entering Australia.

The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) has seized two European beef consignments since a ban was placed on imports this month in a bid to keep the disease out of the country.

But AQIS says it can't guarantee all imports will be detected. "Most importers were advised at the time and many pre-empted the decision by cancelling orders," AQIS spokesman David Finlayson said. "So there may be bits and pieces coming through but we're not expecting large amounts." Two tonnes of powdered soup and a kilogram of calcium have been seized by AQIS. Mr Finlayson said European beef was not a popular import and the quarantine service was not expecting many seizures. He said the 2.75 tonnes of powdered soup was made from beef stock from Europe, while the one kilogram of calcium phosphate was derived from beef bones. All imports of European beef were banned on January 8 after widening fears the mad cow disease would spread from Europe in beef products exported around the world. Australian supermarkets also took European beef products off their shelves after the Federal Government ordered the ban, which applies to 30 European countries. Authorities have warned consumers to check labels on any imported foods and discard corned beef, luncheon meat, frankfurts and other products which contain beef with a European origin. Mr Finlayson said any other imports would probably be orders arriving here mistakenly because importers and exporters were well aware of the new rules.

France has reported four new cases of mad cow disease, including the first detected under a testing scheme for all cattle aged over 30 months destined for the food chain. The first case found by the testing program, which the French Government launched this month, involved an animal born in 1995 in the Ain region of eastern France. The findings brought to 10 the total number of cases of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, found this year in France. A total of 162 cases were found in 2000.

South Korea impounds Canadian elk antler velvet on CWD fears

25 Jan 01 By Ed White 
Western Producer Saskatoon newsroom 

Cervid council attacks report on Canadian elk antler: South Korean officials have impounded Canadian elk antler velvet because of fears about health risks from chronic wasting disease. About 11 tonnes of Canadian antler velvet is being held and all other shipments from Canada have stopped, said Serge Buy of the Canadian Cervid Council. He said he believes the ban is temporary.

South Korea is Canadian elk producers' main market for antler velvet, taking about 70 percent of the industry's production. Koreans commonly use elk velvet in cold remedies and other health products.

Buy said the Korean ban followed a British Broadcasting Corporation report, which he said incorrectly claimed that Canadian officials had recalled elk antler velvet because of chronic wasting disease.

The BBC report said the Canadian government "recalled the velvet from elk antlers that is sold as an alternative medicine ­ particularly in Asia. The government recalls go back three years ­ but there were outbreaks on a smaller scale before that, and some critics wonder whether people may have already consumed meat and antlers from infected animals." Buy said the report made it sound as if all Canadian elk antler velvet has been recalled, which isn't true.

Officials of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency did quarantine elk antler velvet from six Saskatchewan farms that have contained an infected elk. Any animals discovered to have CWD had their velvet destroyed. However, producers have been allowed to sell velvet from any animals found to be free of the disease. [Elk velvet, to this day, has never been tested for infectivity. -- webmaster]

Larry Delver of the CFIA said the agency and the Canadian embassy in Seoul, South Korea are keeping officials there apprised of the real situation in Canada. "We have been working on this since the first hint that this could be a problem," Delver said. Buy blames the nervousness shown by South Korean officials and some North Americans on media reports.

"There's a very important disease that's running around at the moment. It's called mad journalist disease and it's affecting quite a few journalists at this time and we are wondering what's happening and we're hoping it's going to be eradicated." [So then TSE-tainted products could continue to be sold around the globe without consumers being any the wiser? -- webmaster]

Scientists praise agency for CWD handling effort

25 Jan 01 By Ed White Saskatoon newsroom
No one knows whether chronic wasting disease has been exterminated in Canada.

But a number of scientists and observers admire the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's strong measures and the elk industry's commitment to clean up the problem. They say those efforts might have been enough to rid Canada of a menace that, if it got out of control, could be devastating.

"I think the CFIA has responded about as fast as a government agency could respond," said Western College of Veterinary Medicine wildlife specialist Ted Leighton.

"I think the route the CFIA has taken in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders is rational and on the conservative side. When in doubt, do the animal in." Steve Wolcott, animal health director for the North American Elk Breeders Association, said Canadian officials were slow to act when the disease first appeared north of the border in 1996. But he said they are now taking the disease seriously and are acting faster than the United States government in trying to eradicate it.

Leighton, a co-director of the Canadian Co-operative Wildlife Health Centre, said the CFIA couldn't have taken such bold action if the elk farm industry hadn't been committed. "They've been ... very proactive in saying it doesn't matter really whether CWD is or isn't (a threat to human health.) It's perceived to be and we're going to come down on the side of caution, and even though it's going to cost us a bundle, we're still going to be in favor of it."

In the U.S., the Department of Agriculture, which oversees the elk industry, does not have the right to order producers to exterminate infected animals because it doesn't have funding for compensation. Compensation funding has to be allocated by Congress, which Wolcott expects it will do during its present session. Until then, regulatory control of CWD on game farms rests with state governments, and some do not give the disease enough attention.

The Canadian cases, all of which have occurred in Saskatchewan, have been traced to animals imported from South Dakota herds before the border was closed in 1990. CWD is a concern for elk farmers because it is part of the same disease family as mad cow disease. Furore over mad cow has devastated the British beef industry.

CWD has never been shown to infect humans, but scientists cannot rule out the possibility. To some, such as Leighton, that means CWD should be treated as if it is a human health threat. To others, such as Serge Buy, executive director of the Canadian Cervid Council, no one should regard CWD as a human health threat unless there is evidence that it is. [England tried this approach with BSE from 1985-1996. -- webmaster]

Still, Canadian game farmers have been willing to face the disease rather than ignore it. "There was a problem. The industry and the government did everything we could to solve the issue," Buy said. Some Canadian elk producers have complained that the CFIA took too long to battle the outbreak after it first appeared.

CWD was made a reportable disease in late 2000. But Leighton said the CFIA did the best it could. He said acting fast but not knowing what to do would have been worse than carefully crafting a policy.

Saskatchewan elk producers await results of CWD slaughter

January 25, 2001 By Ed White 
Saskatoon newsroom Western Producer
Producers will know within weeks whether chronic wasting disease has been restricted to animals that have been exterminated on six Saskatchewan farms. The knowledge will allow the 45 farmers that bought animals from those six herds to either relax or get much more worried.

"Everyone's nervously, but patiently, waiting for their results," said George Luterbach, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency veterinarian in charge of the CWD clampdown. "That will very much tell whether we've turned the corner here, or whether we've got a bigger challenge."

In the last three years about 200 elk have been sold out of the six herds that have had proven cases of CWD. Those animals have all been killed and their brains and nervous systems are being studied for signs of CWD, a contagious disease that kills elk and deer. CWD is a spongiform encephalopathy, the family of diseases that includes sheep disease scrapie and mad cow disease.

If all those animals are free of CWD, then federal officials will feel confident the spread of CWD has been stopped and perhaps eliminated in Canada. Hundreds of other animals have been sold out of the six herds longer than six years ago, but these will not be exterminated. [The fallacy here is false negatives: animals not testing positive may still be in the early stages of incubating the disease. -- webmaster]

Luterbach said evidence from American researchers who have studied CWD for years suggests the disease can incubate unseen, but by 30 months the disease is visible. [These animals are heavily dosed in a way that would never occur at a game farm, eg, by eating brain or receiving an intracerebral injection. -- webmaster]

The CFIA has added a six-month cushion, so it considers any animal that has been in contact with a possibly infected animal within 36 months to be a possible danger.

However, animals that moved out of the six herds more than three years ago but less than five years ago will still be locked down on the farms they are on now. They will also be subject to "enhanced surveillance," Luterbach said.

But animals that left the six farms more than five years ago and have shown no signs of CWD will be treated as any other elk. They are not considered a risk. However, Luterbach said much remains unknown about CWD, so federal officials will continue to monitor the situation.

The mass extermination of 1,500 animals in the CWD cleanup attempt will greatly help researchers and officials dealing with future cases of infection. "One of the goals here was to advance science, to make the most out of a bad situation," Luterbach said. "This will be the largest databank in the world on this disease and will help us and scientists to sift through this."

The CFIA is sharing samples with Canadian and American researchers and is supplying blood to researchers in Washington state who are trying to develop a live blood test for CWD. The only way to discover whether an animal has CWD is to kill it and examine its brain.

Scrapie fears lead to cull of 800 sheep in Manitoba

25 Jan 01 By Ian Bell Brandon bureau Western Producer
About 800 sheep were destroyed in Manitoba and monitoring continues to prevent the spread of scrapie, a fatal disease that attacks the central nervous system of sheep and goats. Most of the 800 sheep, which were slaughtered before Christmas, were from two flocks in southeastern Manitoba.

A few other sheep that were purchased from those flocks were also destroyed, said George Luterbach of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. "Animals that were sold to other sources are all being analyzed to indicate whether they might have the infection."

Earlier last year, a flock near Roblin, Man., was also found to have scrapie. That flock was destroyed and the infection was traced to one of the two flocks in southeastern Manitoba.

Scrapie, a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE), is a reportable disease under the federal Health of Animals Act. It is the equivalent of BSE in cattle and chronic wasting disease in deer and elk. The producers who owned the sheep eradicated last month are being compensated, said Luterbach. The compensation amounts to about $200 per animal.

CWD found in wild deer in Nebraska

20 Jan 2001 Press Release
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
2200 N. 33rd Street
Lincoln, NE 68503
The presence of chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been confirmed for the first time in the wild in Nebraska. Tests conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) veterinary lab in Ames, Iowa, showed the disease was present in a mule deer harvested in southwestern Kimball County during the November Firearm Deer Season. Additional testing will be completed next week, but it isn't likely to overturn the preliminary tests.

The hunter was one of more than 750 individuals who voluntarily submitted the brain stems of the deer or elk they harvested to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for testing since 1997. No previous sample had tested positive.

CWD had previously been confirmed in 4 captive elk in the state during the past 4 years. Last week, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture and APHIS ordered a captive herd in northern Cheyenne County be destroyed after a third case of the disease was confirmed there.

The first case on that ranch appeared in 1999. The latest appeared in an offspring of an elk that tested positive for CWD last spring. All animals from that herd are being tested at the Colorado State University veterinary lab. The only other positive test in Nebraska came from a captive elk in Cherry County.

A progressive, fatal disease of the nervous system of cervids such as mule deer, white-tailed deer and elk, CWD was first identified in the late 1960s in captive deer and elk research herds in Colorado and Wyoming. It has since been found in wild deer and elk in northeastern Colorado and southeastern Wyoming and in captive deer or elk herds in 5 western states and Saskatchewan. The positive Nebraska test is the first time the disease has been found in wild animals beyond Colorado and Wyoming.

Because occurrence of the disease is low, it is difficult to identify in the wild. There is no test for live animals and it may take up to 18 months for infected animals to exhibit clinical signs of the disease.

Animals infected with CWD display changes in behavior and progressive loss of body condition. Symptoms include weight loss, incessant drinking and urination. An infected animal often stands listlessly, head down and ears drooping, with saliva dripping from its mouth. The disease is always fatal.

CWD's cause and mode of transmission are unknown. Researchers believe CWD can be spread from animal to animal by body secretions. It also can be spread between wild animals or between wild and captive animals through simple nose-to-nose contact.

According to experts and public health officials, there is no evidence [rubbish -- webmaster] that CWD can be transmitted to humans or to animals other than deer and elk [more rubbish: it transmits easily to other species including primates under laboratory conditions. -- webmaster] . As a general precaution, however, it is a good idea for people to avoid contact with any wild animal that appears sick. Additionally, it is always recommended that hunters wear rubber gloves while dressing and handling wild game carcasses. Experts also recommend hunters do not eat or handle the brain or spinal cord of any deer or elk.

It is recommended that meat animals that test positive be destroyed and not consumed by humans or pets. This is consistent with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture's policy for captive elk or deer that test positive for CWD. Although current evidence suggests CWD does not transmit to humans or cattle, it may be many years before this can be confirmed. [If it does, hundreds of thousands of exposed hunters will beyond help. For this reason, exposure should be terminated now. -- webmaster]

The Game and Parks Commission is currently working with other agencies, including the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and APHIS, the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to determine the extent of CWD in the wild and take steps to attempt to control its spread.

As part of its ongoing monitoring project, the Commission collected brain samples of deer harvested near Kimball, Sidney, Scottsbluff and Bridgeport this fall. Testing that began in 1997 has focused on the area between the North and South Platte rivers. This was considered the route through which CWD would most likely spread into Nebraska. The Commission will expand its monitoring project this year to include increased surveillance of deer in the wild.

Game meat export from US

20 Jan 01 UK House of Lords
Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are the names and addresses of the six facilities licensed to export game meat from the United States to the United Kingdom.[HL271]

Baroness Hayman: Four rabbit meat and farmed game meat establishments and two wild game meat establishments in the USA are approved to export to the UK. They are as follows:

Rabbit meat/farmed game meat

Southern Wild Game/Intergame USA, Devine, Texas

Diamond K Ranch Game Meats Inc, Ingram, Texas

Wild Game meat

Frontier Game Company, Whiteface, Texas

Beltex Corporation, Fort Worth, Texas

Southern Wild Game/Intergame USA, Devine, Texas

North American Bison Cooperative, New Rockford, North Dakota

These are all EU approved establishments and further details are available on the European Commission's website where the product and the country may be selected from the lists shown.

FDA Advisers Dismiss Human Risk From Deer, Elk CWD

19 Jan 01 Reuters Health
US FDA advisers on Friday said that there was no evidence humans could be infected with a disease that has affected free-ranging deer and elk and farmed elk. [What about the evidence in this peer-reviewed paper? It's the best available science.-- webmaster]

Some free-ranging deer and elk in small areas of Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska have contracted a fatal illness similar to mad cow disease, called chronic wasting disease. The disease, a spongiform encephalopathy, has also been observed in elk raised on farms across the US.

The concern is that people who process or eat meat from diseased elk or deer might themselves become sick, as has been the case with people who have eaten infected beef in Europe. Elk antlers in powdered form are also used in some countries as an erectile aid.

But after hearing from elk breeders and processors, wildlife management specialists, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the US Department of Agriculture, the FDA's Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies Advisory Committee ruled that there was no evidence that chronic wasting disease had jumped from deer and elk into humans. [Unfortunately, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. There is no diagnostic signature for CWD in humans -- there is no reason why it should resemble nvCJD. -- webmaster]

The disease was first seen in captive deer in 1960 and has been tracked more intensively by agricultural authorities in the wild and on farms since the mid-1990s, said Michael Miller, a wildlife veterinarian with the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

Intensive sampling of wild deer and elk shows the syndrome has not spread beyond the highest prevalence areas in northeastern Colorado, southeastern Wyoming and a tiny corner of southwestern Nebraska, said Miller [about 40,000 square miles -- webmaster]. The epidemic there seems to sustain itself year after year, he said.

The wasting disease was first seen in farmed elk 11 years ago, Miller said. The American Elk Breeders Association is developing a plan with the US Agriculture Department to contain epidemics and monitor herds for future outbreaks, said Glen Zebarth, a Montana veterinarian and representative of the group. The program, which would cull out and destroy infected animals, would also apply to deer farms.

Eighteen states have already made the program mandatory for farmers. About 110,000 elk reside on US farms. Most are not slaughtered [until they are older -- webmaster], so exposure risk through consumption is low, he said, adding that most deer and venison in American restaurants is from New Zealand.

Suspecting a link, the CDC since 1997 has investigated three unusual cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, an illness similar to mad cow disease and chronic wasting disease. The two men and one woman were all young under 30 which is unusual for CJD.

Ermais Belay, a CDC epidemiologist, said that all three had eaten deer and elk, but that the meat did not come from wasting disease endemic areas. All died shortly after diagnosis. After brain tissue sampling and genetic and diagnostic testing of the CJD strains, the CDC concluded that there was no strong evidence for a causal link between chronic wasting disease and CJD in these patients, said Belay. The panel agreed.

"I think the prime danger of chronic wasting disease is in a cross contamination, that is, to another animal species," said chairman Paul Brown of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Canadian water buffalo prevail in court

17 Jan 01 Federal Court of Canada decision
Opinion (webmaster): This was a bizarre case where the US ordered Canada to crack down on some water buffalo imported from Denmark (a country that has reported 2 cases of BSE since 1987) or lose its export priveleges to the US. The case bears a great deal of similarity to the Vermont sheep case where animals were imported legally from Belgium but later deemed a threat. In both situations, high profile busts of animals at dubious risk were proposed, whereas massive risks from imported byproducts received little attention.

[1] Before Anthea and Darrel Archer could import a herd of water buffalo from Denmark, they had to pay for a risk assessment to be performed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency ("the Agency"). The assessment found no unacceptable risk associated with importing the herd into Canada. On the strength of that assessment, the Archers mortgaged their farm to pay for the animals and the costs associated with bringing them to Canada. This was not a risk-free transaction, as the cattle were required to go into quarantine upon arrival in Canada and to remain there for a significant period of time. Many things could go wrong during the quarantine period. What the Archers did not anticipate is that the initial decision to allow the herd into Canada could be revisited for reasons unrelated to the health of their herd. But that is exactly what happened.

[2] Within weeks of the water buffalo being settled in their new home, the Archers were informed by an official of the Agency that a cow in Denmark had died of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy ("BSE"), more colourfully known as Mad Cow Disease. As a result, the Agency conducted a new risk assessment of the risk to Canada of allowing the water buffalo to remain in Canada.

[3] In fact, two risk assessments were done. Both concluded that the risk of the water buffalo being infected with BSE was low but that if they were, the consequences to Canada were high. The consequences were high because countries who are not BSE-free face stringent trade barriers from nervous trading partners, barriers which, if applied to Canada, could devastate the livestock industry. As a result, the Archers were ordered to remove the herd from Canada or to surrender them for destruction.

[4] So the Archers find themselves in a very difficult position. To this day, there is no suggestion that any of their animals are infected with Mad Cow Disease. If they must remove or destroy the animals, they will be ruined. All of this is for the benefit of the Canadian public and more specifically, the Canadian livestock industry. One would think that the cost of protecting the public would be borne by the public. But the material before me shows that the Archers have spent approximately $165,000 with respect to this transaction, and that even if they recovered the full cost of the cattle, approximately $61,000, they would still be out of pocket $100,000. This amount is secured by a mortgage which is to say that the farm is not likely to be theirs any longer than the buffalo are. They could be forgiven for thinking that Parliament has allowed the cost of protecting the public to fall upon the naive and the unlucky. Their only hope is to have the order for removal or destruction set aside....

[7] The herd consisted of nine animals which were born in Eastern Europe and ten which were born in Denmark. The Eastern European animals were thought to have originated in Romania but subsequent inquiries showed that in fact they were born in Bulgaria and were shipped to Denmark when they were one year old. (This confusion accounts for the fact that two assessments which were subsequently undertaken. The first was conducted on the basis that the East European water buffalo originated in Romania. The second was conducted after the truth was discovered.) A number of buffalo from the same herd were previously been exported to Australia where they remain today, free of the threat of any governmental action.

[8] The Archers prepared a business plan which enabled them to secure a commitment for financing from Farm Credit Corporation. They also approached the Agency to obtain an import permit. There is a $1,000 fee for the preparation of a risk assessment which the Archers paid. A risk assessment was prepared but it did not consider the risk of BSE contamination because, at the time, Denmark was considered BSE-free and it was assumed that the Danish authorities did their own BSE assessment when the Eastern European cattle were admitted to Denmark. The report concluded that there was little risk to Canada in allowing the importation of the water buffalo to Canada.

[9] The Archers drew down the mortgage proceeds and paid for the water buffalo and the cost of getting them here. They arrived in Canada in January 2000.

[10] On February 29, 2000, the Archers were advised by a veterinarian employed by the Agency that a case of BSE in a native cow had just been confirmed in Denmark and, as a result, a new risk assessment would have to be done with respect to the water buffalo. As the months passed, the Archers made inquiries as to the status of the risk assessments but nothing came of the inquiries.

[11] On Friday, September 1, 2000, the Archers were hand-delivered a Notice to Remove Water Buffalo from Canada, the operative portions of which read as follows:

... you are advised that the importation of these water buffalo are in contravention of the Health of Animals Act, Statutes of Canada 1990, c. 21 and Regulations made thereunder as the animals are or could be affected or contaminated by the disease Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). Therefore, pursuant to subsection 18(1)(b) of the Health of Animals Act, I require you to remove from Canada the said water buffalo during the period commencing on the date of this notice and ending no later than midnight, September 15th, 2000.

[12] The Notice was signed by Dr. George Luterbach, Inspector, Health of Animals Act....

Judges Order: The order of October 5, 2000, pursuant to section 48 of the Health of Animals Act, providing for the removal from Canada or surrender for destruction of water buffalo currently in the possession of the applicants, is hereby set aside. The applicants shall have their costs to be assessed in the midrange of column four.

Organic farming: from niche satus to oasis of safety

January 29, 2001 Los Angeles Times by Carol J. Williams 
LIEPE, Germany--For the first time since he began raising cattle in an ecological idyll, Karl-Heinz Manzke looks set to turn a profit. Suddenly, after a decade of mounting personal debt and public indifference toward foods raised in harmony with Mother Nature, the beef and veal Manzke raises in the rolling countryside along the Polish border are in demand by more than just the politically correct and environmentally trendy.

Europe's "mad cow" scare has propelled organic farming from an obscure niche to an oasis of perceived safety. Many consumers fear that mass-produced meat is more vulnerable to a fatal, brain-destroying disease that scientists believe is linked to a similar illness in humans.

With sales of eco-products up 60% throughout the European Union while conventionally produced beef has lost 80% of its market, Manzke plans to add an additional 150 heifers to his 450 cows as soon as he can acquire land from nearby farms that are going under.

But even organic farmers such as Manzke doubt their ability to feed the masses, or the wisdom of trying. They concede that too little is known about the cause or spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE--commonly called "mad cow" disease--or about how it jumps the species chain and infects humans for them to be certain that ecologically correct operations are unaffected.

The psychological scars and economic damage following recent discoveries of BSE-infected cattle in France, Germany, Austria, Spain, Denmark and Italy extend far beyond the meat industry and Europe's farmers. The outbreaks of BSE have shattered public confidence in many foods and in governments' ability to ensure consumer safety.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has put this country's farmers on notice that a thorough reform of agriculture is planned and will be conducted with more concern for the consumer and the environment than for the interests of the agro-industrial lobby.

Today, though, only about 2% of Europe's food is produced on organic farms, due largely to an EU subsidy structure that disproportionately rewards mass production. In the case of farms affected by BSE, those with the biggest herds stand to gain the most in compensation if, as expected, the alliance orders the slaughter and incineration of 2 million cows to remove the surplus now depressing the market.

Germany's newly appointed minister for consumer protection, food and agriculture, Renate Kuenast, has set a goal of increasing the share of organic farming to 10% by 2010, along with expanding research into its safety and that of various pesticides and chemical additives. Going her one better, the EU commissioner for agriculture, Franz Fischler, says the share could reach 20%.

But with organic products costing at least 30% more than foods raised with industrial methods because of the extra care and feeding required, no one is certain how much more consumers will be willing to pay--or for how long. Even conventional foods are likely to become more costly now that BSE testing of older cows, which are thought to be more susceptible to the disease, will add to the price of production. Funds will also have to be found from state and EU budgets to compensate farmers whose herds must be destroyed.

Dairy Products Can't Be Proclaimed Safe

The beef crisis also has cast suspicion on other foods and pitted producers against one another in a continent-wide blame game. Kuenast has acknowledged that dairy products cannot be proclaimed BSE-free with so little scientific evidence to go on. The quality of pork from Bavaria is under suspicion following news that farmers in the southern German state have been treating pig feed with antibiotics that are banned because of the dangers they pose to humans.

In Italy, police have confiscated stashes of illegally imported beef in several cities, the first evidence that the scare has spawned a new trade for the criminal underworld.

French relatives of those who have died from BSE's human form--Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, or CJD--are suing British authorities for continuing to export suspect animal feed for years after ground animal parts in the feed were linked to the spread of BSE.

The atmosphere of panic and suspicion has spread beyond Europe. Countries as far away as South Korea and Malaysia have outlawed beef imports from EU states, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is pondering a ban on blood donations from anyone who has spent a total of 10 years or more in European countries hit by BSE.

Health officials and consumer advocates expect food safety worries to ease with time. But they say anger and distrust will persist for years because of lessons not learned earlier.

Britain, where more than 80 people have died from CJD and 180,000 head of cattle were found to be infected before testing was halted and all older cows slaughtered, banned fodder containing animal parts in 1988. Still, the country continued to export feed that couldn't be sold legally in Britain. In France, Germany and other European states where BSE has struck, feed producers continued to add bone meal and other animal parts to boost the fodder's protein content until October, regardless of scientists' strong suspicions that the additives were the vehicles for infection.

Government leaders throughout the EU are being held accountable for failing to recognize the dangers. Germany's health and agriculture ministers were forced to resign this month for allowing the disease to spread to this country, and Bavarian Agriculture Secretary Barbara Stamm was sacked Tuesday over the pig feed scandal.

But the "mad cow" crisis may have a silver lining: It is prompting agricultural reforms.

"Never was there such a great opportunity to end the squandering of taxes," the cerebral German weekly Die Zeit contended in a recent edition, noting that for Germany alone, "Brussels [the EU headquarters], Berlin and the state governments donate nearly $7 billion a year to fewer than 500,000 farmers."

The $500 per head that the EU pays farmers in compensation for cattle destroyed as a market-correcting measure may be more money than they would get by selling the meat, as prices have been driven down by evaporating demand.

Kuenast, a lawyer and an influential member of the environmentalist Greens party that shares power with Schroeder's Social Democrats, made it one of her first orders of business to urge an overhaul of subsidies in order to aid organic farmers.

While consumer advocates also see an opportunity for reforming agriculture, they worry about the psychological effects of a prolonged food safety debate.

"If this crisis atmosphere extends too far, people will develop a sense of fatalism, that it doesn't matter what is done because we're all going to die anyway," says Edda Mueller, a scientist who heads the German Assn. for Consumer Protection. "It is more productive to give people a feeling that something can be done to improve the situation."

But she accuses consumers of having shirked their responsibilities by choosing cheaper foods over the organically grown alternatives, fostering a market oriented toward quantity rather than quality. Almost 98% of meat sold in Germany is from industrialized farms.

"The average German household spends only about 12% to 13% of its budget on food, which is far less than in other countries," says Mueller. "Germans have other priorities, like their homes, a nice car and the ability to travel. They need to better develop their culinary interests."

Advocates of more considerate relations between man and nature argue that there are alternatives between the extremes of the agro-industry and the purists who reject all use of fertilizers, pesticides and mechanization.

About 200 small and medium-sized enterprises belong to Germany's Neuland food production concern, which is dedicated to humane animal treatment, says Heidemarie Klingbeil, an agronomist who heads the natural farming association. Neuland associates must allow their cattle and poultry to graze on open ranges.

"For decades, we've been raping the land and torturing the animals, and now nature is striking back," Klingbeil says. "What is happening in agriculture today is nothing short of perverse. We're now talking about taking money from taxpayers to destroy meat from cows raised the wrong way while millions of people in the world are starving."

Resolving the BSE crisis and reforming agriculture are tasks best accomplished on a Europe-wide basis, farmers and consumers agree. But the two-tiered nature of agrarian regulation, split between individual nations and the EU, allows politicians to deflect responsibility.

Heinz Christian Baer, head of the farmers association in Hesse state, which is home to half of Germany's 270,000 cattle and dairy farms, accuses Schroeder of vilifying big agricultural operations and setting unrealistic goals for organic production.

"The notion of producing 20% of our food on eco-farms is out of the question, not because of the farmers' preferences but because of those of the consumer," Baer says. "Once the crisis abates, people will go back to buying conventionally produced meat instead of expensive eco-products."

'Meat Is Safer Today Than It Has Ever Been'

Despite the panic, some officials continue to caution against overreaction. "Meat is safer today than it has ever been in the past," insisted Umberto Veronesi, an oncologist, a vegetarian and Italy's health minister, at a news conference after his country's first case of BSE was detected.

Even the practitioners of environmentally sensitive farming say they fear that emotional reactions are fleeting and that consumers will resume their disregard for the indelicacies of farming once BSE is eradicated.

"I won't damn the mass production of meat--we all have our roles to play in feeding the world. We just need reasonable controls and standards to prevent endangering the environment or consumers," says Manzke, the beef and veal farmer, who has visited cattle operations in the American Midwest and found the mass-scale agribusiness there even more daunting.

"People want products they can trust because they know where they were grown and they know something about the people who raised them," he says. "If anything good can be said to come out of this crisis, maybe it will be to force more regionalization."

CJD risk 'right to know' on surgical tools

January 19, 2001 Guardian James Meikle, health correspondent 
Patients could be given more right to know that they may have contracted the human form of BSE from contaminated blood transfusions or surgical instruments following a sustained rise in the number of victims of new varient Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease.

The current guidance says doctors should not generally inform patients because the uncertainty could blight their lives when there is no test, no cure, and no treatment for the inevitably fatal disease. But the ethical advice is now said to be "under active review".

With 13 of the 88 cases of nvCJD in this country now known to have

 been blood
, fears are growing about the number of people who could have been contaminated. Directors of haemophilia centres are already offering advice and counselling to patients who used a clotting product dating from 1996-97 that has recently been found to have included donations from a nvCJD victim.

The same batch was used in vaccines and blood products exported to nine other countries including Ireland. Karin Pappenheim, head of the Haemophilia Society, said last night: "We are trying desperately to reassure people. We have just had a father in tears because his daughter used this product."

Twenty-three people are known to have had transfusions with blood from implicated donors and blood products from those donors have gone into batches used in both vaccines and clotting factors used on thousands of people. Government scientists insist there is no evidence that anyone has yet caught nvCJD in this way and that measures introduced in the last three years should have reduced the theoretical risk substantially .

Other changes are on the way with more disposable surgical intruments and even a possible ban on anyone who has ever received a blood transfusion becoming a donor. The blood service is anxious to ensure supplies, since shortages would put far more people at risk, but there is growing recognition that patients should have the right to decide whether they want to know about possible risks, rather than leaving the decision to doctors alone.

The NHS guidance was drawn up three years ago. It suggested that "the general view is that patients will not benefit from this knowledge" but left it open to doctors to decide. A special committee is now reviewing the advice. Many haemophiliacs were told and help lines offering people the opportunity to find out have been set up in at least two hospitals where contaminated instruments were used.

There is a huge campaign to make England follow the example of Scotland, Wales and Ireland which gives all haemophiliacs synthetic clotting factors. Children under 16 in England get similar treatment but provision for others is patchy. Campaigners are angry that the NHS is spending millions on changing hospital procedures to reduce nvCJD risk while not being prepared to spend the extra money needed for synthetic clotting factors. The Department of Health said last night that ministers were considering the matter.

Food standards chiefs last night revealed that remnants of spinal cord had been found in two consignments of beef imported from Germany, in breach of anti-BSE controls. They were discovered at meat processing plants in Newry, County Down.

Hospitals to spend £200m to prevent spread of nvCJD

13 January 01 Brit Med Journal 2001;322:68Owen Dyer, London 
British hospitals have been told to update their sterilisation equipment amid fears that surgical instruments could transmit variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD).

The government has allocated £200m ($300m) for the purchase of new sterilisation equipment and has ordered hospitals to perform all future tonsillectomies with single use instruments, at a cost of £25m annually.

The Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) first recommended increased use of disposable surgical instruments last year, in response to the case of Tony Barrett, who developed nvCJD and who, like all 88 British patients identified so far as having the disease, is believed to have contracted the disease from beef infected with BSE. Mr Barrett, from Devon, developed symptoms of nvCJD six months after an appendicectomy. His appendix was later found to contain rogue prion proteins, suspected of being the agent responsible for the disease.

This was the first time that prions had been identified in the tissue of an asymptomatic patient. It raised the alarming possibility that surgical instruments used on patients who are in the incubation phase of the disease could potentially transmit the agent. Estimates of the number of people incubating nvCJD in Britain range from a few hundred to hundreds of thousands.

After Mr Barrett's death, the government ordered the testing of 18000 archived tonsils and appendixes. A preliminary finding based on the first 3000 samples found no evidence of rogue prions, though the test method was not sensitive. In people infected with nvCJD the tonsils are known to be a prion reservoir (as are appendixes; spinal, brain, and lymphatic tissue; and possibly the eyes).

Dr Pat Troop, the deputy chief medical officer, said: "We are following SEAC's advice in deciding to address tonsillectomy operations at this stage because this is a specific procedure usually applied to children, and which involves a discrete set of instruments."

Families of nvCJD victims to get interim payout

January 22, 2001 Guardian James Meikle, health correspondent
Families of victims of the human form of BSE are expected to be awarded interim compensation payments that may run up to £25,000 each.

The government will announce stop-gap payments within a few days, while negotiations continue over longer term arrangements with the families' lawyers.

Sources yesterday could not confirm exact sums but the government is known to be anxious to show it is moving on the politically sensitive issue. Eighty-three people in Britain have died from variant CJD (Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease). Five, identified as probable victims, are still alive and another six cases are under investigation.

Ministers have accepted the need for "no-fault" compensation to avoid courtroom battles, and as a possible model their advisers point to a trust that compensates people with Aids or HIV - a fund that since 1987 has paid out nearly £100m.

A fund of £1m, to improve coordination of care for CJD patients, exists. But the Treasury, increasingly nervous over the sharp acceleration in cases, will be reluctant to sign any open-ended commitment.

An announcement on interim compensation is expected as part of the preliminary government response to the BSE inquiry report, published in October, which calls for sweeping changes in the way Whitehall responds to such human health threats.

David Body, a lawyer for the families, said: "If there is to be an interim payment it will be most welcome. There are people who would benefit, and this would come on top of good work that has resulted from setting up the care package." He added that talks were still a long way from establishing compensation arrangements robust enough to last for years.

Malcolm Tibbert, chairman of the Human BSE Foundation, whose wife, Margaret, was an early victim, said: "We are all desperate to find out what is going to happen. No amount of money can replace those who have died, but we have to be realistic, and there are a lot of people out there who have children to bring up and their future has to be secured.

"The sooner the government comes up with a formal offer, and we can see if it is acceptable, the better."

Many victims' families are frustrated at the time the government has taken to respond to their formal lodging of the court action, although Whitehall has always said it had to wait for the inquiry report, which was published nearly three years after it began taking evidence.

But families point out that farmers have been paid huge compensation sums for BSE.

Approaching pandemic is Britain's shame

January 17, 2001 for Sydney Morning Herald by Dr. Lynette J. Dumble 
The world faces a pandemic of mad cow disease that may rival HIV. And argues Lynette Dumble, the British must accept the blame for spreading the disease - perhaps as far as Australia.

The recent mad cow disease precautions taken by the Australian and New Zealand authorities are in stark contrast to those of their counterparts in Europe where the disease, Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), has spread to cattle in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland.

It was in 1996 that Britain announced that meat products from BSE-infected cattle were linked to a new form of incurable human spongiform encephalopathy - new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD). Even as that link was made public, British policies were spreading BSE across the globe, resulting in a man-made disaster which has the potential to put the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the shade. The human death toll is approaching 100, with 88 of them being nvCJD fatalities in Britain. Predictions vary on whether BSE-contaminated cattle produce will eventually claim a thousand, tens of thousands, or even millions of human lives.

BSE emerged from a post-World War II British strategy to increase the milk yield of dairy herds by feeding the cows protein-rich pellets made from the meat and bones extracted from animal waste accumulated at abattoirs and boning plants, and also from the leftovers discarded by butchers, restaurants and knackeries. Aided by deregulation of the meat-rendering industry in the late 1970s, the strategy transformed Britain's cattle from BSE-free herbivores into BSE-infected carnivores.

From 1985, when a mystery disease now known as BSE emerged in Daisy, a dairy cow from Kent, the annual number of BSE-infected cattle rose to 731 within the space of three years. By 1989, 400 new cases appeared each week, and by 1992, 100 new cases appeared each day.

British authorities began reassuring national and international audiences in 1989 that mad cow disease was under control. In the same year, they also gathered scientists from the world's major laboratories engaged in human and animal spongiform disease research, together with a number of respected neurovirologists, to seek advice. The solutions put forward by the experts shaped the events which have effectively spread mad cow disease across the globe.

The experts were sworn to secrecy, notably regarding the export of cows and contaminated feed worldwide. One, Dr Laura Manuelidis, physician and professor of neuroscience at Yale University, proposed that the epidemic could swiftly be brought to a close with the immediate cull of infected herds. Britain's attitude to the Manuelidis solution was, in her words, penny-wise, pound-foolish, and her idea was dismissed on the grounds that compensation for the owners of the herds was financially out of the question.

From then onwards, the global spread of mad cow disease went into full swing. Britons were placed at risk of nvCJD when an estimated 700,000 BSE-infected cattle entered their food chain, chiefly because the animals' slaughter age, usually three years, was below the age at which they would show signs of BSE infection.

Next, the duplicity of the British Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, known as MAFF, exposed mainland Europeans to an unknown quantity of BSE-contaminated veal among the 2 million calves transported to European saleyards between 1990 and 1995. MAFF sabotaged a 1990 Brussels ruling designed to prevent the spread of BSE outside Britain when it issued civil servants with secret orders to skip the computer vetting of calves designed to exclude BSE-infected animals.

The globalisation story gets worse. For eight years, debt-burdened Third World countries were lured to buy attractively low-priced BSE-suspect meat and the same animal protein-enriched pellets believed responsible for Britain's BSE problems. Ultimately, the dumping of BSE-implicated produce, considered unfit for sale in Britain, will be recorded as another shameful chapter of British imperialism. The French Minister for Agriculture, Jean Glavany, sees it exactly in those terms, and recently commented that "morally, they should be judged for that one day. They even allowed themselves the luxury of banning the use of such feed [in Britain] while allowing it to be exported."

Already there are reports of nvCJD-like illnesses in South Africa, Pakistan, and India. The United Arab Emirates has banned the importation of beef from Pakistan because of the BSE threat. One thing is certain, as the World Health Organisation and Professor Manuelidis have recently underlined, the social and environmental costs of a BSE-contaminated food chain in developing regions will far outweigh the multibillion-dollar estimates of Europe's present BSE-related crises.

Nor did the globalisation story stop with Europe and Third World countries. In the thirst for greater and greater market profits through hybrid strains, more than 2,000 British cattle were exported post-1992 to the four corners of the world, including to Australia, for breeding purposes. Cattle from British BSE-suspect herds can be found on stud farms close to Bowral in NSW and close to Ballarat in Victoria.

To the naked eye, the Scottish longhorns appear magnificently healthy, but the fact remains that they made their way to Australia after 1990 when the Federal Government banned the importation of British cattle. That the animals arrived in Australia from Britain by way of Argentina in 1992 does not in any way alter their threat to the Australian meat industry, and ultimately the nation's food security. Nor does it exclude Australia's potential contribution to the globalisation of mad cow disease when the offspring of these truly illegal immigrants are exported elsewhere for breeding.

At the dawn of 2001, the world faces an unprecedented catastrophe due to Britain's man-made BSE disaster. The message from Canberra, like the messages from Europe over the past decade, is that the situation is in hand. Supposedly, Australia farming practice has never exposed cattle to the BSE perils of cattle protein-enriched pellets, but some States do permit cattle to be turned into carnivores via pellets made from the powdered remains of chicken, kangaroo, pig, horse, poultry and fish.

Until we bite the bullet to address the perils of human interference with nature and bring about absolute compliance with import regulations, Australians too risk the myoclonic jerks of nvCJD. This cruel disease silently eats away at the brain over years to rob humans of their every means of communication; the ability to hear, see, and speak. Gone, too, is the understanding of written and spoken native language, and with it every scrap of dignity.

Tradition places women in every region of the world at the greatest risk of nvCJD, because their kitchens and associated knife injuries are a far more efficient means of transmitting the disease than exposure to suspect meat or animal-based beauty creams. Animals and humans have paid an unacceptable price for the man-made BSE pandemic. Now it is time to end the mentality which has placed profit ahead of public welfare and animal integrity, and which has spread the terrible repercussions around the globe.

Britain put 69 countries at Risk of BSE

Sunday 28 January 2001 Independent By Paul Lashmar
Britain could have spread BSE to 69 countries by selling them meat-and-bone cattle meal knowing that it might have been contaminated with the disease .

The revelation, in previously unpublished Ministry of Agriculture documents, shows the extent of Britain's exports of the potentially contaminated material. Between 1988, when meat-and-bone meal (MBM) was banned in Britain and 1996, thousands of tons were sent to European nations such as the Netherlands, France and Germany. Israel imported more than 31,000 tons, and Russia more than 3,000 tons.

Large amounts were sent to developing countries, particularly after European countries banned British MBM feed. Indonesia imported 60,000 tons from Britain between 1991 and 1996 and Kenya imported 521 tons between 1987 and 1996. The figures include some poultry feed, which continued to be sold legally after 1996. Britain also exported more than three million live cows to 36 countries between 1988 and 1996.

The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation said that all countries which imported cattle MBM feed from Western Europe - especially Britain - since the 1980s could be at risk from the disease.

Until now, all known cases of BSE and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, its brain-wasting human form, have been reported in Europe, mainly in Britain. But the disease is starting to emerge in other countries. A woman died of it in South Africa in December. [Not confirmed as nvCJD -- webmaster]

Some experts fear that the exports will lead to BSE epidemics in some of the poorest countries in the world. Stephen Dealler, a clinical microbiologist and BSE expert, said: "Exporting MBM feed that was potentially BSE-infected was like selling boxes of blank bullets containing a few live ones and saying it's not your problem if someone gets shot.

"We have only just managed to get control of BSE here and that is with a very tough regime. It is going to be much harder in African and Middle Eastern countries." In the UK, more than 170,000 cattle have been diagnosed with BSE and about 1,300 on the Continent.

When the ban was imposed on domestic sales of the feed in 1988, companies turned to the EU market and when that too collapsed after bans, new markets were found in developing countries and other non-EU countries.

Phillip Whitehead, a Labour MEP who sat on the parliament's 1998 BSE inquiry, said no assessment has been made of the likelihood of BSE outbreaks in most non-EU countries that imported the British MBM feed. "It was an irresponsible action to continue to export MBM feed after we had banned it here," he added. "It was appalling that we continued to flog it abroad."

The government banned MBM cattle feed on 12 July 1988, just three months after government animal health experts had realised it was responsible for the rapid spread of BSE

Evidence provided to the British BSE inquiry headed by Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers showed that leading British officials in effect washed their hands of moral responsibility over the dangers of MBM feed spreading BSE to infection-free countries, leaving it to individual countries to decide whether to import British feed or prevent it being given to cattle. [Only a single document out of millions uncovered by the Inquiry fretted about this problem. -- webmaster.]

Trade organisations say that some exported MBM feed was subject to high temperature treatment that would have destroyed BSE agents. The UK Renderers' Association, whose members were largely responsible for exports, agreed that such sales increased in the early 1990s. "But allegations of dumping, following plummeting prices, are completely untrue," it said.

U.K.'s exports may have expanded the boundaries of mad-cow disease

26 Jan 01 By Steve Stecklow  Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal
In July 1988, Britain banned the practice of feeding cattle with meal containing the ground-up remains of cows. The move was intended to halt the spread of so-called mad-cow disease, which scientists blamed on infected feed.

For the next eight years, however, British feed makers legally continued to export tons of potentially infected meat-and-bone meal made from pulverized cattle parts, despite concerns expressed by some government officials that such shipments risked spreading the disease abroad. Moreover, as mad-cow worries sharply reduced demand for the high-protein feed supplement in the European Union, and prices fell by more than half, British companies increased their exports of the product beyond the EU, especially to Asia, government records show.

It wasn't until 1996, the year that the British first disclosed that the fatal, brain-wasting cattle disease apparently had jumped the species barrier from cows to humans, that Britain finally banned exports of meat-and-bone meal. To date, 83 people are believed to have died here from the human form of mad-cow disease, called new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease; two deaths have been reported in France, and one in Ireland.

The British exports of a potentially infected feed material show that the boundaries of the mad-cow epidemic are more porous than many people realized, and that containing it may be much harder than expected. The health repercussions still are unknown, since the incurable disease can take years, or possibly decades, to incubate in humans. Adding to the uncertainty is the fact that many nations haven't been systematically testing cattle or cattle feed.

British agricultural and public-health authorities debated the propriety of allowing the country's feed industry to continue exporting meat-and-bone meal after Britain banned its use in cattle feed. But they ultimately left the decision to veterinary authorities in the importing countries, arguing that those officials had been adequately informed of the risks.

Now, some European officials are blaming those exports for a recent surge in cases of diseased cattle on the Continent, which has sparked widespread consumer panic. "It is our English friends who exported this evil," French Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany told a Spanish newspaper this month. "They should be morally condemned for this."

'It's a Trade'

Some health experts also are warning that the cattle disease formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, may start cropping up well beyond Europe. British export and other records show that the potentially infected meal was shipped in varying amounts to dozens of countries, including the U.S., Thailand, Taiwan, Sri Lanka and parts of Eastern Europe and Africa. There "has to have been some infectivity," says Maura Ricketts, a medical officer at the World Health Organization in Geneva.

Feed exporters strongly deny they were dumping the meal, which even the British continued to use as a protein supplement for pigs and poultry. "It's a trade," says Robert Peck, director of David T. Boyd, a feed merchant based in London. "We don't hold a gun to their head."

Between 1988 and 1996, Britain also exported 3.2 million live cattle to 36 countries, reaching every continent. It thought the animals were healthy because they weren't believed to have been fed any meal containing cattle products. But the threat that some of the cattle may have been infected isn't theoretical; over the years, mad-cow disease cases involving imported British cattle have been reported not only in Europe, but also in Canada, Oman and the Falkland Islands.

There is also the risk of a domino effect. Even though the British stopped exporting meat-and-bone meal, other European countries shipped tons of their own, and didn't ban use of the product until this month. While the cases of BSE on the Continent so far haven't approached the epidemic proportions in Britain, it is possible some of that European meal was contaminated with infected animal parts.

In fact, until October 2000, many EU countries allowed meat-and-bone meal to contain the rendered animal parts that are considered to pose the greatest risk of infection. Those include the brain and the spinal cord.

Britain initially banned those parts in animal feed in September 1990, but it allowed meal containing them to continue to be exported to non-EU countries until July 1991. The bans weren't very effective; a recent government inquiry found that the high-risk tissue continued to be rendered into feed "both deliberately and by accident" until controls were stepped up several years later.

EU members on the Continent also have exported millions of live cattle all over the world. Just last month, Kuwait reported a suspected BSE case in a three-year-old dairy cow that was imported from an undisclosed European country.

But predicting where the disease might appear in cattle and humans, and when, is almost impossible. For one thing, it usually takes about five years for an infected cow to display symptoms, which include disorientation and a staggering gait. At present, there are no early-detection tests for live animals.

In the case of British feed, it also isn't even clear how much individual countries imported, because British records lump together meat-and-bone meal with other feed materials, such as pulverized chicken. For example, while the records state that a total of 36,000 tons of animal feed materials were exported in 1989, one major grain exporter estimates that less than half that amount, or about 15,000 tons, was meat-and-bone meal. In later years, British exports probably averaged about 8,500 to 9,000 tons annually, says Paul Foxcroft, sales director of Prosper De Mulder Ltd., Britain's largest processor of animal byproducts.

Hard to Trace

Tracing specific batches of material also is tough because, like oil, animal feed is a globally traded commodity. For example, Belgium, the Netherlands and France, which all imported the British meal, routinely shipped some of it to the Middle East or North Africa in concentrated form. And before being fed to cows, meat-and-bone meal is mixed with other feed materials, often produced locally. "If you're given a sample, you couldn't say where it has come from," says Mr. Foxcroft.

The WHO's Dr. Ricketts says another factor in analyzing a country's risk for BSE is whether there is a local animal-rendering industry. If there is, inedible parts of infected animals may have been "recycled" into domestically produced feed given to other animals, thereby spreading the infectious agent even further. Scientists say that's how the disease swept through the British cattle herd; to date, there have been about 180,000 cases here, but the disease is on the wane in Britain.

Adding to the overall uncertainty: poor surveillance in many countries. Until recently, Germany and Spain insisted that their herds were BSE-free. But when the EU's executive arm recently mandated massive testing, new cases suddenly emerged, including some in those two countries. "If you don't look for something, you won't find it," says Mr. Peck, the British animal-feed dealer.

U.S. officials don't dismiss the possibility that BSE could turn up in America, but they play down the possible risks from the 21 tons of animal feed that British export records list as having been shipped to the U.S. in 1989. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it can find no records of the shipment. But Linda Detwiler, a senior staff veterinarian, says there may be an "error in our database."

Dr. Detwiler says the U.S. has traced all but about 32 of 496 live cattle that it imported from Britain and Ireland in the 1980s. In a "worst-case scenario," she says, the missing 32 "entered the food chain." The agency also traced all 42 cows imported from Europe in 1996 and 1997, and placed them under quarantine; the U.S. imposed a ban on cattle imports from Europe in 1997. While it is known that 52 of the imported British animals still alive in 1995 came from possibly infected herds, all but four were tested for BSE, and the results were all negative. The remaining four, under quarantine on a Vermont farm, have displayed no symptoms.

Other countries may be at greater risk. Indonesia, for example, imported meat-and-bone meal from Britain and Italy until 1997, when the country banned its use in animal feed. "Based on the laboratory tests being carried out, there has not been any indication that the cattle are being infected by BSE," says Lumban Toruan, an Indonesian Agriculture Ministry official. Still, he says testing began only about three months ago.

In Thailand, which imported meat-and-bone meal from Britain until 1996 and later bought it from other European countries, officials express confidence that the country's cattle are BSE-free. They say the meal was used to feed only pigs and, until 1995, poultry.

But the British found that feed manufacturers and farmers often weren't very careful in keeping feed for pigs and poultry separate from cattle feed. It takes only a single gram of infected material -- about the size of a peppercorn -- to infect a cow, and the British say thousands of cattle were inadvertently infected this way. But even though one of Thailand's animal-feed producers makes feed for cattle, pigs and poultry all at the same plant, Laddawalaya Ratananakorn, of Thailand's Ministry of Agriculture, says random tests of cattle feed have never revealed any traces of meat-and-bone meal.

In Taiwan, officials say the country stopped importing meat-and-bone meal from Britain and other European countries 10 years ago, and that sample tests on cattle and feed have shown no evidence of BSE. But Taiwan has continued to allow farmers to feed cows with material containing rendered cattle parts, a practice that was banned throughout the EU in 1994 and in the U.S. in 1997. An official of Taiwan's Department of Animal Industry says that on Jan. 9 the agency issued new regulations banning the practice, and the rules are expected to take effect soon.

A two-year British government inquiry into Britain's mad-cow crisis, completed last October, revealed that government officials debated internally for more than a year about the ethics of continued meat-and-bone meal exports.

Not 'Morally Indefensible'

In a letter dated June 15, 1989, Keith Meldrum, then Britain's chief veterinarian, explained the government's position to the president of the British Cattle Veterinary Association: "It is our view that the importing country must determine its own import conditions." Britain, he wrote, had publicized its BSE problems through published articles and international organizations.

"We do not consider it morally indefensible to export meat-and-bone meal to other countries since it may be used for feeding to pigs and poultry in this country," wrote Mr. Meldrum.

Other government officials disagreed. Sir Donald Acheson, the country's chief medical officer, told the inquiry that, at the urging of Hilary Pickles, another Department of Health medical officer, he repeatedly questioned the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on the issue, but to no avail.

On Jan. 3, 1990, Sir Donald wrote to Mr. Meldrum, suggesting that Britain either ban the export of meat-and-bone meal or require labeling "to make it absolutely clear" that it shouldn't be fed to cows. "Unless some such action is taken the difficult problems we have faced with BSE may well occur in other countries who import U.K. meat-and-bone meal," he wrote.

According to minutes of an internal meeting at the Agriculture Ministry on Jan. 24, 1990, Mr. Meldrum brought up Sir Donald's letter. "We were currently exporting meat-and-bone meal to a number" of non-EU countries, the minutes state. "If we informed them that these products were not permitted to be fed to ruminants in the U.K., Mr. Meldrum was convinced other countries would cease to import them."

The minutes go on to state that the then-agriculture minister, John Gummer, said Britain "had a moral obligation" to alert countries about its ban on the use of the meal for cattle, and asked Mr. Meldrum to write to those countries that imported it. Documents show he later wrote to chief veterinary officers of 25 countries.

Mr. Meldrum replied to Sir Donald on Feb. 9, 1990, stating that other countries had been kept fully informed about BSE "and its likely cause" and noted that Germany, France, Italy, Greece and Israel had already banned imports of British meat-and-bone meal.

"I hope that you will accept that we have approached this in a responsible manner, and that it is not necessary to adopt the measures you suggest," Mr. Meldrum wrote.

In an interview last week, Mr. Meldrum, now retired, said the decision on meat-and-bone meal exports wasn't his alone but was made by many Agriculture Ministry officials "after detailed consultation." He noted that the government inquiry chose not to criticize him or other British officials for the continued exports of the meal or for "the manner in which importing countries were warned of the danger that it posed."

Asked whether he still believed the exports were appropriate, Mr. Meldrum declined to comment.

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