Document Directory

25 Oct 99 - CJD - Pretoria rebuffs appeal to lift boycott
25 Oct 99 - CJD - EU verdict may breed new doubt on exports
12 Oct 99 - CJD - Scots Widower Calls For CJD Inquiry
09 Oct 99 - CJD - Cattle 'clockers' taking risky cows to market
08 Oct 99 - CJD - Germans join fight to keep ban on beef
08 Oct 99 - CJD - Anger over beef ban as Germany backs France
08 Oct 99 - CJD - French Concerns Delay Lifting Of Ban On UK Beef
07 Oct 99 - CJD - Germany Backs French Fears Over British Beef
04 Oct 99 - CJD - Six Dead This Year From V-CJD
03 Oct 99 - CJD - Blood test to show whether Britain faces CJD epidemic
22 Sep 99 - CJD - Millions still at risk from CJD
22 Sep99 - CJD - CJD alert intensifies chaos over beef ban
21 Sep99 - CJD - 'Beef-on-bone Risk Is Tiny' - Medical Officer
04 Sep 99 - CJD - Family praise brave battle of CJD victim
04 Sep 99 - CJD - Pounds 1.4m Award For Family Of CJD Victim
02 Sep 99 - CJD - French refuse to lift UK beef ban
01 Sep 99 - CJD - NFU urges action to halt flight from farms
27 Aug 99 - CJD - Mother-of-two dies in Ireland from CJD
23 Aug 99 - CJD - Rats enter 'airtight' BSE storage site
23 Aug 99 - CJD - BSE waste leaks to be studied
22 Aug 99 - CJD - Danger alert over secret dump of dead BSE cows
22 Aug 99 - CJD - Revealed: the secret BSE peril
18 Aug 99 - CJD - BSE Bill to Rise Beyond Pounds 4.2bn
18 Aug 99 - CJD - mad cow measures cost taxpayer £4bn
18 Aug 99 - CJD - Japan and Australia may ban 'BSE' blood
18 Aug 99 - CJD - Slow reaction to BSE crisis 'cost millions'

25 Oct 99 - CJD - Pretoria rebuffs appeal to lift boycott

By Valerie Elliott Consumer Editor

Times ... Monday 25 October 1999

The restoration of British beef exports to South Africa has been delayed and the ban is not expected to be lifted until the outcome of the French challenge to its safety is known.

Richard Caborn, the Trade Minister, has made a personal appeal to the Pretoria Cabinet to get the restriction removed in time for the Commonwealth Heads of Government conference in Durban next month.

He emphasised Tony Blair's view that beef exports should be restored immediately, but there has been no response from the South African Government. The issue has not yet made the Cabinet's agenda.

Whitehall sources believe that South Africa is awaiting the decision this week from the European Commission's scientific committee, which is to assess the French challenge to the safety of British beef after the BSE crisis.

But South Africa appears to be delaying a decision. This is the second time that Mr Caborn has intervened to help to restore the £60 million market of British beef to South Africa. Before the BSE controversy, 27,000 tonnes a year were exported annually. This market has been taken over by suppliers from America and Australia .

The original plan had been to hold a beef promotion during the Britain-South Africa partnership week at the end of August. Soundings from Pretoria in July suggested that the ban would be lifted in time for such an event and a restaurant was booked for the occasion. The dinner was eventually cancelled .

However, diplomats at the British High Commission are working hard behind the scenes to organise the lifting of the ban by November 12 for the Durban conference.

Dr Gideon Bookner, South Africa's leading public health adviser, has visited Britain to study the measures introduced to safeguard beef after the BSE furore and he is said to be "very satisfied" by the strict controls in place.

The Meat and Livestock Commission is hopeful that a beef promotion can be arranged to coincide with the conference. The advantage of holding a beef event during the conference would also be to flag up the safety of the product to Commonwealth countries, particularly the Caribbean islands which were regular customers.

The only countries outside the EU which have lifted the ban are Hong Kong, the Czech Republic, Cyprus and Trinidad and Tobago

25 Oct 99 - CJD - EU verdict may breed new doubt on exports

By Martin Fletcher, European Correspondent

Times ... Monday 25 October 1999

The rapidly escalating cross-Channel beef war reaches a critical juncture today when 15 independent scientists meet in Brussels to assess France's case for refusing to lift its ban on the British meat.

With Britain's anger fuelled by Friday's disclosure that the French used sewage in animal feed , the scientists must decide whether several hundred pages of documentation submitted by France contain any new evidence to justify its defiance of European Union law.

The scientists are members of the European Commission's BSE working group, which has an Irish chairman, two French members and two British. Its findings will go to the Commission's 16-member scientific steering committee, which has four British members and a French chairman. The steering committee is expected to deliver a final verdict on Thursday.

Government spokesmen say they are confident the French case will be rejected. They are adamant that the French have produced no new evidence and point out that both groups of scientists have previously voted to lift the ban.

Anything less than a clear-cut rejection would be a disaster because the whole question of British beef's safety would be reopened. At the very least, Germany's efforts to persuade its 16 regional governments to lift the ban would falter and the doubts could spread quickly through Europe.

France says that it will not lift the ban even if it loses . Senior officials say that the French Government cannot be expected to overrule its own independent food safety committee, the Agence Française de Securité Sanitaire des Aliments. That committee triggered the crisis on October 1 when it said that lifting the ban would be premature because there would still be about 3,000 cases of "mad cow" disease in Britain this year. It also questioned how the disease is transmitted .

Tony Blair has told Romano Prodi, the Commission President, that he expects the Commission to begin immediate legal action against France if the scientists rule in Britain's favour; he has also said that Britain will take France to court if the Commission fails to uphold EU law.

The Commission's first step would be to issue a "reasoned opinion" indicting France. If that were ignored, the Commission should, in theory, take France to the European Court of Justice. The case would take months, if not years, and even if France eventually lost, it would be given one more chance to lift the ban. Only then would it face heavy fines.

12 Oct 99 - CJD - Scots Widower Calls For CJD Inquiry

Staff Reporter

Independent ... Tuesday 12 October 1999

A man whose wife died of new variant CJD yesterday said he would keep fighting for an inquiry into her death.

Malcolm Tibbert, 32, from Glasgow said he was not satisfied with the reasons given by the Crown Office for the decision not to investigate his wife's death . Margaret Tibbert died of new variant Creutzfeldt Jakob disease in January 1996. She was 29. An inquiry into her death would have been the first of its kind in Scotland. Coroners' inquests into CJD have taken place in England.

Despite the decision, Mr Tibbert has vowed to continue his campaign. "I want to know who can be held to blame for this tragedy and an inquiry might have shed light on this.

"Over and above Margaret's death, a fatal accident inquiry into new variant CJD deaths in Scotland is long overdue."

09 Oct 99 - CJD - Cattle 'clockers' taking risky cows to market

By Simon De Bruxelles

Times ... Saturday 9 October 1999

Hundreds of over-age cattle that should have been destroyed under strict measures to prevent the spread of BSE may have entered the food chain after being given false "identities".

Police and trading standards officers believe that they have smashed a significant ring of cattle "clockers", which has been selling animals older than the 30-month limit for human consumption.

Three West Country cattle dealers were raided on Wednesday and 130 sacks of documents seized. Investigators say that since there is so much evidence, the full extent of the fraud may not be known for weeks.

The rogue dealers are believed to have used forged "passports" and ear tags taken from younger animals to mislead abattoirs and health inspectors.

The fact that the cattle should have been incinerated under BSE regulations enabled the gang to buy them for next to nothing from desperate farmers. After being given their new identities, they were then sold at the market rate for younger cattle.

Although the National Farmers' Union claims that the risk of anyone contracting the human form of BSE is "insignificant", it is concerned that other EU countries, especially France and Germany, could use the fraud as an excuse to reject imports of British beef.

The investigation began when Meat Hygiene Service officials checked the teeth of several animals sent for slaughter. At 30 months, cattle should have only two incisors in the lower jaw, but inspectors found animals with as many as eight teeth. A surveillance operation was launched and police, trading standards and veterinary officials raided the three farms.

Because of the length of time involved, it will be impossible to establish exactly how many over-age cattle entered the food chain and whether any were infected with BSE.

Experts have predicted that there will be 3,000 cases of BSE in Britain this year, all in animals aged over 30 months. By law, new calves are fitted with ear tags and issued with passports linked to a computer system and their movements are tracked. Farmers are paid £560 compensation for each animal slaughtered over 30 months of age, far less than the value of younger cattle.

The dealers are believed to have raided hunt kennels for passports and ear tags belonging to dead cattle fed to foxhounds.

Anthony Gibson, the National Farmers' Union South West regional director, described the risk to human health as insignificant, but he added: "Activities such as this are potentially very damaging to public confidence in the BSE regulations. The public has to be certain that these regulations are applied to the very last letter. On the other hand, the fact that this matter has been detected means that the precautions are actually working."

A Ministry of Agriculture spokesman refused to discuss details of the investigation but said that it proved cattle identification was taken seriously and that slaughterhouse checks worked.

08 Oct 99 - CJD - Germans join fight to keep ban on beef

By Martin Fletcher And Valerie Elliot

Times ... Friday 8 October 1999

Germany has dealt a blow to British hopes of the European Commission beginning legal action against France next week for refusing to lift its ban on British beef .

It has told David Byrne, Europe's Food Safety Commissioner, that it supports French demands that the evidence on which Paris based its refusal last Friday be referred to EC scientists for evaluation.

The move dismayed British farmers' representatives. Benn Gill, the National Farmers' Union president, said he was horrified that "two of the central countries of the European Union were prepared on totally spurious grounds to ignore community law".

He signalled that British farmers were likely to demonstrate in Brussels, Paris and Bonn. The Meat and Livestock Commission said it was "shocked and disappointed".

This morning, the French will deliver evidence to Mr Byrne, who is now being lobbied by all three of the EU's leading governments and must make a recommendation to the full Commission next Wednesday. French officials said the documents pointed to continuing cases of BSE in British cattle and fresh questions about how the disease is transmitted.

British officials insisted that the French had found nothing new, that their evidence should be "quickly dismissed" by Mr Byrne, and that the Commission should begin legal action against France. A decision to refer the matter back to EC scientists would mean yet more delay for Britain's beleaguered farmers and risk reopening the whole issue of British beef's safety.

Germany was the only country to vote against the EU's decision to lift the ban last August and, like France, has yet to implement that decision.

German officials yesterday insisted that Berlin was striving to comply, but could never persuade Germany's regional governments to do so unless EC scientists were able to examine the French case.

Germany made its views known in a letter to Mr Byrne. But Andrea Fischer, its Health Minister, will reinforce them in a meeting with the commissioner in Brussels today. Mr Byrne will meet Mr Gill this afternoon, and next week he will meet Marylise LeBranchu, the French Consumer Minister. British officials led by Nick Brown, the Agriculture Minister, are in constant contact.

Mr Byrne's initial view was that the French appeared to have produced no new information. If he sticks to that opinion the Commission will produce a "reasoned opinion" next week indicting France. If Paris still refuses to lift the ban it would take France to the European Court of Justice.


The European Commission rejected an emergency aid package for Welsh and Scottish farmers, last night, fuelling tensions over Westminster's control of Brussels negotiations for the newly devolved bodies.

Franz Fischler, the EU Agriculture Commissioner, cited "legal obstacles" for his refusal to pay for the cull of ewes in Scotland, and of calves in Wales. He said the proposal did not comply with criteria for state aid. But nationalist politicians in Wales and Scotland last night accused Nick Brown, the Agriculture Minister, of failing to represent their interests. They believe that Whitehall might be deliberately trying to outflank them in their effort to introduce emergency measures to help stricken farmers.

08 Oct 99 - CJD - Anger over beef ban as Germany backs France

By Toby Helm, EU Correspondent in Brussels, and David Brown, Agriculture Editor

Telegraph ... Friday 8 October 1999

British farmers suffered a further serious setback in their battle to sell beef in Europe last night after Germany backed France's demands that official European Union scientists should examine new doubts about its safety.

In a move which infuriated Britain's farming leadership, the German health ministry wrote to David Byrne, the European commissioner in charge of food safety, calling for a recent, critical French report on British beef to be fully examined. Paris says that this report contains new evidence of a hazard to public health . The fact that the EU's two most powerful states are demanding that the BSE issue be re-opened casts serious doubt on whether Brussels can enforce the decision last November to end the ban on exports.

In theory British exporters have been free to send their beef anywhere in the world from Aug 1, provided it meets stringent EU meat hygiene rules. But France and Germany have defied the EU decision, despite threats of legal action from the European Commission, and refused to accept the British beef. Diplomats in Brussels said last night that other EU states, including Belgium and Denmark, were sympathetic to taking a fresh look at whether British beef is safe to export.

Andrea Fischer, the German health minister, visits Brussels today to raise Germany's concerns with Mr Byrne. Senior German officials in Brussels confirmed to The Telegraph that the German health ministry wrote to the commission last week asking for its scientific steering committee to scrutinise a critical report by France's Agency for Health Safety in Foods.

The report reached "unfavourable" conclusions about Britain's record in eliminating BSE and caused the French government, last Friday, to say it would keep its ban. France's decision infuriated Tony Blair and brought warnings of legal action from Brussels. Paris will submit all the evidence in the report to the commission today.

French food safety experts concluded that despite rigorous new anti-BSE controls in Britain, "the risk that Britain might export meat from contaminated cattle has not been eliminated" . They raised concerns about the number of new BSE cases in Britain, saying that 3,000 were expected to be reported this year. This represented 650 per million head of cattle compared with 1.5 to two cases in France.

A German official said his government was preparing to adopt legislation to allow the ban to be lifted in Germany. But that legislation had not been approved by the 16 German Länder, the regional governments, which will vote on it this month. Many wanted more safety tests and full evaluation of new scientific evidence from the French authorities.

He said: "The German consumer is very sensitive. Consumption of beef dropped more in Germany [after the BSE crisis] than it did in Britain. The German consumer needs to be satisfied. We have not had one case of BSE in our cattle." France said yesterday that the report contained strong new scientific evidence. British government officials said they were confident it would provide nothing new.

A British spokesman said: "As a result there will be no need to bother the scientists. When this becomes clear the commission should start legal proceedings against France." The latest developments are potentially serious. The level of pressure from Paris and Berlin casts doubt on whether the commission will make good its promises to take legal action against France.

Earlier this week, Mr Byrne said he would initiate legal proceedings within seven days unless France said within that time that it would lift its ban. Since then doubts have grown over whether the commission will hold its nerve. If it does not pursue legal action, this will encourage any EU country to maintain a ban.

Last night France remained defiant. Officials in Paris said the government would try to defuse tensions with London by asking the Agency for Health Safety in Foods if British beef could be sent through France to other countries which wanted it, under strict supervision.

Ben Gill, president of the National Farmers' Union of England and Wales, said before flying to Brussels last night: "There is nothing new in the French report. That is drivel. If they had anything new why did they not produce it before?"

08 Oct 99 - CJD - French Concerns Delay Lifting Of Ban On UK Beef

Independent ... Friday 8 October 1999

France secured a significant victory yesterday in its fight to keep a ban on British beef, after Brussels ordered a new study of French objections, and delayed a decision on legal action against Paris.

A weighty dossier outlining French concerns about the safety of UK beef will now go to a scientific working group on 14 October, which will decide whether or not to re-open the case for the lifting of the embargo.

The ruling, which provoked anger from British farmers, poses the biggest threat yet that the agreement to lift the worldwide export ban on UK beef could unravel.

It also marks a change of tack from the European Commission, which until recently had been highlighting the likelihood of legal action against Paris when the 20 commissioners meet next Wednesday.

That prospect is now off next week's agenda; and should other countries decide to impose temporary bans pending evaluation of the French study, Brussels would be unable to take immediate sanctions.

The findings of France's independent food safety council , which prompted Paris to suspend its plans to lift the ban, recommend that an embargo on British beef remain in place until August 2001 because of the continuing risk from mad cow disease, which has an incubation period of up to five years.

Under pressure from the French and German governments, the European Commissioner for Health, David Byrne, yesterday referred the report from the French food safety council to the so-called BSE-TSE working group, a sub-group of its scientific and veterinary committee. This will tell the commission whether there is sufficient evidence to refer the matter to the full scientific and veterinary committee, which is not scheduled to convene until 28 October - although that gathering could be brought forward.

The British government argues that France has uncovered no new evidence and says it expects that it will be vindicated by the BSE-TSE group meeting on 14 October.

Ben Gill, president of the National Farmers' Union, said: "France's decision to ignore the EU legislation lifting the ban on British beef is causing growing anger in Britain, not just among farmers but the wider public. France must play by the same rules as all other members of the European Union."

Yesterday's decision by Mr Byrne came after a meeting with the German Health Minister, Andrea Fischer. Although Ms Fischer re-affirmed Berlin's intention to lift the ban in principle, she said she could not urge the Bundesrat, or upper chamber, to do so until the French report has been studied by EU scientists. Germany is extremely cautious about British beef and opposed removal of the ban at every stage.

The British government disputes the French claim that more time is needed to take into account the incubation period of BSE , arguing that the date- based export scheme applied only to animals born after the period after which contaminated feed - assumed to be the main source of BSE - was banned. It says the risk of other sources of infection, including maternal transmission, is low.

07 Oct 99 - CJD - Germany Backs French Fears Over British Beef

Staff Reporter

Independent ... Thursday 7 October 1999

Germany has backed France's call for a further scientific study of the safety of British beef, in a move that deals a significant blow to hopes of a full lifting of the ban on UK exports.

The German health ministry's request puts pressure on the European Commission to re-open the entire issue of the safety of British beef , rather than start legal proceedings against Paris for failing to lift the ban. Such a move would delay the ending of the embargo in France and Germany, and could cause the agreement permitting the sale of UK beef to unravel.

Last week the French suspended legal moves to end the beef embargo - imposed in the wake of the BSE crisis - because of the findings of its independent food safety council. Today Paris will give the EC details of the scientific basis for its conclusions in a report expected to run to 300 pages.

Meanwhile, the German health minister, Andrea Fischer, will use a meeting in Brussels today to press for the French dossier to receive formal examination by the EU's scientific and veterinary committee. That position has found favour with Denmark, and Paris expects other countries, including Belgium, to back it.

The British argue that the French have uncovered no new evidence. An official said: "We expect that the French dossier will not contribute any new scientific evidence. We expect it to be dismissed very quickly by the commissioner."

But a French official said the report contains "new evidence in terms of statistics which give a clear indication that the trend of contamination in Great Britain is not reducing as it was supposed to" .

One option is for the health commissioner, David Byrne, to refer the French report to a sub group of the scientific and veterinary committee next Thursday, then on to the full committee a few days later. That would be a bitter blow for the British who won political agreement last November to lift the ban which was removed formally on 1 August after extensive checks on British abattoirs.

Germany opposed removal of the ban on British beef. Out-voted on the issue, it has failed to allow British beef into the country until its upper house has agreed to amend the law. The German letter to the EC argued that it will be unable to win support for the required legal changes unless a new EU scientific verdict on the French report has been given.

The French food safety council said that Britain still expects around 3,000 cases of BSE this year , an instance of 650 cases per million head of cattle compared with between 1.5 and 2 per million in France . It suggests waiting until 2001 to assess the success of the British measures. It also raised doubts about British contentions that cattle are being contaminated only by maternal transmission and contaminated animal feed.

This week the EC president, Romano Prodi, called for the "precautionary principle" in dealing with food safety issues. Paris argues that it is in line with that.

04 Oct 99 - CJD - Six Dead This Year From V-CJD

Staff Reporter

Independent ... Monday 4 October 1999

Six people have died so far this year from BSE-induced "new variant" Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (v-CJD), figures from the Department of Health show. In total, 46 have died from the disease since it was identified in 1995. However, the low number so far gives little indication of this year's total, as full post-mortem diagnoses take several months.

03 Oct 99 - CJD - Blood test to show whether Britain faces CJD epidemic

Jonathan Leake, Science Editor

Sunday Times ... Sunday 3 October 1999

Britain could finally learn whether it faces an epidemic of the human form of "mad cow" disease after scientists announced they had devised a simple blood test that could be used to screen the population.

The test, already secretly proven on humans, can show the presence of the microscopic prions that cause variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) - the human form of BSE - long before any symptoms develop.

Such a test, which will initially be used to screen samples held in blood banks rather than individuals, has been sought after for years by scientists.

At the moment vCJD and its equivalent in animals can be diagnosed only after death by examination of the brain. It means that there is no way of telling how many people are incubating the disease, to which tens of millions of people were exposed through eating infected beef products.

The procedure will also allow the screening of farm and zoo animals, potentially enabling the disease to be eradicated. Currently, about 2,000 cows a year develop the disease and many more are thought to be incubating it.

Last week it emerged that Mary Jo Schmerr, the American researcher who perfected the test, had visited the Central Veterinary Laboratories at Weybridge, Surrey, and discussed developing a pilot screening programme in Britain for humans and animals. "In the first instance, it will be used to screen existing blood banks, but it could be made available to individuals in the future," she said.

An agriculture ministry spokesman said that a team had been set up to evaluate the test and then begin a screening programme for humans and animals. "This could be a very powerful tool in the battle against BSE and CJD," he said.

Schmerr said she was overwhelmed by the consequences of what she had developed. "This test could lift a weight from the shoulders of millions of people - or tell them they are going to die from a horrible disease," she said.

So far 43 people are known to have died from vCJD in Britain. The question is whether they are just isolated cases or the first of millions .

The prions that cause vCJD are thought to have originated in sheep, where they cause a brain disease called scrapie. This was not thought to be infectious until the remains of sheep were made into cattle feed.

Once in cattle, the organism seems to have changed and become infectious to humans. What is uncertain is just how infectious it might prove to be. Last month Professor Liam Donaldson, the government's chief medical officer, warned that millions of people may still develop the disease from beef consumed up to 15 years ago.

Schmerr works for the American government's National Animal Disease Centre in Ames, Iowa, where she developed the test to see how common BSE-type diseases were in animals such as elk. The test looks for a specific abnormal protein associated with such diseases and is so sensitive that it can detect less than one part per billion.

When the test was proven, however, she realised that the same protein was produced in human forms of the disease, meaning the test could be used on people.

It is predicted that the BSE crisis will cost the UK more than £4 billion and has caused severe damage to its food industry's international reputation. Last week saw a new row developing with France, which has refused to allow imports of British beef because of safety fears - even though it has been ordered to lift all barriers by the European commission.

Additionally, an American ban on the import of blood products from the UK remains in force and nobody who has lived in Britain for more than six months is allowed to donate blood in the United States.

22 Sep 99 - CJD - Millions still at risk from CJD

Nicholas Watt, Political Correspondent

Guardian ... Wednesday 22 September 1999

Millions of people in Britain are still in danger of contracting the human form of mad cow disease, from beef consumed up to 15 years ago , the government's chief medical officer warned last night.

In his most chilling advice to date, Professor Liam Donaldson said that there could be no cause for complacency because he could not predict whether CJD - new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease - would infect a few hundred people or several million .

He said: "It is impossible to say which of these broad scenarios is closer to reality. There can be no room for complacency in maintaining precautionary measures necessary to eradicate BSE in cattle."

The warning was issued in a report that recommended the lifting of the beef-on-the-bone ban, imposed by the government in December 1997, because of new safety measures introduced in the past two years.

Downing Street brought forward the publication of the report by 24 hours to quell a cabinet row that erupted after Nick Brown, the agriculture minister, said on Monday that the ban would have to remain in force until at least the end of the year because of objections from the new devolved bodies.

Three cabinet ministers - the Scottish, Northern Ireland and Welsh secretaries - reacted furiously to Mr Brown's remarks, claiming that he had bounced the devolved bodies into accepting the Donaldson report, which only applies to England.

The cabinet squabbling was overshadowed last night by Prof Donaldson's stark warning that the number of people threatened by CJD could spiral into the millions because of the lengthy incubation period. Since the first cases were identified three years ago, 43 people have developed the disease, all of whom have died.

"What is absolutely certain is that the present relatively low number of cases of [CJD] should not lead anyone to conclude that the worst is over," Prof Donaldson, the chief medical officer for England, said. "Levels of human exposure at the height of the BSE epidemic would have been high."

Prof Donaldson, who has built a reputation for speaking his mind in contrast to his notoriously taciturn predecessor Sir Kenneth Calman, warned in January that several million people could be in danger of catching the human form of mad cow disease.

In last night's report he went much further, saying that people could still be in danger from beef consumed as far back as the mid-1980s when there were no measures in place to prevent the disease entering the food chain.

He issued his warning because scientists have no idea of knowing whether the victims of the disease were infected in the early 1990s, when anti-BSE measures were inadequate, or whether they were infected in the mid to late 1980s when there were no measures in place. If the victims of the disease were infected in this early period "they are only the first wave of cases and there are many more to come", Prof Donaldson concluded.

However, he underlined the enormous progress that has been made in tackling BSE within the last few years when he concluded that it was safe to lift the beef-on-the-bone ban because the health risk was now "tiny and unquantifiable in any meaningful way".

His report did little, however, to calm the cabinet row that erupted after Mr Brown announced that the devolved bodies were refusing to accept Prof Donaldson's recommendation and were sticking to the advice of the chief medical officers in their regions who had called for the ban to remain.

One government source accused Prof Donaldson of bowing to political pressure from Mr Brown, who had demanded the lifting of the ban in the face of intense pressure from Downing Street. The source said that the ministers for Scotland and Wales, who were backing their devolved administrations, were astonished by yesterday's report because the UK's four chief medical officers had agreed that it was too soon to lift the ban.

22 Sep99 - CJD - CJD alert intensifies chaos over beef ban

By David Brown, Jon Hibbs and Nick Britten

Telegraph ... Wednesday 22 September 1999

Government confusion over beef-on-the-bone intensified last night after England's chief medical officer warned ministers that, even if the ban was lifted, Britain could yet face a "human epidemic " caused by mad cow disease.

As rival Government institutions wrangled about when to remove the restrictions, Prof Liam Donaldson insisted that the health risk from eating T-bone steaks, oxtails and other freshly slaughtered bone-in beef was now "tiny and unquantifiable in any meaningful way". However, he acknowledged that substantial numbers of cases of new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), the human form of BSE, remained as yet undetected in the pipeline.

He said in a report rushed out by the Ministry of Agriculture: "We could still be facing a large number of cases over several decades ." His findings fuelled the row over the refusal of his counterparts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to follow suit with beef-on-the-bone until they received independent scientific advice.

The Scottish Executive and the Welsh Cabinet both claimed that the four chief medical officers met earlier this month and agreed to wait for a report from experts at Oxford University which is not expected to be published until November. The Conservatives accused Tony Blair of presiding over a constitutional muddle in which the Government was subject to a veto over English matters by the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly.

In his report, written in July, Prof Donaldson accepted that tough controls on cattle feed and slaughtering had effectively prevented any BSE from entering the food chain since 1996, but he was far less optimistic about the potential incubation of vCJD contracted before the watershed , which had killed 43 people so far.

He said: "What is absolutely certain is that the present relatively low number of cases of vCJD should not lead anyone to conclude that the worst is over . There can be no room for complacency in maintaining precautionary measures necessary to eradicate BSE in cattle, to make sure that it does not recur and to reduce any risk of transmission to people."

Prof Donaldson added: "The human disease, vCJD, should continue to be monitored and studied very closely. The high level of past exposure to BSE infection through the human food chain coupled with the uncertainty about the range of the incubation period of vCJD means that the human epidemic could still be quite large in years to come ."

He stopped short of telling the Government that it was safe to lift the ban, imposed in December 1997. He recommended that the use of beef-on-the-bone in manufactured foods should still be outlawed, but that consumers should be given a choice.

However, his conclusion that the risk could no longer be measured was instrumental in persuading Nick Brown, the Agriculture Minister, to announce this week that he was ready to lift the beef-on-the-bone ban on retail sales in England if the rest of Britain followed suit. Donald Dewar, Scotland's First Minister, denied that there was a rift between Edinburgh and London yesterday and backed Mr Brown's insistence that there should be an "orderly" lifting of the ban in all four countries.

21 Sep99 - CJD - 'Beef-on-bone Risk Is Tiny' - Medical Officer

Press Association

Guardian ... Tuesday 21 September 1999

The health risk from eating beef-on-the-bone is "tiny and unquantifiable in any meaningful way", England's Chief Medical Officer Professor Liam Donaldson has reported.

His findings - just released by the Ministry of Agriculture, seven weeks after he submitted them - will fuel the row over the refusal of his counterparts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to lift the ban on the food.

Prof Donaldson recommends that the use of beef-on-the-bone in manufactured foods should still be outlawed, because of the possibility that bone marrow is infective , and to give consumers the choice of avoiding all beef-on-the-bone if they wish.

His report, written at the end of July, said: "A decision to lift the bone-in-beef ban should in my assessment be informed by the fact that the additional risk to human health created would at this stage of the cattle epidemic be tiny and unquantifiable in nature."

In his report, Prof Donaldson said the six months since his last review of the situation had been "vital", due to the combined effect of two bans - the August 1996 ban on using animal protein in cattle food (the "clean feed watershed") and the ban on eating cattle older than 30 months.

He said when the beef-on-the-bone ban was imposed in December 1997, possibly infected cattle were still entering the human food chain.

But "currently the oldest animals eligible for human consumption would have been born in February 1997, a full six months after the 'clean feed watershed"'.

He said that in the past six months the clean feed watershed and the 30-month rule combined to "largely cut off the threat to human food chain from cattle that had acquired BSE from infected feed".

Tough security regulations at slaughterhouses were being enforced and, with new cattle passports and tagging "appear to prevent older cattle 'slipping through the net ' and entering the food chain illegally".

The other possibility of infection coming from cows who inherited BSE from their mothers was being tackled by cattle offspring culls, introduced in January this year .

04 Sep 99 - CJD - Family praise brave battle of CJD victim

By Richard Savill

Telegraph ... Saturday 4 September 1999

The family of a teenager believed to be the youngest person in Britain to die from the human form of mad cow disease, new-variant CJD, paid tribute to her yesterday.

The parents of Donnamarie McGivern, 17, who fought the incurable disease for two years, held her in their arms as she died at home in Coatbridge, Lanarks, on Thursday night. She was believed to have survived longer than anyone else with the illness.

William Cowie, her uncle, described his niece as "a diamond". He said: "Donnamarie put up a very brave battle . All the family are obviously still in shock and trying to come to terms with what has happened."

Her parents, James, 35, a lorry driver, and Marie, also 35, a cleaner, gave up their jobs to care for their daughter when they were told a day after her 15th birthday that she was almost certainly suffering from the disease. They took her on a pilgrimage to Lourdes and they compiled a dossier about her illness for a committee of MPs who looked into her case as part of a mad cow disease inquiry.

Her parents told how, over 15 months, their daughter deteriorated from a lively, active girl into an invalid . Special prayers were said for Donnamarie at St Bartholomew's, her local Roman Catholic church, and at St Ambrose High, her school.

The Bishop of Motherwell, the Very Rev Joseph Devine, said: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this time. The way Donnamarie has been cared for by her family throughout shows the love and dedication she had in her life."

Fr Hugh Kelly, the parish priest, who visited Donnamarie, said: "We continually prayed for a miracle. That is the very reason we use the word because miracles do not happen every day.

"I believe the total dedication of her father and mother is the reason she was able to live for so long. There is great satisfaction in nursing someone back to health. It is much more difficult to nurse someone to death."

Donnamarie, who leaves a brother, Thomas, 13, died after developing breathing problems. Last year, her mother said: "She likes us to hold her hand. If I'm not holding her hand, James is. We spend all our time up here with her. We only go downstairs for our meals.

"At night, I lie on the other single bed across the room from her. I can't sleep until I know she's sleeping. I lie there and read, and every now and then I'll look over and say, 'Mammy's here, I'm here'.

"We just give Donnamarie our love and include her in as much as possible. She can't communicate now and so I just read her face. I look to see her expressions to see if she is comfy or not."

Asked what could have caused her daughter's illness, Mrs McGivern said it was a mystery. She said: "She was a normal teenage girl with a normal healthy appetite. She ate the same food as the rest of the family. She liked a takeaway but she did not live off takeaways."

Donnamarie won medals for athletics and dancing at school but she started suffering pains in her legs and became prone to bouts of moodiness early in 1997. Her concentration during school classes began to drift and teachers became concerned about her. Her eyesight then started to fail.

Her condition worsened and doctors told the McGiverns that their daughter was suffering from a degenerative brain disorder, probably CJD. Donnamarie was left unable to speak and, as the illness worsened, she could only lie on her bed .

04 Sep 99 - CJD - Pounds 1.4m Award For Family Of CJD Victim

Staff Reporter

Independent ... Saturday 4 September 1999

The Relatives of a distinguished orthopaedic surgeon who died from CJD accepted pounds 1.4m damages in the High Court yesterday as a settlement to their compensation claim. Neil Kreibich, who was treated with contaminated human growth hormone as a youngster, died from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in July 1997.

At a hearing in London, Mr Justice Morland approved the settlement figure to be paid to Mr Kreibich's widow, Elizabeth, a nurse who lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, and their children; Anna, seven, William, five, and Robert, three.

The sum was awarded by consent against the Department of Health . Stephen Irwin QC, counsel for Mrs Kreibich, told the judge that her husband was treated with growth hormone between 1976 and 1977. He trained as a doctor and became "a very successful orthopaedic surgeon", added Mr Irwin.

Mr Kreibich began to show symptoms of CJD, including loss of balance, in early 1996, while working as a consultant at the Freeman Hospital and the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.

"There was a clinical diagnosis in June 1996 and he died in July 1997," added Mr Irwin.

Between 1959 and 1985 nearly 2,000 children in the UK, whose growth was stunted by a deficiency in secretion of growth hormone in their pituitaries, were treated with hormone from the glands of cadavers. The programme was ended in May 1985 after several children who had been treated in America died of CJD.

Yesterday's approval of a settlement figure came in the resumption of proceedings. A judgment in favour of Mrs Kreibich was made in the High Court in June last year. In effect, the award ended the test-case hearings resulting from the CJD litigation group action, launched in 1994. Damages awards in the group action cases are believed to excede pounds 5m.

Settlements have been made in 22 cases of people who contracted the fatal disease, and in 36 psychiatric cases, but lawyers acting for the group say a further eight cases of people who have contracted the disease have yet to be dealt with and some 40 to 50 psychiatric claims are being looked at.

02 Sep 99 - CJD - French refuse to lift UK beef ban

By Jon Hibbs and Julian Nundy in Paris

Telegraph ... Thursday 2 September 1999

Hopes of an early end to the Europe-wide ban on British beef were dashed yesterday after French officials warned that they wanted more time to check whether the meat should go on sale across the Channel.

Despite the directive from the European Commission last month that British beef was now safe to eat, the import ban will be maintained in France pending a ruling from an official scientific committee. Martin Hirsch, director of the French Agency for Health Safety in Foods (AFSSA), said the government had told his agency to ask Brussels for all the documentation leading to the commission's decision before allowing the sale of British beef in France.

Agriculture ministry officials in Paris said they hoped that the agency would give an opinion within "a few weeks," suggesting that British beef probably cannot go on sale in France until at least the end of September. The French decision followed a German ruling not to allow British beef into German shops after the BSE scare created fears that contaminated beef could pass on a strain of the Creutzfeld-Jakob disease to human consumers.

The commission lifted an export ban on British beef under stringent conditions from Aug 1 and the Ministry of Agriculture insisted last night that it remained confident that all European states would comply with the decision. However the Conservatives billed the latest move as a "devastating" blow to British farmers, who relied on France for two-thirds of their beef exports.

Tim Yeo, the shadow agriculture spokesman, said it made a mockery of the lifting of the European Union ban. Ministerial assurances that exports would resume from last month were an "empty boast at the expense of desperate farmers," he said.

Mr Yeo said: "Labour has stood idly by while French and German politicians have used every trick in the book to prevent British beef competing with their own produce." Terry Leigh, head of exports at The Meat and Livestock Commission, which is responsible for promoting British beef at home and abroad, said he believed that any delays were purely administrative. He said: "If it is anything much more serious we would be very much concerned."

British Meat, which represents British meat producers in France, said it was "resigned" to the French decision but was confident the AFSSA would eventually authorise the sale of beef from across the Channel.

01 Sep 99 - CJD - NFU urges action to halt flight from farms

By Charles Clover, Environment Editor

Telegraph ... Wednesday 1 September 1999

Remote farms will be abandoned and the land turned into a "desert" unless urgent steps are taken to tackle the worst agricultural recession for 60 years, the National Farmers' Union said yesterday.

The union is auditing 83,000 farmers to highlight their plight after July figures showed they were being paid less for each commodity sold than it cost to produce .

Ben Gill, the NFU president, said British agriculture could soon face similar conditions to those in central France where massive areas of former farm land were depopulated in what the French called "desertification".

He said: "Dairy farmers in areas of Cornwall are enormously concerned about this and producers in other areas such as Carmarthenshire who face massive transport costs to get their products out of these traditional grassland areas are very worried." Mr Gill blamed the high value of the pound and the "nonsensical world" of food and hygiene regulations .

The requirement to remove the spinal column from all slaughtered sheep over a year old had combined with currency pressures to ensure that millions of redundant ewes had "zero value".

The requirement had prevented exports of lamb and mutton because Continental butchers did not want to buy carcasses in that condition. Britain had ceased to be a lamb exporter and imported 1,400 lambs last year. Farmers are dumping livestock they cannot afford to keep at animal sanctuaries and in phone boxes.

Also to blame were the costs of inspecting abattoirs imposed by the Government in a unique interpretation of European regulations. Mr Gill cited the owner of a small slaughterhouse who was watched by six inspectors as he slaughtered 40 sheep . The inspectors so obstructed him in his task that he could not complete the job in the day.

Mr Gill, who meets the agriculture minister, Nick Brown, tomorrow said the fall in incomes was affecting every area of the industry: arable, beef, sheep, pigs, eggs, fruit and vegetables. Farm incomes had fallen by 75 per cent over two years to an average of £8,000, the lowest level since the Thirties.

Lamb prices in July fell by almost 30 per cent compared with last year. The price of a cull ewe two years ago was £50. Now it is less than £10. The beef sector has been slow to recover from the BSE crisis. Farm gate beef prices, at about 93p a kilo, were less than in 1983 when the price was £1.20.

The NFU is sending a two-page survey to more than 80,000 of Britain's estimated 240,000 farmers asking them for their accounts of how the crisis has affected them and their families. The NFU wants the Government to abolish needless regulations that are suppressing lamb prices, and to lobby Brussels for money to pay farmers to parcel up meat and put it into cold storage until the price improves.

Mr Gill said the flight from farming had already begun. He said: "You may still see the farmer in the farmhouse but to my knowledge he is not farming the land himself. "He has rented out the grassland and leased the quota - and the farm is more profitable, perversely, than if he were farming it."

27 Aug 99 - CJD - Mother-of-two dies in Ireland from CJD

Staff Reporter

Telegraph ... Friday 27 August 1999

The first person in the Irish Republic to be diagnosed with CJD has died.

It is thought Kay Turner, 31, contracted the disease while in Britain where both she and her husband, Michael, worked as chefs. She died at her home in Portlaoise, Co Laois, leaving two children, James, four, and Enya, two.

Her mother-in-law, Ursula Turner, said: "Kay never knew. We were told there was no cure and decided to make her life as comfortable as possible. Everyone rallied round, neighbours and friends." Mrs Turner said her daughter-in-law had been taken to Lourdes "where we prayed."

Confirmation in May that Mrs Turner was suffering from the human variant of BSE prompted Dublin's St Vincent's Hospital to contact nearly 50 other patients because of fears about cross-contamination . It is believed all were cleared.

23 Aug 99 - CJD - Rats enter 'airtight' BSE storage site

Staff reporter

Telegraph ... Monday 23 August 1999

Dead rats have been found in a supposedly airtight store filled with the ground-up remains of cattle slaughtered under BSE regulations.

The Environment Agency has launched an inquiry into conditions at the former aircraft hangar at Barkston Heath, near Grantham, Lincs, after evidence that rodents were able to get through gaps in the walls. If the bonemeal is not securely stored there is a possibility that any infection present could get into the air or water supplies. There is also a risk of spontaneous combustion .

There are now about 400,000 tons of cattle remains in 13 storage sites around Britain, but only one incinerator exists that is capable of destroying the material. Snowie, the Scottish site contractor at Barkston Heath, could be prosecuted if it is found to have broken the conditions set down for the site. It was unavailable for comment yesterday.

The Ministry of Agriculture said the remains come from cattle aged over 30 months which showed no signs of mad cow disease but were slaughtered to prevent the spread of the disease and restore public confidence. A spokesman for the Environment Agency said it had contacted the site management for an explanation and a site visit would be carried out in the next day or so. The spokesman said: "Then we'll decide what action should be taken. These cattle aren't linked to BSE. Risk assessment work has been undertaken and the risk posed by this material is negligible by any standards but we take the controls seriously."

He said that cattle definitely infected with BSE had been destroyed differently.

23 Aug 99 - CJD - BSE waste leaks to be studied

By Michael Paterson

Times ... Monday 23 August 1999

Safety inspectors will this week examine dumps containing the remains of cattle slaughtered during the BSE crisis after receiving complaints that waste could be leaking .

A team from the Environment Agency will scrutinise the storage of 50,000 tonnes of ground cattle carcasses in warehouses at Barkston Heath airfield, Lincolnshire, after an inspector reported that the buildings were not airtight.

Dead rats were found in one store, suggesting that the containers were not sealed - a requirement by the Ministry of Agriculture.Concern over the Lincolnshire stores arose when the ministry invited councillors and environmental health officers to view the site.

There are 12 other dumps , storing almost 400,000 tonnes of rendered carcasses . While 80,000 carcasses are ground annually, there is only one incinerator capable of burning the waste at 1,000C, the heat needed to guarantee the elimination of BSE. The furnace can destroy only 15,000 tonnes a year, meaning the waste is rapidly accumulating while two new incinerators are built.

A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: "We have sent a letter to the operators of the site at Barkston Heath asking them to explain what is going on and we will visit the site in the next 48 hours."

The site is run by Snowie, based in Stirling, Scotland. No one from the company was available yesterday, but its head, Malcolm Snowie, was reported as saying: "The odd animal might get in when the truck arrives, but the important thing is they don't get out."

Nick Brown, the Agriculture Minister, told Radio Four's The Westminster Hour: "I do not think there is a health risk. The rats are not available for human consumption. This is not a product that is going anywhere near the human food chain."

22 Aug 99 - CJD - Danger alert over secret dump of dead BSE cows

Antony Barnett, Public Affairs Editor

Guardian ... Sunday 22 August 1999

Potentially lethal waste infected with BSE from secret dumps of the remains of slaughtered cattle is escaping into the environment. The Observer has learnt that the Environment Agency is conducting an inquiry into the storage of 50,000 tonnes of rendered cattle carcasses in former aircraft hangars in Lincolnshire. The agency was forced to act after dead vermin were found inside one of the stores and gaps were seen in the walls of the buildings.

These dumps should be airtight to prevent contaminated dust escaping and being ingested by humans who might then risk contracting CJD, the human form of the disease. The revelations highlight the public health hazard caused by the continuing slaughter of hundreds of thousands of older cattle a year, designed to halt the spread of mad cow disease. There are now more than 400,000 tonnes of BSE waste stored in the dumps around the country.

Before the 1997 general election John Prescott lambasted the Tory government for 'incompetence' in dealing with the stockpile of cattle carcasses. Yet two and half years later there is still only one incinerator capable of burning the dead animals. The carcasses have to be burnt at a temperature of 1,000 degrees Centigrade to kill the protein which is thought to transmit BSE to humans. The furnace, in Southampton, can only cope with a fraction of the 80,000 tonnes of cattle remains that are created each year, and the giant stockpiles are growing by 65,000 tonnes a year . In many cases local residents have no idea what is being unloade and stored near their homes because the private contractors who run the sites do not need special planning permission.

On page 10 The Observer publishes a map revealing the location of these 13 stores. The agency's inquiry into the Lincolnshire dump, near Barkston Heath airfield, follows a problem that is only the latest affecting these stores. Councillor David Lomas who visited it, said he went in `concerned and came away scared witless.' The Ministry of Agriculture, which runs the slaughter scheme, denied there was a major public health risk.

22 Aug 99 - CJD - Revealed: the secret BSE peril


Guardian ... Friday 20 August 1999

The discovery of mountains of rotting cattle remains in storage has aroused safety fears.

A few miles to the north-east of Margaret Thatcher's birthplace in Grantham is a monument to one of the greatest national disasters that occurred during her years in power. There are no plaques to mark the event. Nor is there anything to commemorate the victims of the tragedy that has so far claimed 43 human lives.

Certainly the troop of Scouts who regularly pitch their tents at the campsite 300 yards from Barkston Heath airfield are blissfully unaware of what lies so close to their sleeping bags and guy ropes.

Why the secrecy? It is simply that government officials would rather no one knew this place existed, let alone ask awkward questions about it. The men from the Ministry seem to have done their job well. Anyone passing the handful of former aircraft hangars that lie half a mile or so from the picturesque Lincolnshire village of Belton would not guess at the macabre scenes they contain. They would have no inkling that these hangars are a potent symbol of the costly legacy of the BSE crisis.

But then anyone getting too close to these hangars would soon realise something rotten was afoot. The putrid stink would make anyone retch, even if they had the protective mask the workers are made to wear.

The hangars contain 100 ft-plus mountains of the ground-up remains of slaughtered cows . The animals have been boiled and mashed into a meaty dust in the Government's desperate efforts to halt the spread of mad cow disease and get the export ban on British beef lifted.

The cattle remains look at first glance like tall dunes of gritty, dark brown volcanic sand. But on closer inspection the bits of bones and teet th sticking out of the mounds offer a reminder of their grisly origin.

Since 1996 the culling of 3.5 million cattle over 30 months old has created similar meat and bonemeal stockpiles all around the country. The plan was to incinerate this bovine waste at 1,000°C to kill off any infectious BSE proteins that might enter the food chain and give humans CJD. But four years on, there is only one incinerator up and running in the entire country. Based in Southampton, it is only capable of handling 15,000 tonnes a year.

With 80,000 tonnes of these potentially contaminated animals being culled and ground up every year, more than 65,000 tonnes need to be stored somewhere new every 365 days. Stacked to the rafters in warehouses around Britain, this meat and bonemeal is in danger of becoming a BSE time bomb the Government can't get rid of.

The whereabouts of these dumps are shrouded in secrecy. The private contractors that are making millions from running these dumps do not need special planning permission or licences . But for the first time The Observer can publish a map of sites where these potentially deadly stores are located.

Officials continue to play down the health risk posed by the dumps. They argue that most of these cows did not have BSE, but were killed simply because cattle over 30 months old were regarded as a greater BSE risk than younger animals.

But The Observer has seen correspondence from the Ministry of Agriculture which admits that as many as one in a hundred of these animals might have been incubating mad cow disease while not showing clinical signs. This might appear only a small number, but the fact that 407,000 tonnes of mashed-up cow is now held in storage means that up to 4,000 tonnes of potentially BSE-infected material could be sitting in warehouses around the country.

Most worrying for residents living close to these stores is that the protein which is thought to transmit the disease to humans is virtually indestructible - even incineration is not proven to be completely effective.

Environmental regulation governing the sites states the buildings should be airtight to prevent contaminated dust from escaping and being ingested or absorbed by humans. But as our investigation reveals, the regulations are not always kept to .

Earlier this month a group of councillors and environmental health officers from north Lincolnshire were invited by the Ministry of Agriculture to visit the BSE stores near Grantham. They are fighting government plans to dump 60,000 tonnes of meat and bonemeal near homes in a village called Blyton. But far from being reassured, the group were horrified at what they saw.

District councillor David Lomas explains: 'We went concerned and came away scared witless. We saw dead vermin and a dead pigeon in the stuff, showing quite clearly animals can get in and out. We saw gaps in the wall and ventilators spewing dust into the atmosphere. One hangar even has a sign warning that the roof is fragile.'

He added: 'The so-called sealed containers that carry the stuff on the trucks are simply open-top tips with canvas over the top. And the trucks that deliver the stuff, which are supposed to be cleaned before they leave, drive off still stinking of the meat and bonemeal.

'What is really appalling is that the Ministry appears to be playing with words to reassure people, telling them everything is sealed and safe when quite obviously the opposite is the case.'

The Environment Agency, which had representatives at the inspection, is now writing to Snowie, the Scottish contractor which runs the Barkston Heath site and a further three BSE dumps, including one in Edinburgh. The agency is demanding that the company complies with the regulations.

Malcolm Snowie, who runs Snowie, strongly denies that the firm has been lax: 'The odd animal might get in when the truck arrives, but the important thing is they don't get out. All our walls are reinforced and the chance of dust escaping is minimal.'

But locals are not so sure. Peter Dunlop, the camp warden who runs a Scout camp down the road from the dump, was shocked to find out what was being kept in the aircraft hangars. He said: 'Scouts use the site throughout the year and I am worried that if it rains the dust could seep out and get into the water supply. And what happens if there was a fire ? It doesn't bear thinking about.'

This fear is not just hypothetical - stockpiles of ground-up cattle are known to combust spontaneously . Last Christmas, firemen were called to a warehouse near Preston's marina after smoke was seen billowing from the building storing the rendered carcasses.

Firemen were called to a similar event at a BSE dump near Exeter. Such tales have sent a chill through the residents of Blyton, who have formed an action group to stop the Ministry of Agriculture's plans to use disused aircraft hangars in their village.

Mandy Thompson, whose family lives 300 yards from the intended dump, said: 'Nobody can give us cast-iron guarantees that this material is risk-free and we could be breathing this stuff in for years, risking contracting a hideous disease . Why won't they spend more money and store it in proper buildings that are safe, away from communities?'

Last week the House of Commons' Public Accounts Committee warned that the culling of 30-month-old cattle will have to continue for at least another 15 years . Two more incinerators are in the pipeline. Meanwhile, as officials wonder what to do, the BSE mountains get bigger.

18 Aug 99 - CJD - BSE Bill to Rise Beyond Pounds 4.2bn

Staff Reporter

Independent ... Wednesday 18 August 1999

The Ministry of Agriculture was attacked by MPs yesterday for failing to curb the cost of the BSE crisis, which will rise to pounds 4.2bn and is likely to go higher. Taxpayers face the "daunting prospect"of having to pay for dealing with mad cow disease for another 15 years , the all- party Public Accounts Select Committee warned.

The cattle slaughter has left a massive backlog in meat disposal, forcing the taxpayer to continue to bear most of the cost of storage. The European Union is contributing, but still had pounds 122m outstanding by the beginning of this year, the MPs said.

They acknowledged that Ministry of Agriculture officials, under the Tory government, had been under "extreme pressure" to take action quickly. But the high prices paid to abattoirs and renderers could have been reduced by more vigorous negotiation or the application of clawback arrangements, they said.

18 Aug 99 - CJD - mad cow measures cost taxpayer £4bn

By Andrew Sparrow, Political Correspondent

Telegraph ... Wednesday 18 August 1999

Tackling the mad cow disease crisis will have cost the taxpayer more than £4 billion by 2001, a report by MPs says today.

It says that the cattle slaughter programme which makes up most of the cost may have to go on until 2014. "A further 15 years of the scheme, the slaughter of another four million animals and the continuing cost to the taxpayer are daunting prospects," the public accounts committee says.

The committee, Parliament's spending watchdog, accepts that the Government had to take drastic action when a possible link between BSE and CJD, the human equivalent, was discovered in 1996. But it says that some payments may have been too generous and that the system may have been open to fraud.

Shortly after the crisis erupted, the Government decided to slaughter all cattle over the age of 30 months to prevent BSE entering the food chain. That limit was chosen because it is believed that younger cattle do not suffer from the disease. By the end of 1998, 2.57 million cattle had been killed. The slaughter programme will have cost £2.24 million by 2001. The total bill, taking into account support for farmers and the slaughter of younger cattle at particular risk of BSE, will be £4.2 billion.

The MPs say: "We suspect that the high prices initially paid to abattoirs and renderers in the over 30-month scheme could have been reduced by more vigorous negotiations." There have been 310 allegations about fraudulent claims for payment, but investigations showed that there was evidence in only 64 of those cases. There have been only three prosecutions . In one case the amount of fraud involved was £1.3 million. The MPs say that the company involved is now in liquidation and describe the prospect of recovering the money as "unlikely".

18 Aug 99 - CJD - Japan and Australia may ban 'BSE' blood

By Barbie Dutter in Sydney and Juliet Hindell in Tokyo

Telegraph ... Wednesday 18 August 1999

Australia and Japan are considering following the United States and Canada by banning blood donations from people who may have eaten British beef infected by mad cow disease.

But in Australia the Red Cross said the country's close ties with Britain could have a damaging impact on blood supplies. Dr Tony Keller, a senior official with the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, said 29 per cent of Australian residents had visited Britain during the years when mad cow disease was a problem.

He said: "If we were to introduce a similar policy to that introduced in Canada and the US, the exclusion of donors who had lived in Britain for more than six months, we would exclude an average of 5.3 per cent of donations." A committee of Japan's Health and Welfare Ministry has been discussing the issue for several months. "This would be a strictly preventive measure, as there is no scientific proof the disease is spread through the blood," a ministry official said.

18 Aug 99 - CJD - Slow reaction to BSE crisis 'cost millions'

By Jill Sherman, Whitehall Editor

Times ... Wednesday 18 August 1999

The Ministry of Agriculture could have saved millions of pounds if it had acted earlier and negotiated more aggressively over the BSE crisis, according to an all-party Commons committee.

A highly critical report from the Public Accounts Committee says ministers agreed to over-generous payments for abattoirs and renderers at the start of the scheme to slaughter cattle over 30 months old. It argues that if the department had acted more quickly to establish a system to trace cattle it could have resulted in an earlier lifting of the beef ban.

The committee says that measures to support the beef industry and to lift the beef ban cost £2.5 billion between 1996 and last year and were expected to rise to £4.2 billion before 2001. By last September a total of 2.57 million cattle had been slaughtered under the Over Thirty Month Scheme, at a cost of £2.24 billion .

The report says that the prices paid to abattoirs at the start of the scheme, £87.50 for each animal slaughtered, contained an incentive to participate that probably was not necessary. "We believe the board could have backdated to June 1996 the decreased payment of £41 for slaughtering an animal. If it had been done, it could have saved the taxpayer £7 million for the scheme."

It adds that there was not enough capacity in the rendering industry to deal with the quantities of cattle eligible for the scheme, so the small number of renderers could effectively name their price.

The committee also warned the Intervention Board for Agricultural Produce, which is responsible for the Over Thirty Month Scheme, against delay in pursuing fraud.

The Government said yesterday that BSE is continuing to decline. In the first six months of the year the number of clinically suspect cases was 24 per cent less than for the same period last year and 40 per cent less than in 1997.

Doctors may soon perfect a way to identify people with the human form of BSE. At present it is possible to confirm new-variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease only after death. But scans with a magnetic resonance imager showed unusually bright scarring of the thalamus, part of the brain that relays sensory information, in three people who had died of the disease, giving hope of clues in patients still alive.