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Cannabalism on the chopping block?
Report fails to deal with real villains of British Food Debacle
Surveillance Unit delaying admission of new nvCJD cases?
Mass slaughter of sheep under consideration
Current uses of mammalian blood in feed and food
France's Chirac wants meat/bone meal ban in feed
nvCJD death in Norway?
Vermont sheep: USDA must pay for error
Canada chases water buffalo
Common pesticide found to produce Parkinson Disease
Industry goes on global offensive against toxics activists
BSE in polio vaccine: Australia doesn't care

Report Fails to Deal with Real Villains of British Food Debacle

Thu, Nov 2, 2000 COMTEX Newswire Sunday Business/KRTBN

Opinion (webmaster):

Who really wrote the Inquiry Report anyway?

The fact of the matter is that Judge Phillips did not write the Inquiry Report and indeed may never have read it. The reason is the usual one: judges simply do not sit at word processors for months at a time grinding out 16 volumes of report, they have their law clerks do it.

Either some of these worked closely with attorneys for the accused or simply may have given the latter limited editing priveleges. This goes far beyond a permissible response to"Salmon letters" (which themselves have not been released) but it is the only sensible explanation for the unexplained months of delay that resulted in such an incoherent mixture of praise and facts that spoke to the opposite conclusion.

The mechanics of producing the Inquiry Report are quite involved;:it probably started in MS Word or similar test-processor. From there, various versions could be cut to CDs on a time frame of an hour. A CD is wrongly thought of as read-only and as somehow locking in a version at a certain point in time. However it takes but a few moments to upload one, make a few edits, and re-burn. Thus a CD does not carry any authenticating information as to when or by whom it was created.

Print is another matter. Traditional typesetting for an 16 volume bound set could involve months of lead time, even from an electronic document by a large and sophisticated govt printing office. We do not have the dates at which various volumes were turned over to the printers, though it appears only volume I was in stock at the time orders were first being taken. Only small sections would be renegotiable at the last minute, for example the Executive Summary, which was probably contributed by Phillips' boss in the Judicial Service or higher still in the Home Office. Phillips may have refused to sign the Executive Summary saying 'you wrote it, you sign it' -- no one has stepped forward to take authorship for it.

On compensation to families, Lord Phillips knew the judiciary well enough to know that families had not a prayer of getting justice from it, especially with a Report so effusive in its praise for those responsible for the death of their loved ones. A deal was then struck with Body, the family solicitor, comnpensation in exchange for "muted" criticism of the Report, allowing further watering down of the Report and an Executive Summary certain to please those who had written it.

Report Fails to Deal with Real Villains of British Food Debacle

Thu, Nov 2, 2000 COMTEX Newswire Sunday Business/KRTBN
"The Phillips report into the BSE catastrophe sheds much needed daylight on the woeful shortcomings of food scientists, civil servants and government ministers. Each of them shoulders a portion of the blame for a disaster, the final chapter of which remains far from finished.

But, for all its thoroughness (it took three years to compile, cost 27 million pounds and runs to 18 volumes), Phillips fails completely to deal with the real villains in this disgusting story -- the short-sighted, greed-driven, truth-denying farmers, meat renderers and slaughter-house owners who were responsible for producing the killer filth.

Given the human horrors resulting from variant CJD, the brain-destroying disease that is linked to BSE, it is understandable that victims' families want culprits named and shamed. So far, the media has gone for the easy targets.

Senior politicians are there to be shot at -- including former prime minister John Major, who as late as December 1995 told us "there is no scientific evidence that BSE can be transmitted or that eating beef causes it in humans" [Britain then had 7 cases diagnosed cases of nvCJD -- webmaster]. So, too, are government advisers such as Sir Donald Acheson, chief medical officer 1983-91, who in May 1990 insisted, "British beef can be eaten safely by everyone."

The meat industry itself, however, not only escaped serious criticism in the Phillips report, it has been the beneficiary of millions of pounds in compensation from taxpayers, the very people who were put at risk by contaminated beef.

For years, British farming has been afforded special treatment. It is regarded like no other industry. It receives more government subsidies than any other sector and is the subject of completely undeserved public affection.

In his book on the English, Jeremy Paxman postulates that the majority of urban dwellers in this country have an image of a rural bliss as their perfect home. Perhaps this explains why we are so reluctant to call to proper account those who earn their living from agriculture.

Consider this: In the United States, Ford motor company is facing a massive class action over claims that faulty tyres on its Explorer model led to 80 to 100 deaths (about the same numbers that are so far believed to have died from CJD in Britain). Of course, some car-crash victims' relatives are pointing fingers at American safety authorities for not spotting the design problem sooner, but it is the manufacturer itself which is in the dock -- and rightly so. Ford has been forced to recall about 6.5 million tyres; its chief executive, Jac Nasser, has gone on television to apologise; and $500 million has been wiped off group profits.

If Ford were now to ask for US government compensation to help it cope with this calamity, the directors would be led away in chains. The company, along with its tyre supplier, Firestone, bears full financial responsibility for the consequences of bad business practice.

Why should British farmers and those at later stages in the food-production chain be any different from Ford?

Farming supporters argue that without more funding from taxpayers, many livestock owners will go bust. Worse still, they say, is the prospect of Britain losing its cattle farming industry altogether.

But what is so special about farming? Today, it accounts for less than 3 percent of Britain's gross domestic product. It is efficient in that, compared with many European rivals, it delivers more output per head employed. But an industry that has been responsible for sparking a life-destroying disease cannot be regarded as efficient in the widest sense.

Britain has undergone many painful transitions in the past 50 years. Our coal industry has all but vanished, so, too, has shipbuilding. Steel production has been scaled back massively, along with motor-bike manufacturing and dozens of other business activities at which this country used to excel.

Yet life goes on. Britain has proved itself brilliantly adaptable. New, more vibrant industries, have replaced many smokestack losers. Unemployment in this country is at its lowest level for 25 years and at 5.3 percent stands at about half the European Union average.

As a trading nation, there is no need for Britain to be a food source if someone else can deliver better goods at lower prices. Look at a not untypical British Sunday luncheon plate: New Zealand lamb, Spanish vegetables, French cheese, Israeli fruit and Australian wine. We have already proved we can live happily without domestic produce.

If British farmers can deliver high-quality food at competitive prices that is safe, as well as desirable, they deserve to stay in business. If not, they should make way for those who can.

For if any good is to come out of the appalling BSE scandal, we must strip away the myth that British farmers and associated businesses are the lifeblood of this country. The meat industry cannot dodge its unseemly role in the loss of many innocent lives, including that of Zo Jefferies, the 14-year-old girl from Wigan, who died yesterday from CJD after two years of terrible suffering."

BSE and Britain - "The Facts"

PR Newswire  Tue, Oct 31, 2000   Beef Industry PR Center
With 4.6 million cattle slaughtered as a result of BSE control measures, mad cow disease, as it is more commonly known has hardly been out of the news. The report at the National Farmers' Union (NFU) [said by the British press to control MAFf -- webmaster] looks at the most commonly asked questions about BSE and how the crisis has affected the livelihood of farmers.

Costing British Agriculture over 350 million pounds sterling a year, the disease has caused great loss within the industry -- over 22,000 farmers had left in the twelve months leading up to June 2000 -- a figure that is set to rise. To read the facts on BSE and the effect it is having on the industry see the full report.

Current uses of mammalian blood in feed and food

Thu, 2 Nov 2000 Unpublished DEAC and FSA documents
USE OF BLOOD IN ANIMAL FEED Background
1. A Commission Decision of March 1995 amended the ban on feeding mammalian protein to ruminants. It had the effect of excluding milk, gelatin and dried blood products from the ban. This followed advice from the EU Scientific Veterinary Committee (now the Scientific Steering Committee) that these products were low-risk based on transmission and other studies.

Collection of blood
2. UK renderers estimate that in the UK a total of 160,000 tonnes per annum of blood is collected (of which 50,000 tonnes from clean cattle, 20,000 tonnes from sheep, 50,000 tonnes from pigs and 40,000 tonnes from poultry). This does not include blood from animals slaughtered under the Over Thirty Month Scheme (which is rendered with OTMS carcase material for disposal by the Intervention Agency) or BSE suspects, which are not bled before incineration.

Uses of blood
3. In practice, although the feeding of mammalian blood products is permitted, little if any is thought to be used in livestock feed in the UK [instead, it is exported -- webmaster]. This is mainly due to retailer pressure which has strictly limited the extent to which any animal material is included in feed. A spokesman for the UK Renderers Association is reported as insisting that blood is not used in animal feed, that it is spread on land, exported or incinerated.

4. Two renderers are currently processing animal blood. One renders about 5,000 tonnes per annum of mixed mammalian blood for use in horticultural fertiliser or feed, but this is believed to be either pet food or exported. The second handles about 20,000 tonnes each year of pig blood for the preparation of dried plasma and haemoglobin. The plasma is expensive but might be used in pet food. (It has also been reported that the dried plasma is used in feed for pigs and the red cells are fed to fish).

5. If any blood meal was being used in livestock feed, it would have to be separately identified in the ingredients list of the feed under EC law as implemented in this country [but not if exported -- webmaster].

6. Blood which is not processed will be spread (untreated) to land or injected into soil, subject to compliance with environmental controls.

SEAC's views
7. The UK introduced the exemption for blood in January 1997 following advice from SEAC. SEAC then took into account: the lack of evidence of BSE infectivity in bovine blood [absence of evidence is not evidence of absence -- webmaster]; that the cattle in question would be less than 30 months old; and the low level of blood meal usage in the UK.SEAC considered the issue of blood in feed again at its meeting on 29 September 2000. It concluded that any risks were extremely small and there was no need to change previous advice on blood in feed. [So why then do food retailers insist on its exclusion? -- webmaster]

USE OF TALLOW AND GELATIN IN ANIMAL FEED

1. Because of retailer pressure on behalf of the consumer, very little mammalian tallow (animal fat) is used for animal feed in the UK, just an estimated 2,000 tonnes for the poultry industry. Very small quantities of gelatin are used, for example as an ingredient in vitamins added to feed, but as far as is known all such gelatin is imported.

2. The Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) looked at the safety of tallow and gelatin in October 1997. It noted that tallow and raw materials from gelatin production which could be used in animal feed in the UK were from bovine animals less than thirty months of age with all the specified risk material removed [in theory --webmaster]. The committee also noted that all tallow permitted to be used for animal feed in the UK is subject to extreme processing. There are also restrictions on the souring of the raw material for gelatin. Because of these measures and the degree of processing, SEAC considered the risk to farm animals from tallow and gelatin in feed to be negligible.

ISSUES RELATING TO THE PRIVATE SLAUGHTER OF LIVESTOCK
[This is thought to be the method for putting BSE animals into small butcher shops such as the Queniborogh and Doncaster nvCJD hotspots. -- webmaster]

1.1-2. This paper deals with issues relating to the private slaughter of red meat animals. It has long been considered that farmers have a right to slaughter their own livestock, or to have them slaughtered, for their own consumption. This is usually described as private slaughter or private killing. Such slaughter has taken place in a variety of circumstances, including on farm by the owner, on farm by an itinerant slaughterman, or in a slaughterhouse.

1.3. Prior to September 1997 it was not uncommon for private slaughter to take place in a licensed slaughterhouse. It was then lawful, for example, for an OTM (over thirty months of age) bovine to be slaughtered in a licensed slaughterhouse without being subject to the general meat hygiene controls (i.e. those contained in the Fresh Meat (Hygiene and Inspection) Regulations 1995), provided that the resulting meat was returned to the owner for his own consumption.

However, in September 1997 [12 years into the BSE epidemic -- webmaster] the legislation was changed to make it an offence for the carcase of a bovine animal found to be OTM at the time of slaughter in a licensed slaughterhouse to be returned to the owner for his own consumption. Other legislative changes made at the same time had the effect of requiring any animals being privately slaughtered in a licensed slaughterhouse to be subject to the general meat hygiene, SRM (specified risk material) and OTM controls.

1.4. Certain of the controls in licensed slaughterhouses attract meat inspection charges, both for privately killed and commercially killed livestock. This factor, combined with reduced profitability in the livestock sector more generally recently, has made the option of private slaughter in a licensed slaughterhouse less attractive for farmers.

This has resulted in the establishment of unlicensed slaughterhouses devoted solely to private slaughter [as farmers sought to evade regulation. --webmaster] Although it is very difficult for enforcement authorities to determine the scale of this activity (but attempts are being made), some consider that such activity carries with it a risk that meat obtained in this way (i.e. without having been subject to the general meat hygiene controls, and possibly the SRM and OTM controls as well) could be diverted onto the market instead of (or after) being returned to the farmer for his own consumption. [UK farmers would need to consume many tons of meat a day to match output of unlicensed slaughterhouses. -- webmaster] Such diversion would carry clear public health risks, as the meat would not have been subject to the normal public health controls.

... Slaughter on farm by the owner 2.3. Again, the situation here is clear. If a farmer slaughters his own animal on farm for consumption by him and/or by his immediate family (meaning those living within his household) then this would not amount to a sale under the Food Safety Act 1990. This is because the farmer is not "selling" the meat in the conventional sense, nor is he supplying it in the course of his business. The consequence is thus that the general meat hygiene, SRM and OTM rules are not triggered. This means that, although it is lawful for the farmer to slaughter his animal for his own consumption, this would not be subject to any of the general meat hygiene, SRM and OTM controls. At its most extreme this means that a farmer could lawfully slaughter his own OTM cow and consume any part of it, including those parts of it which would otherwise have been classed as SRM (e.g. the brain).

It would nevertheless be unlawful for the farmer to sell any part of such an animal, as this would not have been subject to any of the general meat hygiene, SRM and OTM controls and would not have been health marked. A sale by the farmer here would probably be held by the courts to include anything beyond simple supply to the farmer's immediate family. This would probably mean, for example, that supply through a farmer's bed and breakfast enterprise or through a farm shop would be unlawful, because either an actual sale would have taken place or the meat would have been supplied in the course of the farmer's business.

2.4. There are a number of other circumstances in which a private kill could take place, and the current legal situation for these is uncertain. The two principal examples of this are slaughter in an unlicensed slaughterhouse and slaughter on farm by an itinerant slaughterman. What is at issue is whether slaughter in these circumstances amounts to a sale under the Food Safety Act 1990 i.e. whether the unlicensed slaughterhouse / itinerant slaughterman is selling the meat back to the farmer or supplying the meat to the farmer in the course of a business. If slaughter in these circumstances amounts to a sale under the Act, then this would be unlawful because the slaughter would be taking place outside a licensed premises and thus outside the general meat hygiene controls. Furthermore, it would still be unlawful even if the SRM and OTM rules had otherwise been complied with, for the same reason.

2.5. Views have been divided on this issue. It was argued in the past by MAFF and by Scottish Office lawyers that supply by unlicensed slaughterhouses or itinerant slaughtermen of meat back to the farmer did not amount to a sale under the Food Safety Act 1990. They therefore held that the general meat hygiene rules did not apply (although they considered that the SRM and OTM rules did apply).

3.1. In Great Britain, enforcement responsibility in licensed slaughterhouses of the general meat hygiene, SRM and OTM rules has, since 1995, rested with the Meat Hygiene Service....Given this change in enforcement responsibility, there is currently some uncertainty both within local authorities and the industry as to how the general meat hygiene rules should be enforced outside licensed slaughterhouses. In the light of this uncertainty the Food Standards Agency is planning shortly to issue guidance...

UK food watchdog calls for tighter BSE controls

Tue, Oct 31, 2000 Reuters
Britain's food watchdog on Tuesday urged a complete ban on feeding animal remains to other animals to help prevent the spread of "mad cow" disease. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) made the recommendation in a review of safeguards to ensure beef contaminated by bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is kept out of the food chain.

"We recommend that consideration should be given to a complete ban on intra-species recycling," the report said. [Thus a preclinical BSE cow could still be fed to a pig or chicken, and the subsequently rendered pig or chicken fed back to a cow: these are inter-species recycling, making for an implete ban on TSE amplification. -- webmaster]

The FSA verdict came after last week's damning inquiry into BSE in Britain slammed the former Conservative government for misleading the public for years over the dangers of British beef. Since 1996 at least 85 people have died from the lethal, brain-wasting human form of BSE, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD).

"Cannibal" Animals

The FSA won backing from British supermarket group the Co-op, which on Tuesday called for a Europe-wide ban on the feeding of animal waste to farm animals. "This is tantamount to cannibalism and must be stamped out if governments want to eliminate potential safety risks and restore consumer confidence in meat," Co-op spokeswoman Wendy Wrigley said.

The FSA said the current ban on feeding recycled animal remains to cattle, sheep and goats should be extended to all other animals, including poultry, pigs and fish. It said the feeding of animal waste like blood, feather meal and other by-products risked triggering a new BSE-like epidemic. At the height of the BSE crisis, the British government of the time introduced rules to stop cattle from being fed meat and bone from mammals. But it stopped short of banning other animal remains going into farm feed.

The FSA said in the light of protests from British consumer groups over imported meat from these "cannibal" cattle, they were urging the EU Commission to ban the use of animal waste in farm feed, especially in countries with a BSE risk.

The BSE debate is raging in France, where schools in Paris have banned beef from their menus after three suspected cases of CJD surfaced in the western region of Brittany. The ban came a week after three retail chains warned customers to return beef they had bought because some shipments were from a herd contaminated by "mad cow" disease.

The FSA said there was still uncertainty about what caused BSE and how it is spread, and said that British sheep could also be infected. "There is a theoretical possibility that BSE is present in sheep in the UK... Some sheep may have consumed [translation: tens of millions of sheep have consumed ... -- webmaster] the same type of feed that is believed to have infected cattle."

The review said scrapie -- a disease common among sheep -- could be masking BSE among British flocks because the diseases have similar symptoms. "As a matter of great urgency there is a need to develop and apply a rapid screening method so that large numbers of sheep can be tested to reduce the uncertainty of whether or not BSE occurs," the FSA said.

The document, which is part of a wider review to advise the government on how to stamp out the disease, also said research into the possibility that pigs and poultry could carry BSE-like diseases should continue. The ban on beef from cattle aged over 30 months at slaughter, which was introduced in 1996 to screen out BSE-infected cattle, should not be phased out until the epidemic has fallen in line with expectations, the FSA said [meaning that sales are to resume without a need for BSE actually being eradicated. -- webmaster]

Inquiry into BSE-risk meat trade launched

Fri, Nov 3, 2000  By Damien Pearse, Crime Correspondent, PA News
Food safety experts are investigating reports of a deadly and illegal trade in BSE-risk cow heads, it emerged today. The cow heads - an African delicacy known as pomos - can be highly infectious, experts claim, and they are reportedly being sold at butchers across London.

The meat - banned under EU directives - can contain cow brains but even if it does not it is considered high risk as the prions which carry the disease can become easily dislodged when the head is taken from the skull.

It is bought partially cooked and can be eaten either as it is or curried or stewed. Dishes containing the meat are popular in west Africa and in particular Nigeria.

The investigation comes just a week after the BSE report highlighted the failure of Government in its handling of the disaster. More than 85 people have become victims of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, the human form of BSE.

The Food Standards Agency said that it had been informed that cow's heads were being sold at a number of butchers. "Breaches of the BSE controls are a very serious matter," a spokesman said.

And food experts at Southwark Council are examining meat bought from a butchers in Peckham, south east London. A spokesman said: "We have a sample of the meat bought from one of the shops supposedly selling the cows heads. Our experts will be examining the meat and it may lead to a prosecution.

"The fact there is a trade in illegal meat is very worrying. It is an issue that runs a lot deeper than this one case. We are launching a proper full-scale investigation."

Swiss Considering Ban On Animal Products In Feed

Nov. 6, 2000 Associated Press
Swiss authorities said Friday they are considering banning animal products in all livestock feed in a bid to stamp out so-called mad cow disease. The Federal Veterinary Office said it was drawing up proposals as a result of two new cases of the disease confirmed earlier this week among cattle born after stringent controls were introduced in 1996.

Switzerland became the second country after Britain to report cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, BSE, in the earlier 1990s. The government ordered the slaughter of all affected herds, including offspring of infected cows, in 1996 and it banned the use of animal byproducts in cattle feed.

Experts were stunned by the new cases despite the precautions. "We're in a quandary and we don't know the way out," said Ulrich Kihm, director of the veterinary office. "But we don't dare wait for five more years before taking action."

The proposed ban -- which would cover all animal bone meal and most fats in feed destined for all animals -- will now be submitted to the cabinet for action. Officials estimated the measures would cost 50 to 60 million Swiss francs ($29 to 34 million).

France is also studying the prospect of a total ban on animal byproducts in livestock feed after an upsurge in cases of BSE and a nationwide scare that infected meat may have been sold by a leading supermarket.

Mass slaughter of sheep under consideration

Tue, Oct 31, 2000  By John von Radowitz, Science Correspondent, PA News
A complete ban on the consumption of UK lamb could be imposed if sheep were found to be suffering from mad cow diseases, the Government said today. The drastic move is one contingency plan being considered by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in the event of a confirmed outbreak of BSE in the national flock.

Another possibility is that only meat from sheep genetically immune to diseases such as BSE would be allowed into butchers and supermarkets. Even under this plan, however, thousands if not millions of sheep would probably have to be slaughtered and destroyed.

The Maff contingency plans emerged as a Food Standards Agency working party recommended urgent action to deal with the possibility of BSE infecting sheep. A report from the FSA team, headed by the agency's chairman, Sir John Krebs, warned that BSE in sheep could be "masked" by a similar disease, scrapie. Scrapie has affected sheep for more than 200 years but has never proved harmful to people [although the best available scientific evidence now says it is. -- webmaster]

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) on the other hand is believed to have caused variant CJD in humans, which has claimed more than 85 lives since it emerged in 1996.

However, scrapie and BSE are so similar that some experts fear they could be confused. Sheep showing symptoms of scrapie may really have BSE.

A Maff spokeswoman said today: "Our officials have been charged with producing a first draft of a contingency plan by December, and they hope to present it to ministers then.

"Although it is too early to talk about details, they are looking at two possible scenarios should BSE be confirmed in the sheep flock, which will rely on advice from the FSA. The first is that the FSA takes the view that it is unsafe to eat UK sheep meat so there has to be a total ban. The second scenario is that we look at the possibility that sheep with a particular genotype are safe to eat."

However, the spokesman stressed that although both possibilities were being considered, no final decisions had been taken yet. A spokesman for the National Farmers Union said farmers would have to face up to the "terrifying" prospect of entire flocks being destroyed if BSE was discovered in sheep".

"The NFU would be letting sheep farmers down, and farmers would be letting themselves down, if they did not contemplate this worst-case outcome," he said. Since 1998, confirmed cases of sheep with scrapie have been compulsorily slaughtered. But although only a few hundred cases are reported each year, recent research has suggested that between 4,000 and 10,000 of Britain's 40 million sheep annually become ill with scrapie. [This refers to clinical but unreported, not subclinical but stillhighly infectious where the numers could run mulch, mulch higher. -- webmaster]

Under laboratory conditions, sheep have been artificially infected with BSE. So far the disease has not been identified in farm sheep, but only 200 animals have been tested. The current test for BSE, which involves injecting suspect tissue into mice and seeing if they become ill, takes up to two years and is prohibitively expensive at more than 20,000 per sheep.

Unlike it does in cattle, BSE in sheep does not confine itself to specific organs and tissues, such as the brain and spinal cord. As a result, sheep with BSE would have to be completely destroyed and no part of their carcases allowed into the human food chain. [This is a falsehood: MAFF deliberately understated the case in muscle and dairy to protect the beef trade. No tissue from an infected cow can be presumed safe.-- webmaster]

At an FSA news briefing in London today, Sir John said whether or not sheep were contracting BSE was an unanswered question.

"We simply do not know," he said. "Of the 40 million sheep in Britain, some 4,000 do succumb annually to another disease, scrapie, which appears not to have any human health risk. It is possible, however, that some of these animals are actually suffering from BSE."

He said a new method of rapid screening using biochemical markers was needed. This could be used either to test all sheep diagnosed with scrapie, or for the random testing of all slaughtered sheep.

The Ministry of Agriculture has launched a plan to breed scrapie and any related diseases such as BSE out of sheep using genetically resistant rams. But the FSA said this would take 10 years or more to complete and more urgent action was required.

The report made it clear that if BSE was shown to be in the national flock, only sheep clearly demonstrated to be free of BSE and kept separate from others that were not could be allowed to be used for human consumption. Sir John acknowledged that under these circumstances there would have to be a mass slaughter programme.

France's Chirac wants meat/bone meal ban in feed

 Wed, Oct 25, 2000 Reuters Business Report
French President Jacques Chirac supports banning meat and bone meal from animal feed as a further precaution against the spread of mad cow disease, his office said on Wednesday. Chirac also wants France to adopt a more systematic programme of testing cattle for the disease, also called bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), his office said.

"(Chirac) wants professionals and public authorities to do everything in their power to...quickly bring about more systematic testing for BSE and the elimination of meat and bone meal," Chirac's spokeswoman said.

French Farm Minister Jean Glavany said the government was looking at banning meat and bone meal in all animal feed in a bid to prevent further cases of BSE, although there was at present no proof such products were dangerous. France currently bans meat and bone meal from being used in cattle feed.

Glavany also told the National Assembly on Tuesday that cattle brought for slaughter would now be randomly tested for BSE. [This is sorely needed in Britain. -- webmaster] To date, tests are only carried out on animals that die apparently from BSE or are put down by vets.

France began testing 48,000 cattle for BSE in June to gauge the extent of the disease among its 21 million cattle. At least 71 cases have been detected this year -- 25 of them through the new testing programme. Last year, France had 30 cases of BSE.

Europe feed sector revisits possible bonemeal ban

Wed, Nov 1, 2000 By Eric Onstad Reuters 
The resurgence of "mad cow" disease in France could strengthen calls to ban all animal by-products in feed, industry sources said on Wednesday. Such a ban could support the market for soymeal as well as for lauric and vegetable oils as compound feed makers search for replacements for bone meal and animal fat.

The European Union has previously considered a sweeping ban. It opted to forbid animal protein in feed for ruminants, but not for pigs and poultry. Animal fat is allowed in all feed.

The food safety agency in France -- where a public outcry was ignited following supermarket sales of beef infected with mad cow disease -- said on Monday it was considering banning meat and bone meal in all animal feed. The agency would decide in three to four months whether to impose the ban in an effort to curb the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

In Britain, the Food Standards Agency on Tuesday also urged a complete ban on feeding animals to others. The Netherlands would not take any unilateral steps in this area ahead of EU-wide legislation, the General Secretary of the Dutch Product Board for Animal Feed, Johan den Hartog said.

Although scientists say treating bone meal at very high temperatures as required by the EU makes it safe [rubbish, the prion survives to 600 degrees centigrade, the meat would be near-charcoal. -- webmaster] , there was some feeling that a ban would boost consumer confidence, a Dutch industry source said.

"The discussion is already going on, especially on the UK market and now on the French market, and it has a lot to do with the emotional way consumers are looking at the safety of products," said Herman Heuver of the Dutch feed industry trade group FNM. "Maybe it would be wise to exclude dead animals from animal feed based on the precautionary principle and based on this emotional argument," he added.

Farmers, however, would have to grapple with the problem of what to do with animals that die on their farms, Heuver said. A total ban on animal by-products in feed would increase the price of compound feed since more expensive products would be needed. One industry source estimated that a ban would boost prices by five to eight percent. Feed formulations vary widely, but bone meal accounts for three to seven percent in pig feed and two to three percent in poultry feed.

Since bone meal contains 58 percent protein and high protein soymeal only 48 percent, more soymeal would be needed to provide the same amount of protein. About two to four percent of animal fat is used in many feed formulations and this would be replaced by lauric fats and vegetable oils.

"If you don't use any fats in cattle feed for instance, you have a problem with the density of the meat, it's not firm enough," a trader said.

In the Netherlands, about 230,000 tonnes of animal fats are used in animal feed, the product board said last year. The board stepped up regulations for the companies that supply the fat after last year's dioxin affair, in which fat tainted with the cancer-causing substance was found in Belgian animal feed.

France last Friday reported seven new cases of BSE, bringing the number reported in the country this year to 78, compared with a total of 30 in 1999.

The rise in French BSE has not been matched in the Netherlands, where no cases have emerged this year. [Without random screening, self-reported BSE numbers will be on the "low side". -- webmaster] The last case was in March 1999, the sixth in the country. To head off any potential problems, however, the ministry has decided to step up testing next year, ministry spokeswoman Angelique van Jurrius said. In 2001, some 12,000 tests would be undertaken compared to several hundred this year. The tests would focus on sick or dead animals, she said.

German state pushes for French beef ban

Reuters Business Report Thu, Nov 2, 2000 
One of Germany's largest regions wants a ban on French beef if the authorities there do not take tougher action against the spread of "mad cow" disease, an official of the region said on Thursday.

"We want France to take actions to ensure beef safety like those taken in Britain, Portugal and other countries," said Hans-Dieter Rosinke, a spokesman for the agriculture ministry of Lower Saxony. "If they don't want to take this action, that should lead to a ban on beef imports," he said. "Lower Saxony will not act alone with a ban...many states understand this approach."

Germany ended a four-year ban on British beef in April after the majority of its 16 states backed the measure. The states took a leading role in imposing the ban in 1996.

Fears over bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) grew this week as schools in Paris banned beef from menus after three suspected cases of the human form of the brain-wasting illness, Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease, surfaced in Brittany. German federal and state government officials and experts are due to meet in in mid-November to discuss what action to take. Some states have suggested they would welcome a ban if the French situation does not improve.

German Agriculture Minister Karl-Heinz Funke said in a statement there appeared to be no significant danger at present. "But at the same time the German government has demanded that the European Commission monitor the situation in France."

France has reported 78 BSE cases so far this year compared to 30 in 1999. Britain's beef industry was wrecked by the spread of BSE, first discovered in cattle in 1986, which has killed at least 85 people.

French farmers say beef sales, prices plunging

Thu, Nov 2, 2000 By Joelle Diderich Reuters
Farmers warned on Thursday that the French beef sales and prices were plunging as consumers were gripped by "psychosis" over the spread of mad cow disease.

French farm union Confederation Paysanne said revelations last week that several supermarkets sold meat potentially contaminated with the deadly brain-wasting disease had caused panic among consumers battered by a series of food safety scares.

"We are going through a psychosis," said Philippe Babaudou, a spokesman for the union and a cattle farmer himself.

Several schools in Paris this week banned beef from their cafeterias until further notice amid an increase in reported cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Scientists believe BSE-infected meat can cause a new form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans, an illness that has killed at least 73 people in Britain and two in France.

Babaudou said beef prices had plummeted by up to a quarter in the last 10 days, with some regional exchanges suspending price quotes altogether. Several abattoirs in the north and west have closed their doors, turning away fresh deliveries from farmers.

Babaudou estimated that sales of beef had plunged by 50 percent, although the industry was waiting for confirmation of that drop after most retailers closed shop for the All Saints holiday on Wednesday.

Few expected a repeat of the breakdown in sales triggered by the revelation in 1996 that BSE could be transmitted to humans, but cattle farmers were keeping an anxious eye on the situation. "The paradox is that it has never been safer to eat cattle meat," said the spokesman.

Farm Minister Jean Glavany said the government was leaning towards banning meat and bone meal from all animal feed as a precaution, but the move had serious economic implications which would have to be taken into account [no matter what the human toll might be. -- webmaster]

"In the search for maximum precaution, we must totally eliminate these meals," Glavany told weekly magazine Paris Match in an interview published on Thursday. "But I must also ask myself what consequences such a ban would have." The minister said the main hurdle to a blanket ban on meat and bone meal was the difficulty of disposing of the three million tonnes of animal waste which France produces each year. In addition, France did not produce enough oilseeds to replace the protein-rich meal, he said. Food safety agency AFSSA has said it would rule on the issue in three to four months.

Glavany reiterated that although France had some of the most stringent controls on beef in the European Union, it was unable to guarantee zero risk, and he blasted other member states for failing to implement stricter testing methods at home.

France has detected 82 cases of BSE this year, up sharply from the 30 cases reported in 1999, after the government started testing 48,000 cows in June to gauge the extent of the illness among its 21 million cattle.

Cattle farmers too criticised reports that neighbouring countries, including Germany, were considering a ban on French beef. "I don't understand how you can refuse to import meat which is currently the most strictly controlled in Europe when the countries who are backing the ban do not practice the same controls," said Babaudou.

nvCJD death in Norway?

COMTEX Newswire Tue, Oct 31, 2000
A death at the Akerse hospital in Oslo recently is feared to be Norway's first case of a variant of the Creutzfeldt-Jakobs disease connected with BSE, or 'mad cow disease'.

The hospital has confirmed that one of its patients died of Creutzfeldt-Jakobs disease but said that it was still too early to tell whether the disease was of the type connected with BSE.

Two more cases of mad cow disease found in Belgium

Reuters World Report  Mon, Oct 23, 2000
Belgium said on Monday it had found two more cases of mad cow disease, bringing the country's total to 18. The Agriculture Ministry said in a statement that a dairy cow in Vorselaar in northern Belgium and another cow in Ville-en-Hesbaye in southern Belgium had brought to eight the number of cases of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), discovered this year.

The ministry said the two diseased animals, along with the 105 other animals in the two herds, had been slaughtered. Both of the diseased animals were about six years old.

A spokesman for the Agriculture Ministry said the number of new cases found this year was not a cause for concern because the majority of the cases concerned animals which were born before the introduction of a ban on the use of animal feed.

Kenya: Disturbing Silence On Mad Cow Disease

The Nation, November 4, 2000 (Editorial)
The resurgence of the mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, in Europe is not as distant as it may appear.

Kenya cannot feel too safe from the outbreak because, between 1989 and 1997, the country imported more than 1,000 tonnes of cattle feed made from animals that could be infected with the disease. Scientists have now established a critical link between the feed and the spread of the disease, which manifests itself in humans as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease - a fatal, degenerative brain illness.

While there have been no reported cases of BSE-infected cattle in African countries where the tainted feed was sold, there is still a risk that cows will become ill. This is because the disease takes some 10 years or more to become active.

If indeed the feed imported could have been infected, millions of people who have been eating beef could be at risk. The fact that a considerable quantity of potentially-infected feed was imported should compel the government to issue a statement on whether or not Kenyans face any danger.

If the actions taken in the nations where the outbreak first appeared are anything to go by, the country's livestock and veterinary authorities have cause to treat the mad cow disease reports very seriously. In countries where there has been outbreak out the mad cow disease, tight controls have been issued, including the banning of beef from school menus.

It is imperative for the government to reassure its citizens about their safety in the face of possibilities of danger. This can be done by screening livestock in areas known to have used to the imported feed to make certain that they have not been infected with the disease. Urgent screening is needed to try to reduce the uncertainty that accompanies the release of this worrying news. :

Germany To Refrain From Beef Ban For Now

Sun, Nov 5, 2000 Handelsblatt
Germany will for the foreseeable future refrain from unilaterally banning the import of British and French beef - even though a number of states are calling for a ban.

A spokeswoman for the federal Health Ministry on Friday said a group of experts will outline the government's next moves at a meeting to be held in Bonn on November 22. In the meantime, the experts will have held meetings with representatives of the federal states and of all parliamentary parties to discuss and evaluate the risks arising from Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or so-called "mad-cow disease."

The food minister for the state of Lower Saxony, Uwe Bartels, had on Monday called for a ban on the import of French beef after it became known that beef from a BSE-infected herd had gone into circulation in France.

Germany's Agriculture Ministry is watching the situation in France with concern, spokeswoman Ursula Horzetzky said. But she pointed out that France had exceeded E.U. Commission requirements in terms of the number of safety tests carried out and the destruction of so-called suspect materials. She said the Ministry was confident that France will succeed in preventing the further spread of BSE.

The E.U. Commission said it sees no need to take action over BSE in France. Commission experts told Handelsblatt that France is not to be compared to Britain or Portugal. The benchmark that the experts use is the number of registered cases of BSE per one million livestock aged above two years. In 1999, the figure stood at 510 for Britain, 200 for Portugal and 8 for France.

The minister for social affairs for the state of Bavaria, Barbara Stamm, on Friday called for a ban on British beef. In an interview with news daily Die Welt, she cited the case of a British girl who had died from Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease, the human form of BSE. She also argued that the authorities in Britain had evidently played fast and loose with studies on, and research into, BSE. Similar sentiments have already been expressed by the states of Hesse and North Rhine-Westphalia.

But Lower Saxony's food minister Bartels told Handelsblatt criticisms aimed at Britain over this issue were misdirected. In line with previous agreements, British beef was clearly being labelled as such in Britain. But once it entered the importing country, it was being repackaged and the label was disappearing.

In Bartel's view, it would be wrong to blame Britain for this state of affairs. He said the E.U. Commission needed to take action immediately. The states of Mecklenberg-Vorpommern and Saxony also came out against a new ban on the import of British beef.

But Bartel's arguments cut no ice with the state of Baden-Wurttemberg. The state's agricultural minister Michael Reiss said it was of secondary importance that the British could do nothing about the present state of affairs. Other than a ban, the German states had no leverage that would help ensure that something happened, he argued.

Vermont: USDA must pay for error

Reuters North America Mon, Oct 30, 2000 By Kevin Kelley
The United States Department of Agriculture has until Nov. 17 to pay two Vermont sheep owners up to $2.4 million in compensation for destroying their flocks which may be carrying mad cow disease.

But the two Vermont shepherds - Larry Faillace of East Warren and Houghton Freeman of Stowe - say they won't accept the department's offer. "This isn't about money. It's about the fact that there's nothing wrong with our sheep," Faillace said on Monday.

A federal judge ruled in July that USDA could go ahead with the seizure and slaughter of Freeman's and Faillace's 350 sheep. The decision was appealed, however, and the two sides have since been wrangling over which documents related to the case USDA should be required to make available. [USDA withheld 60 negative scrapie eyelid tests and other documents from the agency head Glickman as well as the judge. -- webmaster]

Tests conducted earlier this year on four sheep culled from Freeman's flock revealed they had a brain disease. The test cannot determine, however, whether the ailment is scrapie, which affects only sheep, or a variant known as mad cow disease, which can be transmitted to humans. [These western blot tests are disputed due to faulty controls, over-l0aded gels, lack of reproducibility, and protease K under-treatment -- webmaster.]

Mad cow disease, which is always fatal, has killed more than 80 people in Britain since the 1980s but has not been detected in the United States. The Vermont sheep were imported with USDA permission from an area in Belgium where mad cow disease has been reported.

Many Vermonters appear to sympathize with the shepherds' claim that USDA is overreacting in seeking to destroy sheep whose milk provides the basis for a small cheese-making business.

But Vermont's two U.S. senators succeeded recently in adding the $2.4 million to a USDA appropriations bill as further potential compensation for losses suffered by Freeman and Faillace. A settlement involving this money must be reached by Nov. 17, the legislation stipulates.

USDA will soon make an offer to the shepherds, according to department spokeswoman Susan McEvoy.

Freeman says, however, that he deserves to be reimbursed about $3 million, while Faillace estimates the value of his entire business at $11 million. The department had offered to pay the shepherds only the fair-market value of their sheep [saying that they were ordinary readily replacable sheep. -- webmaster]

U.K. dumps infected cattle feed in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka newspaper "The Island" (01.11.2000)
The Hindu has quoted an article appeared in "The Observer" (01.11.2000) which says that tens of thousands of potentially BSE (mad Cow) infected cattle feed in the form off "meal and bonemeal" was offloaded on a nearly a dozen countries, including Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Thailand, Lebanon and Turkey. For eight years from 1988 - 1996, while exports to E.U countries dropped to zero, there was a sharp increase in sales to the third world. No one knows how many cattle fed on the meal in those countries may now be incubating BSE.

The decision to continue to sell the potentially lethal feed was taken despite the then Chief Medical Officer, Sir Donald Acheson, cautioning in 1991 that it ran the risk of being seen as responsible for the introduction of the BSE to the food chain in other countries.

According to the paper, the possibility that the BSE cases may have already occurred in these countries is not ruled out and it is stated that just because no case has been officially reported, it does not mean all is well.

Tories demand ban on French beef

Sat, Nov 4, 2000 By Andrew Woodcock, Political Correspondent, PA News
The Tories today called for a ban on imports of French beef amid fears that BSE is rife in the country's cattle. The French government is widely expected to announce a ban on sales of beef-on-the-bone following a rise of up to three times since last year in positive tests for BSE. Some of the country's schools and restaurants have already stopped serving French beef.

Today, Conservative agriculture spokesman James Paice said that the European Commission should ban exports of French beef. If it refused, Britain - whose beef is still excluded from France despite being cleared for export by Brussels - should impose a unilateral ban, said Mr Paice.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We should remember that when it was first realised that BSE could lead to new variant CJD, the European Commission banned the sale of all British beef. I would look to the European Commission to do the same now for French beef and ban it completely. Whether they do within their own country is up to their own authorities. If the European Commission won't ban it, I think our Government should. That's exactly what the French have done to us in refusing to accept our beef - Europe lifted the ban and the French unilaterally decided not to."

Mr Paice pointed out that the French still allowed farmers to feed their cattle - against European rules - on meat and bone meal, which has been banned in the UK for 10 years. He said that the rise in positive tests for BSE followed anecdotal evidence of French farmers concealing the extent of the disease in their herds by killing and burying sick cows rather than reporting them to the authorities.

Since the announcement of the high BSE levels, France's biggest chain of steakhouses, Phoenix Grill, has stopped serving home-grown beef-on-the-bone, many schools have banned French beef and sales of the meat to butchers by Paris wholesale markets have dropped by a third.

Mr Paice said: "The British Government has a responsibility to follow the Phillips Report (on BSE), which it commissioned and spent 32 million of taxpayers' money on. "It is a good report which came out with a lot of sensible comments and we do need to act on it, and its main theme was the need to act quickly where there is a risk to human health."

French meat industry says beef bans unjustified

Nov 3, 2000  Joelle Diderich (Reuters)
- French meat industry officials were up in arms on Friday about Russian and Hungarian restrictions on imports of French beef, insisting their country had some of the strictest controls in Europe against mad cow disease.

Russia earlier announced restrictions on imports of French beef and livestock while Hungary banned all beef and beef products from France and Ireland over fears about the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

The French Farm Ministry had no immediate comment on the decisions, but meat industry officials blamed the moves on a sharp increase in reported cases of the deadly brain-wasting disease since the government began testing cattle in June.

"This decision is not very understandable," said Louis Orega, head of France's Meat Information Centre. He said scientific data showed the rate of mad cow disease in France was no higher than in neighbouring countries like Italy or Germany, the only difference being that it had taken extra measures to detect new cases.

"France is therefore the country where because of monitoring there are proportionally the most cases," said Orega. "We are apparently giving the impression that France is more affected than other countries."

According to the Farm Ministry's website, France has detected 86 cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) this year, up sharply from the 30 cases reported in 1999. The government in June started testing 48,000 cows to gauge the extent of the illness among its 21 million cattle herd.

French beef sales and prices have plunged after revelations last week that several local supermarkets sold meat potentially contaminated with BSE, causing panic among consumers battered by a series of food safety scares. But EU officials confirmed on Friday that the rate of mad cow disease in France remained well below danger levels.

Cattle farmers said the consumer reaction was frustrating, given that French beef had actually become increasingly safe as a result of a growing array of government safety measures.

"We are in a contradictory situation: on the one hand, the meat is unscathed and France is taking maximum precautions in a spirit of transparency, but consumers feel there is an increase in the number of cases and an increase in risk," said a spokesman for the National Cattle Federation.

Michel Prost, director of the National Federation of Cattle and Meat Cooperatives, said it was now up to the government and trade envoys to reassure clients that its products were safe. France exported 45,322 tonnes of frozen beef and 2,955 tonnes of fresh beef to Russia in 1999, according to the French Foreign Trade Centre. It also sold 722 tonnes of frozen beef to Hungary last year.

Russia said its ban was limited to regions of France where cases of BSE have been reported, making it hard to gauge the impact of the move on exports next year.

In a parallel move, Switzerland's Federal Veterinary Office announced it was recommending a ban on the use of animal meal in all livestock feed in a bid to wipe out BSE in the country. French daily Liberation reported on Friday that the government was also considering banning beef on the bone because of potential contamination from the animal's spine, a move likely to infuriate gourmets.

Canada: BSE and water buffalo?

Thu, 2 Nov 2000  accounts compiled by Don Maroc
Cowichan News-Leader columnist in Duncan. B.C. (Vancouver Island)
Opinion (webmaster): The deadline for delivery of the animals to Lethbridge and the court date before the federal judge to seek a temporary injunction is now Dec. 6, 2000. In a nutshell, this is being handled as an economic trade issue (cattle exports) with little or no regard for the health of animals. Like the Vermont sheep, this has nothing to do with TSE and everything to do with agency dominance by the cattle industry.

"It required many months of clawing their way through a snarl of European and Canadian government red tape before Anthea and Darrel Archer were given a permit to import 19 water buffalo from Denmark to their Cowichan Valley farm.

Last Friday, just before the long Labour Day weekend, they received a devastating letter from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency veterinarian in Winnipeg. They were ordered get all of their water buffalo (including five calves born since they arrived) out of the country by Sept. 15, or the federal government would take them from the farm and have them destroyed at the Archers' expense.

If you're wondering why anyone would raise water buffalo in the Cowichan Valley, it's probably because you're not aware that real mozzarella cheese, as it is made in Europe, must be manufactured from 100 percent water buffalo milk. Italy has more than 90,000 water buffalo cows kept for their high protein, low cholesterol milk.

The Archers' buffalo originally came from a registered herd in Bulgaria. They travelled in quarantine across Eastern and Western Europe to Denmark in 1997, and stayed in quarantine, examined by veterinarians, before boarding a plane Jan. 26, 2000, and flying to Vancouver Island. They have been quarantined, restricted to a barn and small paddock, on the Archers' Fairburn Farm since arriving.

It was bad luck that the month after the buffalo left Denmark that country discovered its first-ever case in domestic cattle of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), a medical tongue-twister known by its more frightening popular name "Mad Cow Disease".

BSE is a cruel disease that destroys the neurons in the brain leaving many holes resembling a sponge. Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE) occurs in many species of animals including sheep, pigs, goats, cattle, deer, elk, mink, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, domestic cats, dogs, puma, cheetah, eland, marmosets, macaques, and chimpanzees.. BSE transmitted to humans is called new variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease (nvCJD). Whether in animals or in humans the disease is always fatal.

The Archers' buffalo while in Denmark had no contact with other farm animals of any kind. Their diet consisted of beet pulp, grass, hay and silage only. They received no commercial animal feed which is believed to be the original source of BSE transmission to cattle in Britain. [This was also the situation with the Vermont sheep: never exposed to BSE feed -- webmaster.]

Before buying their buffalo in Eastern Europe, the Archers visited Rob Palmer's farm in Warwickshire where there are 130 buffalo. No water buffalo, in Britain, Europe, Asia, or Australia has ever been know to have BSE. The buffalo are distantly related to our cattle but cannot interbreed. While it is perfectly understandable why a Canadian government vet would err on the side of caution, in this case he seems to have gone far beyond caution. There has been no contact between these water buffalo and any possible carrier of BSE.

It may help that Archers have a deal with Tony Abbott and his son Hillary, who have bought land and equipment to set up a cottage cheese factory in Cobble Hill. The Abbotts intend to process all of the buffalo milk to make authentic mozzarella cheese.

Tony is a seasoned lawyer and an ex-member of parliament who still knows his way around the halls of government. He'll be in Winnipeg and Ottawa this week using his diplomatic skills to bring about a reasonable conclusion to this seemingly unreasonable government order.

The Abbotts have a investment but the Archers "bet the farm" on this new enterprise that is supposed to produce superior milk and meat. If the government order is carried out as written they are bankrupt and will lose their farm.

Tony, and the Archers, first choice is to get the order rescinded. Failing that perhaps, since the buffalo have already been here eight months waiting for the government to release them from quarantine, they can get a delay in the removal order. If the government, which gave its permission to bring the animals to Canada, refuses surely it must offer reasonable compensation so the Archers will not be driven from their family farm. ß

In fighting to keep the water buffalo they imported from Europe, Darrel and Anthea Archer understandably feel they are up against a deck stacked by the federal government. The Archers purchased19 buffalo from a farm in Denmark. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) accepted the Danish veterinarians' clean bill of health based on the fact that Denmark was free of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or mad-cow disease. The CFIA issued an importation permit in October 1999. [Like in Vermont, the government is reneging on a fully compliant, lawful import. Like Denmark, CCanada itself had imported vast amounts of UK feed; Canada also importing a confirmed case of BSE-- webmaster]

Following all the CFIA demands for sealed shipping and close quarantine here at their Fairburn Farm in Cowichan Station, the Archers imported the water buffalo in January 2000.

During February 2000 a young cow on a Danish farm in Jutland died of BSE. The remainder of the 70 Red Danish dairy cows in the herd were slaughtered and tested for BSE. All were negative. There is no method for testing live animals for BSE. It was determined that the one cow must have eaten some commercial feed meant for pigs on the same farm. Although meat or bone from any ruminant animal is banned from cattle feed in Denmark, it is still allowed in pig feed.

On Sept.1, 2000, the CFIA notified the Archers that the water buffalo would have to be out of Canada by Sept. 15, 2000, or the government would have them destroyed at the Archers' expense. The deadline was later extended to Oct.13, 2000.

The buffalo are in perfect health according to Canadian government veterinarians. Neither the CFIA nor the Archers know of a single case of BSE in water buffalo anywhere in the world. If the Canadian government carries out its orders the Archers face absolute financial ruin.

It all seems unreasonably cruel and unnecessarily arbitrary, but, quite honestly, the CFIA officials responsible for the decision feel they are also facing a stacked deck. The CFIA must enforce Canada's zero tolerance for BSE in imported animals. They must work within an agreement with the U.S. to co-operate in evaluating the BSE status of other countries.

When the CFIA did the initial 1999 risk assessment of the buffalo, there had never been a case of BSE in a native born animal in Denmark. There had been one Scots Highland cow imported from Britain in 1988, that died of BSE in 1992. A Danish born cow exported to Ireland in 1992, was diagnosed with BSE in 1994. The remainder of the Danish herd was not slaughtered. Still Denmark last year was considered a BSE-free country. [Ludicrous then and now. The time of the risk analysis was the time for decilsion. -- webmaster]

Another Danish-born cow exported to Portugal in 1994, was found to have BSE in April of this year. The Danish authorities gave no thought to cattle on nearby farms, nor to the 36 water buffalo in a different part of the country.

Before okaying importation of the buffalo the CFIA understood the Danish government had conducted a risk assessment prior to allowing the animals to be brought there from Rumania. That was later found to be not true.

Even though the CFIA allowed the Archers to import the 19 buffalo, they had to keep them in close quarantine. The animals were still in quarantine when the Archers received the order for their removal.

Soon after issuing the order for removal the CFIA learned that the buffalo originated in Bulgaria instead of Rumania. On the joint Canada-U.S. investigative list Rumania has a sort of conditional status, awaiting further information. Bulgaria is a definite no-go. At the present level of information the U.S. and, therefore, Canada will not allow importation of any ruminants from Bulgaria. [There is little if any information on BSE in either country. -- webmaster]

The U.S. takes a very hard line on BSE or any associated prion disease. They recently attempted to kill and incinerate 376 milking sheep imported from Belgium suspected of having scrapie, an Ovine Spongiform Encephalopathy. Belgium offered to take the sheep back but the U.S. authorities refused, wanting to prove to the world they are determined to remain BSE-free.

Canada, which exports considerable beef, also wants to maintain it's BSE-free status. It is very important for the Cowichan Valley. We have some of the finest registered dairy herds in the world. Some dairy farmers earn a good chunk of their profits exporting diary cattle all around the globe. If we lose our BSE-free status, as Denmark seems to have done, we can lose our export market. ]To repeat, Canada has previously reported a confirmed BSE case and has also imported large quantities of MBM from the UK. -- webmaster]

If our government insists on taking a U.S.-like hard line to destroy the water buffalo herd in spite of the Archers' financial and emotional commitment, they must at least provide full compensation. The Archers have acted in good faith and complied with all government requests and demands for the past year. We must not sacrifice these family farmers on the altar of national health and profit. We owe them complete restitution of their entire investment and a heart-felt apology that they must suffer for our perceived good.

It surprised some people to learn that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency had to consult with U.S. government agencies before giving the order that Anthea and Darrel Archer's 28 water buffalo had to leave the country or be destroyed.

It's even more surprising that U.S. authorities appear to be keeping a close eye on us to make sure we're getting our mad cow stories straight. Last week we incorrectly stated that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had killed and incinerated 376 Friesian milking sheep in Vermont. The truth is they only destroyed 21. On Friday, last week, Ed Kurlett called News-Leader/Pictorial editor John McKinley, from USDA offices in Washington, D.C., to inform him of the error and demand a correction.

Big Brother seems to be very sensitive. The truth is the USDA officials want desperately to kill off the remaining 355, but a district court judge in Vermont has so far stopped them in their tracks.

Just as the CFIA did not order the water buffalo destroyed until after they had been at the Archers' Fairburn Farm for eight months, Linda and Larry Faillace and Houghton Freeman have had their two flocks in Vermont for more than four years.

The CFIA claims the buffalo could have been given feed rations which induce BSE in cattle during their two years in Denmark, even though the Archers have affidavits claiming they were fed only grass, hay, and sugar beet meal. The USDA says the 65 original milking sheep could have had infected feed while they lived in Belgium, even though the Faillaces flew in Belgium veterinarians who swore they did not [as well as providing extensive paper documentation -- webmaster.]

One significant difference is that the USDA ran laboratory tests on seven sheep culled from the Freeman flock and claim to have found evidence of "TSE of foreign origin" in four of them. TSE is Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy, a general term referring to mad cow disease in all animals. Neither the Archers' buffalo nor any known water buffalo in the world has ever been diagnosed with TSE or, more specifically, BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy).

Except where it has been introduced in research laboratories sheep have not been known to naturally contract BSE. TSE in sheep is known as scrapie because they scratch themselves against fence posts and buildings until their hides are raw. Unlike BSE, which infects humans as nvCJD (new variant Cruetzfeldt-Jakob's Disease), scientists believe scrapie is not transferable to humans.

When questioned before the U.S. judge the biochemist who identified the "TSE of foreign origin" admitted he only knows it is a type of Spongiform Encepthalophy and cannot say for certain what species it is specific to. The USDA is not going to admit it is sheep scrapie for two reasons. Scrapie is not a danger to humans [the best available science contradicts this -- webmaster] and there is already scrapie in many U.S. sheep flocks . So if the USDA wants to destroy these two flocks they must test all sheep and destroy all flocks when they find scrapie. [Thus the US can scarcely admit that scrapie is harmful under these circumstances. -- webmaster]

New and frightening research recently released proves that animals can be carriers of various TSE's without becoming sick and dying What is needed for the Archers' buffalo, and the Vermont sheep, is a test that can be performed on live animals which proves or disproves that the animal has the mutated prion proteins which cause the disease that destroys their brains and neural tissue.

There are such tests available but none are approved either by the USDA or the CFIA. A reasonably simple blood test has been discovered by Mary Jo Schmerr, a researcher at the USDA's own National Animal Disease Centre at Ames, Iowa.

Noting that Schmerr's test has been reliable hundreds of times, some scientists claim the US government is being influenced (and is influencing the Canadian government) by the massive cattle and grain corporations and farmers' organizations not to accept tests for live animals. If BSE is found, latent or active, in US and Canadian beef herds it could wreck the industry.

It is an important question whether the Archers' buffalo and the Faillaces' sheep are being sacrificed for the health of Canadian and US citizens or for the economic benefit of the North American livestock industry.

With an arrogance matched only by their ignorance, Canadian politicians appear determined to prove, as have their brethren in Britain, that Mad Cow Disease creates mad politicians.

For the next eight months the CFIA kept the Archers in the dark, except an order to keep the buffalo in quarantine. On the day before the Labour Day holiday (Sept. 1, 2000) a CFIA vet delivered a letter saying the buffalo must be out of Canada by Sept. 15, or the government would have them destroyed.

Politicians offered their sympathy but said it is out of their hands. The Archers hired a lawyer and received an extension until Oct. 13.

Then, in a repeat performance, the CFIA vet arrived the day before the Thanksgiving holiday with two letters. The first said the original order to remove the buffalo from Canada is revoked. The second said, based upon a different section of the Health of Animals Act, the buffalo, now numbering 27, must be delivered to Lethbridge, Alberta, for destruction by Nov. 6.

According to section 18 (1)(b) of the Act, used for the original order, if the CFIA "believes on reasonable grounds" that imported animals are contaminated by a disease they can be exported or destroyed. Knowing that the Archers' lawyer would take this case before a federal judge before Oct. 13, and feeling they had a weak case, the CFIA bureaucrats and the politicians hiding behind them moved the goal posts.

Section 48 (1)(a) says that the Minister may dispose of an animal that "is suspected of being" contaminated by a disease. So now the politicians have turned this into a witch hunt. Some one SUSPECTS you of being a witch and, unless you can prove you are not a witch, you burn.

The only way to prove the innocence of the buffalo is a scientific test for live animals. The government says the only valid test is to view slices of the brain of a dead animal under a microscope. But if you kill one buffalo and the test shows it was clean, that still proves nothing about the remaining animals.

But wait, there is a simple, inexpensive blood test, designed by a U.S. Department of Agriculture scientist which reveals the presence of the misshapen prion proteins that destroy brain tissue in all forms of BSE. Trials have been successfully run in both the UK and US for the past 18 months but neither of those governments, nor the CFIA, will accept the test as valid. Perhaps they don't want to know the truth. [Insufficient details on the tests have been published to date. -- webmaster]

The same government is irrational about scrapie, the BSE sheep disease. During 1997 alone they discovered 47 cases of scrapie in sixteen Ontario and Quebec flocks. They destroyed all the sheep in 10 flocks but left the rest.

On the Prairies the CFIA found Chronic Wasting Disease (BSE in elk) in four herds. They destroyed one herd, part of another herd, and left 2 herds intact. What is their policy?

The shift to a witch hunt by the CFIA has finally awakened our federal MP Reed Elley. Instead of privately begging for compensation he is ready to push his Alliance Party to stand up publicly in parliament and demand justice.

Pesticide found to produce Parkinson's

Mon, 6 Nov 2000 Sandy Blakeslee NY Times
An organic pesticide widely used on home-grown fruits and vegetables and for killing unwanted fish in the nation's lakes and rivers produces all the classic symptoms of Parkinson's disease in rats that receive steady amounts of the chemical in their bloodstreams, scientists said today.

While it is much too soon to say that the pesticide, rotenone, causes or contributes to Parkinson's disease in humans, the scientists said the finding was the best evidence thus far that chemicals in the environment may be factors in this devastating disease.

Their study, the first to implicate rotenone in Parkinson's disease, was described here today at a workshop on the neurobiology of disease, held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, the nation's largest gathering of brain researchers. The workshop, sponsored by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, involved work carried out by Dr. Timothy Greenamyre and colleagues at Emory University in Atlanta.

The results of the study will be published in the December issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience. "This is a very important new study," said Dr. William Langston, president of the Parkinson's Institute, a leading center for research and treatment of the disease in Sunnyvale, Calif. "It is the next major step in Parkinson's disease research."

Dr. John Q. Trojanowski, an expert on neurodegenerative diseases at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia and the moderator of the workshop, said, "This is the best model we have ever had for this disease being associated with an environmental agent."

But Dr. Trojanowski cautioned that the findings "may not represent what anyone would experience in the real world." For one thing, the rats in the study were exposed to the chemical through their jugular veins, so it was not broken down or metabolized in the digestive tract. Still, Dr. Trojanowski said, the results are "a major breakthrough" and "prompt us to look at how a lifetime exposure" to a chemical or combination of chemicals might actually lead to Parkinson's disease.

Rotenone is extracted from the dried roots, seeds and leaves of various tropical plants, including the Jewel vine, derris and hoary pea. Like many plants that produce what are in effect their own pesticides, these plants apparently evolved to produce the compound as a way of warding off insects and other pests.

Rotenone is found in 680 compounds marketed as organic garden pesticides and flea powders, said Dr. Caroline Tanner, director of clinical research at the Parkinson's Institute. It is often sold as a white powder that is dusted onto roses, tomatoes, pears, apples and African violets, and even on household pets. It kills fire ants.

Because rotenone is naturally occurring, it is advertised as being safer than syntheticpesticides, she said. In addition, unlike many artificial pesticides, which linger in the environment, rotenone breaks down in five to six days of spring sunlight or two to three days of summer sunlight.

Rotenone is also widely used in liquid form by fishery managers to destroy pest species. The chemical is added to lakes and reservoirs, where it kills all the fish by inhibiting their ability to use oxygen. Once it has degraded, the water is restocked with the desired fish species.

Parkinson's disease is one of the most common neurodegenerative diseases, affecting nearly one million Americans over the age of 50.

The disease is caused by the steady loss of cells, in a tiny region of the brain called the substantia nigra, that produce a chemical, dopamine, which is crucial for movement and cognition. Patients develop jerky, tremulous movements that get worse with time. Eventually they become entirely rigid.

A hallmark of the disease is that dopamine cells in the substantia nigra become clogged with tiny, gunky clumps of abnormal protein called Lewy bodies. Scientists have suspected since the middle of the 19th century that an environmental toxin might be involved in Parkinson's disease, Dr. Tanner said. P>Moreover, people who work on farms or live in the countryside have as much as seven times as much risk of developing the disease as other people.

The first real clues to understanding the disease were found in 1983 when a number of young addicts using contaminated heroin developed severe Parkinson's-like symptoms. Researchers found that the drug had left dopamine-producing cells damaged much as they are damaged in Parkinson's disease and blocked the action of an important enzyme called complex one.

But mysteries remained. Why do dopamine-producing cells in just one tiny part of the brain die from lack of complex one, while other cells in the body and brain, including other dopamine-producing cells, are affected but do not necessarily shut down? And why were there no Lewy bodies?

Dr. Greenamyre, a professor of neurology and pharmacology at Emory, said he thought rotenone might offer a better model of the disease. It is a known complex one inhibitor, he said, and "it is used in a zillion products."

In the study, rats were given a steady low dose of rotenone directly into their bloodstreams for one to five weeks, Dr. Greenamyre said. The chemical could therefore pass more easily into the brain and not get broken down in the intestines. During the exposure, the rats grew stiff, stopped moving as much, hunched over and developed tremors ‹ just the kinds of problems that develop in Parkinson's disease.

"When we examined their brains we saw that they had a progressive degeneration of the dopamine system that goes awry in Parkinson's," Dr. Greenamyre said. "It was extremely specific." And for the first time, scientists observed evidence of Lewy bodies.

But it remains to be seen if rotenone is a factor in human disease. Not everyone who uses it gets the disease. It may be one of many toxins that have to work in concert before Parkinson's will develop in the brain; rotenone alone may be relatively harmless for people. Moreover, people may vary in their susceptibility to rotenone and similar chemicals, Dr. Greenamyre said.

Industry goes on global offensive against toxics activists targeting funding, internet activities

Inside EPA Weekly Report Vol.21, no.37-September 15, 2000
Several industry sectors have begun efforts to counteract recent gains by environmentalists on international and trade issues, ranging from preemptive attempts to block charitable foundations from funding environmentalists to the use of internet "intelligence" collection agencies to track and potentially cripple activists efforts on a global scale, according to industry officials and confidential industry strategy documents.

Environmentalists say the new initiatives constitute an unprecedented offensive on their ability to engage in the debate over the effect of international trade, as well as economic and political globalization, on the environment.

Industry officials by and large defend their efforts, saying that the measures are legal and necessary in order to keep track of the numerous campaigns environmentalists have launched in the international arena.

According to documents obtained by Inside EPA, Sony Co. this summer prepared an "action plan" for counteracting the efforts of several domestic and international environmental groups--including Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition. The plan includes such activities as "pre-funding intervention" and creates a "detailed monitoring and contact network" to track the activities of these groups. A copy of the strategy is available on our online document service, IWP Extra. See page 2 for details.

Sony presented the document during a July technology sector meeting in Brussels on the so-called "WEE" directive--a European Union proposal that would phase out a raft of toxic substances in electronics and would require manufacturers to take back their products for recycling once their useful consumer life is over. The WEE initiative has been heavily lobbied by several U.S. environmental groups, but bitterly opposed by most multinational electronics firms.

The Sony paper and sources close to the issue say the monitoring network would employ one of the dozens of new internet "intelligence" agencies --such as London-based Infonics PLC--that monitor chat rooms, e-mail lists, electronic bulletin boards, online news services, newsgroups and other sources of public information for specific data requested by a company or industry group. This information includes press releases and news stories, discussions of particular issues and campaigns, and overall strategy, and is typically compiled in digest form for subscribers to the service.

Although sources with Infonics were not available for comment, the company has been involved in international environmental issues in the past, most notably when it hired Royal Dutch Shell, Inc. to polish its corporate image after the Nigerian military executed a local environmentalist who was fighting to require Shell to address contamination.

An industry official says "pre-funding intervention" means providing groups with industry data prior to the beginning of their campaigns to ensure "they have good information" about company products and practices. But an observer familiar with industry efforts says it likely refers to a growing movement in the business community to take industry problems with activists' agendas directly to donors, charitable foundations and companies that sponsor the environmental organizations, in an effort to stall the campaigns before they even commence.

Sources say the Sony paper only highlights what some contend is a growing movement in the industry to try and cripple environmentalists and other activists organizations because of their demands on trade issues. Sources also point to a new website-- truthabouttrade.com--that was reportedly set up by the agribusiness sector in response to last year's protests at the World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in Seattle.

The organizers of the site have collected a list of environmental groups that took part in the protests, their sponsors, and a list of "myths" about trade and environment and their rebuttals-- including charges that that global warming is not a real phenomenon and that the government should not protect certain species from extinction due to human activities.

Environmentalists say the site is a clear attempt to intimidate charitable foundations into not providing the groups with funds. And while the groups' site stops short of actually calling for the foundations to halt funding for these groups, it does say "we intend to shine a very bright light on these groups, and hold them accountable for their actions."

Activists say the efforts could set a dangerous precedent, and warn of an industry "Big Brother" mentality that seems to be becoming more prevalent in the business community. One observer says the Sony strategy also appears to be the first example of a coordinated, international effort by business to monitor and counteract activists' efforts.

Several sources say that prior to the Seattle demonstrations, much of the industry did not view environmentalist working on trade issues as a threat. But after protesters--led in large part by environmental and labor groups--successfully shut down the WTO meetings and their subsequent wins in the realm of public opinion, many in the business community have begun to take notice and are actively seeking a way to address the situation.

Keep Gelatine and BSE out of the median

29 Oct 00 Gelatin Manufacturers of Europe (GME)Gelatin Info Centre  
Opinion (webmaster):

What is this supposed to mean: "The group aims to agree on common positions for different aspects of BSE safety of gelatin, and to counteract any negative action against gelatin from legislators, scientists and the public. As a result of distorted reporting in the media, it aims to keep gelatin out of discussions on BSE in the media."

Sounds like they don't care if it is safe or not, just keep it out of the media

"Gelatin has a wide range of applications in the food, the pharmaceutical and the photographic industries. It is also used in cosmetics, in the refining of metals, in the polymerisation of plastics and the sizing of paper.

The Sector Groups key objectives are:

to serve as a source of information to the members on legislation and regulations affecting the gelatin industry;

to ensure that the industrys views and opinions are made known to national, supranational and international bodies and especially the European Commission;

to disseminate information on gelatin and provide a forum for consideration of technical matters;

to initiate scientific studies, distribute and interpret results;

to ensure collection and exchange of analytical data (Bloom Ring Test);

to monitor regulatory developments on gelatin and foodstuffs within the EU and world-wide;

to improve the image of gelatin in the general public and with industrial consumers.

GMEs main remit lies in obtaining a satisfactory gelatin regulation with respect to raw material and process requirements, analytical methods and purity.

GME seeks to increase public awareness of gelatin as a healthy, low-calorie product of natural origin, and to fight misconceptions of edible and pharmaceutical gelatin in the context of BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy).

The group aims to agree on common positions for different aspects of BSE safety of gelatin, and to counteract any negative action against gelatin from legislators, scientists and the public. As a result of distorted reporting in the media, it aims to keep gelatin out of discussions on BSE in the media.

The group also seeks to get specifications and methods of the Gelatin Monograph recognised as the European Standard for gelatin.

The Sector Group brings together all manufacturers of edible gelatin in Western Europe.

        Agfa-Gevaert (D)
        Croda Colloids (GB)
        Delft Gelatin (NL)
        Deutsche Gelatine Fabriken Stoess (DE)
        Ewald-Gelatine (DE)
        Figli di Guido Lapi (IT)
        Geistlich Gelatine (CH)
        Gelatines Weishardt (FR)
        Italgelatine (IT)
        Miquel Junca (ES)
        PB Gelatins (Tessenderlo Chemie) (BE)
        Reinert Gruppe (ex Monzinger Gelatin) (DE)
        SKW Biosystems (FR)"

Mad cow disease link with vaccines

Thursday, November 2, 2000 HealthAnswers
Opinion (webmaster):

-- thousands of sheep that contracted disease from the scrapie infected louping-ill vaccine.

-- transmission of BSE to sheep via whole blood

-- transmission study of CJD, by blood and urine, into mice

-- Vaccines and CJD 1, 2

-- resistance of prion protein to extreme heat

Cows born as early as 1974 were affected: figures (at 30 October 2000) for confirmed BSE cases broken down by year of birth.[HL4472]

 Year of Birth...Confirmed Cases (43,345 cases not known,  total confimred BSE ...177,416)

 1974...1
 1975...0
 1976...2
 1977...10
 1978...6
 1979...41
 1980...101
 1981...261
 1982...1,393
 1983...4,461
 1984...8,067
 1985...11,065
 1986...19,732
 1987...36,869
 1988...22,186
 1989...12,645
 1990...5,640
 1991...4,575
 1992...3,155
 1993...2,359
 1994...1,206
 1995...294
 1996...3
 1997...0
 1998...0
 1999...0

"Australian vaccines have been implicated in the mad cow disease after government investigators found last week that polio vaccines used in Australia could be traced to British cattle.

Nevertheless, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Australia's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Richard Smallwood, announced yesterday that despite the discovery, the vaccines would not be withdrawn. He said that the risk of infection with the lethal brain disease, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, through an infected dose of polio vaccine was "one in a million."

But the discovery that Australian vaccines can be traced to British cattle more than 10 years after the mad cow disease threat was revealed, has prompted a new audit of the source of all vaccines in Australia.

Prof Smallwood said that the maker in Australia of the oral polio vaccine, SmithKline Beecham, had only found out last week that British calf serum originally sourced from British cattle was used in the manufacture of the Australian product.

A spokesman for SmithKline Beecham declined to explain how the company had missed the British link for so long.

The British had withdrawn a polio vaccine brand two weeks ago because of links with the cattle, and is now using the same vaccine as that used in Australia.

Prof Smallwood said that even though calf-serum was sometimes used in the early stages of viral growth, the manufacturing process "literally washes away the bovine material" such that the final vaccine could contain "a minute trace of the calf serum, if at all." [Smallwood cannot supply supporting data to back this vapid reassurance. The prion protein can be extremely sticky, and may conveivably have permanently converted cell lines to prion producers. -- webmaster]

Asked if the vaccine discovery would affect the faith of Australians in the safety of vaccines, Prof Smallwood said that the success of vaccines as the single most effective way of reducing childhood disease had to be weighed against the remote risk of contracting vCJD.

Surveillance Unit delaying admission of new nvCJD cases?

5 Nov 00 webmaster opinion
"An Orkney-born labourer who died in September was a victim of nvCJD, it was confirmed yesterday after a post-mortem examination this week. David Antonio, 28, died after a nine-month illness. "

" Sarah Roberts died in September, only nine weeks after her illness was diagnosed. Referred to a consultant neurologist but on being told that there was a two-year wait..."

These cases, which was not admitted to in the 3 Nov 00 official count, raise questions about how cases are counted by the Surveillance Unit. Note also that the victims are experiencing difficulty reaching real doctors, again illustrating why onsets work better than dates of diagnosis, but more importantly the current situation may be rather understated in that too many cases, confirmable today, are out there unrecognized, justifying a less-than-commensurate research response.

Village alarmed by second CJD death

Times  01 Nov 2000 BY PAUL WILKINSON
TWO people who lived in the same former pit village ‹ at one time only 100 yards apart ‹ have died of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, fuelling fears of a cluster of cases. The deaths are being investigated by experts from the government-backed surveillance unit who are trying to find a possible link.

Sarah Roberts, a 28-year-old accountant, died in September, only nine weeks after her illness was diagnosed. Matthew Parker, 19, died from vCJD three years ago. As children, both attended the local comprehensive school and played with their friends in fields near their homes in Armthorpe, on the outskirts of Doncaster. Scientists from the CJD unit at Edinburgh University have visited the relatives of both victims, whose deaths are the only ones from vCJD in the Doncaster area.

Miss Roberts, who died on September 14, never knew that she had vCJD. By the time that a specialist had confirmed her condition, she was too ill to understand. Short-term memory loss meant that she had even forgotten about the tests that doctors had carried out. Instead her parents concentrated on making her final days as full and peaceful as they could.

This time last year she was a bright young woman on the verge of a successful career, preparing for her accountancy exams. When in January she complained of depression her parents put it down to her impending finals and a break-up with her boyfriend.

They first suspected something was seriously wrong in March. Her father, Frank, 56, a plumber, said: ³She would not admit she was down, but she was not herself.² She went to Doncaster Royal Infirmary complaining of pains in her legs, but was referred to her GP. As her condition worsened, she was forced to give up work and driving. Her parents asked their GP if it was ME, but he ruled it out. They were referred to a consultant neurologist, but, on being told that there was a two-year wait, paid for a private consultation. On July 13, after four days of tests, they learnt the truth.

Mr Roberts said: ³I drove home with Sarah and my wife, Shelia, from the hospital in a trance. We couldnıt even cry because we didnıt want to show Sarah we were upset. She never asked what was wrong with her and we just kept telling her we were waiting for the results of her tests. She was so frightened, we didnıt want to upset her any more. We never dreamt it would be CJD because of what happened to Matthew. We didnıt think such a rare disease could strike twice.²

Near the end she suffered nightmares and hallucinations. Her mother said: ³She would start screaming and crying in the night. They were screams of pure horror.²

Mr Roberts added: ³Weıre mystified as to what caused our daughterıs death. We feel as though she was murdered. Until January she was a happy, fit, normal fun-loving girl and didnıt eat junk food.² Her parents said that she rarely ate beef, preferring chicken.

They have since contacted Matthew Parkerıs father, John Middleton. He said: ³Itıs not just a coincidence, itıs a strong link. The experts are trying to find a connection, but itıs like trying to find a needle in a haystack.² He described his son, a 6ft 8in trainee chef, as ³a hearty beef eater² who often ate four burgers at a session and drank ³pints² of milk a day.

Michael Breen, a parish and district councillor, said: ³Nobody wants to talk about this in the open in the village. Itıs as touchy a subject as Aids, but people are worried.²

Dr John Radford, Doncaster Health Authorityıs director of public health, said: ³We are treating this seriously, but people should remember that the exposure is likely to have occurred 10 to 15 years ago.²

An Orkney-born labourer who died in September was a victim of vCJD, it was confirmed yesterday after a post-mortem examination this week. David Antonio, 28, died at his parentsı home in the Highlands after a nine-month illness. Yesterday his sister, Brenda Steel, 37, criticised the Government for failing to offer any support. ³It is a horrific thing for someone to have to die from. People just do not know who to turn to,² she said from her home in Alness, Easter Ross.

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