Prion Disease Reaches Europe
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French minister wants moratorium on meat/bone meal
Lively youth, 19, "turned into a vegetable"
Prion disease - dormant but deadly
nvCJD victim loved burgers and meatballs, inquest told
Inquiry Report: very British
Swiss shun blood donors from Britain in BSE scare
Mad cow clusters
Mad cow waste disappears from waste plant
Britain faces nvCJD compensation claims by French
EU Commission wants huge increase in mad cow testing

France: mad cow case triggers wave of fear

Thu, Nov 9, 2000 COMTEX Newswire
Comment (webmaster):

In Japan, eating the honorable fugu (pufferfish) -- the restaurant equivalent of Russian roulette -- remains immensely popular, even though a pinch of tetrodoxin from high-risk tissues (in theory removed in the kitchen) is enough to kill more than 30 people and some dramatic fatalities occur each year.

Why then do the French, British, Belgian, and Swiss public not find a similar thrill to BSE in their beef and the brush with death from dementia at each meal? Indeed, high-risk tissues are said to be removed at the slaughterhouse; only a small percentage of cows are known to be infected.

One difference is choice: schoolchildren eat what is on the menu with little awareness of risk; diners in Japan can simply order something else. The quick death of a brave man in a Japanese restaurant is a far cry from an agonizingly slow loss of mental facilities, bowel and bladder incontinence, and burdens placed on friends and family.

The French government thinks the public is over-reacting, fearful, even psychotic, for not embracing the risk of BSE in their daily lives and those of their children, and for not accepting a low level of nvCJD as a small price for cheap meat and a vibrant meat industry. But perhaps here it is the government that has lost touch with reality.

Cows Await Word of Cull ......................... How Safe is Euro Beef? ........ Incineration of BSE Cow .... [BBC news]

" A new case of the human Creutzfeld-Jakob disease and a report from government authorities that infected beef has been sold in local supermarkets have triggered a wave of fear in France about "mad-cow disease," recalling the panic Great Britain faced four years ago.

The phenomenon has led restaurants to remove all beef-based dishes from the menu and public schools throughout France have stopped serving beef in children's lunches at the behest of worried parents.

Beef sales have tumbled by an estimated 20 to 50 percent. Some slaughterhouses in the Brittany region, on the Atlantic coast, report a 70 percent drop in demand for the meat.

The principal farmers' union resolved yesterday to pull from the market all beef originating from animals born before July 15, 1996, representing more than a million head, or 5 percent of France's total herd.

On that date, fear washed over Great Britain as officials confirmed the link between bovine spongiform encephalopathy -- or mad cow disease -- and Creutzfeld-Jakob disease in humans who consumed beef.

The latest confirmed case of Creutzfeld-Jakob is a 19-year-old man named Arnaud, from Paris, whose parents describe him as a "hamburger lover." He has suffered the symptoms of the disease since November 1999.

Arnaud's condition was revealed on Nov. 6 on French television, which showed images of him similar to those made public in late October on British television of Zoe, a girl who died from the disease Oct. 28.

Creutzfeld-Jakob is extremely rare worldwide, and prior to 1996 was generally limited to people over 55. Its initial symptoms include trembling, nervousness, memory loss, hallucinations, loss of balance and weakness. The disease's victims rapidly lose their ability to walk or talk.

Arnaud's mother said on French TV channel M6 that he had turned "from an energetic and lively youth into a vegetable." His father, meanwhile, accused the medical staff handling the case and government authorities of hiding the truth. The big economic interests at stake prevent transparency in France about the scope of the epidemic, he stated.

Three people have died in France from Creutzfeld-Jakob disease according to official records, but experts believe the real total is much higher.

Government statistics about the disease are not reliable, according to specialists, because records from 18 months in 1997 and 1998 were not updated as a result of a prolonged strike among the paramedical personnel entrusted with the task.

"France must prepare to confront dozens of cases of Creutzfeld-Jakob disease," Health Minister Dominique Gillot told Le Parisien newspaper yesterday. In Britain, official data indicates that 85 people have died from the illness.

The government is considering banning animal-based feed for all livestock. Health authorities have also suggested using alternative cuts of beef in order to prevent the bones, the possible vectors of the protein responsible for transmitting mad cow disease to humans, from being sold to the public

The public's distrust became widespread over recent weeks, following the discovery in late October that beef coming from diseased animals had been sold illegally on the French market.

In addition, since the beginning of this year, 86 cases of infected cows have been reported, three times more than last year, bringing the country's total mad cow cases to 130. The route of infection of those cows is still unknown, given that France in theory banned the use of animal-based livestock feed in 1990.

As a result, there is growing concern that the disease could be transmitted from a mother to her young through her milk, or even between species, as animal-based feed is still authorized as a supplement for fish and birds.

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, is one of the few infectious diseases known that affects both humans and animals. The human and animal variants are not caused by virus or bacteria, but by an agent known as prion protein, which is believed to produce a slow biochemical reaction that changes the protein molecules of the brain.

The molecular alterations give the brain the consistency of a sponge, a process that is always fatal. Prions do not appear to cause any sort of immune response in the victims and are very stable, resisting extreme temperatures, radiation and antiseptics that would kill other infectious agents.

France is the only member of the European Union that maintains an embargo on beef imports from Great Britain. The other members of the bloc agreed to drop the import restrictions after a decision made by the European Commission, the EU's executive body, in August 1999.

Despite the embargo, the French police determined that at least 3,200 tons of beef and tens of thousands of tons of animal-based feed originating in Britain were sold illegally in France.

The police force created a special division, known as "the mad cow unit," to investigate the illicit sales, and has uncovered an international network trafficking in British meat. The primary suspect as head of the network is Belgian entrepreneur Rudy Decock.

Lt. Col. Pierre Patin, chief of the special unit, said there is an international arrest warrant hanging over Decock, though he continues to live at large in the Belgian resort city of Knokke, north of Bruges.

"Decock has spent a couple of days under arrest, but Belgian legal authorities always let him go," Patin said. The French police believe Decock even obtained subsidies from the European Commission totalling some $3 million.

The mad cow unit also established that the trafficking network exported British meat to developing countries, primarily Egypt and west African nations, and to Russia.

"British beef is transported illegally to Belgium, where through fraudulent means it is 'redeclared' Belgian-produced beef. With new documentation, the meat is then transported to the Netherlands and to France, and from here to Africa and Russia," affirmed Patin.

Schools in Brussels take beef off the menu

Thu, Nov 9, 2000 Reuters World Report
More than 100 schools in Brussels have temporarily removed beef from the school menu due to concerns over mad cow disease, government officials said on Thursday.

Amid rising fears in neighbouring France over the disease, some Belgian local authorities have taken the precautionary step and asked the government to guarantee the safety of beef in Belgium. The sale of potentially contaminated beef in shops in France has recently caused widespread consumer anxiety.

"We need to be assured that what happened in France during the week cannot happen in Belgium," Jose Orreco, the director of Belgium's school meals' authority, told Reuters.

Some 110 school canteens, as well as others serving 600 civil servants and 1,000 creche-going children, have been affected. Belgian government spokesman Tom Hruts said he regretted the decision, describing it as exaggerated and extreme. "It amounts to a panic reaction by consumers and parents which is not necessary for the moment," he said.

Fear of mad cow disease hits French barracks

Sun, Nov 12, 2000 Reuters World Report
Amid consumer panic over mad cow disease, France's defence minister said on Sunday that the armed forces would no longer be forced to eat beef.

"We are going to make sure people have a choice. If beef is on the menu, there will always be an alternative main dish," Alain Richard said in an interview with Radio Monte Carlo.

French schools have already removed beef from their menus. Richard was asked if France's half a million strong forces intended to follow suit. Beef sales in France have slumped by about 40 percent after warnings >from medical specialists of the danger of deadly bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

AP: -- Amid spiraling fears about mad cow disease, France's environment minister said Saturday that she had asked the government for an immediate ban on animal feed containing meat or bone meal.. The feed is feared to transmit mad cow disease, and was banned for cattle in 1996. Voynet's request applied to other animals, such as pigs.

In a survey by to be published Sunday in Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper, 70 percent of French people said they were worried about mad cow. Twenty-three percent of people said they were not. Still, 54 percent said they had no intention of changing their eating habits.

French BSE crisis worsens

November 12 2000  Jonathan Leake and Wayne Bodkin  S. London Times
FEARS over the safety of French beef rose again this weekend after the country's most senior scientific adviser on BSE confirmed that large amounts of infected meat were still likely to be entering the human food chain, putting anyone eating beef at risk of developing variant CJD.

Professor Jeanne Brugère-Picoux, an adviser to the French government on BSE and related diseases, said most of the country's farmers and meat inspectors were incapable of recognising even the most obvious symptoms of the disease.

"Of course there is infected meat being passed for human consumption," Brugère-Picoux said. "It is there either because of fraud or because our meat inspectors cannot diagnose BSE in its early stages."

Last year Britain imported 4,800 tons of beef from France. Its Food Standards Agency (FSA) insisted this weekend, however, that there is little Britain can do because under European Union regulations introduced on October 1, no member state can unilaterally block imports from another, whatever the risk is thought to be. France has illegally refused to lift its ban on British beef, despite the EU's insistence it must.

"We cannot stop beef imports from France without breaking the law," an FSA spokesman said. "Action has to come from Brussels."

The mounting crisis over French beef is reverberating around Europe. Italy has threatened a total ban unless there is an urgent meeting of the EU veterinary committee to discuss the situation. Hungary and Poland have banned French beef and Germany is threatening to do so. Spain has banned the import of French cattle for breeding. Beef sales within France have declined by 60% over the past week as public confidence in the meat has collapsed.

Brugère-Picoux's comments were followed by a warning from France's meat inspectors that they planned to strike over the lack of training, equipment and manpower to monitor BSE. Eighty-eight French cases of BSE have come to light this year, compared with 80 between 1988, when the disease was first reported, and 1999.

This total is far smaller than the 2,000-plus cases expected in Britain this year, but two factors make the French situation more unpredictable and dangerous. The number of infected animals in France is unknown but it is likely to be many thousands since most of the country's herds were exposed to infected feed, which is the most likely source of the disease.

In addition, France has no limit on the age at which cows can enter the food chain, even though experiments have shown that animals with BSE become highly infectious over the age of 30 months.

In Britain, by contrast, animals over 30 months cannot be eaten. There are now calls for similar rules in France, but for some it is already too late. Recently the nation was stunned when television showed harrowing film of a 19-year-old boy in the late stages of vCJD. He is the third French victim. Dominique Gillot, the health minister, has said she expects at least several dozen more. In Britain, at least 85 people have died or are dying of vCJD.

The recent uproar in France has brought to light years of neglect of the disease by French officials. Recent evidence has shown that they have done almost nothing to implement a ban imposed in 1990 on the recycling of dead cattle to be fed to other cows.

France's Glavany to BSE-wary consumers ``I eat beef''

Wed, Nov 8, 2000 Reuters World Report
French Farm Minister Jean Glavany on Wednesday sought to reassure consumers driven into a "psychosis" over a mad cow disease food scare, announcing that both he and his children eat beef.

"I eat beef, my children eat beef, all the scientists who are mad cow disease experts eat beef and so do their children," Glavany said on the sidelines of the National Assembly. [All that remains is for Glavany to force-feed his daughter a hamburger on national TV for him to get the Johb Gummer award for the year 2000. This is the stupidest statement yet, on a par with labelling meat Viande Francaise or VF, the name in French for vache folle or mad cow. -- webmaster]

Several supermarkets warned two weeks ago that they had sold beef potentially contaminated with BSE, sparking a national food scare. "If there were even the slightest risk related to meat today, the government would have banned it a long time ago. I think we are now in the realm of psychosis and irrationality," Glavany added.

His declaration echoed John Gummer, Britain's agriculture minister for four years until 1993, who fed his young daughter a beefburger in front of television cameras to back his assertion that British beef was safe.

"We must reassure French citizens. We are trying to do so -- not by blindly saying 'there is no risk' because zero risk does not exist -- but maximum precautions have been taken in France, infinitely more than in other European countries," Glavany said.

He reiterated that the government had decided against an immediate ban on using meat and bone meal in all animal feed because of the difficulties and risks associated with such a ban.

French Ministers: Fear Not Red Meat

Thu, Nov 9, 2000 AP Online By ELAINE GANLEY
France's consumer affairs minister said Thursday that no scientific evidence exists to justify the widening alarm gripping the country over mad cow disease.

"Never was meat as safe as today," Minister Francois Patriat declared.

Health Minister Dominique Gillot echoed the claim, saying that France's strict rules for meat production were ample protection against the illness. "Nothing indicates that red meat presents a risk to human health," she told LCI radio. The ministers spoke as a growing number of towns around France are banning beef from school cafeteria menus.

The Brittany city of Rennes issued a temporary ban. Perigueux became the fourth town in the Dordogne region to ban beef. Other new arrivals to the list of nearly two dozen districts opting for caution included the picturesque northwest coastal town of St. Malo. Several districts in Paris also are refusing to put beef on school lunch menus.

The panic was pushing down sales of beef at the nation's meat markets. On Wednesday, Spain, alarmed by the French frenzy, said it was banning imports of French and Irish cattle more than 20 months old.

Government officials worked to quell growing fears. However, a new case of mad cow disease was reported in France's Tarn region, bringing the total to 93 -- compared with 31 last year. Scientists have linked mad cow disease to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which affects humans. Two people in France are known to have died from the malady -- compared to 81 people in Britain where the beef scare exploded in 1996.

Justice Minister Marylise Lebranchu said Thursday she was issuing a notice to prosecutors about laws governing food safety. Patriat, addressing senators, defended the leftist government's decision two days ago not to take up a presidential request to immediately ban animal-based livestock feed, feared to be a source of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, better known as mad cow disease.

"No scientific evidence permits us to say that animal-based feed, in respected conditions, are dangerous for anyone," the consumer affairs minister said.

Conservative President Jacques Chirac went on television this week to ask the leftist coalition government to immediately ban all animal-based livestock feed. Prime Minister Lionel Jospin refused to act immediately, saying that storing the feed and killing cows destined for fodder could carry health and environmental risks. France's food safety agency is studying how to proceed.

EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne suggested that a plan by a French farmers' union to withdraw from the market cows born before 1996 was an overreaction to mad cow fears. He cited statistics showing "about seven cases of (mad cow disease) per million of cattle."

France's largest farmers' federation proposed this week to stop selling cows born before mid-1996, when France introduced strict measures to fight the illness. The move would concern some 3 million cows. Without naming the union, Health Minister Gillot said Thursday that if a farmers group decided on its own volition to withdraw cows from the market, "It's likely that they have information that is not at my disposal."

French minister wants moratorium on meat/bone meal

Sat, Nov 11, 2000 Reuters World Report
French Environment Minister Dominique Voynet called on Saturday for an immediate moratorium on feeding meat and bone meal to pigs and chickens as a precaution against mad cow disease.

"Twenty years ago, British industrialists decided cows had ceased to eat grass and could be fed, we are paying for the consequences of that irresponsible attitude," she told the newspaper Le Monde. Everyone wants the government to take charge and I say we should have an immediate moratorium on the use of meat and bone meal in feeding pigs and chickens while we await answers from health authorities," said Voynet, who is also head of France's Greens party.

"A moratorium of several months could be handled without difficulty. A definitive ban would be tougher because we would need to destroy more than a million tonnes of meat and bone meal and we do not now have the capacity to do this..." she said.

Le Monde said an internal circular signed by a senior official in Voynet's office estimated the cost of total withdrawal of meat and bone meal in France would be five billion francs ($656 mln) a year.

Farm minister Jean Glavany said on Friday that a ban on meat and bone meal was "unavoidable" as a precaution against the spread of mad cow disease. The French government was under pressure this week to ban the meals as a result of a mad cow disease food scare that has caused beef sales to plunge.

The use of meat and bone meal has been banned in cattle feed in France since 1990. But most French cases of mad cow disease are believed to be the result of cattle eating feed containing such meals that were intended for pigs or chickens.

Fear of Mad Cow Disease Spreads

Fri, Nov 10, 2000  By JOCELYN GECKER Associated Press Writer
Fear over mad cow disease swelled across Europe Friday, with France banning sweetbreads and the Swiss Red Cross severely limiting blood donations from people who spent time in Britain, where the beef scare exploded in 1996. Officials said the moves were purely precautions against mad cow, which has been linked to a variant strand of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which affects humans.

Yet alarm seemed to be spreading, and the European Union's health and consumer protection commissioner, David Byrne, urged EU member nations to go beyond a recent requirement that they randomly test their herds by January. The requirement was put in place after the number of cases of mad cow, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, tripled in France to 90 this year, compared to 31 last year.

French authorities say the increase is due to the implementation of special detection tests.

Four people in France are known to have contracted the human form of mad cow, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease -- compared to 81 people in Britain.

Byrne's statement urging more random testing came just two days after he spoke in reassuring tones, saying the number of infected cows was low -- approximately seven cases per million cattle.

Geneva authorities, pressured by "very worried" parents, joined the ranks of nearly two dozen French districts that have pulled beef from school menus, said Philippe D'Espine, a spokesman for the city. Geneva's proximity to France -- which surrounds the city on three sides -- played a part in the decision, he said. The ban affects all beef -- not just French imports.

In response to public concerns, Italian Agriculture Minister Alfonso Pecoro Scanio asked the EU's veterinary committee to hold an urgent meeting.

The Swiss Red Cross announced it was barring blood donations from people who spent more than six months in Britain between 1980 and 1996. Regional offices have until March to implement the ban.

Dr. Rudolf Schwabe, director of the group's blood transfusion service in Bern, said there was "no proof but some evidence that it could be possible to transmit CJD with blood." He stressed that the measure was purely precautionary. Schwabe said it likely will involve no more than 2,000 donors who were living in Britain as mad cow broke out.

In France, the Agriculture Ministry's special research section on mad cow announced it would ban sweetbreads, a delicacy widely served in French restaurants which is made from a cow's thymus gland. The one-year ban is a precaution, the ministry said. Officials added that the sweetbread ban was based on advice from the country's food safety agency, but does not mean consumers who have recently eaten should be concerned.

The ban concerns cows born after May 1, 1999. Thymuses of cows born before that date were banned earlier. Cow intestines were banned last month. Officials of France's leftist government have warned against what they call a `psychosis' over mad cow.

In an interview published Friday in the daily Liberation, Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany criticized a plan by France's largest farmers' union to withdraw from the market cows born before July 1996. He said it has "no rational foundation" in the fight against mad cow. If it were a public health measure, I would absolutely support it," Glavany said. "But it's nothing of the sort."

The farmers' union said Tuesday it planned to withdraw from the market older cows, born before France imposed strict measures on cattle feed in 1996. That is when mad cow disease became a palpable fear among Europeans because of its spread in Britain. Beef prices have plunged at meat markets around France. One slaughter house in Quimper, in the eastern Finistere region, lost 65 percent of its business within a few days and may close its doors next week, France-Info radio reported.

French Schools Ban Beef in Fear of Mad Cow Disease

Mon, Nov 6, 2000 AP WorldSources Online) Many primary and middle schools in France began banning beef from their canteens as from Monday out of fear of the spread of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Those schools which have not withdrawn beef from the menu of their canteens also have put beef products under close surveillance to avoid those which could be carrying BSE virus.

The banning of beef from schools canteens came after a third case of schoolchild infected with BSE virus and suffering from the Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease was recently discovered in France. The parents of these children are considering launching lawsuit againt "X" for poisoning.

Geneva Bans All Beef From School Canteens

Fri, Nov 10, 2000  COMTEX Newswire
The city of Geneva has banned all beef from school canteens after parents raised concerns about mad cow disease or BSE. Under the ban by the municipal authorities, kindergartens and primary schools will not serve beef to children as from Friday until further notice. Swiss Radio International quoted Geneva city spokesman Philippe d'Espine as saying that the decision affects between 10,000 and 20, 000 children.

"The ban is a purely precautionary measure in response to the grave concern raised by parents," he said, adding that parents in the French-speaking city were not targeting beef originating from any particular country.

However, concerns in bordering France over the new human strain of mad cow disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), have "spilled over" into Switzerland. Municipal authorities were seeking more information about the quality of beef products in Switzerland before putting it back on the menu, he said.

Suspicion of French beef products has recently increased. Russia, Poland, Hungary and Spain have either reduced their imports or stopped them altogether.

On Wednesday, the Swiss Red Cross announced that people who have spent time in Britain are to be banned from donating blood in Switzerland. Again, the decision was prompted by fears that supplies could be contaminated by blood contaminated with CJD. Nearly 85 people have died in Britain from the so-called new variant, CJD.

Schroeder signals no German ban on French beef

Fri, Nov 10, 2000  Reuters World Report
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Friday suggested that Germany would not unilaterally ban imports of French beef because of fears over the spread of mad cow disease. "This is a European question, and it's not good for countries to go it alone," Schroeder told a news conference after holding talks with French President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin in Vittel, France.

Schroeder said he was not "susceptible to psychoses" as French consumers continued to shun beef as a result of a mad cow disease food scare that has caused beef sales to plunge. The chancellor also said the European Commission should take an active role in the question of mad cow disease, and that better traceability was needed.

Urgent appeal for more BSE testing

Fri, Nov 10, 2000  By Geoff Meade, European Editor, PA News in Brussels
An urgent appeal went out to European governments this afternoon to step up testing for mad cow disease as concern grows over "disturbing" levels of BSE in France.

A plea from David Byrne, the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, advised member states to speed up the introduction of random testing on targeted animals, which will become compulsory from the start of next year. He urged national authorities not to wait until then and to go beyond the legally required minimum testing levels, particularly for high-risk category animals.

In a statement triggered by the BSE scare in France, Mr Byrne said: "The detection by the French authorities of an increased incidence of BSE is clearly disturbing.

"France's improved surveillance measures have increased the number of cases detected. All member states must learn from the French experience and also improve their surveillance measures for the detection of the disease. Random testing for BSE has proven its worth in this respect. Member states are already obliged by a Commission decision to introduce random testing on targeted animals from January 1, 2001. I am now calling on member states to carry out many more tests than legally required, with a focus on categories of animal which might be most susceptible to risk of BSE."

The statement went on: "It must be emphasised that such tests cannot serve as a substitute for the strict Community controls to prevent the risk of transmission of BSE. "Member states are again reminded of the absolute necessity for rigorous implementation of these controls, especially on the removal of specified risk materials, the processing of animal waste, the ban on the feeding of mammalian meat and bone meal to ruminants and the surveillance of animals for the presence of TSEs (Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy).

"Increased testing will, however, further improve transparency and public information on BSE. This is crucial to instil confidence that the controls in place are effective in protecting the public from the disease".

EU food safety chief Byrne urges early BSE tests

 Fri, Nov 10, 2000Reuters World Report
Europe's Food Safety Commissioner David Byrne on Friday called for random testing of cattle for mad cow disease to be brought in across the bloc ahead of schedule in the wake of rising case numbers in France. All member states have already agreed to begin testing animals for BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) from the beginning of next year.

But Byrne said the discovery of more infected cattle in France, where testing on a fixed percentage of the herd has already begun, meant all member states should follow suit as soon as possible.

"I am now calling on member states to introduce the tests urgently and before this deadline (January 1, 2001). I am also calling on member states to carry out more tests than legally required, with a focus on categories of animals which might be susceptible to risk of BSE," Byrne said in a statement.

He said the detection in France of an increased incidence was clearly disturbing. "All member states must learn from the French experience and improve their surveillance measures for the detection of the disease," Byrne said.

There have been some 94 BSE cases in France so far this year, which although far behind the incidence in Britain, is more than triple the number found last year.

Portugal eyes meat/bone meal ban for all EU animals

Fri, Nov 10, 2000 Reuters World Report
Portugal will propose a ban throughout the European Union on animal and bone meal in all animal feed, the Agriculture Ministry said on Friday.

A spokesman said the proposal would be made at a meeting of the Standing Veterinary Committee called by Portugal to discuss Spain's ban on importing breeding cattle from France amid growing fears of mad cow disease, or BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy).

"The proposal will be made to all member countries, to ban using animal and bone meal in all animal feed, not just for cows," the spokesman told Reuters. The spokesman said Portugal had called the meeting primarily to seek a common position on BSE in France. "Portugal decided not to take a unilateral position without first hearing the experts from all the EU and the Commission's own stance on this issue," he said.

The EU has banned animal and bone meal from cattle feed as they are believed to transmit the fatal brain-wasting disease. Scientists believe that eating contaminated food products is the most likely way to transmit BSE and its human cousin, new variant Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease.

French President Jacques Chirac earlier this week repeated calls to extend a ban on animal and bone meal in France, but Prime Minister Lionel Jospin has opposed the idea.

Portugal enforced a blanket ban on animal and bone meal two years ago, and has repeatedly said an EU embargo on its own beef exports due to BSE levels is unfair because the country has more stringent animal safety regulations that most of its European partners.

Analysts say the main impact of banning animal and bone meal for all livestock would be to a switch to oilseeds, driving up imports from producers like the United States, Brazil and Argentina. But Europeans wary of genetically modified organisms could reject imports of gene-spliced soybeans grown in Argentina and the United States.

Chronology-mad cow disease in France

Wed, Nov 8, 2000 Reuters Business Report 
The following is a chronology of of events in France relating to mad cow disease, or BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy).

November 1986 - BSE is first identified by the British government's Central Veterinary Laboratory.

December 1987 - Scientific tests reveal that practice of feeding meat and bone meal containing animal parts to cattle caused BSE.

July 1989 - EU bans export of British cattle born before July 18, 1988 and the offspring of infected animals.

February 28, 1991 - French Agriculture Ministry announces discovery of first case of mad cow disease at dairy farm in Brittany.

March 27, 1996 - EU imposes worldwide ban on beef exports from Britain, including live bovine animals, semen, embryos and meat of bovine animals slaughtered in Britain, also materials used in manufacture of medical products, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

July 22, 1996 - EU scientists say BSE can infect sheep.

September 1996 - France prohibits sale of cosmetics containing extracts of central nervous systems of ruminants. Health authorities suspect link between BSE and the fatal human equivalent, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

December 1996 - France suspends imports of live cattle and beef from Switzerland, the European country most affected by mad cow disease after Britain.


July 14 - European Commission lifts worldwide ban on British beef exports, effective August 1.

October 1 - France says maintaining its embargo on imports of British beef on the grounds that there were insufficient "scientific guarantees" to lift ban. October 29 - European Commission scientists give British beef clean bill of health, unanimously rejecting evidence which France said supported an import ban.

November 16 - European Commission launches legal action against France.

November 30 - Britain says scrapping its ban on beef-on-the-bone in a move it hopes will convince France and Germany to remove their embargoes on British beef imports.

December 8 - France says sticking to its British beef ban because of insufficient guarantees on safety. British Prime Minister Tony Blair says France's decision totally wrong.

December 9 - European Commission vows to step up legal action against France's continued ban.

December 30 - European Commission says will take France to European Court of Justice for failing to end import ban on British beef.


January 17 - France reports fresh case of mad cow disease, the first discovered this year after France registered 31 cases in 1999.

March 14 - France's food safety agency approves proposed ban on the "pithing" slaughter method which experts fear may increase the risk of mad cow disease spreading to humans.

April 25 - Two herds of cattle totalling 112 animals destroyed in France after discovery of two fresh cases of mad cow disease, bringing to 16 the number of cases this year.

June 8 - France launches scheme to test 48,000 cattle for mad cow disease in bid to measure extent of illness among country's 21 million cattle.

July 3 - Four herds of cattle destroyed, bringing the number of cases this year to 23. One hundred and three cases of BSE have been reported since the epidemic was first detected in 1991.

July 25 - A plan to screen thousands of French cattle for mad cow disease has yielded its first confirmed case of the deadly brain-wasting disorder, the Farm Ministry announces.

October 21 - France's Agriculture Ministry says about a tonne of beef >from a herd in which a case of mad cow disease has been discovered had been sold to supermarket chain Carrefour.

November 3 - Russia and Hungary impose restrictions on imports of French beef.

November 6 - Revolt against the French government's beef safety assertions widens as authorities in southwestern city of Toulouse ban the meat from school canteen menus. At least 89 officially reported cases of BSE so far this year.

November 7 - President Chirac urges government to suspend the use of meat and bone meal in all animal feed immediately.

EU calls on France not to give in to Mad Cow psychosis

Wed, Nov 8, 2000 By RAF CASERT  Associated Press Writer
The European Union's food safety chief called on France Wednesday not to give in to Mad Cow psychosis and declined to back French President Jacques Chirac's call to ban all meat and bone feed for animals.

Acknowledging an increase in the cases of Mad Cow disease, EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne insisted the French public had to remember the incidence of the disease is "at a very low base, much lower that in Britain," where the Mad Cow scare started four years ago. Byrne said France had started an expanded testing scheme earlier this year and "the information we are now getting, we probably would have expected."

Seeking to calm consumer concerns, the main French farmers' union promised to no longer sell meat from cows born before mid-1996, the date when France introduced strict measures to fight the deadly illness, known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Chirac went on television asking the government to issue an immediate ban on animal-based livestock feed which is thought to cause mad cow disease.

Byrne said Britain and Portugal already had such a measure in place but refused to commit himself to asking 15 EU nations to adopt such a plan. "It is open to the French authorities to do the same thing," he said. As for the Commission, he said, "It depends on the evolution of the scientific evidence."

Byrne said only eight cases of BSE had been diagnosed on animals born after more rigorous feeding measures were adopted in 1996, including two in France. "In the context of the entire cattle population of the EU, that is probably a reassuring figure," he said.

He said the European Commission, the EU's executive body, was actively considering the "question of the possible fraud" somewhere in the animal fodder chain. "That is the issue I am worried about." The current cases are probably linked to insufficient controls, he said. Byrne addressed the mad cow issue during the announcement of his plans to set up an EU Food Authority to prevent new food scandals.

Cases of mad cow disease have risen dramatically in France, up from at least 80 detected so far this year from 31 for the whole of last year. Fears of contracting the human form of the brain-wasting illness, Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, have spurred a move away from beef, particularly after a supermarket ended up with some potentially infected meat on its shelves.

Four people are known to have been affected in France from the human equivalent of the disease, which has no known treatment -- compared to 81 people in Britain where it was identified by government scientists in late 1995. The beef scare exploded in Britain in 1996. The European Union banned British beef exports. It lifted the ban in August 1999 in response to safety measures adopted by Britain.

France calms consumers' concerns

Tue, Nov 7, 2000 By ELAINE GANLEY Associated Press Writer
Seeking to calm consumers' concerns about mad cow disease, the main French farmers' union said Tuesday it would no longer sell meat >from cows born before mid-1996, when the nation introduced strict measures to fight the deadly illness. "This decision is aimed at reassuring consumers," said Any Castaing, spokesman for the National Federation of Unions of Agricultural Farms.

The measure to withdraw beef sales from cows born before July 15, 1996, will affect about 1.3 to 1.5 million cows, or 5-7 percent of the nation's 21 million cows, Castaing said. [Will older cows be culled an incinerated? -- webmaster]

Fears about the safety of beef soared in this meat-loving nation last month when it was revealed that potentially infected meat had made it to supermarket shelves before being hastily withdrawn. Some schools in Paris have said they were removing beef from children's lunch menus.

Tuesday, President Jacques Chirac went on television and asked the government to issue a total and immediate ban on animal-based livestock feed feared to be a source of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as mad cow disease.

But Prime Minister Lionel Jospin refused the presidential request, citing the environmental and health risks posed by the annual destruction of 700,000 tons of cow carcasses that would be required if the feed were banned. Currently, France disposes of 130,000 tons of carcasses annually. France already has a limited ban on animal-based livestock feed that was adopted in 1996.

There has been a sharp rise in the number of mad cow cases found in France. This year, more than 80 infected animals have been detected and slaughtered with their herds, up from 31 for the whole of last year.

Health Minister Dominique Gillot told the daily Le Parisien on Tuesday that the increase in mad cow disease means it is "highly probable" there will be an increase in the number of cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

Three people are currently known to have died in France from the disease, which has no known treatment, while a third, a 19-year-old, will likely follow, Gillot told Le Parisien. A total of 81 people have died in Britain since the disease was identified by government scientists in late 1995.

The beef scare exploded in Britain in 1996. The European Union banned British beef exports. It lifted the ban in August 1999 in response to safety measures adopted by Britain, but France has maintained the embargo.

EU awaits Spanish reasoning for French cattle ban

Thu, Nov 9, 2000 Reuters World Report
Spain has told the European Commission of its ban on imports of French breeding cattle over fears of mad cow disease but has yet to provide detailed reasons for the decision, EU officials said on Thursday. "We were informed yesterday, but we are still waiting for the scientific justification," Commission spokesman Gregor Kreuzhuber told Reuters.

EU member states are allowed to take such action -- known as a safeguard measure -- only if there is a demonstrable public health risk. Many countries took such steps in the wake of Belgium's dioxin food scare last year.

Once Spain has provided scientific reasoning in an official notification, this will be passed to the EU's Standing Veterinary Committee for consideration. If the committee agrees with the reasons, then it may recommend EU measures. If it sees no justification, Spain could be ordered to lift the embargo. "The sooner we get the justification, the sooner we can proceed," Kreuzhuber added.

EU consumer commissioner questions farmers' union

Thu, Nov 9, 2000AP WorldStream
EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne suggested Thursday that a plan by a French farmers' union to withdraw from the market cows born before 1996 was an overreaction to fears of mad cow disease that would provide only "limited results." Speaking before the National Assembly's Foreign Affairs Commission, Byrne said that measures by the European Union mean that the risk of cows contracting bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, are "extremely weak."

France's largest farmers' federation proposed this week to stop selling cows born before mid-1996, the date when France introduced strict measures to fight the illness. The move, which would concern some 3 million cows, is aimed at reassuring consumers, increasingly concerned by ballooning reports of mad cow disease, which is thought to be linked to a fatal brain-wasting disease in humans.

The proposal to withdraw cows seen as harboring a safety risk came as an increasing number of school districts around France pulled beef from the menu in their canteens. The Brittany city of Rennes announced Thursday the temporary removal of beef from canteens. Sales of beef at the nation's meet markets were plunging.

Spain, alarmed by the French frenzy, said Wednesday it was banning the import of French and Irish cattle more than 20 months old. Conservative President Jacques Chirac went on television this week to ask the leftist coalition government to immediately ban all animal-based livestock feed. Prime Minister Lionel Jospin refused to act immediately, saying that storing the feed and killing cows destined for fodder could carry health and environmental risks. France's food safety agency is studying how to proceed.

Byrne questioned whether the plan to withdraw potentially risky cows from the market "would improve the level of protection" and whether the size of the task "and the costs it implies are not disproportionate to the weak results." Byrne said there are only "about seven cases of (mad cow disease) per million of cattle." EU control measures reduce the risk "to an extremely weak level," he added.

In Brussels on Wednesday, Byrne called on France not to give in to mad cow psychosis. Cases of mad cow disease have risen dramatically in France, up from at least 80 detected so far this year from 31 for the whole of last year.

Scientists have linked mad cow disease to variant Creutzfeld-Jakob disease. Four people in France are known to have contracted the malady -- compared to 85 people in Britain where it was identified by government scientists in late 1995. The beef scare exploded in Britain in 1996. The European Union banned British beef exports. It lifted the ban in August 1999 in response to safety measures adopted by Britain, but France has maintained the ban.

France soothes fears

Wed, Nov 8, 2000 By CLAR NI CHONGHAILE  Associated Press Writer
French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin sought to soothe spiraling fears about the safety of beef Wednesday, urging calm and accusing farmers of fueling the worry about deadly mad cow disease.

The Socialist prime minister told reporters that Tuesday's decision by farmers to stop selling meat from cows born before mid-1996 -- the date when France introduced strict measures to fight the illness -- could fuel general panic.

"One should not be surprised that there are economic consequences for the (beef) industry, when one does not provide answers but goes along with a kind of general psychosis," Jospin said. Jospin also directed a verbal sideswipe at conservative President Jacques Chirac who on Tuesday called for animal feed containing meat or bone meal to be banned immediately, instead of waiting for the results of a government-ordered study by the country's food safety agency. The feed, which was banned for cattle in 1996, is feared to transmit mad cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

"The role of those in positions of responsibility is not to frighten public opinion. The role of those in positions of responsibility is to provide answers and address the problems. That is our attitude," Jospin said in a thinly veiled criticism of Chirac, his likely rival in the 2002 presidential elections.

Saying he ate meat every day, Jospin added, "We are not going to invent a nation of vegetarians in the short-term."

Jospin's Agriculture minister, Jean Glavany, said the decision to stop selling older cows deserved to be studied, but he estimated it would cost the industry at least $1.6 billion.

The mad cow scandal has plunged this nation of meat-lovers into what many commentators are calling a kind of generalized panic or psychosis. Mad cow disease, a brain-wasting malady, has been linked to a variant strand of the fatal human disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob.

At least four people have contracted the diseaser in France from the disease -- compared to 85 in Britain -- but public concern has rocketed since it was revealed last month that potentially infected meat had made it to supermarket shelves, before being hastily withdrawn.

The number of cows found to be suffering from the deadly disease has jumped to more than 80 this year compared to 31 for the whole of last year, as more aggressive and systematic testing of French herds is carried out.

At the Rungis wholesale meat market outside Paris, sales of beef were down 50 percent on Wednesday after a drop of 37 percent the day before. Schools across the country have taken beef off the menu at the request of parents.

The European Union's food safety chief, David Byrne, called for calm, reminding the public that the incidence of the disease "is at a very low base, much lower than in Britain." Europe's beef scare exploded in Britain in 1996. The European Union banned British beef exports but lifted the embargo in August 1999 in response to safety measures adopted by Britain. However, France has maintained the ban.

Alarmed by recent reports of mad cow disease, Spain on Wednesday banned imports of French and Irish cattle that are more than 20 months old and destined for use in breeding. Spain already bans imports of British, Swiss and Portuguese cattle and beef because of health fears.

French BSE data must be put in context - EU's Byrne

Wed, Nov 8, 2000 Reuters World Report By David Evans
Cases of deadly mad cow disease are on the rise in France but the incidence rate is still relatively low and must be seen in context, Europe's Food Safety Commissioner David Byrne said on Wednesday.

Announcing his plans for a new European Union-wide food safety authority, Byrne said the Commission would continue to monitor the situation in France but saw no need to take action. "The incidence is very low, much lower than in Britain. It is rising but from a very low level," he said.

According to the latest EU data, France still has less than eight mad cow cases per million cattle aged over two years. Ireland has almost 40, Portugal nearly 200 and at the end of last year Britain's rate of brain-wasting disorder also known as BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) was above 500.

But fears over the recent rise in the number of BSE cases in France have sparked beef boycotts by schools, led to import bans by several east European countries and dented domestic sales.

And the data confirms the trend is rising. In the first six months of the year 23 cases were reported. Monthly totals since then have varied between 11 and 13.

Byrne pointed out that out of all the cases found in the EU this year, only eight were in animals born after 1996, when a ban on feeding cattle with animal feed containing meat and bonemeal became fully operational. He said he believed lax controls over the use of meat and bonemeal were behind the rising French trend and a BSE testing scheme, introduced ahead of schedule and on a wider scale than required by EU law, was also bringing more cases to light. "The information we are now getting is as we probably would have expected in circumstances where France is looking earlier and conducting a greater number of tests...It's important to put that in context," he said.

Byrne also said France was free to extend a ban on the use of meat and bonemeal to all animal feed, currently only in place in Britain and Portugal. [These bans are partial and do not include gelatin, tallow, and blood. -- webmaster]

The Commission was looking into import curbs placed on French beef by Russia, Hungary and Poland, which Byrne said did not appear to be justified. He said he would visit France on Thursday and there would be "full consideration of all the issues."

The Commission banned British beef exports in March 1996 after a link was established between mad cow disease and a new deadly human variant of the brain-wasting disorder Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease (nvCJD).

Nearly 85 people have already died from nvCJD in Britain and two in France. Scientists say the final toll in Britain may be in thousands and French Junior Health Minister Dominique Gillot has said more fatalities could be expected in France. The export embargo on Britain was lifted a year ago, but France unilaterally continued to apply import curbs, souring cross-Channel relations and prompting EU legal action.

Prion disease - dormant but deadly

Wed, 13 Sep 2000 Morning Herald (Sydney, AU)  by Jennifer Cooke, author of Cannibals, Cows & the CJD Catastrophe
Animal experiments have revealed a silent carrier role for a deadly prion disease in mice which may point to dire consequences for humans. Jennifer Cooke reports.

Dr Andrew Hill realised the implications immediately. A flurry of calls from the animal house to the lab where he worked in London early last year warned of eight mice with signs of prion disease. It had been assumed for years that this could not happen.

But not only did these results show new evidence for a "sub-clinical" or undetectable form of disease in mice; they lent credence to theories that mad cow disease could be carried silently by apparently healthy cows and that humans incubating the mad cow-related new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD) may infect surgical and dental patients through contaminated instruments.

All prion disease experiments are lengthy and these important findings, published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, capped years of lab work.

More than four years ago, Hill and colleagues at the Medical Research Council Prion Unit in London, headed by Professor John Collinge, began an experiment in which 20 normal mice were injected with the mulched-up brains of hamsters who had died from one strain of the prion disease called scrapie.

There are more than 20 known strains of scrapie, which is endemic in British sheep flocks. Scrapie is believed to have given rise to the epidemic of mad cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) that began around 1985 and has since spread to Europe.

More than 20 years ago researchers had noted that mice lived a full life with no apparent disease despite being injected with hamster scrapie. The assumption had been that this strain could not be passed on to mice.

But Hill and his colleagues took that old experiment a step further and injected the liquefied brain matter of these apparently healthy mice, into another bunch of healthy mice and hamsters - just to confirm that there was no disease present.

It was supposed to be a simple control experiment but, to the shock of everyone involved, the mice and hamsters started staggering around their cages five months afterwards, indicating that prion disease had taken hold and spongy holes had begun destroying their brains. What's more, the mice had produced their own lethal prions, which were different from the hamster prions injected into the original 20 mice.

The control experiment had evolved into a major finding itself. It proved that those original 20 mice had been silent carriers of the disease and were able to pass it on.

A new-generation test in which proteins are examined to identify the molecular signature of different prion diseases also confirmed the presence of high levels of prions in the brains of those mice.

If the same were found to be true of cattle, then many cows in Britain, and other European countries where it has surfaced may be silent carriers of the related BSE.

Diseased cattle may then freely enter the human food chain and escalate what is fast becoming a mini-epidemic of the human equivalent, nvCJD.

Test findings published in 1998 showed that nvCJD had an identical molecular signature to BSE - as close to absolute proof as is likely, experts say, that BSE caused the disease in humans.

Species including poultry, pigs and sheep were also exposed to BSE in Britain from the cannibalistic feeding practices of the 1980s when dead sheep and cows were ground down into cakes of meat and bonemeal protein supplements. Speculation now surrounds whether those species might also be capable of harbouring symptom-free prion disease.

The most worrying implication of all is that transmission could occur from silent animal carriers to humans and then to other humans. No test is sensitive enough yet to detect rogue prions in a person who has no symptoms of nvCJD (or any other type of CJD).

If the mice experiments prove in future to be applicable to cows, and thus humans, as BSE has already shown, then anyone who has been exposed to prions from mad cows has the potential to be a silent carrier. Include in this group British migrants (fed on baby food or at British schools, in particular), returned expatriates, and possibly even tourists who indulged in the English passion for pies, hamburgers, sausages or beef products that included brain and spinal cord material - the most infectious parts.

And if that were the case, the potential would in turn loom large for transmission between humans via CJD-contaminated surgical instruments and tissue donations - routes via which another type of CJD has already killed neurosurgical patients and recipients of corneas and pituitary-derived human growth hormone.

The infectious agent that causes CJD cannot be removed by hospital-standard sterilisation or cleaning techniques, although infectiousness can be reduced.

So far, no transmission has occurred through organ donations. And blood and plasma derivatives are not believed to be implicated in the transmission of any type of CJD. However, the fear with nvCJD, which can be detected in tonsil and appendix tissue, is that it might behave differently (having sprung from animals) and pose more of a threat.

Tighter restrictions on blood transfusions and wider use of disposable surgical instruments are among the anti-nvCJD measures introduced over the past two years in Britain alone, to reduce the risk of spread between humans.

Earlier this year the United States, Canada, Austria and New Zealand also banned blood donations from anyone who lived in Britain for longer than six months between 1980 and 1996. Canada last week applied the same ban to those who had lived in France.

Australia has not followed suit on the grounds of the small, theoretical risk of CJD transmission via blood and fears of diminishing an already small pool of vital donors.

Only this year, nine neurosurgery patients at the Royal Melbourne Hospital were potentially exposed to CJD when instruments used on a patient later found to be suffering from CJD were reused. CJD was not initially suspected in the patient so the normal procedure of quarantining the instruments for later destruction, if CJD was confirmed, was not followed.

Just last month, to head off a similar occurrence with nvCJD in Britain, the Department of Health announced that surgical instruments used in tonsil, appendix and brain operations are to be destroyed after one use in a move likely to cost millions of pounds.

At the pathology department of the University of Melbourne researcher Andy Hill, has been dogged by calls from the British media over the past week concerned at what his work might mean.

"The bottom line," he says of the implications of the mice experiment that sparked it all, "is that healthy cattle may harbour infectivity and never show any signs of BSE. It is entirely possible that, in the same way, humans might be harbouring the disease at this sub-clinical level. As we don't know how many people may be incubating the disease - which may be longer than the normal lifespan - then there are possible implications for medical and surgical procedures."

In the five years since its discovery in two British teenagers, nvCJD has been reported in 85 people in Britain, two in France and one in Ireland. Alarmingly, 36 of those were reported in only the past year.

Despite the introduction of a series of controls dating from 1989, including a ban on the most infective cattle offals entering food, a bar on cattle over 30 months old being used for food, and an end to feeding cow and sheep remains to other meat-producing livestock, they were not policed effectively and the BSE epidemic was not contained quickly.

A devastating report on the British Government's inadequate role in guarding public health is expected from The BSE Inquiry, a two-year-old probe into the handling of the BSE epidemic up to 1996. It is due within weeks - about the time of the next meeting of the Spongiform EncephalopathyAdvisory Committee (SEAC) at which scientists may yet decide to re-examine controls against nvCJD.

The British Government, which denied for a decade until 1996 that British beef was anything but perfectly safe to eat, has spent the past week confidently asserting that existing measures are more than adequate to guard against the possibility of silent BSE cases.

Hill's old boss, Professor John Collinge, also an SEAC member, is not in total agreement.

"My own view is that probably the 30-month rule and the offal ban would still protect us from [BSE] but I am not sure," he said. "This data shakes me up a bit."

nvCJD victim loved burgers and meatballs, inquest told

Tue, Nov 7, 2000 By Greg Frost Reuters North America 
France's top health official said on Tuesday she expected dozens more cases of the human version of mad cow disease, the brain-wasting disease that has alarmed consumers and school authorities here.

Junior Health Minister Dominique Gillot said cases of new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (nvCJD), the human equivalent of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), should rise sharply from the current level of two confirmed deaths.

Gillot's comments to the daily Le Parisien came as Bordeaux and several smaller towns stripped beef from school menus, bringing to over a dozen the number of cities and towns taking extra precautions against BSE. At the National Assembly in Paris, opposition parties called for a parliamentary inquiry into the public health effects of feeding meat and bone meal to all animals.

"With the rise in the number of cases of mad cow disease in France, it is highly likely that we will have dozens of cases of nvCJD. We must prepare for that," Gillot said.

"It's true that the number of people showing symptoms of nvCJD is rising," she added, drawing a parallel between the evolution of the disease in Britain and in France.

France, where several supermarket chains announced two weeks ago that they had sold beef potentially contaminated with the fatal illnes, has so far reported two confirmed cases of nvCJD and one likely case of the fatal illness, Gillot said. Britain has reported 85 confirmed cases of nvCJD according to UK Department of Health figures.

Both BSE and nvCJD are caused by tiny mutated brain proteins called prions that are normally present in the brain and other tissues.

"I can't say 'don't worry' to people who ask me about it, because it's true that the prion is a formidable infectious agent about which we do not know all the modes of transmission and against which we have no treatment," Gillot said.

The BSE food scare has put authorities in an awkward position of wanting to respond to consumer fears but not wanting to accentuate what Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany has called a "psychosis." Over half of Paris's 20 districts have banned beef from their schools while other areas have decided to wait for a possible recommendation from national health authorities.

While the number of cases of BSE in Britain is falling, France has been reporting more and more cases since the government started tests in June to gauge the extent of the illness among its 21 million cattle. France's farm ministry reported three new cases of BSE on Monday, bringing the total this year to 89 -- nearly triple the 30 cases reported last year.

Most scientists are convinced that eating contaminated beef is the most likely mode of transmission of the disease from cattle to humans. Death from nvCJD usually occurs about a year to 18 months after the onset of symptoms. Cases are confirmed by a pathological exam after death.

20 year old loved meatballs and McDonald's

Tue, Nov 7, 2000 By Jane Merrick, PA News
A 20-year-old woman who died from the human form of mad cow disease was a "devil for McDonald's" and ate Campbell's Meatballs more than anyone else in her family, an inquest was told today.

Kirsty Garven, a financial administration officer at Marks & Spencer who was from Chester, died in July this year after showing symptoms of nvCJD for a year. Jennifer Garven told Crewe Coroner's Court that her eldest daughter had eaten a normal diet throughout her childhood and whatever the family ate at home.

But she added: "Kirsty was a devil for McDonald's. She would go out at night and have a burger. I never really thought much about it. She was not a great beef eater but she loved Campbell's Meatballs. No one else in the family liked them, but she ate them a lot."

The inquest was one of three held side-by-side by Cheshire coroner Nicholas Rheinberg and were the first since publication last month of the Phillips Report into the BSE crisis. Mr Rheinberg recorded verdicts of misadventure on Miss Garven and on Thomas Gemmel, 17, and Alison Thorpe, 25.

Mrs Garven said her daughter had a happy and cheerful disposition but in 1999 she began having mood swings and felt that she "couldn't hack it" at Marks & Spencer.

Miss Garven went on holiday to Gran Canaria in June that year but rather than go out clubbing every night, which she usually loved, she went to bed early, the court heard.

Three months later she was seen by a consultant neuropathologist at the Countess of Chester Hospital. Her speech was slurred and the usually bright and intelligent young woman had an IQ of 68, the coroner was told. Her condition rapidly worsened and she died in a hospice in July this year.

The inquest was earlier told that Mrs Thorpe, who lived with her husband Richard in Macclesfield, Cheshire, began showing symptoms of nvCJD in 1997 and became worse over the following year.

Three months before her death, doctors at Manchester Royal Infirmary believed she was suffering from anorexia and it was only when her mother, Susan Hodge, organised a consultation with a specialist that the illness was diagnosed.

Mrs Hodge said no care package was offered and the family was left to look after the young woman. She said: "That was it - nothing else. It was more or less expected that we would bring her home, then it was our problem. We had no objection to bringing her home but it would have helped if we had had some background support."

Mr Rheinberg said later that since the inquiry into BSE the medical profession had become more aware of nvCJD and that a system of care was now in place. The inquest was told that Mrs Thorpe died at home in August 1998.

The final inquest on Thomas Gemmel, of Northwich, Cheshire, was told that the teenager had eaten "normal food" both meat and vegetables, throughout his life. When he first showed symptoms in May 1998, when he was just 15, doctors believed he simply had "growing pains".

His father, Robert Gemmel, said: "He became very unstable and couldn't work without two people holding him. "He had a smile on his face all the time but beneath it he seemed scared. He knew something was wrong."

After two years of increasing debilitating symptoms, he died in February this year.

Mr Rheinberg said all three had died "unnatural deaths" caused by nvCJD from contaminated beef in the food chain. Afterwards, Mrs Garven, a housewife, said she was pleased with the verdict, but added: "We will never recover from this. "Any family that has suffered, that has seen someone gradually deteriorate, it is something you will never forget."

Inquiry Report: very British

Thu, 9 Nov 2000 correspondence Adrian Holme London
"With regard to the Phillips Inquiry - anodyne it may be, and it is very British in it's restraint in condemning, but I do not believe it can simply be written off as a whitewash. It is damning in the detail, and has already led I believe and hope, to a fundamental shift in the balance of the debate on science and consumer interests. To be sure there are many issues not resolved and the UK is still very weak indeed on the freedom of information front.

On the FSA - I do feel that they are very keen to demonstrate their independence. While I don't believe it is as powerful as the FDA, I would not underestimate the significance of the setting up of the FSA. The fact that it has a proportion of ex-Maff employees does not necessarily mean it will tow the Maff line. Again, there are battles still to be won, such as the crazy relaxation of the SRM controls, but the openness with which the FSA operates is in my experience unprecedented in this country. It is not perfect by any means, but I think it is much to early to dismiss it - it has already shown itself to be a considerable improvement on what went before.

On the question of milk - my understanding is that there will undoubtedly be infectivity in milk, because as the article rightly points out, there are white cells in milk (and maybe other carriers of infectivity). To my knowledge though it has not been established that the calves are infected by the milk - the only study I have heard of in cattle has not shown a positive result at seven years (of course it still might). I am told that infection certainly occurs very early in the life of the calf - but the precise cause has still to be determined. Of course this research should have been carried out fifteen years ago. If you know of any studies / evidence for milk causing a TSE I should be very interested.

Finally I would say that the whole BSE saga has of course been a disgraceful scandal, and a terribly traumatic experience for Britain. It is likely to be increasingly traumatic in the face of an accelerating epidemic of nvCJD - which has the potential to be very large. The public mood, and attitude to food safety has already been enormously affected by this experience, which is why there is a very widespread scepticism and outright opposition to GM foods, and a widespread mistrust of government on food safety."

Swiss shun blood donors from Britain in BSE scare

Wed, Nov 8, 2000 Reuters World Report
Swiss blood centres have begun to ban donors >from Britain to head off the potential spread of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), the human illness linked to mad cow disease, a newspaper reported on Wednesday.

The regional blood centre in Lucerne has already turned away 10 donors after deciding to reject people who have spent more than six months living in Britain, the Weltwoche weekly reported in an advance copy of a story to appear on Thursday. Blood centres in the capital Berne have posed the same question to donors since the start of the year, and others are set to join in early 2001, the weekly said.

The step reflects the seriousness with which centres are treating the chance -- yet to be proven -- that transfusions could spread a new lethal form of CJD, the brain-wasting human illness linked to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

"Ever since the AIDS scandal you react very sensitively to possible risks," it quoted Guy Levy, the physician who oversees the Swiss Red Cross blood donation service, as saying. "Excluding travellers to England is purely a preventative measure. There has been no evidence so far that the new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease can be transmitted in humans via blood."

Nearly 85 people have already died from the new variant of CJD in Britain and four in France. Scientists say the final toll in Britain may be in the thousands and the French total was also expected to rise.

No cases of the new form of CJD linked to mad cow disease have been reported in Switzerland so far, but the country's federal veterinary office suggested last week that Switzerland ban the use of animal meal in all livestock feed in a bid to wipe out BSE cases here. Two cows have been born with BSE after a partial Swiss ban on the use of animal meal in May 1996.

Mad cow clusters

Wed, Nov 8, 2000 By Damien Brook, PA News
A health authority today moved to quash reports that a source for cluster of deaths from the human form of mad cow disease had been found. Leicestershire Health Authority has been carrying out an investigation into the deaths of five people from nvCJD in and around the village of Queniborough, near Melton Mowbray in the East Midlands.
Last night health officials gave villagers a progress report on the investigation which they say is probably only half completed. Today Dr Bernard Crump, director of public health for the authority, said reports that the investigation had revealed a source for the outbreak were false.
Dr Crump said: "We are still trying to learn as much as we can from the five confirmed cases. By putting that information alongside local information we hope to try and establish a link."
Dr Philip Monk, consultant in communicable diseases, said: "We have reached the stage where some risk factors have been found to be unlikely. We are on the way to finding a possible linking hypothesis, however, we have not yet found a theory that can link all the cases." He added: "We believe the meat supply chain is the only remaining factor. We now need to complete the work to develop and test a hypothesis."
The Queniborough tragedy began in 1998 when 18-year-old Stacey Robinson died following a 10-month battle with the disease. Two months later bank worker Pamela Bayless, 24, lost her two-year battle with the disease. Van driver Glen Day, 36, died at around the same time, and in May of this year an unnamed 19-year-old also succumbed. The latest victim was Christopher Reeve, 24, who died on September 28.
When the health authority investigation was launched in 1998 it was found two of the victims had lived in the village and the incidents were not thought to be a cluster. However as more deaths followed it became apparent that all five victims lived in a the Wreake and Soar Valley areas for most of their lives.

Dr Monk said: "Between 1980 and 1991 all of the cases lived within an area defined by a circle with a radius of 5km." He said the investigation would now focus on what happened to meat products within that area.

Meat linked to cluster of UK mad cow deaths

Wed, Nov 8, 2000  Reuters World Report
British doctors investigating a local cluster of "mad cow" deaths in the central English village of Queniborough said on Wednesday that meat appeared to be the common cause of the five fatalities.

The inquiry, launched in July to find vital clues about what may cause new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), the human form of the brain wasting disease, is due to last until next March, but interim findings have been released.

"It (meat) is the only factor that we can establish that potentially links all the cases," said Dr Philip Monk, who is leading the study. When you investigate a cluster what you're really looking for is is there a common link between all the cases."

He said that the report had dismissed the possibility that CJD was transmitted through water supplies, animal bites or immunisation. "They may be relevant factors for other people with variant CJD, but they don't explain our cluster," Monk told BBC radio.

He added that the inquiry would now focus on tracking down how the meat entered the food chain. "We know for sure they (the victims) didn't use one common butcher," he said. "We've got to go from the farmgate to the butcher shops to see where these links might be."

Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), was first identified in 1986, provoking a crisis that is expected to have cost Britain four billion pounds by 2001. A total of 85 people in Britain have died from new variant CJD, the human form of BSE, and some scientists fear that the number of cases may rise to thousands.

The British government said many of the Queniborough CJD victims would have been exposed to the infective agent "many years ago." Most were believed to have contracted the fatal disease in the late 1980s through eating infected meat. But scientists are still divided on the cause of BSE in cattle and its route to humans. Most believe it is caused by prion proteins which set up a deadly chain reaction.

Mad cow waste disappears from waste plant

Wed, Nov 8, 2000  By Tahira Yaqoob, PA News
Angry villagers today demanded the closure of a waste processing plant after it was revealed that material from animals which had died of mad cow disease -- and which was allegedly being illegally stored at the site -- had gone missing.

Environment Agency officials said they found seven 25-litre drums of the Ministry of Agriculture waste matter at Cleansing Services Group in Sandhurst, Gloucester. They trawled through records to find another seven drums were consigned five years ago to the chemical plant but have yet to trace the missing toxic substances.

The agency launched its investigation after a fireball explosion gutted part of the site nine days ago.

But Sandhurst villagers said their discovery could have come too late. They claimed they were living on a knife-edge after being told about the waste from cows infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy and a drum on site leaking potentially carcinogenic chemicals into floodwater.

Tewkesbury Conservative MP Laurence Robertson has joined their calls for the site to be shut down and plans to hold talks with Environment Secretary John Prescott on Monday. He also hopes to raise the matter in the House of Commons.

Mr Robertson said: "Three years ago parishioners came to me complaining about fumes from the site. "I visited only to find the company denied the fumes came from there. I was rather alarmed and began to look at the site quite closely. My concern is about the operation of this company and that it is in a flood plain. It is my view that the company should not continue to operate from that site. I will ensure Mr Prescott does everything in his power to make sure the company does not operate in Sandhurst."

After the blaze ripped through the plant, at least 50 villagers who were temporarily evacuated have complained of suffering stinging faces, sore throats and stomach pains. They returned to their homes but 17 men, women and children were again evacuated on Sunday and have been advised to stay away from their houses until the leaking drum has been secured.

Resident Jayne Overthrow said: "I really feel we have been failed. There has been no help from doctors and we have been running scared for over a week. There has not been any information from the health authority."

Villager David Eggleton added: "This site is going to go and we are going to make sure it is never back on our doorstep again." Resident Mike Moorhead claimed villagers had not been given tips on protecting their health. He said: "We were not given advice on what should happen when we went back to the village. All my family has been suffering symptoms and the only response we have had is that they are normal for chemical contamination. There has been no medical back-up."

Gloucestershire Health Authority has taken blood samples from five households and some emergency staff who battled the blaze to tests for possible toxic effects. It is awaiting results.

The Environment Agency was today still trying to locate the seven missing drums contaminated with waste from BSE-infected cows. It has carried out tests on water, air and soil samples to see how far toxic substances have leaked from the open drum. It said initial tests showed contamination was contained on site and was not at a dangerous level.

CSG has had its waste management licence suspended and has been served with an enforcement notice banning it from polluting the environment. The EA said it would have to prove the firm was guilty of pollution before stripping the licence permanently.

Cleansing Services Group today confirmed a by-product from BSE contaminated cows was stored at the Gloucester site but refused to comment on whether the firm had a licence to do so.

Associate director Ian Carnell said: "It can be confirmed that small quantities of laboratory solvent washings that have been used to investigate BSE are being safely stored with the full knowledge of the regulatory authorities, including the Environment Agency. There is a total of seven 25-litre containers of this material which have not been involved in the recent fire incidents. All of the containers are in a safe, sound condition and are appropriately marked with their contents. There has been absolutely no release of any of this material to land, water or air. All of the material is accounted for and there has been no escape of any containers from our Gloucester site."

He refused to comment on the Environment Agency claims that an extra seven containers of the infected waste matter are still unaccounted for.

The Environment Agency has said its records show it authorised a consignment of seven containers in 1996, which has been identified as the ones found two days ago. But the agency says another consignment of seven containers was authorised in 1995 by the site's previous owners, Gloucestershire County Council. They have not yet been traced, the agency claims.

BSE-infected chemicals in village water supply' fear

Tue, Nov 7, 2000  By Tahira Yaqoob, PA News
BSE-contaminated chemicals which went missing when a waste processing plant exploded into flames could have leaked into the water supply, environment officials revealed today. Seven drums of organic waste from the Ministry of Agriculture have not been found since the chemical factory in Sandhurst, Gloucester, went up in a fireball.

Environment Agency officials admitted they had not even realised the infected chemicals had been apparently stored illegally at the site, owned by Cleansing Services Group. The matter came to light when seven more 25-litre drums of BSE-contaminated chemicals were found while they were assessing the impact of the explosion nine days ago.

Agency managers claimed the potential danger from the missing chemicals was "infinitesimal". But they listed a catalogue of hazards in the aftermath of the blaze to a meeting of 250 angry Sandhurst villagers. The dangers include:

-- A drum leaking potentially cancer-causing chemicals into water including hydrogen sulphide, arsenic and cadmium. Environment officials said it would be more dangerous trying to move it.

-- The threat of chemicals being washed away by rising floodwater from the river Severn nearby as Gloucestershire was once again under a flood warning. Part of the burned factory site has already been inundated with torrents of water.

-- Most toxic chemicals which were not fire-damaged were moved to higher ground at the CSG base - but they are still only one metre above rising floodwater.

-- A cloud of phosphorus chemical which reacted with water when it was spilled during the clean-up operation. Villagers complained they felt burning in their throats after the incident.

-- Potential health risks to residents. Although health officials have claimed there will be no lasting effects, Tewkesbury borough councillor Mark Williams has said most of the 50 evacuated from their homes on the night of the fire have suffered stinging faces, stomach pains and sore throats.

-- Although most toxic chemicals have been moved to a safer position, the operation was carried out quickly to beat the floods - and could have compromised carefulness, the Environment Agency admitted.

Agency spokesman Roger Wade said there were also fears about the missing MAFF drums. He told the meeting a consignment of seven drums authorised by the agency four years ago was found in a locked compound on site - although CSG is believed to have no licence to process the waste. The consignment brought to light the missing chemicals authorised in 1995 by the site's former owner, Gloucestershire County Council.

Mr Wade said: "The BSE washings were not involved in the fire as far as we know. We have no evidence of them being broken and as far as we are aware, there is not an abnormal risk from them. The possibility of anyone getting anything from the water is infinitesimal. The risk assessment is low. [There has been no risk assessment. -- webmaster]

The big issue is the one of the remaining drum which is not totally secure." He added the seven BSE-contaminated drums which were found had been moved and locked up separately on site.

Gloucestershire EA official Paul Quinn told the meeting an investigation had been launched after the discovery and could result in legal action. He added staff working for the agency had visited the site at least once a week for the last five years but failed to spot the drums.

Mr Quinn said: "Checking our records we found there were two consignments relating to these drums. "We believe CSG's licence does not permit such waste and will be looking into our own actions as well."

Sewer Farms

Fri, Nov 10, 2000 By KILEY RUSSELL Associated Press Writer
California Association of Sanitation Agencies
If it weren't for the constant shipments of human waste from Southern California's cities, Kern County farmer Shaen Magen says his farm would dry up and blow away.

Magen grows barley, wheat and milo for animal feed on 7,000 acres he describes as "highly alkaline and really very marginal." It's so marginal, in fact, that without regular truckloads of treated sewer sludge to be used as fertilizer, the land would be useless, he said.

Magen is paid roughly $25 a ton to dump the sludge on his land. "The only reason we survive here is that we get a fee for removing the sludge and incorporating it on our farm. We also make our money out of the crop we grow because we get it subsidized by free fertilizer," Magen said.

The growing use of urban sewage as fertilizer on industrial farms, however, is unpopular in the San Joaquin Valley. Over the past two years, several county governments have waged legal and political battles against a few local farmers and Southern California sanitation districts over where and how the stuff is used.

Kern, Fresno, Tulare and Kings counties have enacted or are drafting ordinances intended to ban or tighten regulations on the practice. The counties, which account for roughly a third of the state's $28.4 billion annual agricultural output, fear a consumer backlash.

"Folks are concerned that the perception would be that Kern County crops were poisoned with sewage sludge. We know that isn't true, but that is the concern people have," said David Price, who as chief of the Kern County Resource Management Agency helped draft the new rules.

Since 1994, federal and state regulations have allowed use of sludge, also called biosolids, to grow animal feed or fiber crops such as cotton. Regulations govern how often and how much sludge can be used, to what extent it can be contaminated with heavy metals and other industrial waste, and what levels of pathogens are acceptable.

The sludge is filtered from urban sewers and siphoned into vats where it's cooked to kill most of the viruses and bacteria. The result is a thick black muckish sludge that's loaded into trucks and driven to composting sites, landfills or Central Valley farms.

In an effort to fight the "sewage farm" perception, Kern County enacted an ordinance to ban all but the most highly treated, cleanest sludge by 2003.

To protect their sludge program, Orange and Los Angeles counties, the city of Los Angeles, the California Association of Sanitation Agencies and a handful of farmers who dump the sludge sued Kern County. In response, Kern County and a group of farmers countersued, claiming the county should have the right to make land-use decisions without outside interference.

"There's a number of scientists who don't believe it's safe, who don't believe the current rules are adequate to protect the land, water or air," said Jeff Green, a lawyer for the organically operated Grimway Farms, one of the nation's largest carrot growers and a plaintiff in the countersuit. If you're not sure if it's safe, it's best to be conservative," Green said. E' _ MEAT CHIEFS Wire Service: PA (PA News) Date: Copyright 2000 PA News. Copying, storing, redistribution, retransmission, publication, transfer or commerical exploitation of this information is expressly forbidden.

Electrified lamb will be more tender

Thu, Nov 9, 2000 By Simon Mowbray, Consumer Affairs Correspondent, PA News
Britain's meat bosses plan to persuade abattoirs to blast all lamb carcasses with massive doses of electricity to produce better pieces of meat. It is believed the practice, currently used only in a handful of the nation's slaughter houses, keeps even the meat from older lambs more tender.

The Meat and Livestock Commission, which is pushing the High Voltage Electrical Stimulation method of treating lamb, denied the move was connected to recent fears over BSE in lamb. Instead, it said the project would make British lamb more competitive with foreign imports all year round, particularly in deep winter when only older lambs are culled. [Thgis practise would have no effect on the scrapie or BSE agent; older sheep are higher risk -- webmaster.]

Currently, many consumers opt for imported younger cuts of lamb in the months after Christmas, mainly from New Zealand, because they are traditionally perceived as more tender.

But the Commission claims that could soon change if more abattoirs adopt its plans. So far, only around a dozen of Britain's 372 lamb slaughter houses are using the method, where carcasses are pushed against a metal bar charged with more than 1,000 volts of electricity for 90 seconds.

It is believed the process, which is carried out 30 minutes after an animal is slaughtered, prevents the toughening of meat caused by refrigeration and speeds up the natural process of tenderisation which occurs as proteins in the meat break down.

Kim Matthews, one of the Commission's leading meat scientists, said: "This method has been fully tested in rigorous trials and we are satisfied it is completely safe. Consumers have nothing to fear from this. Instead, it ensures that they get a top quality piece of tender meat. We would like to see more abattoirs using this method because we believe it will make British lamb more competitive in the market all year round."

Britain faces BSE claims by French

Guardian ... Sunday 12 November 2000 Antony Barnett and Stuart Jeffries, Paris
Opinion (webmaster): Britain continued in a cold-blooded way for nearly 15 years to export millions of tons of feed they knew to be contaminated with BSE, continuing to this day with blood, tallow, and gelatin not deemed fit for their own livestock. These exports are quickly relabelled in countries such as Belgium and disappear into global markets. Compensation might instill a sense of accountability and lead to avoidance of such practises in the future.

"Britain could face huge compensation claims from families of French victims of the human form of mad cow disease as doctors predict that thousands might die across the Channel. Last month Tony Blair announced a multi-million pound no-fault compensation package for families of victims but set no guidelines as to who would be eligible.

With most British and French experts agreeing that BSE was a disease 'exported' from the UK to France, lawyers believe there would be a case for French families of variant CJD victims to sue the British government .

The French organisation offering support to CJD victims' families - the Association for the Struggle Against Prion-related Diseases - said: 'It is not inconceivable legal action could be taken against the British government.' The association said it would be contacting David Body, the lawyer representing families of British victims, who has said that he believes there is a case that they could be eligible for compensation.

Frances Hall, of the Human BSE Foundation which supports variant CJD victims in Britain, said: 'The early cases in France seem to come from the same source as those in Britain and I think it would be morally difficult for the government to rule out compensation for families just because they are not British.'

A Department of Health spokeswoman did not rule out paying families of non-British victims but said it was 'too early to say '.

So far, only three French people have contracted variant CJD compared with 82 in the UK, but this weekend some French doctors predicted the figures could soar to several thousand . Two French victims have already died, and last week French television screened a documentary about a third victim, Arnaud, 19. The family is taking action against the French state but legal experts believe Britain could be held responsible.

In the past fortnight, the number of cases of BSE in French herds has tripled , but so far the epidemic is concentrated around Normandy and Brittany - the region that imported animal feed from Britain.

The Philips BSE report published last month confirmed that the spread of the disease was most probably caused by animal feed made from meat and bone meal which contained infected cattle . Britain banned the practice in July 1998, but figures from Customs and Excise reveal that in 1989 France imported more than 15,000 tonnes of meat and bone meal (MBM). By 1990, the amount had dropped to just over 1,000 tonnes and to practically zero the year after.

Several cases of BSE in Switzerland are also thought to have come from contaminated British animal feed.

French health secretary Dominique Gillot said: 'With the rise of the number of cases of mad cow disease in France it is probable that we will have several tens of cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.'

But doctors such as Dr Martine Pérez believe that there could be a much larger epidemic of variant CJD in France. Writing in yesterday's Le Figaro, Pérez argued that this would primarily be caused by consumption of contaminated British beef between 1980 and 1986, rather than BSE-infected French beef. Some estimates say this could mean as many as 7,000 cases of CJD in France.

This weekend other European governments have been urged to step up testing for mad cow disease. A plea from David Byrne, the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, advised member states to speed up the introduction of random testing on targeted animals, which will become compulsory from the start of next year."

EU Commission wants huge increase in mad cow testing

Mon, Nov 13, 2000 By RAF CASERT Associated Press Writer
Fearing a further spread of the mad cow scare, the European Commission on Monday called for a huge increase of tests on the cattle herd of the 15 European Union nations in an attempt to assuage shaken consumer confidence. [Is it the fear that is spreading, or realization that the disease has already spread? -- webmaster]

"We must make known the risks," said EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne after he called for mad cow tests on all older cattle in the EU. There must be no hidden agendas. No distortions. No false assurances," he said in a statement. [Wait and see -- the statement itself is a reassurance. -- webmaster]

The EU already has a plan in place to extend annual testing to some 170,000 animals next year and Byrne's latest proposal could further add "million of tests," said his spokeswoman Beate Gminder.

EU veterinary experts will discuss the proposal on Wednesday and farm ministers will look further at the proposal during a regular monthly meeting next week. Under the new plan, tests would not only center on high-risk animals but also include a comprehensive program to test all older animals in the EU's cattle herd of 40 million.

"The envisaged program will ... increase information and transparency to the consumer and further strengthen our controls," Byrne said. Gminder said she hoped the EU nations could take a decision in a matter of weeks.

The huge extension of the tests would start to weigh on budgets. One BSE testing kit costs 30 euros (dlrs 26), excluding the cost of veterinarians and laboratory personnel. "It's a substantial amount of money," said Gminder. Under current procedures the costs of tests are shared equally between the EU's central budget and national governments.

Officials said the main negotiating problems would center on the cutoff age for mandatory testing of older animals and the funding. Some nations where the disease has not been diagnosed might also object.

Mad cow disease, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, had so far spared herds in Spain, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Greece, Finland and Austria.

Cases of the disease have risen sharply in France this year, up to 90 so far from 31 for the whole of last year. The disease had been centered in Britain where around 180,000 cases have been detected in an outbreak that first came to public attention in the late 1980s.

In Paris, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin is considering measures banning the use of livestock feed containing meat or bone meal amid growing concern about mad cow disease's spread. The prime minister is expected to announce the decision on Tuesday after meeting with several Cabinet members.

Intent on mitigating a new wave of mad cow panic, Jospin has said in the past that he favored waiting for the results of a government-ordered study before banning animal-based feed, which is feared to transmit mad cow disease.

But Jospin has apparently decided to follow President Jacques Chirac's wish that such feed be outlawed immediately, without waiting for the study results that are expected in three months. Fear in France increased after it became clear a few weeks ago that some potentially tainted meat could have ended up on the supermarket shelves.

Last Friday, France announced plans to ban sweetbreads for a one-year period as a precautionary measure to fight the possible lethal consequences for humans. On Friday already, Byrne called on member states to carry out many more tests than legally required. Only eight cases of BSE had been diagnosed on animals born after more rigorous feeding measures were adopted in 1996, including two in France.

BSE test for millions of Euro cows

Mon, Nov 13, 2000 By Geoff Meade, European Editor, PA News, in Brussels
Millions of cows are to be tested for mad cow disease under the biggest anti-BSE programme yet proposed by the European Commission. Full details of the scheme will be hammered out at talks between EU veterinary experts on Wednesday in the wake of growing concern over "disturbing" levels of BSE in France.

The target is older animals not covered by existing checks, and each test will cost at least $26 per head of cattle. But the Commission insisted that the price will be worth it to give consumers an extra guarantee of the safety of the beef they buy.

The announcement follows hot on the heels of a plea from Brussels last Friday urging EU governments to introduce random BSE testing on targeted animals now rather than wait next January, when the tests will be compulsory. Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection David Byrne said today that existing comprehensive controls had already reduced the health risk to a very low level. But he said the new programme of testing would increase information and transparency for the consumer and further strengthen control measures.

"The political establishment must be fully transparent with the public. There must be no hidden agendas. No distortions. No false assurances. Transparency, information and open dialogue must guide our actions. We must make known the risks and the protective measures we have introduced to tackle those risks."

Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler added: "I am conscious of the huge public concern at the extent of the disease in our cattle herd. I am convinced that farmers agree with me that it is of utmost importance to restore public trust in beef products."

A key question is the age cut-off point for the new tests. The EU vets will make a recommendation at their talks on Wednesday based on the fact that only cattle above a certain age develop clinical symptoms of BSE due to the long incubation period of the disease. Current BSE tests can only be applied on the brain of a dead animal.

The random testing programme already due to start at the beginning of next year is targeted on animals at risk - those showing neurological symptoms - and envisaged about 170,000 tests. A Commission spokesman said that the new plan would mean testing of "several million" of the current 40-million strong EU cattle population.

The new urgency follows the discovery of more BSE cases in France. However, the spokesman pointed out that the increased incidence was largely a result of the fact that France has already introduced random testing ahead of the January 1 2001 deadline.

Key measures introduced by Brussels in the last six years since the outbreak of mad cow disease in Britain include a ban on feeding meat and bonemeal to ruminants and the removal and destruction of specified risk materials such as the brain and spinal cord of cattle.

But the Commission pointed out today that such measures will only work if they are rigorously implemented. "The exact and full implementation of these measures in all member states should ensure the high level of public health protection that the consumer expects" said the spokesman.

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