Prion Disease
Mad Cow Home ... Best Links

Import ban on Canadian beef and pork?
CJD fears could lead to UK red blood donor ban
BSE response: Finland, Germany, Denmark, ...
Swiss firm welcomes EU move to more BSE tests
2.15 million tons soymeal needed if EU does cannabalism ban
The nvCJD connection in South Yorkshire
If you want to help the cattle breeders, eat beef -- Glavany
Beef watchdog branded `toothless' on French mad cows
Spain reports first case of mad cow disease
Forget mad cows, what about mad pigs? - French city of Lyon

Europe Seeks Import Ban on Canadian beef and pork

Mon, Nov 20, 2000 COMTEX Newswire
Europe is seeking an import ban on Canadian beef and pork after an audit of Canada's food-inspection system raised serious questions about the safety of meat, an article in today's Globe and Mail has revealed. The report says Canada's meats are laced with cancer-causing hormones and other drugs that could be harmful, particularly for children.

In a confidential report obtained by The Globe and Mail, investigators from the health and consumer protection directorate of the European Commission say drug use is so rampant that even Canadian meat certified as hormone-free is likely contaminated. The panel recommends that imports be discontinued immediately.

Last year, Canada exported about 4,000 tonnes of horse meat and 500 tonnes each of beef and pork to Europe. That is a tiny fraction of production; most Canadian exports go to the US, which has similar rules about hormone use.

The allegations are not entirely new, but they are far more pointed than in the past. They conclude that the health of consumers is at risk from a vast range of meat and dairy products.

"There is a clear potential for adverse effects on human health arising from the presence of residues of these substances in Canadian food commodities of animal origin," the European Union inspectors conclude.

In the detailed 28-page report, the auditors also openly question the competency of this country's regulators, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the health products and food branch of Health Canada. They point to a number of "very serious deficiencies" in the regulatory framework and in the most elemental testing and tracking methods.

For example, officials have been unable to do urine tests on cattle to detect hormone levels since June of last year because of equipment breakdown. Of the 15 tests conducted in the hormone-free program, only three showed cattle to be free of hormones.

Canadian laboratories have "considerable gaps" in their ability to detect drug residues in food, and staff "lack sufficient analytical experience" to conduct proper testing, the auditors wrote. In some cases, the EU inspectors alleged, Canadian food regulators also withheld test results that showed violations.

Further, the Canadian method of identifying cattle -- by lot rather than individual animals -- points to an inability to carry out tracking, which would be crucial if there were an outbreak similar to mad-cow disease in this country, the auditors said.

They were also critical of Canadian legislation, saying there is no mandatory testing for residues such as hormones, meaning such tests are conducted on food only when special budgets are allocated. No residue testing is done on animals at all, except in the European hormone-free cattle program, and it came in for particularly severe criticism.

Canadian consumer-health groups described the findings as chilling, drawing parallels with escalating mad-cow fears in Europe and this country's tainted-blood scandal. The coalition of health and labour groups will make the European audit public today in Ottawa.

The dispute over the use of hormones in meat production goes back over a decade, when European countries banned imports of meat from Canada and the United States because of health concerns. Growth hormones speed up weight gain in beef cattle by between 6 and 18 per cent and make meat more tender and less fatty.

North American producers have always held that the meat from cattle treated with hormones, antibiotics and other veterinary drugs is perfectly safe. The European Union, they say, is taking advantage of consumer hysteria about food safety to disguise an unfair trade measure designed to shelter inefficiently produced European beef from North American competition.

Underlying the trade war, however, is an escalating scientific debate. Canadian cattle producers use several growth hormones banned in Europe because regulators there have labelled them carcinogenic. They include estradiol, estradiol benzoate, testosteron propionat, progesterone, Zeranol, trenbolone acetate and melangestrol acetate.

One drug, estradiol-17 beta, has been labelled an endocrine disruptor, meaning it could interfere with maturation of the immune system of children. The European auditors also suggest that DES (diethylstilbestrol), though not allowed for use as a growth hormone in cattle, may be finding its way into meat by other means. The drug, given to millions of pregnant women from 1938-71, caused fertility problems and higher cancer rates in many of their offspring.

Canadian producers also use a number of antibiotics, including one that Europeans have identified as carcinogenic, carbadox. There is also fear that the use of these drugs in animals is contributing to growing antibiotic resistance in children.

Canadian producers say the drugs are used in minute quantities and that they have all been approved by the Codex Alimentarius (Nutrition Code) Commission, an international body tied to the World Health Organization.

The European auditors, however, said that, in 90% of cases, Canada does not meet the Codex standards because the number of samples tested is too small. This is one paper where it is will really be necessary to read the full text for the data rather than the abstract blurb -- I heard that some hunting units are showing 20% CWD. But that hasn't stop the hunt - ii is going on right now! Can you imagine "hunting for beef" in a cow herd with this incidence of BSE??? Americans are a hearty breed so maybe they can shrug off dementia.

US staggering under CWD epidemic in deer and elk

21 Nov 00 Journal of Wildlife Diseases
Comment (webmaster): The estimate made in the abstract below, the year 1970 for the first appearance of CWD in the wild, fits perfectly with the first releases of deer infected at the Foothills Research Station in Fort Collins after being confined on former sheep pasture and co-housed in paddocks with sheep which may have resulted in horizontal transfer of scrapie.

A large-scale genetics program, while finding some interesting prion gene alleles in cervids, has found no support for a genetic origin to CWD. The Colorado facility housed less than a 100 deer, making the one-in-a-million scenario improbable. This leaves cross-species transmission from sheep as the likliest explanation.

The best available scientific evidence shows that CWD is a comparable to BSE as a risk to humans. CWD also may transmit back to sheep and cattle on shared pastures; only laboratory transmission supports this scenario. The US formerly used road kill and game farm waste in livestock feed manufacture, though this is unlikely to occur today.

The hunting season is in full swing right now in Colorado and Wyoming, with fish and game departments not urging any special considerations with regards to consumption of CWD-affected animals, assurances eerily recalling the early days of the BSE epidemic in England.

Epizootiology of chronic wasting disease in free-ranging cervids in Colorado and Wyoming.

J Wildl Dis 2000 Oct;36(4):676-90
Miller MW, Williams ES, McCarty CW, Spraker TR, Kreeger TJ, Larsen CT, Thorne ET
Colorado Division of Wildlife, Wildlife Research Center, Fort Collins
"Surveillance and epidemic modeling were used to study chronic wasting disease (CWD), a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy that occurs naturally among sympatric, free-ranging deer (Odocoileus spp.) and Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni) populations in contiguous portions of northeastern Colorado and southeastern Wyoming (USA).

We used clinical case submissions to identify endemic areas, then used immunohistochemistry to detect CWD-infected individuals among 5,513 deer and elk sampled via geographically-focused random surveys. Estimated overall prevalence (prevalence, 95% confidence interval) in mule deer (4.9%, 4.1 to 5.7%) was higher than in white-tailed deer (2.1%, 0.5 to 3.4%) or elk (0.5%, 0.001 to 1%) in endemic areas; CWD was not detected in outlying portions of either state.

Within species, CWD prevalence varied widely among biologically- or geographically-segregated subpopulations within the 38,137 km2 endemic area but appeared stable over a 3-yr period. The number of clinical CWD cases submitted from an area was a poor predictor of local CWD prevalence, and prevalence was typically > or =1% before clinical cases were first detected in most areas. Under plausible transmission assumptions that mimicked field data, prevalence in epidemic models reached about 1% in 15 to 20 yr and about 15% in 37 to 50 yr.

Models forecast population declines once prevalence exceeded about 5%. Both field and model data supported the importance of lateral transmission in CWD dynamics. Based on prevalence, spatial distribution, and modeling, we suggest CWD has been occurring in northeastern Colorado and southeastern Wyoming for over 30 yr, and may be best represented as an epizootic with a protracted time-scale."

U.S. does not share EU's mad cow fears - Glickman

Wed, Nov 22, 2000 Reuters North America
U.S. consumers do not share Europe's "hysteria" over mad cow disease because of an effective U.S. regulatory system, said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman on Wednesday. The European Union is struggling to rebuild consumer confidence in Europe's beef after fresh outbreaks of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease in France and Spain.

"There seems to be a hysteria over there," Glickman told reporters after attending a food bank event with President Clinton. Mad cow disease was "something that we have avoided in our country through having an effective regulatory system," he added. [The US has closely monitored its few live animal imports but greaves and similar feed as well as bovine-based medical products were imported on a large scale from the UK during peak BSE years. -- webmaster]

BSE's human form, known as new variant Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease, has killed more than 80 people in Britain and two in France. There is no known cure for the deadly disease that wastes away the brain. Spain reported its first case of the disease on Wednesday. Although no cases of BSE or mad cow disease have ever been found in the United States [other than the Stetsonville, Wisconsin incident involving downer dairy and a non UK strain of TSE that decimated a mink farm --webmaster], four Vermont sheep in July tested positive for a disease related to BSE [but negative according to other USDA-administered tests; all sheep remain healthy to date. -- webmaster]. The USDA is seeking legal authority to seize about 350 Vermont sheep suspected of having TSE, or transmissible spongiform encephalopathy.

Comment (webmaster): The official USDA estimate of TSE incidence in US cattle, published by Dr. Mark M. Robinsona (laboratory scientist at ARS, USDA, Animal Disease Research Unit, Pullman, Washington) concluded that "at most 1 out of every 27,500 nonambulatory adult cattle [downers] was affected with the transmissible encephalopathy, and 1 out of 975,000 of all adult cattle was affected with the transmissible encephalopathy per year in Wisconsin."

The US has a cattle population of approximately 101 million of which 33 million might be slaughtered in an average year. Dr. Robinson's estimates are thus compatible with the one-in-a-million level of spontaneous BSE that senior US scientists expect affect all countries regardless of feeding practices.

France Fights 'Mad Cow' Embargo Noose

Tue, Nov 21, 2000 By Brian Love (Reuters)
France promised emergency aid to a devastated cattle industry on Tuesday and urged schools to put beef back on their menus as anxiety over "mad cow" disease prompted the Czech Republic to join an embargo on French meat.

Paris offered beef farmers and traders close to $400 million worth of relief to weather a 40-percent tumble in sales, sparked last month when three supermarket chains removed beef from their shelves over fears it might be contaminated with the disease.

Prime Minister Lionel Jospin said the mayors of several big French towns had made the national "psychosis" worse by removing beef from school canteens and he appealed to them to put the meat back on children's plates.

Prague announced at the same time it was shutting its border to French beef. The decision further tightened the noose around France after bans by Italy, Austria, Spain, the Netherlands, Poland, Hungary, Russia and countries as far flung as Oman in recent days.

"This embargo, or partial embargo at a symptom of the irrational way this crisis is being tackled in Europe," French Farm Minister Jean Glavany told parliament.

France last week outlawed T-bone steaks and imposed a blanket ban on animal feed made from recycled cattle bones and carcasses. Glavany said the country had done more than most to safeguard against the deadly mad cow disease.

"It's the meat for which the biggest number of security and precautionary measures have been taken in the entire European Union," he said. "We're keeping tabs on the crisis day by day."

London resisted any temptation to take revenge for France's refusal to join the rest of Europe last year and lift an embargo slapped British beef in 1996 over a mad cow epidemic there. UK'S BLAIR BACKS FRENCH CONTROLS British Prime Minister Tony Blair said he backed France's decision to tighten controls on exports in line with the extra measures taken within France in response to consumer fears over bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Scientists have linked BSE to a devastating human disease known as new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which has killed at least 80 people in Britain and two in France.

EU farm ministers agreed at a marathon meeting in Brussels overnight to extend cattle testing for BSE in an attempt to ease fears over the disease. But there was scant support for France's request for an EU-wide ban of the kind it has imposed on the use of the meat-and-bone meal, for cows, pigs and poultry alike.

By Tuesday, however, German Health Minister Andrea Fischer was contradicting the stand taken in Brussels by German Farm Minister Karl-Heinz Funke and calling for a prohibition on all animal-based feedstuffs.

Jospin urged local leaders across the country to put beef back in school canteens, saying the meat could now be eaten "without fear." His chances of success appeared mixed.

"I'll serve that meat again, not when a prime minister asks me, but when I have guarantees from health authorities and the teachers and parents have been consulted," said Gerard Caudron, the mayor of Villeneuve d'Ascq in northern France. A speech by the prime minister isn't enough, even if it's by Lionel Jospin and even if I voted for him," the mayor, a member of Jospin's Socialist Party, added.

The mayor of Perpignan in southwestern France, Jean-Paul Alduy, said he was going to put beef back in schools, but that the town would now only take meat from the immediate area, and with strict additional controls, even if it would cost an extra 250,000 francs ($3,200).

CJD fears could lead to blood donor ban

Tuesday November 21, 2000  James Meikle, health correspondent, The Guardian
Move could cut number of donors by 190,000 
Such a move could cut Britain's 1.9m volunteer donors by up to 10% and create such huge shortages that transfusion services would struggle to meet demand.

The possibility, first secretly investigated two years ago, is being re-examined as EU scientists and officials decide whether guidance should be offered on blood safety throughout the union.

But some insiders are concerned that such a drastic step could create a level of panic among the whole donor population that would threaten more lives through shortages than might be saved from what is, at present, regarded as only a theoretical risk.

Seven of the 85 British victims of variant CJD, the human equivalent of BSE, have been identified as donors before they showed obvious symptoms of the disease. Recipients of their blood have not been informed but the Department of Health and ethics committees on health authorities are seeking to develop protocols for doing so in the future.

There is as yet no test for detecting nvCJD and many patients might not wish to know whether they had been exposed to the risk of a condition for which there is not even at present a treatment to moderate its effects, let alone cure it.

White blood cells are already filtered out of blood donations because they have been thought most likely to carry the agent responsible for nvCJD and there is a ban on most British-sourced plasma products.

But the government is anxious to test whether red blood cells carry the agent too. Importing enough blood to meet needs in operating theatres in this country - 2.5m units a year, each about a pint - would be impossible because of its short shelf life so all options that might minimise the threat of contamination are now being reassessed.

The health department confirmed last night that it had ordered the review as to whether those who had received transfusions should be eligible to be blood donors. "The whole issue of cleanliness [of blood] is under review. This is just part of that."

A spokesman for the national blood service said: "We have been working on the basis [that] between 5% and 10% of blood donors have received transfusions. If it were the case that 10% were knocked off our donor data base, we would be struggling to meet the needs of the country."

At present, potential donors are not routinely asked whether they have received blood themselves. Some donors may not even know because by no means all operations involve transfusions. But the service is to question new donors among the 10% of volunteers it has to recruit each year to replace those who can no longer donate blood, or choose not to, in an effort to assess the position more accurately.

Belgium, Austria and some German states, as well as Switzerland, are already following the example of the United States, Australia, Canada and New Zealand in banning donations from anyone who spent more than six months in the UK between 1980 and 1996, the years in which exposure to BSE through infected meat, vaccines, cosmetics or other possible routes was highest. The blood authorities in those countries considered they could stand the loss of such donors.

It is also understood that the NHS is in discussions with Jehovah's Witnesses about their experience with recycling of patients' own blood during operations and other blood-saving techniques, as officials and surgeons step up their search for alternatives to traditional donation so they can eke out supplies. Witnesses have already raised funds for several machines in NHS hospitals that wash and process blood lost in surgery for transfusion back into the same patients.

BSE response: Finland, Germany, Denmark, ...


Mad cow disease improbable but not impossible in Finland

Mon, Nov 20, 2000 COMTEX Newswire
Finland may have imported BSE (mad cow disease) through British bonemeal in the 1980s, according to the EU's science committee.

The committee has said that it could have been possible for infected British bonemeal to be exported to Finland in the 1980s as the controls were less strict then and the Finnish control system was deemed to have been unclear up to 1988-89.

The 84 live animals that were brought from the UK to Finland have had their descendants traced. According to the committee, mad cow disease would have been able to spread rapidly prior to 1990 if it had been introduced in the country.

Finland is currently classed as a country where it is improbable but not impossible to find mad cow disease. Sweden and Austria are also classed in the same category, while the disease has been found in all other EU countries. Foreign bonemeal in Finnish animal feed was banned in 1990.

Finland to test some cattle for mad cow disease

Tue, Nov 21, 2000 COMTEX Newswire
Finnish Agriculture Minister Kalevi Hemila has said that Finland would limit testing for mad cow disease (BSE) to some 3,000 cattle per year.

Hemila told Reuters that there had been no cases of BSE in Finland, so for now animals at risk and about 3,000 cattle at random would be tested. The minister said that the tests would cost about FIM1.5m per year if Finland only tested 3,000 cattle, but costs would rise to FIM180m if all 310,000 cattle aged over 30 months were tested.

EU ministers had previously agreed that from the beginning of next year, all animals at risk from BSE and aged over 30 months would be tested.

Finnish hens and swine reportedly eat bonemeal, but there is no risk that the animals will contract BSE, according to the ministry of agriculture and forestry.

The Finnish institute of public health has reportedly calmed rumours that BSE would be appearing in the country. According to Professor Pauli Leinikki, a researcher at the institute, it is highly unlikely that Creutzfeldt-Jakobs Disease (CJD), which is the human form of BSE, would remain undiscovered in Finland as the symptoms are so strong that anyone affected would immediately be taken to hospital.

Hemila also finds it extremely unlikely that BSE would be discovered in Finland, and says that there are very few cattle alive today that would have received British bonemeal in their feed. It has been estimated that, unrelated to BSE, five Finns are discovered to suffer from CJD every year.[Finnish authorities seem naive in the extreme -- webmaster.]

Separately, it has been estimated that compulsory testing of cattle would cost Sweden as much as SEK100m every year. The bonemeal that spreads the disease was banned in the country 12 years ago, and so far no cases of BSE have been discovered in Sweden. The bonemeal can still legally be fed to animals other than cattle.

Bonemeal as a feed was banned in Sweden in 1987 for ethical and aesthetic reasons, as Swedes wanted to see cows as vegetarians. Although the risk for BSE in Sweden is small, the EU has determined that it cannot be entirely excluded and Swedish abattoirs therefore have to follow the same procedures as those of other EU countries.

Czechs ban beef imports from France, Portugal

Mon, Nov 20, 2000 AP WorldStream
The Czech Republic will ban imports of French and Portuguese beef and cattle, fearing mad cow disease, the news agency CTK reported. The agency quoted the head of the country's veterinary administration, Josef Holejsovsky, as saying the ban will take effect Tuesday.

Some 316 metric tons of cattle have been imported from the European Union to the Czech Republic from January to September, with 4.6 metric tons coming from France. No French beef, however, was imported during that period and no beef or cattle were imported from Portugal.

Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, can eat microscopic holes in the brain of infected animals. BSE has been linked to the fatal human brain ailment Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and consumers have shied away from beef as a result Beef and cattle imports from Britain, where the disease was first detected, have been banned since 1996.

German Minister wants tests on all cattle going for slaughter

Mon, Nov 20, 2000 COMTEX Newswire
German Agriculture Minister Karl-Heinz Funke wants all cattle going for slaughter to be tested for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, he said in an interview with German newsagency DPA. Funke wants such tests introduced in all European Union countries from July 2001, an online DPA report said. He was speaking before the start of Monday's meeting of the EU council of Agriculture Ministers in Brussels which had BSE as its major theme.

Meanwhile, a call for Germany to introduce a ban on imports of French beef was made Monday by Germany's main opposition parties, the conservative CDU/CSU. The growing number of BSE cases in France means an "immediate" import ban should be introduced on French beef, said a statement from Heinrich-Wilhelm Ronsohr, the CSU/CSU's parliamentary spokesman on agriculture.

Danish animals are allegedly kept alive to avoid fee

Mon, Nov 20, 2000 COMTEX Newswire
Danish farmers reportedly keep sick and weak animals alive in order to avoid a DKK500 fee for putting them down.

The fee was introduced at the same time as the supervisory programme for mad cow disease earlier this year and the result has been that the animals end up in abattoirs that refuse to accept them, according to the Danish Radio's online news.

Veterinarians are often asked to make animals well enough to be sent for slaughter, according to Helle Sloth, the head of Nordvestjysk Dyrlaegeforening, a regional association for veterinarians.

Comment (Karin.Irgens): "Details about Denmark can be found in the SSC final risk assessment for Denmark, july 2000. The amplification factor is uncertain, but they waited until the end of 1997 before rendering conditions became "satisfactory" (133/3bar) and Denmark was the only country in Europe where they continued to feed ruminants with MBM from pigs. Normally, all mammalian MBM was forbidden, and they had to ask the EU for an exemption. They did ask, but they never got an answer from the EU Commission.

Swiss firm welcomes EU move to more BSE tests

Tue, Nov 21, 2000 Reuters World Report
A Swiss company whose tests can help detect mad cow disease praised the European Union's decision on Tuesday to expand screening of animals as a victory of reason and consumer protection over political interests. But
Prionics AG cautioned that a long road might lie ahead before the tests are actually introduced on a wide scale.

"This was a political decision and before this is really implemented there are many hurdles to clear," said Karl Kalf, marketing director for the private Swiss firm that was started by University of Zurich researchers in early 1997.

"We have not popped open the champagne today." Prionics and rivals -- including U.S. firm BioRad, Ireland's Enfer Scientific and French power group CEA -- stand to gain from broader screening of animals for the brain-wasting BSE disease amid a spreading consumer scare over beef safety.

Public panic has fed on coverage of people suffering from the deadly human form of BSE, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (nvCJD), which has killed more than 80 people in Britain and two in France so far. Scientists suspect nvCJD may be linked to BSE-tainted meat.

"Reason seems to have prevailed, not just political arguments," Kalf said, welcoming a step toward what he called tougher consumer protection that could prompt a change of thinking in the meat industry. You can never have 100 percent safety, but this is additional safety. You have to do everthing that is technically possible," he said.

EU farm ministers agreed in Brussels to help ease consumer fears over BSE by testing far more animals than before. The programme is set to start on January 1 and focuses on animals at risk aged over 30 months.

Prionics already sells its tests in Switzerland, France, Germany, Spain, Denmark and the Netherlands, but is the first to admit that they are not foolproof. Its tests can detect the disease in sick animals up to half a year before they show any clinical symptoms. But they won't find infected calves because the incubation period has not run long enough, Kalf said.

It is unclear just how long the disease incubates. Most BSE cases arise in animals older than 30 months, but the youngest animal detected so far was just 20 months old. [The infection starts the day the calf is exposed. Infectivity of animals for humans should not be confused with later and irrelevent onset of clinical symptoms or sensitivity thresholds of particular tests. -- webmaster]

"This is like an HIV test (for detecting the virus that causes AIDS). No one can guarantee 100 percent certainty. This is simply impossible," he said. You can't rule out that an animal was infected just before it was butchered, and this you will never find out."

The Prionics test costs around 80 Swiss francs per animal if Prionics does the laboratory work. It also sells test kits for 24 francs.

EU farm ministers consider ways to contain mad cows

Mon, Nov 20, 2000 By RAF CASERT Associated Press Writer
With beef consumption dropping dramatically in France, European Union farm ministers sought ways Monday to contain the mad cow scare and considered a massive expansion of mandatory testing of cattle to restore consumer confidence.

The 15 agriculture ministers at their monthly meeting highlighted national food safety standards in an attempt to establish an overall EU policy, following stinging criticism from the EU's executive Commission that controls in too many countries were still too lax.

France, which chaired Monday's meeting, will seek to convince other EU nations to drop all livestock feed containing meat and bone, which has been cited as a prime suspect in the transmission of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, BSE in short.

The issue is expected to highlight a rift between EU members where mad cow has touched a raw nerve in some countries while in others, the disease has not even made it on the political agenda.

Several EU nations, where few or no cases of BSE have been reported, are hesitant to impose a ban and also question the validity of increasing testing because of the costs involved, officials said.

France even sees some other nations trying to take advantage of its current beef crisis. "I am flabbergasted when I see certain countries say : 'buy our beef because we do not have BSE,'" said French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.

Italy, which imported some 40 percent of its beef from France until Friday, has banned most beef imports from its neighbor following an increase in detection of the brain-wasting animal disease in France. Germany is also considering action.

BSE has been linked to the fatal human brain ailment Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and consumers have shied away from beef as a result. In France, beef sales have been seriously hit since it was discovered that potentially-infected meat made it onto supermarket shelves last month before being withdrawn.

Cases of BSE discovered in France have increased almost threefold over the last year to 90. Over the past two weeks, the government banned the sale of sweetbreads and T-bone steaks.

EU Commission spokesman Gregor Kreuzhuber said beef consumption in France had crashed by 40 percent since. "The consumption pattern is worrying," he said.

Beef prices in the EU have already slumped 5.9 percent because of a drop in demand. Kreuzhuber said average beef price in Germany had dropped 11.8 percent.

He added that the Commission had proposed a beef storage scheme in an effort to relieve pressure on the EU beef market and compensate farmers. The Commission has allocated 60 million euros (dlrs 50 million) over the next six months to pay private operators to store beef until next spring when prices generally pick up.

French government uses ads to try to soothe consumers

Mon, Nov 20, 2000 By CLAR NI CHONGHA  Associated Press
In a bid to soothe worried meat-eaters, the French government has taken out full-page advertisements in the nation's newspapers, arguing that French beef is safe to eat.

Prime Minister Lionel Jospin hammered home the call for calm Monday, urging mayors across the country to allow beef back into school canteens, and tucking into some local beef on a trip to the Loiret region, south of Paris.

"The beef we eat in France is not only healthy but excellent," Jospin said.

The advertisements, which appeared in daily papers Monday, were headlined "Why beef can be eaten without fear." At the bottom of the page there is a hotline number that worried consumers can call for more information.

The government is trying to calm fears about the dangers of catching a fatal brain-wasting condition from eating infected meat. Consumers have deserted beef in droves since it was discovered that potentially-infected meat made it onto supermarket shelves last month before being hastily withdrawn.

Experts believe people contract the human form of mad cow disease -- or variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease -- by eating infected beef. Two people have died from the disease in France and a third is believed to be dying >from it. The diseases eat holes in the brains of victims, and no cure has been discovered. The advertisements said any cow found to suffer from mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is killed along with its herd. It also said that animal-based feeds have been banned for cows since 1990.

Scientists believe mad cow disease originated in Britain when cattle were given feed containing the ground remains of sheep infected with a brain ailment. Speaking in the town of Orleans, Jospin urged mayors who had banned beef from school canteens to reinstate it, if they are sure about the meat's origin. He also hit out at international criticism of France.

"We should not be punished for having been, in a way, more rigorous and more virtuous than the others," he said.

The head of France's largest farming union, Luc Guyau, said decisions by other countries to ban some French beef imports were catastrophic for breeders. Italy became the latest country to ban some imports last week. "We are suffering from a real psychosis. And yet we have certainly the safest and most rigorously controlled meat in the world. It's paradoxical," Guyau said in an interview published in Le Parisien newspaper Monday.

More than 90 cows suffering from mad cow disease have been found in France this year -- up from 31 last year amid stricter testing. A new case was found Monday in the Deux-Sevres region in western France. The animal and its herd of 300 were slaughtered.

The French public's fears are all the stronger because of a string of recent food scares, including an outbreak of listeriosis connected to pork tongue in gelatin.

Many have also been reminded of the so-called "tainted blood affair" of 1985, in which more than 4,000 people contracted the AIDS virus from blood transfusions. Many have since died, and several government officials stood trial over the affair.

In the first legal ramifications of the scare, the families of two French victims of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease have filed a lawsuit, accusing French, British and European Union authorities of not acting quickly enough to stamp out mad cow disease.

EU farm ministers agree on massive increase in testing

Mon, Nov 20, 2000 By RAF CASERT Associated Press
With beef consumption dropping because of the mad-cow disease scare, European Union nations agreed Monday on a massive upgrade of testing. At their monthly meeting, the 15 EU farm ministers agreed on mandatory tests on older cattle to rebuild consumer confidence.

The Nordic countries and Austria had objections, but other EU nations mustered a majority. Veterinary experts meet later this week to work out technical details, including that age at which cattle has to be tested.

The plan will add millions of tests annually, further burdening the farm community and government budgets. Germany said it would have to add 5.4 million tests over the next half decade at a cost of 200 marks (100 euros/dlrs 85) a test.

Meanwhile, EU Health Commissioner David Byrne questioned the effectiveness of measures taken so far. "Measures are only effective if properly implemented," he said at the meeting. "There are question marks ... over the past implementation of controls."

France, which chaired Monday's meeting, also sought to convince other EU nations to drop all livestock feed containing meat and bone, which has been cited as a prime suspect in the transmission of mad-cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, BSE.

The use of feed highlighted a rift between EU members. Mad-cow disease has set off anxiety in some countries, while in others it has not made it to the political agenda. Several EU nations with few or no cases of BSE are hesitant to impose such a feed ban. EU Commission spokesman Gregor Kreuzhuber said beef consumption in France had crashed by 40 percent over the past three weeks.

EU's French BSE deal shows lessons learnt

Tue, Nov 21, 2000  By David Evans Reuters World Report
A European Union declaration on France's mad cow disease scare may not have been all Paris had sought but the hard-fought deal has averted another BSE crisis in the bloc, EU diplomats said on Tuesday.

"It's a miraculous result, an unhoped-for success," French Farm Minister Jean Glavany told journalists after all-night talks yielded a joint declaration covering expanded testing for BSE and ways to handle unilateral bans on French cattle imports. Since France currently holds the EU presidency, Glavany was in the unenviable position of both being in the chair to steer the talks and trying to defend his country's interests.

France is also in defiance of EU law over its refusal to lift a ban on British beef despite a ruling last year easing the embargo imposed in 1996. There was a fear before the meeting that relations between France and other EU members could deteriorate along similar lines as those between Britain and the continent in the 1990s.

In language reminiscent of Britain's position over mad cow disease, French government sources last week spoke of a possible "cordon sanitaire" around France. "If you look at where the entrenched positions were before the meeting, then it was a good result," one EU official said.

The deal gives EU scientists a say in whether member states including Italy, Spain, Austria and the Netherlands were justified in curbing French beef and cattle imports. Such a move offered a politically acceptable exit for all sides, diplomats said. Under the agreement the European Commission will, on the basis of the experts' advice, decide on the measures before the end of November. If scientists feel them unjustified, then the member state in question must lift the ban.

It was the paragraph in the text that posed the most problems. For hours Glavany insisted on keeping wording that called on any member state to lift national measures, pitting him squarely against the Italian and Spanish ministers in particular.

The result was a typical, face-saving EU compromise, but there is also a danger. If EU scientists decide a member state is justified in restricting French imports, then the Commission will turn the action into an EU-wide measure, applying it to all countries.

Glavany did win backing for more testing of cattle across the 15-nation EU. France believes much of its current crisis results from its widescale mad cow screening programme, which it has introduced before other member states. There was certainly some objection to wider testing. Some member states with currently no record of BSE balked at the 30 euro ($25.50) cost for each testing kit.

In the end there was agreement that a slightly broader scheme than originally thought, focusing on all cattle at risk aged over 30 months, will be tested from the start of next year. But a previously planned huge testing programme to include the millions of cattle aged over 30 months destined for food chain and starting in July 2001 will take place only if the first test highlights problems.

And there was little support for his call for a blanket ban on meat and bonemeal, ground-up cattle parts used as a high protein additive in animal feed. France has already imposed a ban and wants others countries to follow suit.

Britain and Portugal, both with high BSE rates, also outlaw the material. But most member states had little appetite for the move, believing that if controls were in place, bonemeal was safe. "I do not see the need for a ban," Germany's Agriculture Minister Karl-Heinz Funke told reporters during the meeting.

EU farm ministers agree on massive increase in testing

Tue, Nov 21, 2000 By RAF CASERT  Associated Press
Following all-night negotiations, European Union farm ministers decided Tuesday to test cattle over 30 months old for mad cow disease next year, a massive increase in testing in an attempt to counter the growing public health crisis. Cattle over that age judged to be at higher risk from the brain-wasting disease will be tested as of Jan. 1 and the testing program will be expanded to all cattle categories over 30 months old as of July 1.

"The principle to also test healthy animals has been welcomed" by the farm ministers' meeting, said Beate Gminder, spokeswoman for EU Health Commissioner David Byrne, stressing the controls will extend to countries where no cases of mad cow have been discovered. "It will give the consumers the assurance that their beef is being tested," said Gminder.

The ministers also agreed that scientists will assess bans on French beef imports by Spain, Italy and Austria and offer an opinion within two weeks on their validity. The EU's executive Commission will take action based on their recommendations. That scientific steering committee will also examine France's national measures against mad cow disease to determine their adequacy.

France has implemented a temporary ban on all livestock feed containing meat and bone meal and sales of T-bone steaks and sweetbread to protect the food chain after beef, potentially infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, made it onto supermarket shelves last month.

A call to ban all livestock feed containing meat and bone found no majority at the meeting, a German official said. Such feed represents some 1.5 billion euros (dlrs 1.275 billion) in the EU and destroying it would cost about double. Finding replacement feed would add another 700 million euros (dlrs 595 million) to the bill, EU officials said.

The new testing plans should add some 230,000 tests in the initial phase on the risk groups. Farm groups fear millions of tests will be necessary in the second phase with the extension to add presumably healthy animals. Germany said it would have to add 5.4 million tests over the next half decade at a cost of 200 marks (100 euros) a test.

The effectiveness of measures taken so far has been put in doubt by Byrne, and the 15 farm ministers agreed to allow EU Commission inspectors to assess the situation in each member state. "Measures are only effective if properly implemented," Byrne told the meeting. "There are question marks ... over the past implementation of controls."

Italy to launch public campaign against mad cows

Mon, Nov 20, 2000 Associated Press
Italian Agriculture Minister Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio said Sunday that a "mad cow" public information campaign would soon be launched in an attempt to allay consumer fears about the fatal brain-wasting disease.

Scanio said at a food fair in the northern city of Parma that his ministry was busy preparing a television campaign which would inform consumers about bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow, and a new meat-labeling system. "We will give consumers clear information on meat and labels and safe Italian and European food products," he said.

The minister announced on Tuesday that Italian butchers would soon be obliged by law to put labels on their meat indicating its origin, the slaughterhouse used and the place of birth of the breeding cattle involved.

He also said Sunday that the government had ear-marked 100 billion lire (about 50 million U.S. dollars) to carry out tests on cattle and that a ban would be introduced on the use of suspect meat in dog and cat food.

The minister condemned a protest taking place by a group of Italian cattle breeders and dairy-milk farmers, who have set up blockades along roads near the French border with the aim of stopping trucks carrying French meat from entering the country.

Italy imports nearly half of its beef supply, much of it live, from France, where there has been a sharp rise in the number of BSE cases and where several supermarkets have admitted selling potentially contaminated meat.

Oil World says 2.15 million tons soymeal needed if EU does cannabalism ban

Tue, Nov 21, 2000 COMTEX Newswire
A possible ban on use of meat and bone meal (MBM) in animal feed by the European Union could create an annual requirement of around 2.15 million tonnes of soymeal, Hamburg-based newsletter Oil World said Tuesday. France, which has already banned MBM because of fears of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, will require about 400,000 tonnes, it said. "

The announcement of the ban in France and its likely expansion to other EU countries throws up not only the question of how to dispose of animal wastes but also how this will affect demand for alternative protein sources," the newsletter said.

"Total production of MBM in the EU is estimated at around 2.5 million tonnes in 1999 and 1998 and has probably slowed, but only slightly this year." Usage in the EU is estimated at about 2 million tonnes in the last two calendar years but has "most likely" slowed down so far this year,

it said. "If last years' new supplies of 1.99 million tonnes are taken as the approximate EU uses of MBM (for France estimated at 330,000-340,000 tonnes) its total replacement would require considerable quantities of other protein sources," it said. Assuming around 10% were to be covered by peas, other minor protein crops and feed grains, the remaining 1.8 million tonnes of MBM equal to 2.15 million tonnes of soymeal would have to be replaced, it said.

This would include about 400,000 tonnes of soymeal in France. "Due to the recent BSE incidents, French meat demand, especially for beef, has dropped," the newsletter said. "If this turns out to be a longer-term phenomena, French demand for animal feed and subsequently oilmeals is likely to decline."

Italian soy plantings may rise after meat meal ban

Mon, Nov 20, 2000 By David Brough Reuters
Italian farmers may plant more soybeans next spring as Italy's ban on the use of meat and bone meal for herbivores will boost demand for vegetable proteins, farm analysts and oilseed traders said on Monday.

New crop prices in Italy, the EU's biggest soybean producer by far, jumped after the government announced the ban on Friday, Italian oilseeds traders said. They quoted new crop soy seeds on Monday around 47,000 lire per quintal (100 kilos) for prompt delivery, up from around 45,000 lire per quintal a week ago. At the weekly Bologna cereals market on Friday, soybeans (14 percent humidity, two percent impurity) were quoted at 46,800-47,000 lire per quintal, up from 46,300-46,500 a week earlier.

At the Chicago Board of Trade on Friday, soybean prices shot to a five-week high after news of the Italian ban amid expectations that European demand for soy products would rise.

The Italian decision was part of a package of measures in which Italy banned the import from France of adult cattle aged over 18 months and beef-on-the-bone because of consumer panic over mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), and its link to a fatal, brain-wasting disease in humans.

Consumer and farmer groups had called on the government to follow other European nations and block imports after French supermarkets said they had sold beef potentially contaminated with BSE.

"If there is an increase in soy prices, there could be an increase in soybean plantings in Italy," said Angela Sciarra, soybeans analyst with Rome-based farm research institute ISMEA. She said soyameal could substitute for meat and bone meal, although it had less protein content.

A north Italian oilseeds trader said: "If soy prices keep rising, Italian farmers could decide to plant more soybeans next March and April."

Industry officials estimated that Italian demand for meat and bone feed was at least 150,000 tonnes per year. They said most of this shortfall would be made up by soymeal, and to a lesser extent rapeseed, sunflower meal and maize.

The Ita research agency has estimated this year's Italian soybean output, which is grown mainly in the north, at 964,477 tonnes, slightly down from 972,022 in 1999. It has estimated 2000 soybean area at 254,740 hectares, against 253,497 in 1999. Italy also imports soybeans and soymeal from the United States and South America.

Industry sources said the Italian ban on the use of meat and bone meal appeared aimed solely at herbivorous mammals and to exclude poultry and pork. Ministry officials were not immediately available to clarify the point.

A cabinet statement said, "It is forbidden to administer to herbivorous mammals any kind of meal containing animal protein and there is a moratorium on meat meals on all farms." Italy, like other EU states, has already implemented a ban on feeding meat and bone meal to cattle. The term "herbivorous mammals" would add sheep, goats and rabbits, for example.

According to ISMEA, Italy imports about 1.5 million head of cattle a year, of which two-thirds come from France. Italy slaughters about 4.5 million head of cattle a year, according to ISMEA.

The nvCJD connection in South Yorkshire

Tue, 21 Nov 2000 Carol Midgley Guardian
Three young victims of the human form of mad cow disease have links with one village. How did it happen and will there be more deaths? The village of Armthorpe has had a few brushes with fame. Kevin Keegan, the former England football manager and Liverpool FC hero, was born here and during the 1984 miners’ strike television cameras were an everyday fixture on its streets, recording often violent scenes outside the doomed Markham Main pit.

Now public attention is once more focused on Armthorpe, but this time it has brought with it an angry mood of fear and disbelief which is unlikely to subside even after a current government inquiry is completed. Three young people have died from variant CJD, the human form of mad cow disease.

Adrian Hodgkinson, 25, a former RAF policeman at the peak of physical fitness, was the first to succumb. The illness had started in March 1996 with a numb feeling in one finger. Before long he began to experience a burning sensation in his legs and had difficulty in keeping his balance. He became depressed and his condition degenerated so rapidly that his family say it was like watching him grow up in reverse. His short-term memory was so limited that they had to leave notes in every room to tell him where they had gone. As the illness took hold he suffered nightmares, screaming that he believed he had no arms or sometimes five arms and had to be calmed by his mother. His father says that his eyes would roll back in his head, exactly as he had seen BSE-struck cows behaving on television footage. By the time he died on February 6, 1997, he was as helpless as a baby.

Matthew Parker's death came not long afterwards. The 19-year-old trainee chef and A-level student had complained of pains in his legs, also in March 1996, and was given anti-inflammatory drugs by his doctor, who thought it might be growing pains. But his discomfort worsened and he soon began to stagger and to suffer from depression. His father says that he could not carry a bowl of cornflakes across the room without leaving a trail behind him. Soon he began to slur his speech so much that his father feared he might be taking drugs. Like Adrian, he degenerated rapidly but it was not until February 1997 that nvCJD was diagnosed. He died the following month.

At the time, no one connected the two deaths. Adrian had lived in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, a 40-mile drive from Matthew's home in Doncaster, a few miles from Armthorpe. It seemed to be little more than a case of two appalling but completely separate tragedies.

But when Sarah Roberts, a 28-year-old accountant, died in September this year from the same illness, a possible connection suddenly emerged. As a young boy Matthew had lived 200 yards from Sarah's home in the same street, Wickett Hern Road in Armthorpe. Although Sarah was five years older, they had played in the nearby fields together as youngsters.

When Adrian's mother, Betty Hodgkinson, read about this, something clicked. Every Sunday between 1972 and 1986 the Hodgkinson family had visited Adrian's grandmother in Elm Road, Armthorpe, a few streets away from Wickett Hern Road, for a traditional Sunday roast. Sometimes they had chicken, sometimes pork but more often than not they had beef. Like most of the villagers, Adrian's grandmother relied on local shops for her meat.

Experts say that Adrian, Matthew and Sarah probably contracted the disease, which has an estimated ten-year incubation period, at some point in the 1980s — the time when scientists believe beef entered the food chain through BSE-infected cattle. Mrs Hodgkinson contacted Matthew's father John Middleton, who is separated from Matthew's mother, and Rosie Winterton, the Doncaster MP.

"I hadn't thought about the Sunday visits as being particularly significant until I heard about Sarah," she says. "We used to go every weekend when Adrian was young but as kids get older they want to do their own thing so he hadn't gone as much in more recent years. It just seems too much of a coincidence that three young people, all with links to one small place, should die of the same thing. There is a link and we deserve to know what has been going on."

The government-backed CJD Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh and Doncaster Health Authority have stressed that it could be mere coincidence, but the families are convinced otherwise. However, they know that proving it may be little short of impossible. Few people can recall exactly what they fed their children and where they bought the food over a prolonged period 15-20 years ago, and even then it cannot be proved beyond doubt that an outlet was to blame.

There are dozens of other possible factors to consider. For example, Matthew and Sarah attended the same school, Armthorpe Comprehensive, where they ate school dinners. But Adrian went to a different school. Matthew and Sarah shared the same dentist and both had teeth extracted as youngsters (surgical instruments may be a possible source of infection) but Adrian's dentist was in Harrogate. Matthew, at 6ft 8in, had a voracious appetite for burgers, often consuming four in a day, and would drink four to five pints of milk a day. Before he became ill, he and his father had joked that the BSE scare would not deter them from eating beef. Adrian also enjoyed eating beef but Sarah did not. She preferred chicken and, according to her mother Sheila, would often hide her beef underneath her potatoes when she was served a roast dinner.

"If she got fast food she almost always went to Kentucky Fried Chicken," says Mrs Roberts. "Even if she went to a burger bar she usually had chickenburger. But I still believe that she got this from beef. It is not just beef itself that is a risk, it is all the other products they make. She could have gone to a barbecue or eaten a beef sausage somewhere. I don't know what the link is but there has to be one."

About four miles from Armthorpe on the north side of Doncaster, the uninitiated visitor is struck by a noxious smell hovering over a sprawling factory plant by the railway lines near Bentley. The smell is acrid and powdery but locals say that years ago it was far worse. This is the headquarters of Prosper de Mulder, the company which controls 70 per cent of Britain's meat rendering industry and has a turnover of more than £120 million a year.

Anthony de Mulder, who runs the family business, appears at number 447 in the Sunday Times Rich List jointly with the author Barbara Taylor Bradford with a personal fortune of £70 million. The company pioneered the cattle feed production that has been blamed by the Government for the outbreak of BSE in British cattle. Scientists say that BSE survived in meat and bonemeal because renderers began to treat animal offal at lower temperatures. The product — the mashed-up remains of cattle and other animals — was then fed as cannibal food by farmers to beef cattle and as a result, BSE entered the food chain.

Until 1995 this site was an animal feed rendering plant that had begun operation in 1937, but it has now been turned into an edible oil and fats refinery. There is no evidence that living close to such a site can harm public health but the locals are, needless to say, beginning to wonder.

Dr John Radford, the director of public health at Doncaster Health Authority, said that a local politician had raised concern over the possibility of the wind carrying infected dust particles and that the site should be included as one of many factors in the inquiry. He added: "We have already made some inquiries around there but Armthorpe isn't actually that close to the de Mulder site. A spokeswoman for de Mulders, which sponsors research into BSE and gave evidence at the government BSE inquiry, also stressed that Armthorpe was four miles from the site. She added: "The company has not yet heard from the CJD Surveillance Unit but they will be happy to offer whatever help they can."

There is only one butcher's shop — Hopson's — in Armthorpe, but it opened only eight years ago. There used to be another but it closed down several years ago. Betty Hodgkinson can remember an old supermarket, now taken over by another chain, where Adrian's grandmother would buy meats pies and pasties. All possible sources, however remote, are being considered in the investigation, even a pizza, pasta and burger restaurant in Armthorpe where Matthew worked in the kitchens, although its owners insist that their beef is imported.

Mrs Hodgkinson, a care worker, and her husband Barry, who sells Internet advertising space, have their own theory. They believe that general practices at abattoirs in the 1980s were to blame. "We don't think they were following proper procedures. Stephen Dorrell (the former Conservative Health Secretary) introduced new regulations but they were never enforced properly" says Mrs Hogkinson.

"The rules state that the head and spinal cord must be removed and discarded but we have heard that some people were selling them on. They also used to blast the heads and brains of the cows with water to clean them, but that could make infected matter spray everywhere and infect the quality meat."

Mr Hodgkinson's brother Stuart, who worked at a north country abattoir as a meat porter for a year in 1987, claims that bad meat was not always discarded. "Sometimes they would take it away to a cold freezer store in a nearby town, freeze it and bring it back. I once saw a fore of beef which had yellow streaks running through the meat. It didn't look well at all. It was put on a pallet, taken away and frozen to minus 40 degrees for seven days to kill off all the germs, then fetched back to the abattoir and sold on as fresh meat.

"You didn't think about it, you just got it on the van and went. I didn't like it but no one said anything."

When Matthew and Adrian died, their parents were questioned by the CJD Surveillance Unit. What did their children eat? Where did they go out? What recreational groups were they involved in? Where did the family buy their food? Where did they eat out? Did they ever work on a farm or with animals? When Sarah died they were questioned a second time in an effort to find a common reference point. Rosie Winterton is calling for a standard protocol for the examination of nvCJD cases around the country to ensure that different clusters are investigated by exactly the same methods and possible links are not overlooked.

Sarah's parents, Sheila and Frank, are still desperate with grief having lost their daughter only a few weeks ago. They have also been questioned by the Unit. It was in February that Sarah began to complain of pains in her legs and became tense. She had accountancy exams looming and everyone assumed that, although she was highly intelligent, preexam nerves were causing her depression. But she became so agitated that she had to give up work. One doctor told her she should pull herself together.

By June Sarah could only walk if she linked arms with both her parents, and she began to imagine that she could see monsters. Her parents feared a brain tumour but the following month, to their disbelief, doctors confirmed the diagnosis of nvCJD. Nine weeks later, on September 14, she died.

Told there was nothing to be done and aware that their daughter was terrified of hospitals, her parents had brought her home to die, carrying her bed downstairs into the living room. On September 6, although Sarah was by then semi-conscious, relatives came to the house to mark her 28th birthday. As with Matthew and Adrian, Sarah was never told what was wrong with her.

"It has happened so fast we are just dumbfounded," says Mrs Roberts. "The Government has not even said sorry. There shouldn't be any more secrets because, God knows, I wouldn't want anyone to go through what we’ve been through. Both she and her husband have vowed never to eat beef again. "I took all the beef out of my freezer and gave it to my sister for their dogs."

Not everyone in the area has been deterred from eating beef, though. Frank Marshall, 68, a former mineworker at Markham Main, is philosophical. "In my age group we think, well, if we’ve not got it by now, what's the point in stopping? Me and the wife go down to Doncaster market where the meat is unbelievably cheap. I get a full joint of beef for £5 and it's delicious."

The Asda superstore in Doncaster also reports no discernible change in fresh beef sales. "We sell 100 per cent British beef and we were the only supermarket chain to stick with it during the BSE crisis," says a spokeswoman. "We have actually seen sales of fresh beef grow over the past two years by 7 per cent."

As the search for answers goes on, it is tempting to speculate that class may be significant. Many victims have been from working-class families and in an area such as Armthorpe, battered by poverty and unemployment during the miners’ strike, families may have been forced to buy cheaper cuts of meat that might carry more risk of infection.

The families dismiss this suggestion, however. "We have thought about it. Barry is the eldest of nine so there wasn't much spare cash around for Adrian's grandmother," says Mrs Hodgkinson, "but we don't think it's significant." Her husband adds: "I think that's a red herring. Vegetarians have died from this disease." John Middleton agrees: "Zoe Jeffries died recently, the youngest ever victim at 14 years old, now she could have got it from baby food. How do we know what was in that?"

Dr Radford says that the inquiry will examine practices at local abattoirs in the 1980s, but adds: "The selling off of old meat would not necessarily be linked to variant CJD. You could have an old piece of rubbishy meat that, if properly cooked, could do you no harm. The prion protein could be in an apparently good-quality piece of beef. The problem with this disease is that we are at the beginning of something. We don't yet know if there will be more cases in the area."

The parents of Sarah, Matthew and Adrian are not optimistic. "There are going to be more cases around here," says Mr Middleton. "God knows, I hope we are wrong. But I think it's a case of watch this space.:

France struggles as mad cow concern sweeps Europe

Wed, Nov 22, 2000 Reuters World Report By Tom Heneghan
The French government struggled to contain the fallout from the mad cow crisis on Wednesday as health concerns spread across Europe and anger mounted at home over the high costs and health confusion the issue was causing. Cabinet ministers went on morning radio trying to convince listeners that France had scored a victory at an all-night EU meeting in Brussels that agreed to wider BSE tests but rejected Paris's call to end national embargoes on French beef.

But Greece began banning French T-bone steaks on Wednesday morning, following the example set by EU partners Italy, Spain, Austria and the Netherlands as well as the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Russia and Oman.

The issue was due to be debated on Wednesday in Germany, where the cabinet is split over whether to ban animal-based cattle feeds, and Italy, where farmers blocked French meat imports at the border earlier this week.

In France, cattle breeders were threatening noisy protests against a government aid package they considered too small and city authorities were wavering over whether beef should be put back on school menus. BSE and its human form, new variant Creutzfeld-Jakob-Disease (nvCJD), has killed more than 86 people in Britain and three in France. There is no known cure for the deadly disease that wastes away the brain.

Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany told Europe 1 radio he had avoided an all-out EU import ban on French beef and earmarked nearly $400 million in state aid to help cattle breeders cope with the 40 percent fall in beef sales in recent weeks.

"They say it's peanuts, it won't work, we're going to protest," Glavany complained. "Let's be reasonable. If you want to help the cattle breeders, eat beef," he told listeners. "(French beef) is the safest in Europe and in the whole world."

On a call-in radio programme, listeners grilled European Affairs Minister Pierre Moscovici about EU disputes over the use of animal-based feeds, and blasted politicians as poisoners and "disgusting hypocrites" for failing to take tougher measures. "

We narrowly avoided a major agricultural crisis in the EU," Moscovici argued. "Now we have to convince the other Europeans, but that won't be done in a day." Consolation came on Tuesday as Britain, which saw its beef banned from the rest of the EU in 1996 after mad cow disease broke out there, said it had no plans to ban French meat. France has maintained its ban on British beef even though the EU eased the community-wide ban last year.

Per Thorup, head of Denmark's veterinarians' association, said more testing would not help much and that banning meat-and-bonemeal completely was the only way to fight BSE effectively. [Right. Half-measures have proven ineffectual over the years. -- webmaster]

France failed to convince the EU to ban meat-and-bonemeal, the ground-up cattle parts that are used as a protein additive in animal feed but are suspected of spreading mad cow disease. EU farm ministers agreed on Tuesday morning after a marathon all-night meeting to test far more animals for BSE than are currently screened, and to have scientists advise by the end of November whether the national bans on French beef were valid.

While that meant all national bans would be dropped if the European Commission decided that any single member was wrong, Brussels could also decree an all-out ban if it turned out scientists felt the import stops were justified.

Germany's defence of the suspect feed has led to a split in the Berlin cabinet, with Health Minister Andrea Fischer advocating a ban over objections by Agriculture Minister Karl-Heinz Funke.

Beef watchdog branded `toothless' on French mad cows

Wed, Nov 22, 2000 By Andrew Woodcock, Political Correspondent, PA News 
The Food Standards Agency was today branded a toothless watchdog by the Tories, who demanded that it publish its advice to ministers over French beef. Shadow agriculture minister Tim Yeo has called for a ban on imports of beef and beef products from France amid growing concern about increasing rates of BSE -- or "mad cow disease" -- in the French cattle herd.

But FSA chairman Sir John Krebs this morning told BBC Radio 4's Today programme there was no scientific basis for a blanket ban on French beef, pointing out that BSE rates over the Channel were still less than a tenth of those in the UK. British consumers could be assured that any French product sold in UK shops was as safe as the domestic equivalent, he said.

Earlier this month, French authorities placed a domestic ban on the consumption of beef-on-the-bone and meat from animals aged over 30 months, and this has been followed by unilateral import bans by Spain and Italy.

Sir John has written to the French authorities asking them to provide details of how they will ensure that beef-on-the-bone products banned from the domestic market are not exported to the UK. He said products from cattle aged over 30 months were already barred from import, but that there was a "potential loophole" through which they might slip if they were prepared or packaged outside France.

Sir John told Today: "If there was any scientific case, on the basis of human health grounds, for banning import from France or any other country, we would make that recommendation immediately, but at the moment that case isn't there. This year in Britain, we have had over 1,000 cases of BSE. In France, they have had about 100. France has quite an extensive testing programme. Their numbers are going up while ours are going down, but there is still a huge gap.

"Our position is that the risk from imported meat and imported meat products should be not greater than the risk from domestic meat and meat products." Asked about the danger of banned meat from older French animals arriving in Britain after being prepared or packaged elsewhere, Sir John said: "We are aware of the potential loophole, but we have no confirmed cases of imported over-30 month beef for human consumption. "There have been allegations, but nobody has been able to substantiate a case to us."

Mr Yeo said: "Last Thursday, (Agriculture Minister) Nick Brown told Parliament, on the basis of advice from the FSA, that it was safe to import French beef to Britain. "The very next day, he told Tony Blair it was risky to import French beef. Now we learn that the FSA is asking the French for information about the controls they are putting on the beef sent to Britain. That is a totally unsatisfactory position. The Agency is facing its first real test and we find it has absolutely no teeth at all.

"What it must do immediately is publish the advice it is giving to ministers, so the consumer can judge for him or herself whether French beef is safe to eat."

FSA welcomes Europe-wide BSE testing and new French controls

Wed, 22 Nov 2000 Food Standards Agency news page
The Food Standards Agency welcomes Europe-wide BSE testing and new French controls The Food Standards Agency has welcomed today's decision, by European Agriculture Ministers meeting in Brussels, to introduce tests throughout Europe to detect BSE infectivity in cattle most at risk of developing the disease.

The Agency is to contact the French authorities to seek assurances within the next week on how they will implement controls to prevent beef banned in France from being exported to the UK. The Agency is to convene an expert group in December to review and assess any risks that may be associated with imported beef or beef products.

Sir John Krebs, Chairman of the Agency, said: “These are sensible and proportionate measures that are consistent with those being called for by the FSA across Europe. They will enable a better assessment of whether there are any new risks from BSE that are not being met by the current controls. We welcome the fact that the European scientific committee is to consider whether further controls are necessary and that the Commission is to inspect the enforcement measures over the next few weeks.

“The Agency is writing to the French authorities to ascertain what safeguards there are to prevent beef banned in France from being exported to the UK. We have asked for a response within seven days and will consider what further action, if any, may be necessary then.

“There is no reason to advise consumers against eating legally sold EU beef in the UK although we are continually checking the situation.. We welcome the Council's acceptance of the FSA's position on the need for futher labelling in relation to meat products. If consumers have concerns they can then check the country of origin of the product they are buying.”

The European Agricultural Ministers have agreed that:

From 1st January 2001, all "at-risk" animals over 30 months of age should be tested after slaughter. The need for such tests is to be reviewed after the first test results are known.

From 1st July 2001, all normal (as opposed to high-risk) animals over 30 months of age which are to enter the food chain should be tested after slaughter.

The use of fallen stock (for example, animals that have been injured or are dying) is to be prohibited in animal feed.

In addition, pending an analysis by the European Scientific Steering Committee on the risks of BSE in France, the French have undertaken not to export beef products currently prohibited for consumption in their own territory. This scientific assessment will be reported to the European Standing Veterinary Committee for their evaluation, before it is presented to the Council of Agriculture Ministers at its meeting on 21st - 22nd December.

Incidence of reported BSE in the UK and France: In the current year there have been 1141 cases of confirmed BSE in cattle in the UK. This compares to 99 in France.

In the current year there have been 293 cases per million cattle over 24 months old with BSE in the UK. This compares to 19 cases per million cattle over 24 months old with BSE in France.

Level of imports from France into the UK: 5,647.3 tonnes A total of 147,000 tonnes of beef are imported into UK from all countries including France. Not all is for human consumption. A total of 917,000 tonnes of beef are consumed annually in the UK.

EU Agrees To Massive Mad Cow Testing Increase

Nov. 21 2000 (Associated Press)
Following all-night negotiations, European Union farm ministers decided Tuesday to test cattle over 30 months old for mad cow disease next year, a massive increase in testing in an attempt to counter the growing public health crisis.

Cattle over that age judged to be at higher risk from the brain-wasting disease will be tested as of Jan. 1 and the testing program will be expanded to all cattle categories over 30 months old as of July 1.

"The principle to also test healthy animals has been welcomed" by the farm ministers' meeting, said Beate Gminder, spokeswoman for EU Health Commissioner David Byrne, stressing the controls will extend to countries where no cases of mad cow have been discovered. "It will give the consumers the assurance that their beef is being tested," said Gminder.

The ministers also agreed that scientists will assess bans on French beef imports by Spain, Italy and Austria and offer an opinion within two weeks on their validity. The EU's executive Commission will take action based on their recommendations.

That scientific steering committee will also examine France's national measures against mad cow disease to determine their adequacy. France has implemented a temporary ban on all livestock feed containing meat and bone meal and sales of T-bone steaks and sweetbread to protect the food chain after beef, potentially infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, made it onto supermarket shelves last month.

A call to ban all livestock feed containing meat and bone found no majority at the meeting, a German official said. Such feed represents some 1.5 billion euros ($1.275 billion) in the EU and destroying it would cost about double. Finding replacement feed would add another 700 million euros ($595 million) to the bill, EU officials said.

The new testing plans should add some 230,000 tests in the initial phase on the risk groups. Farm groups fear millions of tests will be necessary in the second phase with the extension to add presumably healthy animals. Germany said it would have to add 5.4 million tests over the next half decade at a cost of 200 marks (100 euros) a test.

The effectiveness of measures taken so far has been put in doubt by Byrne, and the 15 farm ministers agreed to allow EU Commission inspectors to assess the situation in each member state. "Measures are only effective if properly implemented," Byrne told the meeting. "There are question marks... over the past implementation of controls."

Spain reports first case of mad cow disease

Wed, Nov 22, 2000 AP WorldStream
The government reported Spain's first case of mad cow disease on Wednesday and said it is investigating a second possible case.

"The first case is conclusive. There is no room for doubt," Agriculture Minister Miguel Arias Canete said. But, he added, "there's no reason to think we're on the verge of an epidemic. The message to the public is one of calm." Tests by government veterinarians in the northwest Galicia region revealed a confirmed case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, late Wednesday morning, said Arias Canete. He said Spanish authorities sent samples of the second animal to British experts for further analysis.

The minister said Spanish authorities have quarantined the farms where the cows lived along with other farms which may have had contact with the animals. He said all cows suspected to have had contact with either case will be destroyed and tested. Earlier this month, Spain banned imports of French and Irish cattle destined for use in breeding.

The decision was made after a sharp increase in the number of cases of mad cow disease in France, up to 80 so far this year from 31 for the whole of last year. BSE in beef has been linked to a fatal brain ailment in humans. Spain already bans imports of British, Swiss and Portuguese cattle and beef because of health fears.

The beef scare exploded in Britain in 1996 when scientists confirmed fears that BSE could jump the species barrier and infect humans who consumed BSE-tainted beef. The European Union responded by banning British beef exports. It lifted the ban in August 1999 in response to safety measures adopted by Britain.

Three people are known to have become ill in France from the human equivalent of the disease, which has no known treatment -- compared to 86 people in Britain where it was identified by government scientists in late 1995.

Forget mad cows, what about mad pigs? - French city

Wed, Nov 22, 2000 Reuters World Report
The French city of Lyon has added an unusual twist to the nationwide mad cow disease crisis -- it will allow schools to serve beef to children, but is taking pork off their lunch plates. City authorities defied a nationwide trend earlier this month towards banning beef from school cafeterias, saying their local health rules ensured schools only bought meat from healthy grass-fed cattle.

But they got worried when Paris then outlawed animal-based feed for all farm animals, extending a ban already in force for cows because the feed is suspected of spreading the mad cow disease BSE. So, the city said on Wednesday in a statement, it would ban "all products that could present a risk of being contaminated by infected animal feed, including pork."

The new feed ban applies to all kinds of animals, including poultry and fish, but that should present no problem for school chef looking for replacements dishes. The strict city guidelines enforced since 1994 also apply to chicken and fish -- pork was somehow left off the original list.

Mad Cow Home ... Best Links