Prion Disease: Slaughter on Suspicion
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Slaughter on suspicion: Vermont
Slaughter on suspicion: foot-and-mouth disease
Slaughter on suspicion: British BSE
Slaughter to boost consumer prices: EU
French scrapie strain matches human sporadic CJD
Queniborough cluster blamed on traditional butchery practices
Dr. Richard Lacey: how the British responded to expert scientific input
EU declines to exempt Canada and US from mad cow import restrictions
US restaurants face shortage of ribs
British supermarket will test beef with Prionics
CBS News: 60 minutes II (off-site)

Slaughter on suspicion: Vermont

March 21, 2001 AP/CNN
Opinion (webmaster): Slaughtering healthy animals on suspicion -- this has been a horrific week for livestock worldwide. In Vermont, the suspicion was that health of beef exports might be adversely affected if the US did not hunt down perceptions of risk from European live imports. The sheep seizure is an alarming precedent for abuse of government power: no convincing evidence was ever put forward that the sheep had any form of TSE, much less BSE; the seizure is taking place despite an appeals court agreeing to finally give the sheep their day in court. The USDA can be ashamed of itself for this cold-blooded, hypocritical seizure -- which may signal abandonment of science-driven TSE policy for the United States. Do the mistakes of Britain really need to be repeated here?

Livestock producers large and small, cattle and sheep, have a very special stewardship relationship with their animals. Farm animals are not viewed as faceless production units in some overarching global economic trade agenda, and rightly so. Massive culls in Europe have been extremely wrenching experiences for affected farmers, experiences that compensation does not even begin to address. So it behooves us to be careful -- whether it is foot-and-mouth, the over 30 month grass fed cow, or healthy sheep -- to make the decision for the sometimes necessary cull only when there is a solid scientific basis for them. This scientific standard has not been met in Vermont.

What will happen to the sheep when they reach Iowa? The ARS lab there will observe the live animals for a few days to identify any clinical manifestations of TSE (most unlikely after all these years). The sheep will then be slaughtered, the obex of the brain stem medulla removed and some brain sample retaIned. This lab has already published a paper on its prior use of the Prionics test kit. This test will be done next because it is quick, reliable, and the lab has hundreds of sheep to test. The Prionics tests take 3-4 hours to run -- France does 20,000 of them a week.

Already in Iowa, parents and siblings of animal numbers 3711, 3714, 3715, and 3706 (the disputed Rubenstein positives) could be tested first. If these animals prove to be free of any TSE there would be no justification to proceed with the seizure and destruction of the two flocks. Results of the Prionics test here are a very high priority for USDA to disclose in coming weeks if credibility is to be regained.

If all the sheep test negative on Prionics, will the USDA come clean with a responsible announcement admitting their mistake? Any Prionics positives would be confirmed with immunohistochemistry and a full spongiform autopsy workup to obtain a lesion profile and initial strain information. Obviously the lab cannot go forward with a 2-3 year straintyping in mouse if there is nothing positive to use for inoculum.

Everyone can support the precautionary principle; certainly the US does not need yet another strain of TSE spread across the country. Yet here is the globally respected Prionics test not being used to resolve conflicting test results. Science-based TSE policy must be based on reproducible results. Why annihilate two whole flocks when 3-4 hours of testing could bring everyone to the same page?

The US still has live cattle imports from Europe in three states. According to an AP story of 23 Mar 01,

"In a separate case, federal officials are monitoring two cows in Minnesota for signs of mad-cow disease, although they have shown no symptoms, said Linda Detwiler, the U.S. Agriculture Department's chief expert on mad-cow disease. The cows are being monitored because the USDA doesn't know whether they were given feed contaminated with the disease before they were imported at least five years ago, apparently from the Netherlands. The cows had been traced years ago by the USDA and quarantined, which meant they couldn't be slaughtered or sold to other private owners, Detwiler said. Detwiler said she believes that in addition to the two Minnesota cows, 22 cows were imported to Texas and four to Vermont."

Photo provided by Linda and Larry Faillace
"Federal agents went to a farm in Vermont early Wednesday to seize sheep feared infected with a version of the mad cow disease. Houghton Freeman's flock of 233 sheep is one of two that has been at the center of a storm of protests since the U.S. Department of Agriculture ordered that they be seized and destroyed. The department says the sheep, imported from Belgium, could be carrying a disease akin to mad cow disease.

Ed Curlett of the USDA, speaking from the Freeman farm, confirmed the seizure was under way. Inspectors arrived between 6 a.m. and 6:30 and trucks arrived around two hours later, he said. The sheep are to be taken to federal laboratories in Iowa for scientists there to take samples from their brains to study. They will eventually be slaughtered. "We intend to collect the sheep," Curlett said. "We are very grateful for the owner's cooperation."

The other disputed flock, 140 sheep, is owned by Larry and Linda Faillace of Warren. They were to be seized later, and they will receive notice the night before the seizure, as Freeman did, Curlett said. The seizure at the Freeman farm came one day after supporters of the owners held the latest in a series of protests, marching to the Vermont offices of the three members of the state's congressional delegation. All three have supported the seizure.

The government says the sheep may have been exposed to mad cow disease through contaminated feed before they were imported from Europe in 1996. The owners say the sheep are healthy and the tests are not conclusive. They have urged that the sheep be studied and tested more extensively.

After losing their case in U.S. District Court in February, the Faillaces and Freeman appealed to the federal circuit court and asked that the seizure order be put on hold until the case had worked its way through the courts. The circuit court refused to stay the seizure order last week but said it would hear the appeal.

The USDA maintains that four of the sheep culled from Freeman's flock showed signs of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy. That is a class of neurological diseases that includes both bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, and scrapie, a sheep disease that is not harmful to humans. The government says the sheep may have been exposed to mad cow disease through contaminated feed before they were imported from Europe in 1996, and have quarantined the sheep since 1998.

The human version of BSE, which like the animal version has a lengthy incubation period, has killed almost 100 people in Great Britain since 1995, when it virtually wiped out the British beef industry."

Security high for sheep suffering from mad cow disease

Tue, 20 Mar 2001 AP 
Federal officials say they are keeping security tight while transporting a flock of sheep exposed to a form of mad cow disease from Vermont to Iowa. Officials will load the 350 sheep onto trucks and haul them to federal laboratories in Ames for scientists there to take samples from their brains to study. Officials say they want to guard against threats to the animals or workers at the National Sciences Veterinary Services Laboratory. Off-duty police officers have been stationed outside animal disease centers where the sheep will be slaughtered.

It may be the first time such a trip has been made, said Ed Curlett, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. ''I don't think this has ever been done, and we're doing everything possible to make sure it's done safely,'' he said. Guards won't be the only ones accompanying the sheep to Iowa. Veterinarians will, too.

Ames police confirmed that many of their officers were hired to work overtime for the government-owned facilities. They are being paid by the federal government for their work, said Ames police Sgt. Mike Johns.

Curlett said that once the sheep arrive, they will be kept alive for several days in a secure area before being humanely killed and their bodies disposed of.

Federal officials know some Iowans are worried about the sheep being shipped to a state full of livestock herds and farms. The sheep headed for Ames were exposed to a form of mad cow disease called transmissible spongiform encephalopathy. Curtlett said four of the sheep tested positive for TSE and likely contracted it through infected feed. The rest of the sheep are considered exposed but aren't sick, he said. ''And the possibility of them spreading disease is as close to zero as you can get.''

Boone farmer, Marshall King, said he would be more concerned about the disease spreading if scientists weren't studying the sheep. ''We have to get to the root of this problem, and we have to trust that those people are going to do it right,'' King said.

So far, there aren't any immediate threats to the sheep from eco-terrorists or animal-rights groups, Curtlett said. But federal officials have heard about some possible protests in Vermont where some people disagree with the decision to take the sheep away from farmers there. Farmers disputed the validity of the tests, but a federal judge ruled that they must sell the sheep, which they imported from Belgium.

Moredun scientist says BSE in sheep is most unlikely

March 19, 2001 Moredun Institute newsletter
"In the last edition of More from Moredun we reported that Moredun had been awarded a MAFF grant of just under 1 million to work on TSE in sheep. The money, which has been granted initially over five years, will allow Moredun to study the infectivity of scrapie and BSE in sheep.

Scrapie is a fatal degenerative disease of the brain of adult sheep and, very occasionally, goats. It has been recognised since the 18th Century and has a world-wide distribution. It is caused by a chemically-unidentified, infectious agent with bizarre properties which is transmitted to lambs from infected ewes both pre- and post-natally, but only produces the disease two or more years later.

There had been fears expressed recently that BSE could have crossed over from cattle to infect sheep and cause a scrapie like disease. However, Dr Hugh Reid, head of the Virology Division at Moredun says "There is, in fact, good evidence now to show that this (BSE jumping from cattle to sheep) has not happened. Since the onset of BSE there has been no evidence of a rise in the incidence of Scrapie in sheep at all."

The evidence available indicates that the feeding of meat and bonemeal from ruminants was responsible for transmitting BSE in the cattle population. "Sheep and cattle rations differ greatly in their compositions" continued Dr Reid. "Any compound food offered to sheep would have been lower in protein than cattle rations, and meat and bonemeal would rarely have been used. Cross contamination of rations is also unlikely in that most cattle feeds are toxic to sheep due to the higher copper levels in them."

Another aspect of scrapie research that is now ongoing at Moredun is to characterise the nature of the infectious agent of Scrapie. Although many have accepted the PrP hypothesis there are many aspects of the biology of scrapie, which cannot be reconciled with this concept. Dr Reid with the assistance of Dr A Dickinson (former Director of Neuropathogenesis Unit) has secured funding from private trusts to conduct research that hopes to characterise the agent of scrapie infectivity in purified preparations that do not contain PrP."

Comment (webmaster): If BSE has ever gotten into sheep, the place this would happen first is England, not countries once or twice removed. It has not been settled that the BSE epidemic originated in sheep; no scrapie strain examined so far has similar properties, though many strains remain unexamined. BSE can in fact be transmitted experimentally to sheep. However, it remains very time consuming to straintype a domestic sheep with scrapie to see if resembles BSE. In particular, the western blot test used in Vermont provided no information whatsoever on straintype. The British were quick to disagree with USDA that any such inference could be drawn. While USDA had to back off its initial claim, changing it to "exotic TSE", mad cow disease has been trotted out again in today's press releases, most irresponsibly.

Foot-and-mouth disease in Ireland, vaccinations begun in Netherlands

March 22, 2001 By SHAWN POGATCHNIK, Associated Press
Note: the MAFF website carries the latest statistics and epidemic maps
The first cases of the rapidly spreading foot-and-mouth disease have been confirmed in the Republic of Ireland, Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said Thursday. Two cases were confirmed in County Louth, about 50 miles north of Dublin, Ahern told the Irish Parliament. One case of foot-and-mouth disease previously had been confirmed across the border in Northern Ireland.

"All we can hope now is to confine it to the immediate area," said Tom Parlon, president of the Irish Farmers Association. Although not dangerous to humans, foot-and-mouth is deadly for livestock and highly contagious, capable of being spread even by the wind. [The agri-food sector is crucial to the Republic of Ireland's economy, accounting for 10 percent of the gross domestic product and 27 percent of net earnings from trade. CNN]

The discovery in Ireland comes a day after confirmation of cases in the Netherlands, quashing hopes that the livestock disease could be bottled up in a small corner of France, the only other place in continental Europe where it has been identified since it erupted in Britain a month ago.

Britain's foot-and-mouth count climbed to 435 cases by early Thursday. Roy Anderson, a University of London scientist who studied the pattern of the disease for the government, said foot-and-mouth would not be eliminated before August. Anderson told the British Broadcasting Corp on Wednesday that the epidemic was more severe than the last major foot-and-mouth crisis in 1967, which saw 2,000 individual outbreaks and almost half a million animals slaughtered. [Anderson predicted that if the number of cases continues to increase at a rate of two an hour, the outbreak will peak early in May, 2001. CNN]

The government vowed Wednesday to speed up the process of destroying slaughtered animals - 275,000 of whom have been killed so far - and denied accusations it had covered up the outbreak.

Dutch veterinarians, meanwhile, planned to vaccinate herds of cattle against the disease, a strategy so far avoided by European Union members because of fears it would strip them of their disease-free status in world markets. Inoculated animals bear the same foot-and-mouth antibodies as infected animals.

The Netherlands imposed a three-day ban on the movement of livestock, fodder, and dairy products after the cases were confirmed Wednesday in three farms near the German border Wednesday. About 18,000 animals were marked for destruction. Other suspected cases were being investigated in the southern province of Brabant.

Animal carcasses were being hauled away from the farms for rendering rather than being burned in fields. But faced with the overwhelming task of disposing of the carcasses, the Agriculture Ministry said some animals in 1,000-yard rings around the contaminated farms will be vaccinated rather than killed. Newspapers said inoculations had begun, using emergency supplies that have been in storage for years. The ministry had no immediate confirmation.

The European Union in Brussels quickly imposed a ban on livestock exports from the Netherlands and on some exports of meat, dairy and animal products. That could be a severe blow for the Netherlands, a country with 16 million people and 120 million barnyard animals and one of the world's most intensive farming sectors.

In Britain, hundreds of parks, pathways and attractions were closed in the wake of the disease, devastating the rural economy. Opposition politicians also urged Prime Minister Tony Blair to postpone local council elections in England. But Prime Minister Tony Blair insisted rural Britain was open for business and said elections would be held as planned in May. Full-page ads sponsored by the government urged Britons to return to the pubs, hotels and stately homes in safe areas of the countryside.

Opposition says foot-and-mouth disease is worsening

March 20, 2001 By ROBERT BARR, Associated Press
The government was urged by opposition politicians Tuesday to speed up the destruction and disposal of animals sacrificed in Britain's fight against foot-and-mouth disease. The government called on the army to speed up the campaign, but complained of a shortage of veterinarians to cope with the nationwide task of tracking the infection, and a looming lack of timber to keep the pyres burning.

While the opposition said things were getting worse, the government encouraged the idea that they were getting better, and announced an advertising campaign to encourage visitors to return to rural attractions.

Some 394 outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease had been confirmed by Wednesday, with nearly 223,000 animals killed and about 125,000 marked for destruction, the Ministry of Agriculture said. Most of the 45 cases identified Wednesday - a one-day high - were in the hard-hit Scottish border region.

More than 200 soldiers were assigned to help with the logistics of disposing of carcasses in two of the hardest-hit areas - Devon in England's southwest and Cumbria in the northeast. The epidemic, first confirmed a month ago, has shut British livestock out of markets worldwide and put neighboring trading partners in Europe on alert for further outbreaks.

Officials in the Netherlands said Tuesday they were checking four cows for foot-and-mouth disease and had quarantined the area around the affected farm. In France, with one confirmed case of the disease, officials said six farms remained quarantined Tuesday, but tests on 224 suspect herds so far had been negative. The European Union's veterinary panel said restrictions could be lifted in France if no new cases turn up by March 28. Australia announced a limited easing of restrictions on imports of meat and dairy goods from the European Union on Tuesday. It will now allow imports of prepared foods which have been heated to boiling point for at least 30 minutes....

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown said some 220 vets in the State Veterinary Service were being helped by 700 other veterinarians and others with expertise. "We agree we need more," Brown said. He added that Britain might soon have to import old railway ties to fuel fires to burn carcasses.

Robin Bell, a senior government veterinarian, said work was being slowed because vets who had been on infected premises had to wait 72 hours before visiting other herds, to prevent them from spreading infection. The government announced last week that it planned to destroy all sheep and pigs within two miles of any confirmed outbreak in the worst-affected areas of northwestern England and southern Scotland.

Foot-and-mouth disease reported in the Netherlands

March 21, 2001 The Associated Press 
The Dutch government said Wednesday it has confirmed cases of foot-and-mouth disease on a farm in the Netherlands, making it the second country on the European continent to detect the livestock ailment. Tests concluded that four cows had contracted the disease on a farm near Olst, in the eastern part of the country. The government swiftly reinstated a nationwide ban on transporting livestock that had been lifted just two days earlier.

In France, site of the only confirmed case on mainland Europe, the Agriculture Ministry said Tuesday that tests of 224 herds had not revealed any further cases and just six farms remained under quarantine.

Britain, where the disease was first detected a month ago, battled to prove it had the crisis under control, as opposition politicians urged officials to postpone elections scheduled for May. Forty-five new cases were confirmed Tuesday, by far the highest one-day tally to date, and the European Union extended its ban on exports of British livestock and meat until April 4.

Prince Charles, himself a gentleman farmer, canceled an Austrian skiing holiday to show solidarity with farmers hit by the disease. "He doesn't want to go on that kind of holiday at the moment, given everything that is going on with foot-and-mouth," said a spokeswoman for the prince's St. James's Palace office....

Spread of foot-and-mouth shuts U.S. theme park

March 21, 2001 By VICKIE CHACHERE, Associated Press
Out of fear that visitors from Europe and South America could spread foot-and-mouth disease, a theme park is asking some foreign tourists to keep away from its animals. A Busch Gardens official said Wednesday that visitors who have traveled from regions with foot-and-mouth disease in the past five days are being asked not to take a special tour that allows them to pet and feed the animals.

"These people are animal lovers," said Glenn Young, vice president for zoological operations. "My hopes are they fully understand and are appreciative that we would go to this level of precaution." Busch Gardens, which along with SeaWorld Orlando is owned by Anheuser-Busch, is among the nation's busiest theme parks. The park is less than 80 miles west of Orlando, the hub of Florida's amusement park industry.

Foreign tourists make up a large portion of Busch Garden's business, although for competitive reasons the park does not release specific numbers. Busch Gardens spokesman Gerard Hoeppner said the policy was started Friday and will continue as long as the virus remains a problem in Europe and South America. Regular admission visits to Busch Gardens are not affected; the precautions primarily affect close-encounter tours available to tourists who pay extra.

Giraffes, antelopes, elephants and camels are among the wild animals that are susceptible to the virus. Humans are not affected, but can transmit the highly contagious virus on clothes and shoes.

Foot-and-mouth disease has not been a problem in North America, but Florida agriculture officials have warned that the state needs to take precautions because of its many ports and foreign tourists.

There are no similar restrictions at Walt Disney World, which includes the Animal Kingdom theme park, but there is no physical interaction between the animals and visitors, said Disney spokeswoman Diane Ledder. "Our veterinary staff feels the risk of the spread of foot-and-mouth disease through the animals in our collection is extremely minimal," Ledder said.

U.S. steps up efforts to keep out livestock disease

March 20, 2001 By LANCE GAY, Scripps Howard News Service 
"Keep Foot and Mouth Disease OUT of America" read the signs facing international travelers as they arrive at Dulles International Airport, where they face clothing inspections, food-sniffing beagles and agriculture control officers.

"We are the front line," said Agriculture Department plant and quarantine officer Alex Belano, part of the boosted army of control officers patrolling airports and borders to keep meat from European countries infected with the foot-and-mouth disease out of the United States. The last outbreak of foot-and-mouth in the United States was in 1929. Starting Thursday, travelers to the United States were told on their flights that if they had visited the countryside or stayed in a British bed-and-breakfast hotel, they should check with agriculture control agents at customs.

"I was expecting worse. They said in the (British) pub last night they were going to wash us down," said Joseph Varaska, returning home to Charlottesville, Va., after a 10-day bicycle trip through Oxfordshire in Britain. But U.S. agriculture control agents only checked his shoes to ensure they weren't soiled and made sure he wasn't bringing any food back before passing him through. "It's right that we take precautions," Varaska said. "We have to respect what we have to do so our country doesn't get this."

Don and Barbara Heckman of Purcellville, Va., spent two weeks in London and said they are well aware of the foot-and-mouth disease problems from the TV coverage. "It's hard to be ignorant," Don Heckman said, adding that he approves of the increased screening. The agents check boots of those who report in and give those still dirty a scrub-down in a light bleach solution, which is effective in killing the virus.

The Agriculture Department's control agents are relying on self-reporting to stop the bulk of the now-banned meat products from coming into the United States. But just in case, they've also brought in the Agriculture Beagle Brigade, a corps of specially trained beagles to sniff out food hidden in luggage.

Ikla Matthes, a K-9 officer with the unit, said that while Customs agents use Labradors or German Shepherds to sniff out drugs, beagles are the dog of choice for agricultural control officers hoping to root out food hidden in luggage. "There are a couple of advantages. They're hunting dogs, and they're used to a lot of noises that don't distract them, which is good in an airport. They're always hungry, and their small size isn't intimidating," she said. There are three beagles working the luggage line at Dulles - Comet, Uni and Quincy. Matthes said their numbers will be increased to ensure better searches of all luggage from Europe until the foot-and-mouth outbreak is squelched.

Although travelers are warned against bringing fresh fruit and meat into the United States, Agriculture Department agents say they are confiscating an average of 50 pounds of meat a day. They say they had five large containers full of tropical fruits, which also are banned. Agricultural products on sale in duty-free stores in Europe are covered by the ban because they are inadequately processed to kill the virus. "Many means of preserving meat do not kill these viruses," the Agriculture Department fact-sheet tells travelers. Just being put in a sterile package doesn't necessarily kill the virus. Of prime concern are sausages, hams and other meats.

Linda Logan, a veterinarian who heads the Texas Animal Health Commission, said the foot-and-mouth virus is extremely contagious, and can be spread from animals just having contact with the meat of contaminated animals.

"Worldwide, nearly two-thirds of the FMD outbreaks are attributed to the introduction and feeding of contaminated meat, meat products or garbage to animals," Logan said. Many countries routinely feed garbage to pigs, which can catch the disease and pass it along to other ruminants. The virus can travel 40 miles in the air once an outbreak starts.

Only 10 percent of transmissions are caused by importing contaminated livestock, contaminated machinery or through transmission from humans, who can carry the virus on their shoes from walking through fields, or in their upper respiratory tracts. There is at least one case of a human getting a flulike condition after being infected, but humans are ordinarily not made sick from it and do not know they are carrying it.

The Pentagon said Thursday that members of the military arriving at U.S. bases go through the same procedures as commercial airline passengers. Canada has adopted even more stringent inspections, and has told the 3,000 British troops coming soon to Alberta for a military exercise they must disinfect not only their footwear but also any netting they use to carry ammunition or extra gear.

At the Dulles Airport checkpoint, Belano said he finds most Americans are aware of the regulations against bringing in fruit and meats to the United States, but many foreign visitors aren't. "We are getting more compliance," he said.

Slaughter on suspicion in Britain

21 Mar 01 MAFF
See also OIE: total European slaughter statistics also very large
The selective cull is a Government measure which aims to accelerate the eradication of BSE by the slaughter of animals considered to be most at risk of infection. In consultation with the Standing Veterinary Committee (a European Veterinary Committee) it was agreed that the programme would target animals coming from the same Œcohort¹ as BSE cases born between July 1989 and June 1993 - that is, animals reared with BSE cases which would be likely to have been exposed to the same risk of infection by the BSE agent in animal feed. After the animals targeted had been assessed by a vet and considered at risk they would be slaughtered with enhanced compensation.

The purpose of the cull is to reduce the incidence of BSE in the UK, and was one of the five pre-conditions for the lifting of the export ban set out in the Florence Framework. The scheme emerged after long discussions with the European Commission, other Member States and the Industry in the spring of 1996. The proposals were agreed by the Standing Veterinary Committee on 19 June 1996, and presented by the then Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to Parliament on 24 July 1996. Implementation of the programme was postponed in September 1996 to allow consideration of two pieces of research: interim research findings on maternal transmission by MAFF; and cull options published by Professor Anderson of Oxford University in the scientific magazine ŒNature¹ on 29 August 1996, which suggested that the cull could be better targeted. [Information on the science of maternal transmission of BSE and the slaughter of offspring of BSE cases is available]

Having taken stock of these developments, the Government at the time decided that further consideration would not provide a sufficiently strong argument for not proceeding with the cull in the form originally envisaged, and that further delays could be damaging to the continuation of the Florence process. It therefore announced on 16 December 1996 that the cull would be going ahead in the New Year. Legislation implementing it was debated in both Houses of Parliament, and came into force on 24 January 1997 in Great Britain. Parallel legislation entered into force in Northern Ireland on 08 January 1997.

The basis of the cull is that feed containing meat and bone meal has been the main source of BSE infection for cattle, and scientific evidence suggests that most cattle were infected by eating such feed when they were less than 6 months old. The selective cull therefore targets animals coming from the same Œcohort¹ as BSE cases born between July 1989 and June 1993 - animals reared with BSE cases and which are likely to have been exposed to the same risk of infection by the BSE agent in feed.

The cull operates as follows:- Officials from the State Veterinary Service visit the herd where the BSE case first received solid feed (generally the animal's herd of birth or 'natal herd') and identify the members of the cohort through the examination of the herd¹s management, feeding, breeding, and movement records. Those cohort animals which have remained in the herd are put under restriction. They are valued and slaughtered, following confirmation of the veterinary assessment and consideration of any representations by the farmers concerned. Compensation is paid - 90% of the replacement value for female animals, and the full market value for male animals. Where more than 10% of the herd is taken, a top-up payment per animal slaughtered is made to compensate for lost production. Cohort animals which have been sold out of the herd are subject to a tracing exercise and, if found, are also slaughtered.

Although the cull is being applied UK-wide, there are different administrative arrangements in place in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, respectively. In Great Britain, the first on-farm visits took place in the week beginning 27 January 1997, the week following the entry into force of the implementing legislation. The first abattoir slaughterings took place on 21 March 1997. With a few exceptions, natal herd visits were completed in Great Britain by the target date of 31 October 1997. In Northern Ireland, on farm visits started on 20 January 1997. Slaughterings began there on 28 February 1997, and were completed there in respect of Northern Irish-born cohort animals on 18 November 1997, with only a further 20 cohort animals imported from Great Britain requiring slaughter after that date.

The UK's BSE Eradication Plan originally limited the selective cull to 'birth cohorts', that is, animals born in the same natal herd as a BSE case. The UK submitted an amendment to it, which was adopted by the EC Standing Veterinary Committee on 19 November 1997. As a result of the amendment, animals which had access to the same feed as BSE cases during the first six months of life are now included in the cull, even if they were not born in the same herd. This takes account of the fact that some animals move from their natal herd at a very young age, before having solid feed. By extending its scope, the amendment has strengthened the selective cull.

Up-to-date figures on the number of animals slaughtered to date are available in the statistics section.

Older people can get mad cow disease, study says

March 19, 2001 By Paul Recer, Associated Press
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 10.1073/pnas.041490898 
Older people may be just as susceptible as the young are to contracting mad cow disease, suggests a study involving monkeys. The study, appearing Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, involved injecting monkeys with new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, waiting for the animals to develop disease symptoms, and then performing autopsies on their brains. [A case of nvCJD in a 74 year old man was confirmed some months back. -- webmaster]

Older monkeys, the researchers found, developed brain plaques and disease just as readily as the younger monkeys, although the disease was more severe in the younger animals. "This is important with regard to the fact that nvCJD (variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease) has been diagnosed mainly in teen-agers and young adults," the authors report.

The research was conducted by scientists in France and the United Kingdom. Dr. Paul Brown, an expert on CJD at the National Institutes of Health, said the discovery that nvCJD can affect older people "is bad news."

"The study showed that young and old monkeys were equally susceptible," said Brown. "That strikes a warning note about infection in humans and the possibility that older people will become infected. It makes you worry more that over the course of time, older people will come down with the disease," he said.

Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, or nvCJD, has been linked directly to eating meat from cattle infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, which is commonly called "mad cow disease." At least 100 people in Europe have died of nvCJD since the mid-1990s....

Neurobiology Adaptation of the BSEagent to primates and comparison with CJD: Implications for human health

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 10.1073/pnas.041490898
Corinne Ida Lasmézas, ... James Ironside, Moira Bruce, Dominique Dormont, and Jean-Philippe Deslys
There is substantial scientific evidence to support the notion that bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) has contaminated human beings, causing variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD). This disease has raised concerns about the possibility of an iatrogenic secondary transmission to humans, because the biological properties of the primate-adapted BSE agent are unknown.

We show that (i) BSE can be transmitted from primate to primate by intravenous route in 25 months, and (ii) an iatrogenic transmission of nvCJD to humans could be readily recognized pathologically, whether it occurs by the central or peripheral route.

Strain typing in mice demonstrates that the BSE agent adapts to macaques in the same way as it does to humans and confirms that the BSE agent is responsible for nvCJD not only in the United Kingdom but also in France.

The agent responsible for French iatrogenic growth hormone-linked CJD taken as a control is very different from nvCJD but is similar to that found in one case of sporadic CJD and one sheep scrapie isolate. These data will be key in identifying the origin of human cases of prion disease, including accidental nvCJD transmission, and could provide bases for nvCJD risk assessment.

...Thus, it is now well established that BSE has caused nvCJD, probably by alimentary contamination. In this respect, the finding of abnormal PrP labeling in the gastrointestinal tract and lymphatic tissues of orally BSE-contaminated lemurs shows that the BSE agent can infect primates by the oral route.

About 1 million contaminated cattle may have entered the human food chain, and the future number of nvCJD cases could range from 63 to 136,000 depending on the incubation period of BSE in humans (9). Unlike sporadic CJD (sCJD) and iatrogenic CJD (iCJD) linked to the administration of contaminated growth hormone extracted from human hypophyses, in nvCJD, the infectious agent seems to be widely distributed in lymphoid organs, as pathological PrP (PrPres) can be detected in tonsils, lymph nodes, spleen, and appendix even in the preclinical phase of the disease.

This raises a public health issue with regard to the risk of iatrogenic transmission of nvCJD through surgical instruments, grafts, blood transfusion, or parenteral administration of biological products of human origin.

However, this risk is difficult to assess, because it largely depends on factors such as the virulence of the BSE agent adapted to primates and the efficiency of secondary transmission to humans by a peripheral route such as the i.v. one.

A further issue is whether nvCJD accidentally acquired from humans would be recognized. The latter poses the question of a phenotypic variation of the BSE agent after successive transmissions in humans: does it retain its strain characteristics, and does it induce a pathology similar to that observed in the previous host? A 9-year history of transmission of BSE to primates and mice enables us today to clarify a number of these important points.

Although BSE has mainly affected the U.K., two definite cases and one probable case of nvCJD have now been reported in France in people who have never resided in the U.K.

We strain-typed the first of these cases to establish its origin. Strain typing in C57BL/6 mice of BSE, French, and British nvCJD was compared with that of BSE passaged in nonhuman primates, thus allowing us to study the effect of serial passages in primates. Comparisons were also made with French cases of sCJD and iCJD and two strains of scrapie (one of French and one of U.S. origin).

Our findings provide experimental demonstration that the same agent, namely that responsible for the cattle disease BSE, has caused nvCJD both in France and in the U.K., in line with biochemical data and with the fact that, until 1996, about 10% of the beef consumed in France was imported from the U.K.

We found that the BSE agent in nonhuman primates is similar to that causing vCJD in humans and tends to evolve rapidly toward a primate-adapted variant.

Furthermore, we showed that the strain responsible for iCJD is closely related to that of one patient with sCJD, and, more unexpectedly, that these agents were similar to the French scrapie strain studied (but different from the U.S. scrapie strain).

This finding requires a cautious interpretation for several reasons, not least because of the inevitably limited number of TSE strains that can be studied by such a cumbersome method as strain typing. Nonetheless, it also prompts reconsideration of the possibility that, in some instances, sheep and human TSEs can share a common origin. [In other words, some strains of scrapie may cause some fraction of sporadic CJD in humans, despites decades of reassurances. -- webmaster]

Queniborough cluster blamed on traditional butchery practices

21 Mar 01 BBC News
Leicestershire Health Authority CJD Inquiry
Traditional butchery practices are the most likely cause of Britain's first variant CJD cluster, say experts. Leicestershire Health Authority unveiled the findings of a report into the deaths of five young people in the village of Queniborough from nvCJD at a public meeting on Wednesday.

... The inquiry team believe the infection that caused the Queniborough outbreak could have been spread from high-risk brain tissue to cuts intended for human consumption via butchers' hands or knives. They say the critical period occurred between 1980 and 1991, and believe the incubation period for the disease could be up to 16 years.

They also believe only small amounts of contaminated material are enough to put humans at risk. The inquiry found that although all the victims did not use the same butcher, they all ate beef or beef products. The experts believe out-dated techniques used by some small abattoirs and butchers probably spread the disease from cows to humans.

Dr Philip Monk, consultant in communicable disease control at Leicester Health Authority, told the meeting that it was "plausible and possible" that cows infected with BSE were slaughtered in abattoirs in the area during the 1980s. He said the people who died purchased meat from butchers where it was common practice for the heads of slaughtered cows to be split open so the brain could be removed.

The brain is protected by a membrane, but if this is split, the brain material has a tendency to ooze out and to stick to things, increasing the risk that BSE-contaminated material will infect joints intended for human consumption.

The risk of transmission was also increased by practices used in smaller abattoirs, where rods were inserted into the animals brains to ensure they did not kick out during the slaughtering process. In addition, slaughtered animals were wiped with cloths, rather than hosed down.

Report co-author Dr Gerry Bryant stressed butchers had done nothing wrong. She said: "This represented traditional butchering craft, and was quite legitimate practice. In all of the 22 local retail butchers we had to interview, we only found four who practised in this way. None of the supermarket chains or freezer food centres we identified practised in this way. This practice was stopped very quickly after BSE became recognised."

Dr Bryant called for a national investigation of the team's hypothesis. She said: "It is unlikely that this is the only means of exposure of humans to the BSE agent. But by testing this hypothesis it will help determine how important this is as a possible means of transmission of the disease and may help in predicting the future size of the epidemic."

The experts ruled out any other common connection between the five victims of nvCJD. There was no evidence that the five victims had undergone similar types of surgery, had similar vaccinations, or even shared the same dentist. Neither was there any link between their jobs. The theory that the water supply was contaminated was also ruled out.

Professor Roy Anderson, a member of the Government's Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC), who advised the Leicestershire Health Authority, said the report had come to "a very plausible explanation".

However, Professor Richard Lacey, of Leeds University, a microbiologist who first suggested the link between BSE and nvCJD, said nobody knew for certain how nvCJD was transmitted. He said the Leicestershire report was "pure speculation".

Clive Evers, from the CJD Support Network, said: "This inquiry is important because it has explained in some detail what went on at that time and families want explanations and want to know why this happened to their particular relative at that time."

The cluster was first reported in 1998 after three people died within 12 weeks. Glen Day, 35, from Queniborough and Pamela Beyless, 24, from nearby Glenfield died in October. Stacey Robinson, 19, formerly of Queniborough, had died two months earlier in August. A 19-year-old man then died in May and at the same time health officials said it was "highly probable" that a 24-year-old man in the county had also contracted the disease. A fifth person, a male farm worker, died in September.

Highlights of the Report

1.Investigation Into Farming Practice: Cattle raising practices

Local beef cattle were raised alongside dairy cattle. This meant that beef cattle were fed meat and bone meal supplements from the age of 6 days rather than 6 months, which is the case for pure beef herds. They therefore had a greater lifetime exposure to the BSE agent in meat and bone meal than cattle who did not receive meat and bone meal until the age of 6 months.

The area of Leicestershire that supplied beef cattle to the local food trade had a moderately high incidence for BSE meaning that a number of cattle across a number of farms had the disease. At the beginning of the 1980s, local beef cattle were a by-product of the dairy industry and were usually Friesian Hereford crossbred cattle. Such cattle were usually slaughtered between 30 and 36 months of age because they are slower to fatten.

The average age for onset of BSE in cattle was between 4 and 5 years. However, the BSE Inquiry notes that although the numbers were small, there were a few cases in which clinical onset occurred between 20 and 30 months, the youngest animal in England being just 20 months old. This means that the older Friesian cross bred cattle used in the meat trade in Leicestershire were more likely to have sub-clinical BSE infection and to be infectious. Back calculations from the BSE epidemic suggest that British cattle must have had BSE from the mid 1970s onwards. This area of Leicestershire reported BSE as soon as it became notifiable in 1988 which means that some cattle were likely to have had BSE during the period that we were investigating.

2.Cattle slaughtering practice: In both large and small abattoirs, cattle were slaughtered using a captive bolt. In the local abattoirs and butchers who slaughtered, a pithing rod was also used. In small abattoirs the carcass was wiped down with a cloth to remove unwanted tissue. In large abattoirs the carcass would be hosed down. In the early 1980s there was no legal requirement to hose down a carcass. Skilled butchers reported that hosing a carcass down would make the meat go Œsour¹. The practice of wiping a carcass with a cloth meant that there was a possibility of cross contamination of meat with brain and nervous tissue in those butchers who removed the brain from a beast¹s head.

3. Carcass purchase: Most butchers in the area bought meat from wholesale suppliers. A small number would select cattle at Melton Market or directly from a local farm for slaughter either by themselves or in a small nearby abattoir. Wholesale meat suppliers purchased carcasses from a number of abattoirs that in turn selected cattle from a number of cattle auctions.

2.Results Of Investigation Into Butchering And Meat Processing: Butchering practices and whole carcass processing

A small number of butchers either slaughtered beasts in their own small abattoirs or had beasts slaughtered by a nearby small abattoir. The butcher then processed the whole carcass. For those butchers who had a market for brain, they removed it from the beast during the process of recovery of head meat. The rest of the carcass was then boned and jointed. [Who cares about incidental contamination of meat if the whole brain itself was used in other products? -- webmaster]

The removal of brain meant that there was the possibility that other meat could be contaminated with brain material. Brain contains the BSE agent and is therefore potentially infectious. During the 1980s, this process was legal and represented traditional butchering practice. It was decreasing because of a declining consumer market for brain. In the past and in particular during the war years, brain had been seen as an excellent source of protein.

Wholesale purchase: By the beginning of the 1980s many butchers had moved to purchasing either sides of beef, quarters of beef or vacuum packed pre-prepared cuts of beef rather than whole carcasses. A small number of these butchers would also purchase heads in order to remove the tongues to prepare for pressed tongue and sometimes the cheek meat usually for pet food. It was very rare for such butchers to remove the brain, as by this time there was often no market for brain.

... Our study to test the hypothesis was carried out with the approval of the Leicestershire Research Ethics Committee.

A relative of each case variant Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease in the cluster was re-interviewed using a structured questionnaire. The questionnaire asked about dietary history including meat consumption and from where meat was purchased during the period 1980 to 1991. A relative of each of thirty age-matched controls, six for each case, was interviewed using the same questionnaire. An attempt was made to interview all butchers, supermarkets and freezer food centres identified by the controls to ascertain whether they or their suppliers used cattle heads and removed bovine brain, thus creating the opportunity for cross-contamination.

Four of the people who developed variant Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease bought and consumed beef from one of two butchers during the early 1980s. One of these butchers slaughtered beasts in his own abattoir. This butcher normally processed three beasts a week. He ceased trading in 1989. The other butcher had beasts slaughtered in a small nearby abattoir. He processed four to five beasts a week. This butcher¹s business ceased trading in December 1982. It has not been possible to trace the butcher who was used regularly by one family during the first half of the 1980s. It is unlikely that he removed brains or even purchased the heads of beasts. He did not slaughter beasts himself or use a small local abattoir.

People acting as controls used a total of twenty butchers, four freezer food centres and seven supermarkets. With the exception of one butcher who supplied one of the controls, all other outlets were traced and staff interviewed to ask whether they removed the brain. Three butchers used by controls removed brains. One of these butchers was also used by one of the people who developed variant Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease. With the exception of this one butcher and one other who also split the heads, the butchers used by the controls processed between one and two sides of beef or less a week. We were able to trace both butchers and buyers who worked for the supermarkets used by people in this study. None of them reported the use of head meat during the 1980s. Sides of meat or vacuum packs were purchased from wholesalers. The wholesalers who supplied the supermarkets and freezer centres did not split heads to remove the brains. The skulls were sent either to specialist head boning plants or to renderers after removal of the head meat. The skulls were never split.

The study showed that the relatives reported that the people with variant Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease were 15 times more likely to have purchased and consumed beef from a butcher who removed the brain from a beast compared with controls who purchased meat from outlets where cross contamination with brain material was not a risk. This result is statistically significant and is therefore very unlikely to be a chance finding. (p = 0.0058 and the 95% confidence interval is 1.6 to 138.9)

Conclusions from the study: We have found an association which provides a biologically plausible explanation suggesting that four out of the five people with variant Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease may have been exposed to the BSE agent through the purchase and consumption of beef from a butcher¹s shop where the meat could be contaminated with brain tissue. On a national basis, it is unlikely to explain how all of the people who have developed this disease were exposed to the BSE agent.

Assuming that we are correct in our explanation, we have shown that for one of the butchers, the exposure took place before December 1982. For the other the risk of the exposure continued until that butcher ceased trading in 1989. Analysis of the exposure of our cases to this butchering practice points to an incubation period for the development of variant Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease of between ten and sixteen years. This is the first time that it has been possible to provide an estimate of the incubation period.

We have shown that it is possible to examine by traditional epidemiological methods exposures that took place twenty years ago. [This is a stretch, what has really been learned here about the true origin of the cluster? -- webmaster]

CJD expert dismisses report

21 Mar 01 BBC News
Professor Lacey says nobody knows how disease spreads from cows to humans The microbiologist who first raised the possibility of a link between BSE in cows and CJD in humans says scientists have no idea what caused the cluster of cases in Leicestershire. The official report into the deaths of five people from variant CJD in the village of Queniborough, released on Wednesday, is likely to put part of the blame on the way butchers in the area prepared meat in the 1980s.

However, Professor Richard Lacey, who is based at Leeds University, told the BBC Today programme that it was not possible to draw firm conclusions about the spread of the deadly disease. He the report, from Leicester Health Authority, was simply searching for a scapegoat.

"They have no idea, it is just guess work, speculation. The aim is to reassure, rather than to get at the truth. "This has been the whole basis of CJD over 15 years - not to get at the truth, but to reassure in the short term."

Professor Lacey said nobody knew when humans were first exposed to infection, if there was a single dose or many sources. Neither did scientists have any detailed knowledge about how the disease spreads from cows to people. Laboratory tests on mice had shown that it was difficult to transmit the infection by taking it in through the mouth. "It is not clear exactly how it spreads, it could be more than one way."

Professor Hugh Pennington, an expert in BSE from Aberdeen University, agreed that the study had to be speculative because it was looking at events which took place many years ago. But he said: "It is an important study. It is only by studying clusters that we can look for factors in common that all the unfortunate victims shared." Professor Pennington said some of the butchery practices highlighted in Queniborough were widespread at the time across the country.

He said: "It does raise the question of why Queniborough and why young people? It still leaves many questions unanswered."

Dr Pat Troop, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, said the report had not proven any cause, but had provided significant evidence of a possible route of transmission. She said the data would be analysed by the government's expert advisory committee on CJD.

She told the BBC: "We will ask them a number of questions. Does this help in our understanding of the cause of the disease? What will it tell us about the course of the epidemic? How many patients might we expect in the future? And also whether or not any similar work might be carried out elsewhere in the country?"

Dr Troop said the Food Standards Agency had advised that the practice of removing brains from slaughtered cows - highlighted in the Queniborough report - was not particularly common. But she said: "We do work on the basis that we could have a very large epidemic."

Comment (webmaster): The full text of the Leistershire report should be considered before passing judgement on any progress made. It is worth noting that Dr. Steven Dealler has collected details on 27 different theories of BSE origination and spread:

 BSE derived from scrapie 
 BSE is a rare sporadic disease of cattle 
 BSE derived from CJD 
 Organophosphorus insecticides involved 
 Knackers yard greaves involved in transmission 
 Bacterial toxicosis causes BSE 
 BSE is a lysosomal storage disease 
 Horizontal BSE transmission through the eye 
 A list of feed changes that may be involved 
 BSE is an autoimmune disease 
 BSE transmission is via a campylobacter-like organism 
 Alkaloidal glycosidase inhibitors cause PrPc structure change 
 Smarden spill caused toxic induction of initial BSE outbreak 
 Thioldisulphide interchange chemistry caused PrP configuration changes 
 Bovine pituitary hormone use caused initial spread of disease 
 Oligonucleotide involvement in transmission agent 
 BSE cases seen are vertically transmitted but a much higher proportion of herd are asymptomatic 
 A range of trace metals may be involved in BSE symptoms and pathology. 
 BSE controlled by prostaglandin 
 BSE is the clinical sign seen when a chromosomal virus is expressed 
 Ubiquitin is important in the formation of TSE agent 
 A list of interesting, rather crafty ideas 
 Thiomersal as a preservative in vaccines induces PrP change 
 BSE type illness will result when 'worthwhile' in evolutionary terms for specific protein multiplication 
 Retroviral origin of prion disease 
 Waste water sludge involved in BSE spread 
 Cross linked dietary proteins involved

Dr. Richard Lacey: how the British responded to expert scientific input

Monday March 5, 2001 The Guardian Simon Hattenstone 
Who's mad now? Ten years ago, he was rubbished for warning that BSE could be transmitted to humans. We now know how right he was. So what does Richard Lacey think of the latest farming crisis?

It's freezing cold. Professor Richard Lacey is standing outside the front door of his grand, dishevelled manor house. He's waiting for me, with a warm smile. The snow is falling off his purple pants and sloppy tie and haggard sports jacket. They could have been bought from Oxfam. He looks different from those pictures the papers were so fond of printing in the 90s. Older and healthier.

Lacey became a household name 10 years ago when he warned the world against BSE and variant CJD. The government adviser announced that half the herds in Britain should be destroyed and, at very worst, the disease could wipe out a generation. This was at the time that the government was denying its existence. Lacey became the scourge of the very establishment he was a prominent member of. He was vilified by the politicians, the civil servants, the food industry, you name it. The very people who had called on his expertise denounced him as a self-publicising scaremonger.

Late last year the Phillips report into BSE was released. By then, at least 80 people had died of vCJD in Britain. The politicians were duly criticised for their complacency and incompetence. If you search hard enough in one of the appendixes to the report you will also find a section that vindicates Lacey. Few newspapers bothered to report it.

Lacey took early retirement a couple of years ago, at 58. These days he potters and paints, he gardens quite brilliantly, he makes a small fortune from his antiques collection. He does so many things, fills his time so easily and happily. He says he's not given a big interview for five years. Why should he? That's an old life, the past.

When the Phillips report came out, he was on holiday in Switzerland. "Fortunately, so I avoided the media." Why fortunately? "Because I think I might have been tempted to say something that I might have regretted." Did he feel like gloating? "No. It's not a happy situation. There are no winners. Throughout I hoped I would be wrong. You can't gloat. It would be like people investigating the effects on radiation gloating. You know, it's dreadful."

Lacey is not vegetarian, but he stopped eating beef in 1988. His arguments were simple, and similar to those put forward by Tony Blair last week. By providing meat on the cheap we put our health at risk. "When you have these massive scales of operation from animal feed to large numbers of animals being reared, to the abattoir, to the processing, to the purchase by the retailers and the sell, if you have a developing problem the infective agent would spread very quickly." He says exactly the same is true for foot and mouth today, and that until we have a return to small scale local production there will always be a chance of national catastrophe.

The Tory government and its farming friends didn't like the message so they decided to destabilise the messenger. Lacey takes out a copy of one of his many books, and raises his vexed eyebrows into huge quotation marks. "The thing I got really angry about was that a group of MPs used parliamentary privilege to rubbish me at a press conference in the House of Commons."

He reads from the book slowly and calmly. "This is what it said: 'That not all scientists bore equal authority was amply born out in our evidence. Professor Lacey in particular showed a tendency to extrapolate sensational conclusions from incomplete evidence in order to publicise his long-standing concerns about food safety. The result was a mixture of science and science fiction, a quite unsuitable basis for public policy. When he told us that if our worst fears are recognised we could virtually lose a generation of people he seemed to lose touch completely with the real world.' " He stops, appalled. The first he heard of the smear campaign was when reporters rang him for a comment.

But his conclusions were apocalyptic, weren't they? They did make for great headlines. "No," he says. "They sensationalised what I said, took it out of context. They didn't mention that I said it was a distinct possibility that no one was vulnerable. They deliberately focused on the worst-case scenario to discredit me."

Lacey has lost four stone since the 90s, when he came across as a lumbering beast. He's rather svelte now. When he talks food politics he sits still and serious, clutching his ankles. Suddenly he asks if I would like to see his cacti, and he's transformed.

He bounces off the sofa, and heads for the conservatory. He rushes over to a giant cactus, tells me it's an opuntia, and almost stabs himself with ants-in-the-pants enthusiasm. What does his love affair with cacti say about him? "A bit prickly?" He grins. "Cacti are naturally immune to most pests, so they grow quite well."

We're back in the lounge. He's clutching his ankles again, telling me how things went from bad to worse. Politicians suggested he wasn't qualified to talk about food because he was a professor of microbiology. He points to the mantelpiece. Alongside pictures of his two daughters and wife, there is a photo of Princess Diana presenting an award to him. "It was quite extraordinary that they said that. In fact that was a prize in 1989, the Evian Health Award, for my work on salmonella."

He says the government was well aware of his expertise. "After all, they asked me to advise something called the veterinary products committee for four years from January 1 1986 to December 31 1989." He can be very pedantic when defending himself. Lacey has learned the importance of detail.

He was also labelled a media tart. "I never went to the press though. They always came to me. Like you have done today." The first time a newspaper approached him, about salmonella, he refused to comment. In the end, he thought someone had to say something about the dangers, and at least his department wasn't sponsored by the food industry. He thought he was safe. But he wasn't.

Lacey seems a little restless. He asks me if I'd like to see jigsaws of the garden in bloom. He explains how he took photos, sent them to Scotland to be turned into 1,000-piece jigsaws, then spent a week making them and finally framed them. They are absolutely beautiful. At the end of the room there is row after row of vintage tea caddies. "The oldest is about 1760. There's a secret drawer there for the caddy spoon. Go on, you'll never find it." He lets me struggle. "D'you give in?" I give in. He's delighted. He tells me how he restored many of the caddies himself. The house is crammed with stuff he's nurtured or created.

Lacey is relaxed, and when he's relaxed he does tend to talk big. "I tell you the governments aren't going to recover from this for centuries ," he says of the various food crises. "They might be safe, but the trouble is you can't tell. And now any reassurance about GM foods will be dismissed." Lacey asks if he should put on his tie with the cows for the photograph.

It was in 1994 that things reached their nadir. His department at Leeds University was 60% funded by the health service. One morning a health service manager turned up for a surprise visit. "He said they were going to have a press conference in the afternoon, and they were going to announce all my staff's contracts would be transferred to another authority. It meant I couldn't do any work. I could be paid but do no work." The university, which remained loyal to him, worked out a package - the health service advanced his pension and agreed to reemploy him as a consultant in a small hospital for three years. "The total cost to the health service was half a million pounds."

But at least he was working as a consultant? "In theory. But I only had about 10 minutes work to do a day." So they paid you 500 grand to lie down? "Correct." He raises an eyebrow. "Anyway it didn't work." In March 1996, the government finally admitted the link between BSE and vCJD. "I was very prominent then, very vocal." When he finally retired in 1998, he was in for another shock. "They cancelled the transfer of my staff's contracts, and that's how it is today. I think it was a deliberate conspiracy."

Lacey says he was not a conspiracy theorist until BSE. In fact, he was what he calls a "hereditary Tory". He remembers his grandmother threatening to leave the country if Labour and the unions got into power. As an academic in the 80s he veered towards the Labour party because he believed his role was to challenge industry and society rather than appease it. These days, he says, he has given up on politics.

How badly did the rubbishing affect him? "Not really at all." Not at all? "Well it did slightly. I suppose it changed my personality a bit. I think I became withdrawn. They tried to damage me, but I don't think they've actually succeeded. I think many people would have settled for my life, don't you?" He takes down one of his prized tea caddies and tells me it's made of marine turtle. I ask him whether he's an obsessive collector. "Yes, I am fairly obsessive," he says. "I am very determined. I keep at things."

EU proposes to exempt 10 countries from mad cow import restrictions

Tue, 20 Mar 2001 AP
The European Commission has proposed exempting 10 countries from import restrictions on beef products designed to prevent the spread of mad cow disease. The measures would exempt countries where no cases of bovine spongiform ecephalopathy, or mad cow disease, have been discovered, or have clearly demonstrated the effectiveness of existing control measures, a statement from the EU executive body said.

The 10 countries are Argentina, Australia, Botswana, Chile, Namibia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Swaziland and Uruguay.

The commission said it was ``highly unlikely'' beef products imported from these countries would harbor mad cow disease. Other countries that have a clean record and appropriate controls might be added to the list later, it said. EU veterinary experts were expected to approve the proposal in a meeting Wednesday.

All other countries [eg, US and Canada -- webmaster] will have to abide by stringent new EU rules on removing so-called risk materials - parts of cattle such as brain and spinal cord deemed to be most likely to harbor mad cow - from beef imports. The import restrictions come into effect May 1, 2001.

Similar restrictions have been in place within the 15 nation bloc since last October, as EU scientists deemed these materials a major source in transmitting BSE. The brain-wasting cattle disease is linked with an equally fatal human ailment, new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which has killed some 80 Europeans since the mid-1990s, mostly in Britain.

The United States was not included in exemption, leading some to believe that the EU's move was political instead of health-based. ³It wouldn't surprise me,² Lynn Heinze, vice president of information services for the United States Meat Export Federation told The

³The EU may be using this exemption as some sort of payback for the United States banning all meat shipments from the EU -- instead of just Britain and France -- as a result of the recent foot-and-mouth disease outbreak.²

EU: purchase for destruction

European Commission--Monday 19 March 2001
BSE: EU Commission will adopt special market measures for beef Following today's vote in the management committee for beef and veal, the European Commission will now formally adopt the special market measures for cattle older than 30 months (see IP/01/302). Carcasses of animals which belong to categories not eligible for intervention purchases, which are more than 30 months of age and which have all been tested negatively for BSE will be covered. The scheme shall be applied immediately in those Member States which have demonstrated full testing capacity for cattle older than 30 months provided there is a weak market for cows.

It may equally be applied in the other Member States if there is a week market for cows. Therefore purchases shall only be made, through tender procedure, in Member States where the price for cows is below the trigger price during a period of two weeks. This trigger-price is fixed for each Member State. The Community financing of purchases is fixed at 70% of the price for the meat. Be it for storage, be it for processing through rendering, no fixed quantities per Member States apply. The new measure will enter into force following the formal adoption by the Commission in the days to come. The special measures under the new scheme shall apply until the end of 2001. For those Member States without full testing capacity, the provisions of the "purchase for destruction scheme" (see IP/00/1456) remain in force until 30 June 2001.

Commenting on today's vote, Commissioner Franz Fischler stated "Faced with increased quantities of beef that cannot find a market, this measure is necessary and without alternative. We are living up to our social responsibility towards the farm community. Buying in beef is the last resort in a crisis situation. But it is not the way forward. The beef production of the future must be sustainable - socially, environmentally and ethically. The Commission has already started its reflections. We will bring forward our long-term vision within the mid-term review of the Common Agricultural Policy in the first half of 2002."

The new scheme will apply in those Member States where a weak market for cow meat (below the trigger price, see annex) prevails. This is currently the case for Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Spain, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal and Austria. Purchases may only be made in Member States recording prices for cows below the trigger price during a period of two weeks. No purchase price will be accepted which exceed the trigger-price plus the processing margin. The EU will finance 70% of the purchase expenditures. All other costs related to the beef purchase scheme shall be borne by the Member State concerned.

Subject to the trigger mechanism being activated, the Member States which have opted out of the "purchase for destruction scheme" following full testing capacity shall apply it immediately while other Member States may apply it on an optional basis until 30 june 2001. It is therefore possible for the latter Member States to implement the new measure, in parallel with the "purchase for destruction scheme".

Today the management committee also decided to buy into public intervention 30,796 tonnes of male beef (Belgium 100 t, Spain 14,572 t, France 7,739 t, Italy 7,145 t, Austria 810 t, Germany 430 t).

Restaurants could experience ribs shortage

March 20, 2001 by PHILIP BRASHER, Associated Press 
If the temporary U.S. ban on meat imports from Europe continues for very long some restaurants could run out of their popular baby back ribs - a product of Denmark. The Danish pork product, considered by aficionados to be more tender than its U.S. counterpart, is popular with barbecue-loving Americans. It was the major victim of the ban on European Union meat imposed last week after an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease spread from Britain to France.

U.S. restaurants have about a four- to six-week supply of the Danish ribs on hand, Steven Grover, a vice president of the National Restaurant Association, said Tuesday. The ban "could create shortages for both restaurants and consumers. They're a quite popular item," he said.

Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said the import ban was "under constant evaluation." "We're going to follow all the protocols and assess risk. It's all based on risk assessment and threat to our own agriculture," she said.

The restaurant association endorsed the import ban but has urged USDA to make Denmark its first priority as the department considers lifting the suspension for specific countries. One national restaurant chain, Outback Steakhouse, has an eight-week supply of Danish ribs on hand and is considering switching to a U.S. source, a spokesman said. The Bennigan's chain, which features "Oh, Baby" Back Ribs on its menu, won't be affected because the product is American grown.

Danish officials don't think the ban is justified and have been meeting almost daily with Agriculture Department officials since it was imposed. "What we have been telling them is that it's quite unfair what has happened to Denmark," said Jorgen Kristensen, minister-counselor for agriculture at the Danish embassy. "In continental Europe there has been one single case of foot-and-mouth disease, and that is a thousand miles away in France."

Foot-and-mouth disease last occurred in Denmark in the early 1980s. Specialists determined birds brought in the microbe from what was then East Germany. The United States imports about $300 million worth of meat from the European Union, two-thirds of that Danish pork. Ribs account for 60 percent of the Danish shipments. Another 30 percent are processed hams, which aren't kept out by the ban.

Baby back ribs were developed by the Danish livestock industry about 20 years ago as producers sought a market for what was then considered scrap. They found eager buyers in the United States, and now U.S. farmers have developed a similar product. About half the baby back ribs sold in the United States are from Danish farms.

Baby back ribs typically are four inches in length, about two inches shorter than the standard pork rib, because the hogs are smaller when slaughtered.

Foot-and-mouth disease is harmless to humans and seldom is fatal to livestock. Farmers dread the virus because it spreads so quickly, however, and livestock are immediately destroyed to contain it. The livestock disease was identified a month ago in Britain, where more than 350 cases have been confirmed. The outbreak shows no sign of tapering off.

The Bush administration justified extending the import ban to all 15 members of the European Union by citing the extensive free trade among the countries. EU officials say extensive border controls between the countries prevent the disease from spreading.

Opinion (webmaster): With 4 confirmed cases today in neighboring Holland, this proposal is going nowhere. If hoof-and-mouth disease arrives in the US there are going to be far more shortages than these esoteric ribs.

Supermarket to test for BSE

BBC--Wednesday 21 March 2001 
Sainsbury's has announced that it will introduce BSE testing on beef supplied to its supermarkets. It intends to pioneer a process developed by Swiss scientists to test beef at abattoirs after cattle are slaughtered. BSE, commonly known as "Mad Cow disease", has been linked to the potentially fatal human brain condition new variant CJD.

The EU validated tests, which Sainsbury's will use, will search for abnormal prion protein (PrPres) in meat samples. Meat will be tested for abnormal prions. Scientists believe the presence of PrPres in meat samples is a marker for the disease.

Sainsbury's announced the measure on the same day as the results of a public health inquiry into a cluster of vCJD cases in Queniborough, Leicestershire, were made public. The Leicestershire Health Authority inquiry said the Queniborough outbreak could have been spread from outdated butchering practices. High-risk brain tissue may have come into contact with meat cuts intended for human consumption via butchers' hands or knives.

Alec Kyriakides, Sainsbury's chief microbiologist, said: "We set ourselves very high food safety standards, so we will always trial the latest techniques. "We are also the only UK supermarket to sell beef that is DNA tested so that we can trace back to the animal.

"Our research shows that BSE is still one of the highest issues of concern for our customers in terms of health and food safety. "We hope that the British beef industry will benefit from this move to further increase consumer confidence in British beef, which we believe is the safest in the world."

Comment (webmaster): This is an extremely helpful development that goes one step beyond McDonald's requiring affidavits from all its suppliers. It seems that the business sector must step in to provide the level of testing consumers want, while their governments dither about. In the case of Britain, there has been tremendous official resistance to testing preclinical cows for BSE with the gold standard Prionics test and the country is near the bottom of the list despite having more BSE than the rest of the world put together. We can only hope that Sainsbury will announce the results of testing.

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