2 die on same street in Doncaster
Wrinkle creams exposed women to BSE: "ladies are rubbing cow brain and placenta onto their faces"
74 years old, confirmed nvCJD: experts confounded
Millions watch death of Zoe Jeffries on TV
TV-audio clip of Judge Phillips (off-site, requires RealAudio; recommended highly)
Ag Minister: death toll "may be much, much larger"
Hear, hear: Lacey put up for Knighthood
A culture of secrecy that risked our lives
British hid BSE danger from Scots, 4 dead
Business as usual: MAFF and FSA already thumbing nose at Inquiry on calf offal
France considers flat ban on animal material in livestock feed
Sunday 29 October 2000 By David Cracknell, Deputy Political Editor TelegraphMillions watched Zoe's final hours.
WOMEN who bought expensive anti-ageing creams could have unwittingly exposed themselves to BSE, according to the official report into the disease.
The report by Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers stated that there was a "potential pathway to infection" from the products which, unbeknown to most consumers, might have included cattle brain and placenta. The warning was contained in one of 16 volumes of the report, which also criticised the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for failing to act swiftly enough on the dangers posed by cosmetics using bovine material.
Last night the DTI told The Telegraph that it would accept the report's recommendation that it undertake an urgent review of its procedures. The report highlights the fact that the regulation of the cosmetics industry by the DTI was "less stringent" than those covering medicines and vaccines - another possible source of infection - at the time that concerns about BSE in cattle were first raised.
It said that the category of products presenting the highest risk compromised "exotica" or "premium products", such as anti-ageing creams, which might contain lightly processed brain extracts, placental material, spleen and thymus.
The Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (MAFF) and the Department of Health failed to alert the DTI to the risks when they were first identified in 1989. Although guidance [non-binding, lack the force of law, voluntary compliance -- webmaster] was provided to the cosmetics industry in the following year, the report said "a muddled situation developed about lead responsibility for action" [not in anyone's remit -- webmaster].
In 1991, one veterinary expert said in private correspondence that MAFF should find out from the cosmetics industry exactly what was being used in products. Raymond Bradley, of the Central Veterinary Laboratory, said: "I am not satisfied that the industry is in the clear and it is us that may shoulder some blame if it is later found ladies are rubbing cow brain or placenta on to their faces."
The issue became embroiled in drawn-out negotiations with the European Union and it was not until 1994 that updated guidance to British manufacturers emerged. Use of potentially dangerous bovine material was banned by the EU in 1997.
The Phillips report concluded: "The hallmarks of the handling of BSE in relation to cosmetics were [a] lack of leadership and an absence of urgency. Manufacturers were left to use up stocks, and checks were not made to ensure they reformulated their products."
The Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association told the BSE inquiry that it was confident early on from consultation with members that no products were using British material. -A spokesman for the Association said yesterday: "In 1990, at the request of the DTI, the sourcing of these ingredients was investigated and it was confirmed that they were of non-UK bovine origin".
Sunday 29 October 2000 By Robert Matthews and Lorraine Fraser. TelegraphMillions watched Zoe's final hours
AS epidemics go, it could have been worse: a sudden outbreak of media coverage, a rash of unpleasant headlines, some feverish editorials.
Now, just three days after the publication of the Phillips report into government's role in the BSE crisis, those who seemed likely to succumb to its effects appear well on the road to recovery. Some will return to work tomorrow after following spin doctor's orders and staying at home, and avoiding stress - and all media contact.
Yet while the former ministers and civil servants named - and almost blamed - last week have moved on, up or out, one group involved in the BSE debacle has no such obvious escape route. It is that of the scientists, still struggling to understand what went wrong with Britain's cattle, and what might now be in store for humans.
Despite the blanket coverage that it received last week, the Phillips report was really just an exercise in bureaucratic archaeology. It was a study of the BSE epidemic and the response of ministers up to March 1996, when the Conservative government of the day finally conceded a possible link between eating meat and contracting new-variant CJD, the human version of BSE.
Anyone scouring the report will look in vain for definitive answers to such questions as how cattle came to acquire BSE, the origins of vCJD and the likely human toll: no one knows. Indeed, anyone who reads the scientific parts of the Phillips report is likely to be stunned by how little is known even now, four years after the government announcement what so many had feared.
At the centre of the mystery of BSE and vCJD is a microscopic bundle of chemicals known as prion protein. Found in the brains and nerve tissue of animals ranging from mice to men, this protein plays an important role in the nervous system - but what that role is has yet to be ascertained.
In cattle and humans affected by these diseases, healthy prion protein is somehow altered into another, rogue form, with the deadly ability to corrupt other healthy protein around it. The result is damage to the nervous system, first subtle, then progressively more severe. Within as little as a few months, the rogue protein has turned the brain into a spongy mass of dense-looking "plaques", surrounded by holes.
It is this characteristic appearance that first led scientists to link vCJD to eating infected meat. Neurologists had identified several different forms of CJD over the years - ranging from genetic cases passed down families to cases that seem to strike out of the blue. But, under the microscope, none looked exactly like this new variant of CJD.
After finding 10 patients with brain tissue showing the vCJD pattern, scientists at the National CJD Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh tried to find a common link. Unable to find any obvious risk factors such as connections with BSE-blighted farms, the team was forced to conclude that the most likely explanation for the vCJD of these patients was exposure to infected meat products.
The link was strengthened by a search of medical archives for brain tissue showing the vCJD pattern. Not a single case has been found dating before 1994 - as would have been expected if human vCJD had followed the emergence of BSE in cattle. Detailed comparisons of the prion protein in BSE and that in vCJD have since confirmed that the two are, indeed, very closely related.
Yet even now - four years after the government's announcement - there is still no definitive proof that eating infected meat causes the human disease. If anything, as more vCJD cases emerge, the picture has become cloudier. Scientists remain baffled by the fact that most of the 85 cases of vCJD identified so far have occurred in people under 45 years old, with about a third of them under 25. The youngest victim was struck down at the age of just 12.
Classic CJD, in contrast, is chiefly a disease of the old. Yesterday's identification of a 74-year-old man with vCJD has led to suggestions that many cases in old people had been misdiagnosed as other dementia. However, scientists believe that the surveillance systems in place since 1990 are unlikely to have missed large numbers of cases among the elderly.
Equally perplexing is the emergence of a cluster of five vCJD cases around the small Leicestershire village of Queniborough. While chance cannot be ruled out, scientists are trying to find a common factor linking the disease to the village. The growing suspicion is that there is more to the BSE-vCJD link than just eating meat: that some other factor may be involved.
Genetic susceptibility is one possibility. Every case of vCJD so far has occurred among people carrying two copies of part of a gene linked to an amino acid called methionine. The suspicion is that such people are more susceptible to vCJD. As 37 per cent of the population falls into the same genetic class, that means that vast numbers will eventually die of vCJD, unless some other risk factor is involved.
What that factor might be has prompted the most disturbing line of research now under way: that the apparent link between vCJD and meat eating is a coincidence, caused by an environmental factor that struck humans and cattle at the same time.
One potential culprit is organophosphates (OPs), chemicals with potent biochemical action that are widely used in Britain to treat warble fly infection. Since the 1980s, the role of OPs in the BSE-vCJD link has been doggedly pursued by Mark Purdey, an organic farmer in Taunton. Long derided or ignored by establishment scientists, Mr Purdey's research was finally taken seriously by the Phillips inquiry, which conceded that exposure to OPs could boost susceptibility to vCJD.
Mr Purdey has recently uncovered a link between CJD-like diseases and levels of trace metals in the environment. This follows his discovery that CJD-like diseases in animals are more prevalent in areas with low levels of copper but high levels of manganese.
Again, the Phillips inquiry conceded that Mr Purdey's findings might be significant, and pointed to new research by scientists at Cambridge University into the mystery of what healthy prion protein actually does.
Dr David Brown and his colleagues at the university's department of biochemistry have found evidence that healthy prion protein affects the use of copper by the body. The protein also seems to play a role in protecting nerve cells from so-called free radicals, extremely reactive fragments of molecules that can damage DNA.
Dr Brown and his team have discovered that, to perform this protective role, healthy prion protein needs to be bound to copper atoms. If, instead, it is exposed to manganese, the prion protein changes - giving the protein some of the characteristics of the rogue protein that causes BSE and vCJD.
These new findings all support the possibility that the link between vCJD and eating infected meat is an illusion. What might have happened instead is that changes in farming practice subtly altered trace element levels that - perhaps when combined with OP use - led to both BSE and vCJD emerging at about the same time.
While mainstream opinion insists that eating infected meat is the most likely cause of vCJD, even the scientific establishment is now suggesting that it might not be enough by itself.
Professor John Collinge, of Imperial College, and one of the Government's independent scientific advisers, has conceded that the bizarre pattern of vCJD cases so far points to the existence of other risk factors. He has suggested that mouth ulcers and infections of the tonsils or gastro-intestinal tract may increase vulnerability.
As scientists struggle to fill the vast holes in their understanding of vCJD, the truth is unfolding month by month, as new cases are added to the toll. In August, researchers at Oxford University produced the best estimate yet of the figure that everyone now wants to know: how many people will die of vCJD?
With so many unknowns - from the numbers of infected cattle that entered the food chain to the incubation period of vCJD - the task would seem hopeless. Yet the team believes that it has arrived at a fairly reliable overall picture, after checking five million permutations of the various possibilities. According to their computer model, the worst-case scenario is that 136,000 people will eventually succumb - a figure based on the assumption that vCJD has an incubation period of at least 60 years.
While so long an incubation period cannot be ruled out, evidence from other forms of CJD suggests that it could be too pessimistic. Kuru, a form of CJD that appeared in New Guinea in the 1920s among tribesmen who ate the brains of dead relatives, had an incubation period of about 15 years. A similar figure emerged from studies of patients who died from a CJD-type disease after being given human growth hormone.
Assuming that the incubation period of vCJD is between 20 and 30 years, the Oxford University computer model estimates that the number of deaths from vCJD will be a few thousand.
Even that figure could prove too pessimistic, if the growing suspicions about the involvement of other risk factors for vCJD prove correct. What scientists now need to establish is how important those other risks are. The disturbing fact is that some of those scientists are starting to wonder if the link between eating meat and vCJD is an illusion, and that the whole BSE debacle was based on a misconception.
Electronic Telegraph, 28 October 2000 By Roger Highfield, Science EditorComment (webmaster):
The case of confirmed nvCJD in a person 20 years older than the previous record has raised a host of scientific and humanitarian questions. An anomaly has long existed in the nvCJD age distribution, which tapers down fairly smoothly until the age 40's, and then begins to climb again with age 50's followed by abrupt truncation of the curve at 55, looking suspiciously like ascertainment cut-off.
The asymmetric age distribution may or may not wholly mirror ascertainment effort, that is, the referral system to the Surveillance Unit has not been working properly as we had been led to believe. It became a case of circular reasoning -- this is a disease of the young, so cases were sought in the young: "The symptoms of nvCJD are similar to those of dementia, and the post mortem tissue analysis required to diagnose CJD has not been carried out with elderly people."
The age distribution has a political aspect. Scientists sought to sell
BSE-based CJD to politicians on the basis of its novelty: early onset,
florid plaques, strain type 4 and so on. Now that they have made the sale,
and with the Inquiry Report as received wisdom (?!?), it becomes timely to reveal
an older case and that they had blown off 5 years of elderly demented data
(which has far higher frequency than young and demented so potentially
holds more nvCHD cases).|
If nvCJD had been presented primarily a disease of the elderly demented (scarcely a charismatic group, fundraisers use a poster-child), it would have been met with near-total indifference and business as usual. Elderly are written off as likely to die soon of one thing or another anyway, and daftness is perceived as normal. Why spend money on diagnosing them?
The quantitative implications however are far from clear. The last 4 months of new data strongly favored the early 20's, even as the demographics recedes from date of peak exposure. There is no tendency for the 30's and 40's to catch up or be in proportion to cohort size. Perhaps there is a second peak in the 55+ age class. It is hard to believe, but not impossible, that the 74 year old is simply a case out in the vanishing tail. Until this is resolved, the at-risk population has been broadened but weighting of age class in models remains unknown.
Onset trend data could be distorted. The concern here is that they will not or cannot revisit the past 5 years of demented elderly but focus intensively on new ones. The effect here could be non-comparable statistics, amounting to a bogus caseload acceleration. The November statistics may be up, especially if they are house-cleaning. There are two known new cases, two rumors in Kent, and two further rumors elsewhere which would make for a record monthly high
"GOVERNMENT scientists are reviewing their assessment of the scale of the vCJD epidemic after a man of 74 died of the disease. The victim, believed to be from North Yorkshire, was 20 years older than the previously known oldest person to die from variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Scientists had believed that older people were not vulnerable. But now they fear that a broader section of society was susceptible to infection when the agent responsible for bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cattle was contaminating the human food chain.
The case came to light after doctors referred details to scientists at the National CJD Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh who confirmed the cause of death. A spokesman for the Department of Health said last night: "This has led to a reappraisal of the possible size of the epidemic." He said the Government had commissioned scientists to re-examine diagnoses of dementia in a sample number of older people to ensure none of them had been victims of vCJD.
The 85 previous victims of the disease have been aged between 15 and 54, with the exception of a 14-year-old girl who became ill two years ago and is still alive. The latest case was revealed as Prof John Collinge of St Mary's Hospital, London, and a member of the Government's Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee, warned yesterday that there was a strong possibility of a major epidemic of variant CJD
He said that he would be "very surprised" if there were not at least 1,000 cases. He said the suggestion in the BSE inquiry report by Lord Phillips that the first human cases of vCJD could have been infected in the Seventies was "worrying". He said that it was possible that they were infected before BSE itself was recognised in 1986, adding that the 82 cases to date could presage far greater numbers.
He said: "The longer the incubation period, the more potentially worrying it could be. There is still an awful lot of denial and wishful thinking around. We have to face up to the possibility of a major epidemic and be prepared for it." He said the scale of any possible epidemic was hard to predict because of uncertainty over many key factors, including: dose, route of exposure, incubation period, genetic susceptibility and the extent of the "species barrier", which inhibits the spread of BSE to humans from cows.
The report said the likely scale of the epidemic ranged from many dozens to 150,000 vCJD cases. It argued that BSE was born three decades ago in an animal of unknown species, probably a cow in south-west England, which suffered a mutation that created the infectious BSE protein. If this led to the first CJD cases - reported in the mid-Nineties - then it is conceivable that an epidemic is imminent because human exposure to BSE peaked in the late Eighties or later.
About 50,000 infected cattle were eaten before BSE was first detected. The report referred to how vCJD had tended to affect young people. Anne McVey said she felt lucky when her daughter, Claire, still recognised her at the end of her decline, even though she had lost the use of her legs and much of her sight and speech.
She said: "I've talked to some of the other families and their children stopped being able to recognise them. That must be hard." At her inquest, a coroner concluded that Claire contracted the disease after eating meat contaminated with BSE. She was probably infected a decade ago, showing the first signs of unsteadiness 20 months ago. She died in January, aged 15.
Prof Collinge said that dating of the first possible human exposure to the disease to three decades ago was consistent with what is known about other human spongiform diseases. One, called kuru, has an average incubation period of 12 years, but varies from five years to more than 40.
Kuru was spread by cannibalism so there was no species barrier and animal experiments have shown that in the creation of vCJD, the incubation time will be longer. If the species barrier between cows and humans is the same as between cows and mice, for example, the shortest incubation period of BSE might be about 15 years.
Given the high exposure of Britain's population to BSE at the end of the Eighties, the country may be still be five years away from the peak of the epidemic. Genetic factors may also shape the epidemic. If the first cases are in a few people with genes that make them particularly susceptible to BSE, there could be several separate epidemics of CJD, as people with different susceptibilities succumb.
Other clues to the origins of CJD will come from the village of Queniborough, Leics, where there has been a cluster of four cases of variant CJD. Dr Philip Monk, a consultant in communicable diseases, has investigated the cluster and believes that it was due to a combination of factors involved in the production of meat between 1980 and 1986.
He has also warned that the epidemic could be at an early stage. Prof Collinge said that the spongiform committee would discuss the cluster at its next meeting, which he said should be held in public. He said: "As the Phillips report has emphasised, Whitehall secrecy is at the crux of the whole problem."
Saturday, 28 October, 2000 BBC News
The elderly could be more at risk than previously thought Estimates of the scale of a possible CJD epidemic are being reassessed, following the death of a 74-year-old man from the disease.
Until now, all the known victims of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) - the human form of "mad cow" disease - have been aged between 12 and 55.
Scientists from the National CJD Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh confirmed the man, who died last year and is believed to have been from North Yorkshire, was suffering from the brain disease.
His death has triggered questions over whether a larger section of society than initially thought could be vulnerable to the disease.
The disease was not diagnosed before the man's death, and there is growing concern that other cases of nvCJD among the elderly may be going undetected.
The symptoms of nvCJD are similar to those of dementia, and the post mortem tissue analysis required to diagnose CJD has not been carried out with elderly people.
Government adviser Professor Roy Anderson said the death of an older man had triggered a rethink about the size of a possible epidemic. He told The Independent newspaper: "We're trying to redo the analysis at the moment because we'd been somewhat misguided by the considerable clustering of the cases in the younger age groups.
"This one case somewhat changes that view so we are in the process of taking into account the rise of the numbers in the light of a considerably broader age range."
Since the first cases of the disease were confirmed in 1995, the number of victims has been rising steadily. This latest case brings the total number to 85.
Previous studies had suggested that younger people were either more vulnerable to nvCJD infection, or had suffered greater exposure to meat infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy during the 1980s.
It is still not known how long the disease can incubate in humans and diagnosis can only be confirmed after death.
Computer predictions by Professor Anderson's team had suggested that around 6,000 people had been infected between 1980 and 1996.
But if the incubation period was as long as 60 years, that figure could increase to around 130,000.
Next week, Health Secretary Alan Milburn will meet victims' families to discuss compensation packages, following Lord Phillips' report into the handling of the BSE affair.
He will also announce a one million pound payment to the surveillance unit in Edinburgh, to "kickstart" a national fund for the care of victims.
This will pay for equipment and care packages for patients, with a new national network of experts across the country to support health and social workers caring for sufferers.
SATURDAY OCTOBER 28 2000 BBC NewsGirl 14, dies of vCJD. A 14-year-old girl today became the latest victim to die from the human form of mad cow disease.
The plight of Zoe Jeffries was highlighted in the media this week when her mother Helen, 39, let the television cameras and the press into her home in Wigan, Greater Manchester, to film her slow painful death. Zoe, who would have been 15 next month, died this morning from nvCJD.
|A police spokesman said: "Ms Jeffries had been diagnosed some
time ago as suffering from CJD, the human form of BSE. She died
this morning at her home. Her family would like to work through this
difficult period with as much privacy and dignity as possible."
Earlier today, the death of a 74-year-old man, the oldest known victim, to have died from vCJD has sparked further fears about the extent of the fatal illness, previously believed to have affected mainly the young.
The number of nvCJD victims could rise as doctors and scientists are urged to be "more vigilant" about the possible causes of death among the elderly, the Health Department said.
"In light of this case some others involving elderly people may need to be reassessed," a spokesman said. "It reiterates the need for vigilance among health professionals in cases which may have been seen as senile dementia in older people to be reassessed."
The man, believed to be from North Yorkshire and at least 20 years older than previously confirmed vCJD victim.
The pensioner died last year, but his case was only reassessed after doctors became worried that his death may have been triggered by vCJD. The case was referred to the Edinburgh-based CJD Surveillance Unit where examinations of material from his brain confirmed vCJD.
At present no link has been made between the death and the beef crisis but the matter will be discussed by the Food Standards Agency later next week.
A Health Department spokesman confirmed that the matter will be put before the FSA, which is set to hold a public meeting in its ongoing role of scrutinising BSE controls.
Sun, Oct 29, 2000 By Bob Roberts, Deputy Political Editor, PA NewsThe death toll from the human form of mad cow disease could be "much, much larger", Agriculture Minister Nick Brown acknowledged today.
Amid speculation that the death rate could rise to one a day, Mr Brown said the Government did not know an estimate of the number of people who would eventually be affected. "The reason we don't know is because we don't know the incubation period in humans of the prion agent."
But, appearing on BBC1's Breakfast With Frost programme, Mr Brown added: "When we took the decision to enhance the care package for the victims of variant CJD - the human BSE - and to put compensation arrangements in place as well, we were very mindful of the fact that the numbers to who this applies could be much, much larger."
The warning comes after the death of 14-year-old Zoe Jeffries after two years of suffering from vCJD. It was also revealed yesterday that a 74-year-old man died of vCJD raising that there could be many more incidents of the disease among the older population.
Asked if he now considered British beef to be safe, Mr Brown said: "I eat British beef, I know British beef is amongst the safest in the world." Mr Brown explained his decision not to attack former Conservative cabinet ministers when he made a statement on the Lord Phillips report on BSE which was published last Thursday.
"This has been a national tragedy - everybody accepts that and I thought it right...to do it in a measured and restrained way. I, frankly, think the victims and their families would prefer that rather than see the whole thing immediately become a party political fight."
But he did today criticise the former government for not acting "a lot sooner" to stop the disease getting into the food chain and said their "response didn't work". He also singled out former agriculture minister Douglas Hogg who spoke on Thursday claiming the report had vindicated some of his actions. Mr Brown said: "I didn't think Douglas Hogg behaved particularly well.
"To pick two bits of the report which he thought spoke well of him and not to refer to at least three other bits which did not speak so well of him was, I thought, partial and very much the wrong tone coming from a former Conservative minister who had been at the heart of this when it was developing."
Mr Brown stressed there was considerable research now going on into vCJD in humans and the disease in animals, not just cattle. He said a programme was under way for sheep "to try to eliminate scrapie in the national herd just in case on the very long-shot that it might be masking the BSE condition." He added: "There is an enormous amount of important work under way but it is going to be some considerable time before we know how the current condition is incubating in the population."
The plight of Zoe Jeffries, who died yesterday at her home in Wigan, Greater Manchester, was broadcast to the nation on the eve of the report into the BSE fiasco after her mother Helen, 39, let the press into her home to film her daughter's slow and painful death.
Harrowing pictures of Zoe lying motionless in her bed while she was tended by her mother and sisters were broadcast and gave the first real glimpse of the devastation the disease has wreaked on its victims and families. Her family has requested privacy to deal with the tragedy.
But in an emotional interview earlier this week Mrs Jeffries told how her daughter, a fun-loving and popular schoolgirl, had started to show signs of the disease - known to have claimed the lives of more than 80 people in Britain - in May 1998, two months after the death of her father Derek from a heart attack.
She said "One morning she got up and just didn't do anything. She just cried. It was as though she went to bed one person and got up a different person." Her daughter, the eldest of her four children, cried solidly for two weeks then started to scream when she went to school.
Doctors thought it was a delayed reaction to Mr Jeffries' death and prescribed anti-depressants, but when her mobility became affected that October Mrs Jeffries took her to a neurologist who instantly knew what was wrong with her.
But it took until April 1999, Mrs Jeffries said, for doctors from the CJD Surveillance Unit to officially diagnose Zoe with vCJD.
The lives of the Jeffries family were turned upside down by the diagnosis. Mrs Jeffries said she felt angry that help from social services had been patchy at best and non-existent at worst. She also regretted buying cheap burgers to feed her family, now all vegetarian. "It's just as if someone had stuck a knife in Zoe's body - I really do think she has been murdered," she said.
Scientists said the death toll from CJD could rise to thousands or even millions. Professor Hugh Pennington told ITV's Dimbleby programme said: "All we can do is guess, it might be as few as 150, it might be more than 100,000. All we can say for certain is that there will be more cases."
On the same programme, Dr Stephen Dealler, a microbiologist and leading CJD expert, said on average people in the UK had eaten 50 meals made from the tissue of an infected animal.
He said: "At the moment the number of cases of CJD we are seeing are doubling every year. "If they double for a long time then the numbers are in millions, if they double for just a few years then the numbers are in thousands. At the moment it is very difficult to know."
Mr Brown said the Government also did not know but had planned for a series of possible contingencies." He said this is what made the promise of extra care and compensation announced on Thursday such a "bold" decision.
Mr Brown added: "I think our responsibility to our citizens who put us in charge, whose Government we are, extends regardless of the numbers involved. We have a duty to care for them and a duty to provide support as well through compensation."
Sat, 28 Oct 2000 Opinion:Dr David Bullimore MD MRCP BSc"BSE report. Ministers have spent the week ducking their individual responsibility. They ignored the advice and warnings given by independent scientists such as Professor Richard Lacey of Leeds University because it did not fit their agenda and that of the food industry.
If they had listened to his warnings we would not know be looking at the current toll of 80+ deaths and those to come. Instead he was pilloried by ministers, civil servants and some members of the press.
He should be considered for an Honour in the next Honours List to acknowledge the stand he made and as a statement by politicians that the responsibility for the current situation is in part their failure to heed his advice. I am sure many families of vCJD victims would support this acknowledgement by the government."
Opinion (webmaster): Indeed, Professor Lacey has made 3 extraordinary contributions to the quality of British life, by whistleblowing on the listeria bacteria food contamination, the salmonella problem in eggs, and finally on BSE in the meat, being vindicated in all cases.
Lacey's most far-sighted recommendation was for eradication of the national herd. Though said to cost 12 billion pounds, in the end, this would have saved both money and lives.
October 29 2000 Sunday London Times Jonathon Carr-Brown, Senay Boztas, and John ElliottThe story of the BSE fiasco is revealed in Lord Phillips's report, lay bare the patronising, bureaucratic world of Whitehall that repeatedly led ministers to hold back the truth
|'I used to think that life was all about
getting married, having children and
growing old. But it's not; it is being able
to love and, most importantly, being
Pamela Beyless wrote these lines in her diary shortly before she died of the human form of BSE in October 1998. She was only 24.
During her terrible two-year decline from a healthy, bubbly girl to a shrunken wreck, her parents proved their devotion. Tenderly, they made her tea even when she could no longer drink and moved her eyelashes to stop her eyes drying up because she could not blink.
When Pamela's brain was finally eaten away by this lethal disease and her parents said their last goodbyes, it was the first time she had been left alone for two years.
Last week, the report by Lord Phillips into the BSE crisis revealed that a patronising bureaucratic culture of secrecy driven by the fear of provoking a food scare caused the government to mislead the public over the safety of British meat for 10 years.
The 4,000-page report reveals a catalogue of delays, departmental infighting, scientific censorship and inadequate policing of measures to prevent the spread of new variant CJD to humans. But despite unearthing a terrible tale of obfuscation and deceit, Phillips allowed most of the key 26 civil servants and ministers responsible to remain unrebuked.
This lack of criticism is sometimes baffling. The discovery, for instance, that BSE had been transferred to mice and cats, early proof that the disease could be a threat to human life, was dismissed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Maff) as evidence to the contrary. Of this grave error, Phillips says only "we do not criticise Maff's officials for the cautious stance they took".
Phillips puts the blame on the "Rolls-Royce" civil service where "the best became the enemy of the good". An emollient critique of an ineffective system. Phillips, however, sees their failures as "human failings".
The detail of his report belies his conclusions.
Many junior civil servants and scientists - who thought that BSE threatened humans as early as 1986 - believe Phillips has been unforgivably charitable. Evidence is now emerging that the scale of the BSE epidemic in humans may be even greater than feared.
Yesterday it was revealed that a 74-year-old man had died of human BSE - the oldest victim by 20 years - and that the youngest victim so far, 14-year-old Zoe Jeffries, had also died.
The elderly man's death means guestimates of how many of us will be affected must be recalibrated upwards. Already the possible death toll has increased from a minimum of "around 100" to "more than 1,000". The top range is more than 100,000, but we will not know which is accurate for another two years.
Beyless, doted on by her two elder brothers and her father, was a toddler when the BSE crisis began. The Phillips report contends that at some time in the 1970s a genetic mutation occurred in a cow somewhere in Britain.
Since 1926 British cows have been fed the mashed-up remains of their relatives. Infected corpses were being ground up and fed back to cattle so BSE "spread like a chain letter" throughout Britain in the 1970s and early 1980s. Due to BSE's long incubation period, thousands of cows were infected before the first one was diagnosed.
Throughout this time, Beyless loved going to school - "Probably more for meeting her friends than her work," commented one teacher. Her favourite foods were saveloy sausages and her mother's Sunday roast beef. The Beylesses also ate burgers and chips about twice a week.
Cheap beef burgers are often made from what is known as "mechanically recovered meat" - these are the remnants on the carcass once the normal cuts have been removed. They contained large amounts of the spleen, offal and nerve tissue holding the deadly prions which cause vCJD.
THE known BSE saga begins in September 1985 - just as Beyless was starting at Soar Valley secondary school and had got her first bank account. The brain of a cow was delivered to Maff's Central Veterinary Laboratory (CVL).
Cow number 133 became unsteady on its legs at Pitsham Farm near Midhurst, West Sussex, towards the end of 1984. Some other cows had similar symptoms. Until then only individual cows had been struck down.
Tests on 133's brain showed the tell-tale pattern that we now know is the hallmark of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), although its significance went unremarked.
It was not until the end of 1986 - a year later - that Raymond Bradley, head of CVL's pathology department, said: "If the disease turned out to be bovine scrapie it would have severe repercussions to the export trade and possibly for humans." He was prophetic.
Bradley's work was not sent immediately to the Neuropathogenesis Unit (NPU) in Edinburgh, as Phillips says it should have been. It was delayed by Dr William Watson, the director of CVL, for six crucial months.
The department was not only tardy but covered up what had been found. "A policy of total suppression of all information on the subject" was operated, according to the Phillips report. Vets and veterinary investigators were not informed or warned to look out for the disease. Why? Watson did not want to tell Maff about this new disease until he was sure.
It is clear now that from 1984 to 1988 - the period of peak infection - nothing was done because nothing was known. Even so, efforts were limited. The precautionary principle - act first, find the evidence later - was not employed. More contaminated beef entered the food chain.
Uncertain findings were suppressed by scientists and ministers while a propaganda campaign to "sedate" the public's fears and protect the beef industry continued. At the heart of this was the deadly dual role of Maff - responsible for public health from food and also the protector of British beef.
Phillips claims the criticism that Maff favoured farmers over consumers is unfounded. This is a view unlikely to be shared by parents of the victims who dealt with a Maff fixated by the beef industry.
In 1988 Beyless was 14. She was allowed to go and stay with a friend on the other side of town, and even ventured out to the local pub. She was boy mad and kept a diary. "She would be in love with one boy one week and another the next," said her father.
Meanwhile John Wilesmith, the CVL's only qualified epidemiologist, had an insight which saved many other Pamela Beylesses. In April 1988 he deduced, accurately, that cannibal feed was the source of BSE infection.
Although Wilesmith's findings were tentative, John MacGregor, then agriculture minister, acted immediately to ban the feeding of sheep to cattle. Fortunately, the order was modified to ban the feeding of all ruminants to other ruminants. Unfortunately, farmers were given a five-week period to clear their feed stocks.
Given an inch, Phillips claims the farmers and suppliers took a mile. Thousands of cattle were infected after the ban took effect as old feed stocks were used up. However, the ban was primarily responsible for reducing the rate of infection by 80% overnight.
During Beyless's teenage years, the crisis was deepening. She went fell walking with her father, a milkman, and would run ahead, teasing him for "being out of puff".
By February 1988, 264 cases of BSE from 223 farms had been confirmed. Derek Andrews, permanent secretary at Maff, aware of the looming crisis, proposed a policy of compulsory slaughter with compensation to stop BSE-infected animals entering the food chain.
MacGregor demurred, referring the matter to the Department of Health; the first time Sir Donald Acheson, the chief medical officer, knew anything about BSE.
Phillips praises Maff's suggestion. But it fell foul of Acheson. He was worried that this was a disproportionate response and feared a food scare. In a classic example of BSE - Blame Someone Else - he suggested referring the matter to a working party of "experts" chaired by Sir Richard Southwood, the zoologist.
This was a dark day. The Southwood working party's principle remit was to explore the implications of BSE for human health. At its first meeting on June 20, 1988 its members were "horrified to hear sick animals were getting into the food chain". They immediately supported Maff's ban.
Despite the three-month delay in setting up the group, Phillips once again refuses to criticise Acheson: "He was put in an invidious position being asked for advice without notice." Some might think this surprisingly lenient.
The final order preventing diseased animals getting into the human food chain was not given until August 8, 1988 - six months after Maff suggested it. Phillips is again understanding.
Unfortunately, a decision to give farmers only 50% compensation per animal led inevitably to diseased cows slipping under the wire. Later Gummer increased the compensation to 100%.
That summer of 1988, Beyless went away on holiday with her parents where she met Andrew, her first long-term boyfriend. The couple wrote to each other devotedly.
In February 1989, as the Southwood report was submitted to ministers, Beyless was revising hard for her GCSEs and still writing to Andrew. "She got seven," says her father proudly. "She was bright as a button. She seemed to live twice as fast as the rest of us."
The Southwood report, a dire episode in a terrible saga, concluded that it was "most unlikely that BSE would have any implications for human health". Inconsistently, however, it advised that offal should be removed from baby food and said that animals not showing signs of BSE were safe to eat.
The report predicated an assumption that BSE was bovine scrapie and therefore unlikely to transfer to humans. The Southwood working party did not contain a single expert in prions. Phillips declines to comment on this glaring omission.Yet Southwood still judged the risk to humans "remote".
Only one civil servant, Elizabeth Attridge, head of the emergencies, food quality and pest control group, asked the obvious question. If action needed to be taken on baby food, why not on other food? She was ignored.
In the following months, as Beyless stepped up her GCSE revision timetable in 1989, voices outside Maff emerged with differing views of the Southwood report.
Then Pedigree Master Foods, the dog and cat food manufacturer, revealed that it was removing offal from pet food because it was a BSE risk according to a survey it had done. The findings were given to Keith Meldrum, chief veterinary officer, who agreed to ban offal. Ironically the pet food industry banned beef products long before they were banned for human consumption.
It was not until November 1989 that the ban on offal for human consumption was brought in. By 1990, Beyless had left school and moved to Southampton to be with Andrew. She was happy and worked in a series of office jobs. The news broke that BSE had been transmitted to a number of different species, including a puma, a cheetah and an oryx. But government officials said no implication of a risk to humans should be drawn.
Many scientists, including Professor Richard Lacey, a professor of clinical microbiology at Leeds University, disagreed. He was already warning in 1990 of hospital wards full of "thousands of people going slowly and painfully mad before dying".
The biggest challenge to government credibility came in May 1990 when a siamese cat called Max was diagnosed by Bristol University as having BSE; 57 other cats died.
Rather than tackling the growing risk to human health, Gummer called a meeting to quash speculation. Meldrum "confirmed the minister's assumption that there was no likely connection between this case and BSE". Phillips notes: "There was no basis for this degree of reassurance."
Humberside Education Authority added to the government's problems by justifiably banning beef in school canteens. At this point, Gummer attempted to feed his daughter Cordelia, 4, a beef burger. This, according to Phillips, "is not a matter for which he ought to be criticised".
Acheson added: "There is no risk associated with eating British beef."
These assurances were apparently based on the notion that BSE-infected material was not entering the food chain. In fact, in 1990, contaminated feed was still being fed to cattle and contaminated meat was being fed to humans. This was because the slaughterhouse workers paid scant attention to the ban as the risks to human health had been played down.
Meanwhile, more and more people were infected and in March 1993 came the news in The Lancet that a dairy farmer with a CJD herd had died the previous October. A few days after the report, Dr Kenneth Calman, the new chief medical officer, unwisely repeated the claim that beef was safe after pressure from Maff.
A year later in 1994, while Beyless was still living happily in Southampton with Andrew, where the couple had bought a house and got engaged, the press seized upon the case of Vicky Rimmer, a 15-year-old who later died in 1998 after four years in a coma. The CJD Surveillance Unit now believes she was an vCJD victim.
Calman rebutted press claims about Rimmer by stating: "There is not the slightest evidence that eating beef or hamburgers causes CJD". Phillips claims this was "somewhat more emphatic than desirable". A less charitable observer would say Calman was wrong. There was mounting evidence of a link - but the authorities were still in denial.
Beyless's personal catastrophe was just beginning. Things began to go badly with Andrew and they split up. She moved in with a friend in Basingstoke. When she spoke to her father he noticed she had a nervous laugh like a budgie. She complained that she could not assimilate information at work (she was now working for Barclays Bank) and kept being told off. Her brain was beginning to decay.
At around the same time, the public learnt of the death of two more dairy farmers. SEAC held a meeting and decided this was worrying but concluded that the cases were unrelated to BSE in beef. Phillips says mildly that conclusion is now not easy to accept.
More worrying were the growing number of cases in young people, despite ever more government reassurance. By January 1996, when Beyless was starting to deteriorate but had not been diagnosed, SEAC was investigating four cases of suspected CJD in people under 30.
The unprecedented cluster of cases was not relayed to the chief medical officer. Phillips dubs this "inadequate". SEAC met again on March 8 and concluded that exposure to BSE in the 1980s was a likely explanation.
Activity at Maff and the health department became frantic. By March 16, 1996 there were nine confirmed vCJD cases. On March 19, 1996 there were a further frantic 24 hours of meetings with and the cabinet and SEAC.
The next day SEAC concluded that the only plausible cause for the acknowledged 10 cases of CJD was exposure to BSE. Stephen Dorrell, the minister, made a statement in the Commons that day.
The reaction to the revelation was so strong that the only way to restore public confidence was a wholesale cull. To date 4.4m cattle have been slaughtered at a cost of £3.4 billion.
Dorrell's admission of the link between BSE and vCJD in humans came far too late for Beyless.
It was in June 1996 that her family realised something was very wrong. On a visit to her grandmother she banged on a wardrobe, shouting at her father, "I just don't get it". In the six months before her disease was finally diagnosed, Beyless lost her co-ordination, could not walk and became anxious if she was left alone. She became incontinent and crawled around the floor.
Her parents nursed her constantly and fought to get her the right diagnosis and care. There was no co-ordination between the London hospitals that referred Beyless, and the GPs. At least as a result of the Phillips inquiry the government has promised a care package to help future victims.
Beyless died on October 11, 1998. Her father had stayed overnight with her at the hospital and at 7am woke and washed her face. She opened her eyes and looked at him - he is sure she recognised him. A few hours later, she stopped breathing.
Beyless is now seen as part of the Queniborough cluster, where she had been a frequent visitor during her childhood and teens. This village links a cluster of four CJD victims, three of whom died within 12 months of each other in 1988. Such tragedies will become more common.
There may be a worse scenario if new research, which suggests that sheep, pigs and poultry could be contaminated with a new form of mad cow disease, is correct. This has worrying implications for human-to-human transfer through blood.
Maff says "steps were put in place in 1996 to stop species-to-species transfer". One of the most damaging legacies of this saga is the cynicism with which such statements are now greeted.
October 29 2000 Carlos Alba and Jonathon Carr-BrownComment (webmaster): What Britain did to Scotland is quite representative of its dealings with other foreign countries. Thus neither the American embassy in London or local Air Force command was kept informed, though eventually both began importing beef from the US, in May of 1996. In the entire archival record of 5 million documents, only a single one, dated 3 January 1990, is known where Britain expressed remorse or ethical concerns about exports of infected material to other countries, or an interest in global eradication of the disease they were marketing through export promotions.
SCOTLAND was deliberately kept in the dark for several years about the dangers of BSE and CJD because London ministers feared sensitive information would be leaked by Scottish Office civil servants.
Douglas Hogg, the former Conservative agriculture minister, told the Phillips report on BSE: "The Scottish Office is one of the leakiest departments I have come across."
Lord Phillips's report was published last week as CJD claimed its youngest victim. Zoe Jeffries, 14, died yesterday as scientists began to increase their estimates of the possible death toll from the illness.
Jeffries, from Wigan, Greater Manchester, contracted the disease two years ago. She became the country's 81st person confirmed to have died from CJD, the human equivalent of "mad cow" disease.
Her death coincided with predictions from government advisers that Glasgow will be among a number of CJD clusters, as the number of victims is expected to rise tenfold throughout Britain. The death rate is expected to rise to one per week by next September and one per day in 2003.
There have been five CJD victims in Glasgow, while Doncaster, which is also marked as a cluster, has had two deaths.
Deaths among older people from new variant CJD raise the possibility that the disease may have a longer incubation period than previously thought, which would indicate a higher death toll than had been forecast.
Scientists had believed that most people were infected in the late 1980s but the evidence from the Phillips inquiry is that the disease may have entered the food chain in the 1970s.
Phillips also revealed how cabinet ministers put Scots at greater risk by withholding crucial information from their Scottish colleagues. Officials in Edinburgh were not told of initial concerns about BSE until the autumn of 1987 - months after London ministers knew about the disease.
In 1989 a last-minute decision on sausage casings and the suddenly accelerated introduction of regulations governing bovine offal were said to have left Scotland "on the back foot". In November 1989 ministers in England and Wales introduced a ban on cattle offals in human food, but the same regulations were not introduced north of the border for a further 76 days - increasing the risk of people contracting CJD.
The introduction was further delayed because Lord Sanderson, then the Scottish Office agriculture minister, feared the political embarassment of introducing such a ban ahead of Burns' Night. At the time, bovine intestines were still used in haggis.
The lives of 87 people have already been claimed by nvCJD - including Scots Donnamarie McGivern, Margaret Tibbert, Kevin Morrison and Andrew Haig. Alan Milburn, health secretary, will meet their families next week to discuss a compensation award. An immediate payment of £1m will also go to the National CJD Surveillance Unit to start a care scheme for sufferers.
In 1990 the government set up the surveillance unit in Edinburgh to monitor CJD cases and investigate a possible link with BSE. However, five years later Scotland was still being left out of the loop because London ministers feared Scottish officials could not be trusted with sensitive information.
The report claimed that Hogg and his predecessor John Gummer "saw consultation with, and briefing of, the administrations outside London as a process that threatened successful departmental management of sensitive public information".
It added: "The Scottish Office often felt excluded from the real debate and obliged to scramble through the necessary consultations and other action at the last minute because it was given little notice. It was plain from the evidence we examined that early consultation was far from being the first consideration in some Whitehall policy-makers' minds."
The revelations were seized on by opposition politicians who insisted the information vacuum between London and Edinburgh still exists.
Similar tensions surfaced earlier this year after it emerged that Nick Brown, the agriculture minister, knew for a month that crops sown in Scotland were contaminated with genetically modified seed before he told Ross Finnie, his Scottish counterpart.
Sir Michael Forsyth, former Scottish secretary, said the lack of communication was not a deliberate policy. He told the inquiry: "Forgetting about the Scots was thoughtlessness - it was not malicious." But he added: "I felt every minister in Whitehall, should have on their desk: 'Do not forget Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales'."
29 October 2000 By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor Independent on SundayComment (webmaster):
The ink has hardly dried on the Inquiry Report but it is already back to business as usual. And here was Krebs, the pious new head of Food Safety, only last week promising open government on food safety. Not happening.
Britain has quietly scrapped safeguards against BSE-infected meat getting into food.
The Government's official advisers have warned that the move ending a six-year ban on potentially dangerous offal from calves could increase the risk that people will develop the human form of mad cow disease. Ministers believe that it will pave the way to Britain resuming its highly controversial exports of live calves.
The unpublicised relaxation of controls has shocked independent scientists, and flies in the face of the conclusions of the Phillips report into the BSE crisis, published on Thursday, that "precautionary measures" should be taken to protect human health.
Despite the report's repeated calls for greater openness, Nick Brown, the Minister of Agriculture, did not mention the change in his statement on the report to the House of Commons. His shadow, Tim Yeo, who is to write to Mr Brown to protest, said the failure to publicise the move "showed that the culture of secrecy continued to reign".
The ending of the ban on calves' offal was brought about by the Specified Risk Material (Amendment) (England) Regulation 2000, brought into force at the beginning of this month by the new Food Standards Agency. No public announcement was made at the time. Under the regulation, the thymus a gland near the base of the neck and intestines of calves under six months are allowed into the food chain for the first time since November 1994.
The change has been made as a result of a new European Union rule which bans the use of "specified risk materials" from cattle, sheep and goats that might be infected by BSE. The EU rule excludes offal from calves under six months, and Britain's safeguards, the agency says, have now been "brought into line" with it.
The official Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee has advised that the changes could bring "a slight increase in risk" to British consumers. But it says that this will be "outweighed" by the fact that meat imported from Europe will have been subject to tighter safeguards.
The agency admits, however, that there is no reason why Britain where BSE is most rampant should not continue to have tighter rules than the rest of Europe. A spokesman said that the agency's board, which meets in Cardiff on 8 November, could insist on reinstating the ban on calves' offal, but that this was "most unlikely". This contrasts with Lord Phillips' insistence, when launching his report last week, that "both domestic and European legislation needs to be reviewed to ensure that precautionary measures can be taken to protect human health in a situation of uncertainty".
Independent experts suspect that the bans the only ones on food from calves have been scrapped to prepare for the resumption of live calf exports to Europe. Both the agency and the Meat and Livestock Commission told the Independent on Sunday that the move was a welcome step towards resuming the trade, and that ministers believed they would now be able to look at calf exports again.
Dr Erik Millstone, a senior lecturer at Sussex University's Science Policy Research Unit, said scrapping the bans would "increase the risk that people will be infected", and called for their reinstatement. He called the agency's reasoning "bizarre". Iain McGill, director of the Prion Interest Group, said the agency had disregarded the "precautionary principle" laid down in Lord Phillips's report.
Comment (J Ralph Blanchfield and Roland Heynkes):
"The FSA did not scrapp this safeguard quietly. It described it in its Press release 21 Aug 2000/0034 and in its draft report on its BSE control review. All British journalists were able to read that and to make the public aware of this problem. It is not the FSA's fault when journalists do not read and understand the press release.
"It was the subject of a press release and a widespread public consultation by the Food Standards Agency during September. IFST responded in detail. In the FSA consultation document it was stated that the EU Commission would not allow the UK to have different regulations from those of decision 2000/418, and the UK therefore had to accept the weaker EU control on SRM.
IFST responded (both in correspondence and publicly at the FSA BSE Stakeholders meeting in September), to the effect that, provided the UK Regulations at least met the EU requirements (which they did) there was nothing to prevent the retention of the existing Regulations which more than met the EU requirements.
"At the September FSA BSE Stakeholders meeting the principle was queried that UK cannot impose more stringent requirements than the EU Commission Decision 2000/418/EC, and was informed that was the legal position. Krebs claims "our lawyers tell us we have to comply with the EU requirement and cannot retain anything stricter".
While that might be true for imports to UK from other EU countries there was legally nothing to prevent UK imposing / retaining more stringent controls within the UK. In subsequent correspondence with officials in the German federal authority and in North Rhine Westphalia, passed to the FSA official responsible for the consultation on the proposed new Regulations.
FSA still considers that its hand has been forced by the EU Commission. All FSA consultations are right out in the open, conducted not only on paper but on the internet, with all discussion documents on the FSA Website and responses invited by e-mail. There is an excellent opportunity for informed public input.
AP WorldStream Mon, Oct 30, 2000A French official said Monday that the government was studying the prospect of a total ban on animal byproducts in livestock feed and a report due within months was expected to deliver a verdict. Amid recent food scandals and a rise in cases of so-called mad cow disease, France faces growing concerns about the safety of beef and controls in rearing livestock destined for the nation's dinner tables.
Francois Patriat, minister for Consumer Affairs Ministry, said that authorities were studying the impact of a flat ban on animal material in feed. He told LCI television that the cost of destroying the current stock of feed was put at 3 billion francs (dlrs 385 million) and authorities feared that replacement feed ran the risk of containing genetically modified materials.
"Eventually, because today we don't know how to do it, technically or financially," Partriat said of an eventual ban. France outlawed feeds containing animal proteins in 1996 out of fears they could cause mad cow disease.
Partriat said that a government-commissioned study into a total ban being carried out by France's food safety agency, known as AFSSA, would deliver its verdict in two months. Martin Hirsch, director of AFSSA, told the daily Le Monde that a preliminary report of the study would be released in a month, but that the final version could take as long as four months to complete. AFSSA's study is expected to advise the government on potential risks of using animal products in feed.
"It is natural to pose the question of a total ban," Hirsch told the French daily, but he added that such a ban would require scientific proof that the use of animal materials in feed had led to the mad cow epidemic. An independent report released last week in Britain found that an epidemic of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), developed when meat and bone meal from infected cows were used as cattle feed.
In France, nearly 80 cows have been diagnosed this year with mad cow disease, up from 31 reported cases last year. Last week, the Carrefour supermarket chain said it had urgently cleared shelves in 39 stores that may have sold potentially infected meat.
Europe's beef scare began in 1996, when the European Union imposed a ban on British beef after a link was established between the bovine ailment and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a similar fatal brain-wasting condition in humans. The EU ban was lifted last year with the introduction of safety measures, but France angered its cross-Channel neighbor by continuing to block imports of beef from Britain.
Mon, Oct 30, 2000 By Mark Wilkinson, PA NewsAn investigation was today underway after it emerged two young people who lived on the same street may have died from variant CJD. Matthew Parker, 19, of Armthorpe, Doncaster, South Yorkshire, died from the human form of "mad cow" disease three years ago.
Now tests have begun to determine whether neighbour Sarah Roberts, 28, who died last month, fell victim to the same illness. Mr Parker's father, John Middleton, said: "This does not look like a coincidence. There has to be a connection somewhere."
Mr Parker lived at 21, Wickett Hern Road, Armthorpe. Miss Roberts, an accountant, lived at 43. Miss Roberts's parents, Frank and Sheila, demanded answers about their daughter's death and called for food safety standards to be tightened.
Experts from the CJD surveillance unit in Edinburgh have travelled to Doncaster to explore links between the two victims, who attended the same school. Doncaster Central MP Rosie Winterton said tests must be carried out to determine whether there was a cluster of the disease.
"I do not know whether there is a cluster, but we have another tragic death of another young person from this horrifying disease and this is something the experts must look at," she said.
Dr John Radford, of Doncaster Health Authority, said an investigation was underway. "They may have used the same butcher -- they lived in the same street -- but to blame particular food outlets is wrong at this time. "We need to understand the disease and understand the food histories of these people as much as we can."
A spokesman for Trent Region of the National Health Service confirmed the cause of Mr Parker's death as variant CJD, but said investigations into the second case were continuing.