Document Directory

28 Nov 00 - CJD - We fooled ourselves over Mad Cow crisis, admits Germany
28 Nov 00 - CJD - Beef ban on French overdue, say Tories
28 Nov 00 - CJD - CJD review over German blood
27 Nov 00 - CJD - No-one can guarantee BSE-free beef, says Byrne
27 Nov 00 - CJD - Germans protest at 'whitewash' over BSE precautions
26 Nov 00 - CJD - German BSE cases spark fears of European epidemic
26 Nov 00 - CJD - German cow herd destroyed after BSE outbreak
26 Nov 00 - CJD - Milburn ready to ban French beef
26 Nov 00 - CJD - BSE panic - our new export to Europe
26 Nov 00 - CJD - French farmers under siege as BSE fears grip continent
26 Nov 00 - CJD - BSE panic spreads across Europe
24 Nov 00 - CJD - Tapeworm threat to beef, claim EU vets
24 Nov 00 - CJD - Germany reports first positive BSE test
24 Nov 00 - CJD - New checks ordered on imports of French beef
22 Nov 00 - CJD - The CJD connection
22 Nov 00 - CJD - French beef ban rejected as Europe tests for BSE
22 Nov 00 - CJD - Ministers back BSE tests as sales plummet
22 Nov 00 - CJD - EU to test older cattle for Mad Cow disease
22 Nov 00 - CJD - Britain 'must ban older beef imports'
22 Nov 00 - CJD - France's BSE outrage echoes British woes



28 Nov 00 - CJD - We fooled ourselves over Mad Cow crisis, admits Germany

By Toby Helm in Berlin

Telegraph ... Tuesday 28 November 2000


Germany fooled itself into believing that it would be free of Mad Cow disease, the government admitted yesterday, as the country's first case of BSE was confirmed.

As panic spread over the disease, Andrea Fischer, the health minister, said: "We deluded ourselves in Germany." David Byrne, the EU commissioner for consumer affairs, who had attacked Germany for failing to implement tough meat hygiene rules, said he believed more cases would be reported soon. He told Die Welt newspaper: "I share the opinion that there will be other infections."

A cow in the northern region of Schleswig-Holstein became the first from a domestically reared herd to test positive for BSE. Another animal that had been exported from Germany to the Azores islands was also found to have the disease. It has shattered the confidence of a nation of beef and sausage eaters who had believed the government's claims that the disease would stop at its borders.

The reaction of consumers has been swift . Harry Kretschmer, a Berlin butcher, said: "I didn't sell a single piece of beef on Saturday. There are usually about 100 customers in here every day." The normally respectful German media attacked the government over its handling of the crisis. The Berliner Morgenpost reported: "They made fools of us with the long-winded promises that Germany is safe from BSE."

Albert Osterhaus, an eminent Dutch scientist and member of the EU veterinary committee, told Der Spiegel magazine that there could well be several dozen infected German cows that were not yet showing signs of the disease. The government faced further humiliation yesterday when it announced that a promised ban on the use of all farm feed containing animal remains would have to be delayed for several days because of legal problems.

Edmund Stoiber, state premier of Bavaria and a leader of the conservative opposition, said: "It is disgraceful the way the government put commerce ahead of the public's safety." The reaction in Germany follows new cases of Mad Cow disease across Europe . The French President, Jacques Chirac, yesterday met Dominique Eboli, whose son had contracted the human form of the disease, vCJD.

In Athens , butchers banned the sale of beef after demanding meat and animal feed undergo stricter checks for Mad Cow disease. The ban, which covers an area that is home to about five million people, is one of the most sweeping reactions to concern over the spread of the disease.

Health inspectors had earlier confiscated 50 tons of livestock feed suspected of containing animal products.


28 Nov 00 - CJD - Beef ban on French overdue, say Tories

By David Brown, Agriculture Editor

Telegraph ... Tuesday 28 November 2000


Fears that French farmers will disrupt lamb exports from Britain if the Government bans imports of their beef due to BSE risks were swept aside by the Tories yesterday.

Ignoring jibes that he was indulging in "jingoism" Tim Yeo, the shadow agriculture minister, told meat industry leaders at the Royal Smithfield Show in London that a ban on French beef was "long overdue" .

It would be better facing up to the problems involved "sooner rather than later" to protect consumers from possible exposure to BSE from meat which did not comply with Britain's stringent BSE safeguards, he said.

France is Britain's biggest customer for lamb, with sales worth more than £189 million last year. Many British livestock farmers could not survive without this trade.

The Government and industry leaders have warned against any unilateral "tit-for-tat" acton which could lead to a new trade war within the European Union.

But Mr Yeo dismissed concerns among the farmers' unions and meat trade experts saying: "Where is the evidence that rolling over in the face of illegal action by the French will give us a better deal for our farmers?"">

28 Nov 00 - CJD - Mad Cow Victims' Behavior Changes

Associated Press

Guardian ... Tuesday 28 November 2000


When 17-year-old Arnaud Eboli began smashing chairs and dishes in fits of rage two years ago, doctors told his parents it was only adolescent frustration.

The hysteria and mood swings subsided a year later. But then, Arnaud lost the ability to walk and speak . Today, the once-vibrant teen lies paralyzed, barely conscious and kept alive through a feeding tube.

Doctors say he suffers from a variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human version of Mad Cow disease. The ailment caused panic across France when it became known last month that potentially contaminated beef had reached supermarket shelves. The fear was fueled by a television special that graphically showed the deterioration of human victims, notably Arnaud.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob is commonly described as a ``brain-wasting'' illness. Families of two victims told The Associated Press the frightening reality of what that means.

In Arnaud's case, the disease transformed a soft-spoken, handsome athlete who excelled at skiing and martial arts into a limp bag of bones . It started in September 1998 with hysteria.

``We couldn't control him, he would break things all over the house. He fought with us all the time,'' said his mother, Dominique.

Anger, agitation and depression lasted nearly a year - symptoms doctors identified as ``normal adolescent behavior,'' said Mrs. Eboli, 43. ``I knew that was wrong.''

By September 1999, Arnaud stumbled when he walked, his memory was impaired and speaking took great effort.

``It was as if his mouth was full of food and he couldn't push the words out,'' his mother said. Arnaud could no longer bath or feed himself. Sometimes his eyes bulged; sometimes one eye stayed shut.

New doctors called it ``irreversible and premature dementia,'' his mother recalled.

A month later, Arnaud was hospitalized for tests.

Doctors delivered their diagnosis last Christmas Eve, after a biopsy of Arnaud's tonsil detected traces of an infectious protein, prion, often found in people with variant CJD. The disease can only be confirmed by a brain biopsy, usually after death, but studies have shown the illness can be detected in tonsil samples.

``They told us there was no treatment . No medicine . They told us he had 18 months,'' his mother said.

The Eboli family ate supermarket-bought beef once a week and said they never ate offal - an animal's entrails, considered gourmet fare in France. Arnaud ate fast-food hamburgers roughly twice a week.

To calm public fears, France has pulled T-bone steaks and other potentially risky cuts of beef from the nation's markets. The marrow of infected animals can transmit the malady to humans and other animals.

France also banned the use of animal feed containing meat and bone meal from ground-up cow carcasses - a suspected source of Mad Cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

Photographs of Arnaud taken this year show his dramatic decline.

In a snapshot taken in February he is frail, sitting knock-kneed in a wheelchair.

By summer, he had trouble holding his head up. Walking and talking were almost impossible.

``That's June,'' Arnaud's father, Eric, said softly of a picture of the two in the family's swimming pool. Arnaud, now 19, is curled up like a baby in his father's arms.

``He could only speak a few words, but do you remember what he said to you?'' Mrs. Eboli whispered to her husband. ``When we put him in the water, he liked it so much. He said, 'Thank you dad. Thank you mom.'''

In the final stages of the illness, Arnaud sleeps constantly, though he is not clinically comatose. His once 165-pound frame has shriveled by half .

Not all victims have identical symptoms.

Laurence Duhamel died in February at age 36 after battling variant CJD for just over a year. She initially was sullen , her brother Jean recalled, then reclusive - not wanting to leave the house she shared with her mother and sister in a Paris suburb.

She became paranoid , cried constantly and begged for her mother's help with bathing and other personal chores. But on other days she allowed no one to touch her. Then came the delusions .

``She thought she was pregnant. She told me she'd traveled to India, when I knew she had never left Paris,'' her brother said.

In May 1999, Duhamel's family admitted her to a psychiatric hospital. Three months later, after she lost control of her limbs , she was transferred to a general hospital, where doctors tested for brain disorders.

Duhamel stopped speaking and could no longer move. Suspecting variant CJD, doctors took a brain biopsy.

``In the last few months, I don't think there was any suffering,'' her brother said. ``It was as if her body had already left her - or her brain had already left her body.'' She died Feb. 4.

The families of both victims filed a lawsuit this month, accusing France, Britain and the European Union of not acting fast enough to stamp out Mad Cow disease. The family of France's only other known CJD fatality, who died in 1997, intends to join the lawsuit.

Duhamel never knew her diagnosis, but her brother said she suspected. ``In the hospital, her hands would creep up her body until they reached her head. She would hold her head,'' Duhamel's brother recalled.

Arnaud, his mother said, had a premonition - shortly after 1996, when the tainted beef scare first alarmed Europe.

``He said to me, 'Mom, we're all going to die of this one day .''


28 Nov 00 - CJD - CJD review over German blood

James Meikle and Tony Paterson in Berlin

Guardian ... Tuesday 28 November 2000


Experts on the safety of medicines will consider within weeks whether they should ban blood products from Germany after its discovery of BSE in cattle and the announcement of a suspected victim of the related human disease.

Clotting factors to treat haemophiliacs are among such products used in Britain although the Department of Health last night admitted it did not know the extent of the potential problem.

Meanwhile, ministers will wait until the end of the week, when British food standards officials have returned from meeting their counterparts in Paris, before determining whether to ban beef imports from France where there has been a steep rise in BSE cases and mounting concerns over beef safety.

The health department has based policies for using vaccines and other injected material on countries being free of BSE and variant CJD. Most plasma supplied through the manufacturing arm of the national blood service, BPL, is imported from the US .

However, NHS trusts can use other licensed sources, including blood products from Germany. A centre treating haemophiliacs at the Royal Victoria infirmary in Newcastle confirmed last night it was among those using supplies, although there would be a review in January.

Patients and their families who have campaigned for all haemophiliacs to be given synthetic , laboratory-produced blood, instead of human-derived products, said the latest news from Germany "is psychologically very damaging for people who have to continue to inject this material."

Members of Haemophilia North demanded action from the centre, whose medical director, Mike Laker, said: "Logic would suggest there must come a time when all existing haemophiliacs are going to receive recombinant (laboratory produced) material."

There is already a huge row over policy in England, where most health authorities are only offering the alternative to children and newly diagnosed haemophiliacs. But ministers now appear ready to follow the example of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where a switch for all patients has been agreed.

A health department spokesman said sourcing of blood products was kept under constant review. "As the BSE epidemic spreads and cases emerge, clearly we need to ensure blood products are sourced from places that are BSE and vCJD-free."

The NHS has already introduced controls on blood donations here, including the filtering out of white blood cells, because of the theoretical risk of BSE-like infection being spread through transfusions.

It is now considering banning anyone who has ever received a transfusion in Britain from giving blood and a growing list of countries, including Germany, is refusing to accept blood donations from citizens who lived in Britain between 1980 and 1996 , the period in which the risk to exposure to BSE here was highest.


27 Nov 00 - CJD - No-one can guarantee BSE-free beef, says Byrne

Ananova

PA News ... Monday 27 November 2000


European Union Commissioner David Byrne says no member state can provide a guarantee its beef is BSE-free .

The Dublin-appointed commissioner was commenting on indications of a move by Ireland to market its beef as BSE-free.

The possible move has been seen as a way of protecting Ireland's foreign beef sales by giving the country a competitive advantage.

Mr Byrne, a former Irish Attorney General, who is Europe's Health and Consumer Protection Minister, said on Irish radio: "Ireland certainly have been co-operative with the Commission, and supportive in the measures that we wanted, and has quite stringent application of the laws that are in place.

"But I don't think that any member state can give a guarantee that their beef is BSE-free. We can say that we are trying to reduce the risks to the minimum - but there is no such thing as risk-free."

The commissioner spoke following reports that Ireland wanted to sell its beef as BSE-free after introducing an enhanced testing regime ahead of EU measures set for January.


27 Nov 00 - CJD - Germans protest at 'whitewash' over BSE precautions

By Imre Karacs in Berlin and Lloyd Rundle

Independent ... Monday 27 November 2000


Germany's consumer revolt over BSE turned to anger yesterday as political leaders and farm experts came under attack for claiming the disease would not enter the country.

Butchers reported falling beef sales amid calls for the resignation of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's farm and health ministers following news that at least two of the country's cows have been infected.

Britain's Agriculture Minister, Nick Brown, added to the gloom by threatening to slap an illegal ban on French beef if advisers warn the public is at risk from a new BSE threat. The Tories have warned that France may attempt to send "risky" meat to Britain, but Mr Brown said yesterday that he would act now and argue later if a ban was needed.

But the full blast of consumer anger was felt in Germany. "We believed the nonsense the whitewashers told us - that Germany was free from BSE," fumed the Welt am Sonntag newspaper. "They made fools of us with the long-winded promises that Germany is safe from BSE," echoed the Berliner Morgenpost.

Bärbel Höhn, the Green Environment Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, who has warned for years about such an eventuality, said politicians had ignored the threat for too long.

"We should have dealt with BSE earlier and more rigorously ," she said. "Mistakes were made in the past, for which we must now pay the bitter price."

After the discovery of two German-born cows infected with BSE, officials of the 16 federal Länder ordered a ban on meat-based fodder, believed to be the main route of infection, but the fodder had been outlawed for cattle in Germany since 1994.

For procedural reasons, the German government cannot impose a full ban until Wednesday at the earliest. The German Farmers' Federation has asked for a two-week delay, arguing that there is not enough substitute fodder in the country and that the animals would starve.

However, the once-mighty farming lobby is unlikely to get a sympathetic hearing in the current climate as consumer panic grows and political complacency comes under attack.

Opposition politicians were quick to attack the government for risking the life of Germans.

"It is disgraceful the way the government put commerce ahead of public safety," said the Bavarian Prime Minister, Edmund Stoiber.


26 Nov 00 - CJD - German BSE cases spark fears of European epidemic

Ananova

PA News ... Sunday 26 November 2000


Germany's first cases of Mad Cow disease could signal the beginning of a Europe-wide epidemic , a BSE expert has warned.

Dr Stephen Dealer, whose research helped to reveal the scale of the problem in Britain, told the Sunday Telegraph: "We are probably seeing the start of an epidemic in Europe and although it is impossible to predict its size, it will be bigger than we expect."

The discovery of cases in Germany follows widespread problems in Britain and France and recent cases in Spain.

Brussels has already signalled that new EU-wide health protection measures are likely in the wake of the first cases of Mad Cow disease in Germany and Spain.

EU health and consumer protection Commissioner David Byrne said he would be pressing for "maximum control measures" when Europe's agriculture ministers hold special talks on December 4.

Precautionary measures are expected to include action to ensure that controls on the feeding of ground-up cattle - so-called meat and bonemeal - are fully respected.

Earlier this week, EU farm ministers agreed to carry out BSE tests on all cattle over the age of 30 months in a fresh bid to restore consumer confidence in the wake of growing concern over the incidence of the disease in France.

Jim Walker, president of the National Farmers' Union of Scotland, said: "It is distressing to witness many of our European partners making many of the same mistakes Britain made back in 1996.

"At least we have learned from the mistakes of the past, whereas others, particularly France - now openly exposed by the European Commission as the worst law breakers in Europe - have no excuses for their blatant disregard of the warnings for their beef industry."


26 Nov 00 - CJD - German cow herd destroyed after BSE outbreak

Ananova

PA News ... Sunday 26 November 2000


Health authorities have ordered that a North German farmer's cattle should be destroyed after one of his cows was confirmed as one of the first cases of Mad Cow disease in the country.

The cow had tested positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or Mad Cow disease, in a voluntary check after being slaughtered. The meat from the sick cow and the remaining 160 cattle from Peter Lorenzen's farm in Schleswig-Holstein will be destroyed.

Schleswig-Holstein governor Heide Simonis told ZDF television: "I suppose we felt too sure that this had only happened to the English."

The European Union's top health and consumer protection official, David Byrne, accused Germany over the weekend of complacency in confronting the crisis.

German officials have imposed an immediate ban on the use of meat and bone meal in all animal feed. Feeding the ground animal remains to cattle has been banned in Germany and other European Union countries since 1994.

Contaminated meat and bone meal in animal feed is suspected as the source of BSE in cows. Some scientists believe humans can contract a similar fatal brain-wasting disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, by eating infected beef.


26 Nov 00 - CJD - Milburn ready to ban French beef

Jonathon Carr-Brown and Deborah Collcutt

Sunday Times ... Sunday 26 November 2000


A Ban on beef imports from BSE-infected countries that lack proper safeguards is being considered by Alan Milburn, the health secretary, according to senior aides, write.

As a new European Union-wide health scare was sparked by the discovery of Mad Cow disease in Germany's previously BSE-free beef industry, government sources confirmed that the health secretary would not hesitate from banning beef imports if that was required to protect consumers.

The first test of Milburn's resolve will come on Tuesday when the Food Standards Agency (FSA) expects to receive a reply from the French over measures to prevent beef banned in France from being exported to Britain.

A Milburn aide said: "We haven't ruled out banning beef imports. It's not off the agenda. We take the precautionary approach. If there is the slightest evidence French controls are not adequate we will not hesitate to ban French beef as a precaution.

"To do anything else would be to make the same mistakes as the Conservatives during the BSE crisis."

Britain imports just over 5,000 tons of French beef each year compared with 77,000 from Ireland - which has the highest number of BSE cases outside Britain - and 1,300 tons from Germany.

Spain, Austria, Greece, Italy and Holland have all imposed partial bans on French beef but up to now Sir John Krebs, the chairman of the FSA, has insisted there was still insufficient scientific evidence to support a ban on imports of French beef.

However, Milburn has already twice gone further than Krebs's advice on BSE matters.

On Friday Milburn ignored him by ordering more spot checks on imported meat. Krebs was also forced to concede to pressure to support a Europe-wide ban on a potentially suspect abattoir technique.

A government source said: "Krebs is still giving advice like a scientist instead of a consumer health watchdog . If he doesn't become more robust there could be friction."


26 Nov 00 - CJD - BSE panic - our new export to Europe

By Colin Brown and Stephen Castle

Independent ... Sunday 26 November 2000


Britain was facing the blame for exporting BSE to the rest of Europe last night as the panic over Mad Cow disease spread across the Continent.

With the outbreak threatening to strain diplomatic relations, Downing Street was resisting calls from Conservative Party leaders for a British ban on beef from other EU countries, including France.

"We will act on the scientific advice," said a Number Ten spokesman. British ministers are awaiting the results of a survey by experts from the newly established Food Standards Agency on whether there is a risk of cattle more than 30 months old entering the food chain in this country.

They are also waiting for the outcome of a crucial European agriculture ministers' meeting on 4 December before taking decisive action.

But a Europe-wide ban on meat and bone meal in all animal feed seemed inevitable yesterday, after Germany's decision to implement a national ban in response to the discovery of its first cases. This followed the first appearance of BSE in Spain earlier in the week and last month's outbreak in France .

David Byrne, the EU health and consumer protection commissioner, said he would be seeking "maximum control measures " across Europe. And he disclosed that, as well as Germany and Spain, there is another EU country where his experts believe BSE may be discovered.

Brussels has done little to hide its frustration with the governments in Berlin and Madrid which, until recently, argued against measures to combat Mad Cow disease in countries thought "BSE-free".

Our correspondents report on the BSE crisis across Europe

Germany

Germany yesterday backed French calls an EU-wide ban on meat-based animal feed, following the discovery of BSE in countries considered free of the disease. At a crisis meeting in Bonn, health officials of Germany's 16 federal Länder were last night expected to outlaw feed containing the remains of animals, a move Chancellor Gerhard Schröder wants extended to the EU. Germany is also pressing for compulsory testing of all cattle imported to or slaughtered within the EU.

Until this week, Germany had diagnosed six cases of BSE, all in animals imported from Britain and Switzerland.

The government had repeatedly assured the public that German beef was safe, because meat-based cattle feed had been banned as long as six years ago, and cows imported from Britain culled. Then came the startling news on Friday of two German-born cows testing positive. The first one, a five-year-old cow exported to the Azores two years ago, was discovered by Portuguese officials.

The second cow was spotted in the north German town of Itzenhoe purely by chance. Seeking to reassure consumers, a local slaughter house had instituted voluntary tests . The animal was diagnosed on Wednesday with "95 per cent certainty ".

The region of Schleswig-Holstein, where Itzenhoe is located, ordered full testing yesterday and installed a BSE hotline. The region's Prime Minister, Heide Simonis, suggested that Germans should reappraise their diet.

Imre Karaks, Berlin

Spain

The detection last week of Spain's first two cases of BSE has prompted sharp consumer reaction, with meat sales down by between 30 to 50 per cent in some regions. Activity in some slaughterhouses was down by 50 per cent . This is despite reassurances from Miguel Arias, the Agriculture Minister, that the herds containing the two stricken animals have been destroyed. The animals, from Galiciain the north-west of the country, had been bred in Spain from cows imported from Holland and Austria.

He said there was no chance of a Spanish BSE epidemic, but could not promise "zero risk". Spain is to implement a huge programme of testing animals on slaughter.

Elizabeth Nash, Madrid

France

Newspapers could barely disguise their glee at the discovery - or "confession ", as they called it - of a first domestic case of Mad Cow disease in Germany. "Now the mask has fallen," Le Figaro put it yesterday.

The current Europe-wide consumer psychosis began in France four weeks ago when 12 animals illegally entered the food chain . They came from a herd in which one case of BSE had been found, but they were represented in the French press as "Mad Cows in our supermarkets". Since then, French beef consumption has fallen by around 50 per cent .

There have been signs of a recovery in French consumer confidence since the government took new anti-BSE measures 10 days ago, including a ban on the use of ground-up remains of cattle in compound feed for all types of animals.

John Lichfield, Paris


26 Nov 00 - CJD - French farmers under siege as BSE fears grip continent

Stuart Jeffries in Paris

Guardian ... Sunday 26 November 2000


Evidence that cows may have contracted BSE after controls to halt the disease were imposed has fuelled a growing sense of panic

Europe's BSE crisis took a disturbing new turn yesterday when France announced that it was investigating a case of 'Mad Cow' disease in an animal born after 1996 - the year in which tougher controls were imposed on feedstuffs to try to halt the spread of the disease.

The discovery of the diseased animal at an unspecified farm in western France, if confirmed, would support the theory that animal feed is not the only means of transmitting the disease and might mean that the epidemic will be around for much longer than hitherto believed. The discovery came as French farmers mounted a campaign this weekend to show that their beef is the safest in Europe.

Fear over Mad Cow disease is already gripping the continent, with both Germany and Spain this week reporting their first cases of BSE.

In a statement, France's food safety agency AFSSA said that four tests had already been done on the animal, which was born in May 1998. But more investigations were needed, it added.

Even before this latest revelation, French confidence in traditional beef delicacies had taken a battering . Figures published yesterday showed that French beef sales between 6 and 12 November were 47 per cent lower than the same week in the previous year. Three weeks ago beef amounted to 25 per cent of all meat purchases in France. But now it is only 13 per cent , according to pollsters Secodip.

In this climate, it is no surprise that French butchers were on the defensive yesterday. 'There's no problem with our beef,' said Gilbert Fabre, a butcher in the Rue Ober-kampf, Paris. 'It all comes from naturally raised herds in Limousin. They eat grass, not muck.' So how does he account for the slump in sales? 'Panic. The media have exaggerated the problem.'

His cleaver-wielding assistant Thierry, 19, was also keen to blame the messenger. 'Let's get this straight,' said Thierry. 'You're English and a journalist? That's perfect. It was the English who created the Mad Cow problem, thanks to their poisonous animal feeds. And it's the journalists who are making the problem worse by spreading panic.'

Whether the media are to blame or not, French people are certainly in a panic about what they eat. 'When they sit down to eat, the French are getting more and more suspicious about what's on their plate,' lamented Le Monde this week. About 63 per cent of French people think that what they eat is a danger to their health, according to a report published on Thursday by the national lifestyle research centre, Credoc. The report also found that French people have detected a general decline in the quality of the foods they buy in the past decade.

And no wonder. In France recently, chickens have been found to be polluted with dioxins , and last month there was even a listeria outbreak among geese raised in Périgord. In France this year 112 cases of BSE have been discovered, compared with 30 in 1999 - a rise that can be explained by tougher tests for BSE introduced in June. Two people have died from the human vCJD in France, compared with 80 in Britain. Such developments are disturbing in France, a country which lives to eat.

In this climate few farmers are happy. The French Association of Ostrich Breeders has reported a 30 per cent rise in sales of its meat.

Olivia Lyon was one of the few customers I saw buying beef yesterday. 'This faux filet is wonderful,' she said. 'It's on special offer down the street - there you can get it for 54 francs a kilo, but here it's 95. The difference is in the quality.' Why does she think the beef she's just bought is safe? 'Because I know my butcher. I've been coming here for years. I trust him.'

Both French butchers and beef farmers are engaged in a desperate public relations campaign to make customers think the same way as Madame Lyon. Posters in butchers' shops often proselytise that your local butcher is a man you can trust. Throughout France this weekend, the public has been invited to visit farms to see for themselves that French beef is safe. In Bourg-en-Bresse, farmers' unions have organised debates and discussions to improve public awareness. 'We're sick of being branded poisoners and polluters ,' said Jean-Luc Duval, president of the young farmers' union, CNJA, who has been instrumental in organising the campaign.

But allied to this campaign, French farmers are also mounting blockades this weekend to protest at partial bans on exports of their beef in Spain , Austria , Greece , Italy and Holland , as well as what they describe as a derisory £320 million aid package offered to them last week by Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany. They will be setting up blockades at key motorway junctions to halt meat trucks coming from abroad.

Foreign beef has been targeted partly because French farmers are exasperated at blockades preventing their beef entering neighbouring countries, but also because such measures won't upset French shoppers. With beef sales in freefall, the last thing farmers want to do is to irritate customers.

'We must be careful not to upset the consumer. That would be a catastrophe ,' said a spokesman for the young farmers' union. Out, then, goes that hitherto very popular blockading tactic les opérations escargots, or go-slow drives along motorways. Out, too, go blockades of refineries, which farmers had considered.

Meat and bonemeal feed is widely believed to be the source of BSE, and French farmers blame Britain for selling them contaminated bone-meal in the 1980s and 1990s. It is banned as a feedstuff for cattle and other ruminants in the European Union, and France has extended the ban on feeding meat and bonemeal to all livestock and pets.

The German Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, said on Friday that a full-scale meat and bonemeal ban was likely to be imposed in Germany from Monday and called for an EU-wide ban to follow. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeit-ung reported that Germany planned to ban people from giving blood if they had lived in Britain for more than six months between 1980 and 1996 to combat the spread of the human form of BSE.

Agriculture Ministers will hold talks on the BSE crisis on 4 December. The European Commissioner responsible for health and consumer protection, David Byrne, said he would press for 'maximum control measures'.


26 Nov 00 - CJD - BSE panic spreads across Europe

James Meikle

Guardian ... Saturday 26 November 2000


The European Union was last night trying to contain consumer panic over beef as the first cases of BSE emerged in Germany and the Azores .

Only 24 hours earlier, Spain discovered two cows infected with the disease while infection is spreading in France. Twelve European countries have now reported the disease.

Reports of the first suspected home-grown BSE case in Germany means the three largest EU herds have the disease. France's 20m cattle account for 25% of the 80m cattle in the EU. Germany has a herd of 18m and Britain 12m.

Only Austria , Italy , Sweden and Finland in the EU now have no recorded cases but the European commission in Brussels says this is no cause for complacency.

German authorities were last night promising to introduce new controls on animal feed on Monday in an attempt to shore up consumer confidence. Health minister Andrea Fischer admitted that the time for "sweet talking the situation in Germany is over".

The commission was putting a brave face on the latest crisis, saying cases in new countries came as no surprise. British sources advised against farmers rubbing their hands with glee at the misfortunes of those who questioned the safety of British beef in the 90s.

They fear the insidious spread of the disease through Europe can only undermine confidence in meat here and are nervous about a political backlash from European partners who are convinced that Britain exported the problem.

The EU health and consumer protection commissioner David Byrne said he would be pressing for "maximum control measures" when Europe's agriculture ministers meet on December 4.

Mr Byrne said the commission had warned for years of the probability of the spread of BSE to other states. Although parts of cattle most at risk had been removed from cattle in most member states, "it is only very recently that countries like Germany and Spain have agreed to do so," he said.

The German chancellor Gerhard Schröder said a full scale ban on feeds containing meat and bone meal was likely to take effect in Germany on Monday after it emerged that a cow born and slaughtered in Germany tested positive for BSE for the first time.

It was also announced that BSE had spread to Portugal's mid-Atlantic territory, the Azores through an animal imported from Germany.

The developments came amid growing calls in Britain to ban French beef after a claims that infected French beef has found its way into the UK. But the Food Standards Agency chief, Sir John Krebs, said there was insufficient evidence to support an unlawful ban on imports of French beef.

That decision is now likely to continue to be the subject of scrutiny following decisions by Spain , Austria , Greece , Italy and Holland to impose partial bans on French beef.

There is also some concern about what happens if cases of variant CJD rise across Europe. Eighty-one people have died of the disease in Britain while there has been one death in Ireland and two in France.

The commission said last night: "We think the measures we have in place are sufficiently rigorous but this reinforces the need to implement them fully. The commission never excluded the possibility that there would be cases in countries where there were none up to now. It is not a surprise."

Britain's beef consumption has been rising since it dived to 740,000 tonnes in 1996, when the link between BSE and vCJD was established. Consumption is up to 900,000 tonnes but prices have never recovered to pre-crisis levels, when consumption was well over 1.1bn tonnes. Germany exports about 1,300 tonnes of beef a year to Britain, 77,000 tonnes from Ireland and 4,800 tonnes from France.

British officials are visiting France next week to conduct safety checks on beef exported from there. EU-wide bans on the most risky parts of cattle have only just been introduced after years of wrangling and the testing programme is about to be stepped up.

Reported cases:

Britain 177,465

Ireland 546 (includes 10 imports)

Portugal 453 (includes seven imports)

Switzerland 364

France 179 (one import)

Belgium 18

Germany 7 (six imports)

Netherlands 6

Denmark 2 (one import)

Liechtenstein 2

Spain 2

Luxembourg 1


24 Nov 00 - CJD - Tapeworm threat to beef, claim EU vets



Guardian ... Friday 24 November 2000


EU vets are recommending a big increase in indoor factory farming of beef cattle, currently almost unknown in Britain, to protect consumers from another health threat: parasites that can be passed to humans through raw or undercooked meat.

They say animals might need to be kept indoors throughout their lives to prevent them picking up tapeworms .

The vets want new checks on the extent of the problem, but they believe tapeworms are significantly under-reported by embarrassed humans and that infected meat is slipping through in slaughterhouses.

The vets' call for a fundamental reappraisal of farming methods throughout the European Union was immediately rejected by animal welfare campaigners, who said the public liked seeing cattle roaming freely in the countryside. Farmers suggested the vets were "taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut".

But the recommendation, from one of the European commission's veterinary committees, is likely to sharpen political rows over whether Brussels intends to impose uniform "farm to fork" policies on member states and cause a backlash through excessive hygiene enforcement.

Opponents of the EU will see the latest report as evidence that the traditional British way of life is under threat from the continent. Earlier this summer vets warned that organisers of events from pop festivals to car boot sales should be more careful about using livestock pastures because of the risk of contamination by E. coli.

The vets want to break the life cycles of tapeworms which live in the human intestine, spread eggs through human excrement and are picked up by cattle from streams containing effluent from sewage farms, or sludge spread on fields or even people using the countryside as an outside lavatory.

Many people do not know they are harbouring tapeworms, although they can suffer diarrhoea and abdominal discomfort. Usually cattle show no external symptoms.

Signs of the parasites' presence are meant to be identified in abattoirs so that the affected meat can be frozen to kill the worm before it is allowed in food.

In Britain, between 50 and 60 people a year are identified as having the tapeworms concerned, sometimes picked up abroad.

The vets suggest that livestock could gain certificates as being free from the parasites if certain measures were enforced, including cattle living completely indoor lives and being given specially treated feed. A public education programme was also needed for doctors, farmers, vets and consumers.

"Other aspects such as implications for animal welfare should be kept in mind but are not within the mandate of this report."

Indoor cattle farming is more common in France and Spain. Public opposition to raising calves here in crates for the veal market abroad had cut the practice significantly, even before the ban on live cattle exports during the BSE crisis.

Robert Smith, of the public health laboratory service, said he thought the change in farming methods "would realistically be rather extreme. In this country it would be unnecessary".

Peter Rudman, of the National Farmers' Union, said: "This sounds a bit draconian, but if evidence is produced that there is more of a problem than we think there is, we would have to revise our judgment."

Justin Wilkes of the group Compassion in World Farming said: "Any factory farming for cattle would be strongly opposed by the public."


24 Nov 00 - CJD - Germany reports first positive BSE test

Staff and agencies

Guardian ... Friday 24 November 2000


A cow born and slaughtered in Germany has tested positive for mad-cow disease for the first time, authorities said today .

It was a blow to longstanding German claims that home-grown cattle are BSE-free.

The cow was tested after its slaughter in the town of Itzehoe on Wednesday, authorities in Schleswig-Holstein state said. The probability of error in the preliminary test on the animal, born in 1996, was between 5 percent and 10 percent, they said.

German testing had previously only detected the brain-wasting disease in animals imported from Britain and Switzerland. Scientists believe infected meat could be the cause of a similar ailment in humans, the usually fatal Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

The announcement overshadowed a government bid to head off growing public alarm at the spread of the disease in Europe when it announced Friday it wants to ban the use of meat and bone meal in all animal feed.

A ban should be implemented "as soon as possible ," said Sigrun Neuwerth, a spokeswoman for Agriculture Minister Karl-Heinz Funke. The new regulations must first be approved by lawmakers in the upper house of parliament, where Germany's 16 states are represented.

Germany outlawed the use of the meal in cattle feed in 1994. That ban would now be extended to feed for other animal feeds including pigs and poultry. Funke had previously insisted that Germany's stringent treatment of meat and bone meal for feeding to animals made it safe.

New cases of Mad Cow disease in countries including France, which banned the use of meat and bone meal in animal feed earlier this month, have made consumers across Europe concerned about possible health risks from eating meat, especially beef.

German officials have said they don't have any plans to ban the importation of beef from other countries, but have demanded clearer labeling on beef from Britain, where more than 80 people have died of the human form of the disease.


24 Nov 00 - CJD - New checks ordered on imports of French beef

By Steve Connor, Science Editor

Independent ... Friday 24 November 2000


Britain's Food Standards Agency (FSA) stepped up checks yesterday to ensure that beef contaminated with "Mad Cow" disease does not enter the food chain from France .

Last night the FSA ordered local authorities to make spot checks on documentation relating to imported beef to ensure it conformed to the anti-BSE measures aimed at protecting the British consumer. The agency also confirmed that it would press the European Commission to introduce compulsory labelling of all meat products so that consumers were told which country the beef came from.

Sir John Krebs, the chairman of the FSA, said that the British Government had accepted the need to tighten up regulations designed to stop French beef from cattle over 30 months of age from being sold in Britain.

"The most significant measures for consumer protection in relation to imports are the over-30-month rule and the specified risk material rules that reduce the risk of BSEinfected beef from entering the food chain," he said. "We have made it clear in our review of the BSE controls that the over-30-month rules are difficult to police on imports, especially in relation to meat products ."

Local authorities bear the main responsibility for enforcing regulations governing the sale of imported beef. "These new measures will require them to step up their activities and report monthly," Sir John said.

The FSA said it would conduct a "vigorous audit " of the way local authorities carried out their enforcement, particularly in relation to identifying beef from cattle over 30 months.

The agency has written to the French authorities to ask how they ensure that beef banned for sale in France does not end up in Britain. In its draft report the FSA called for better country of origin labelling, which the Government now accepts. However, this needs European agreement before it can be enforced.


22 Nov 00 - CJD - The CJD connection

Carol Midgley

Times ... Wednesday 22 November 2000


Three young victims of the human form of Mad Cow disease have links with one village. How did it happen and will there be more deaths?

The village of Armthorpe , in South Yorkshire, has had a few brushes with fame. Kevin Keegan, the former England football manager and Liverpool FC hero, was born here and during the 1984 miners' strike television cameras were an everyday fixture on its streets, recording often violent scenes outside the doomed Markham Main pit.

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

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

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

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

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

When Adrian's mother, Betty Hodgkinson, read about this, something clicked. Every Sunday between 1972 and 1986 the Hodgkinson family had visited Adrian's grandmother in Elm Road, Armthorpe, a few streets away from Wickett Hern Road, for a traditional Sunday roast. Sometimes they had chicken, sometimes pork but more often than not they had beef . Like most of the villagers, Adrian's grandmother relied on local shops for her meat. Experts say that Adrian, Matthew and Sarah probably contracted the disease, which has an estimated ten-year incubation period, at some point in the 1980s - the time when scientists believe beef entered the food chain through BSE-infected cattle.

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

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

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

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

About four miles from Armthorpe on the north side of Doncaster, the uninitiated visitor is struck by a noxious smell hovering over a sprawling factory plant by the railway lines near Bentley. The smell is acrid and powdery but locals say that years ago it was far worse. This is the headquarters of Prosper de Mulder, the company which controls 70 per cent of Britain's meat rendering industry and has a turnover of more than £120 million a year. Anthony de Mulder, who runs the family business, appears at number 447 in the Sunday Times Rich List - jointly with the author Barbara Taylor Bradford - with a personal fortune of £70 million. The company pioneered the cattle feed production that has been blamed by the Government for the outbreak of BSE in British cattle . Scientists say that BSE survived in meat and bonemeal because renderers began to treat animal offal at lower temperatures . The product - the mashed-up remains of cattle and other animals - was then fed as "cannibal " food by farmers to beef cattle and as a result, BSE entered the food chain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By June Sarah could only walk if she linked arms with both her parents, and she began to imagine that she could see monsters. Her parents feared a brain tumour but the following month, to their disbelief, doctors confirmed the diagnosis of vCJD. Nine weeks later, on September 14, she died. Told there was nothing to be done and aware that their daughter was terrified of hospitals, her parents had brought her home to die, carrying her bed downstairs into the living room. On September 6, although Sarah was by then semi-conscious, relatives came to the house to mark her 28th birthday. As with Matthew and Adrian, Sarah was never told what was wrong with her.

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

Not everyone in the area has been deterred from eating beef, though. Frank Marshall, 68, a former mineworker at Markham Main, is philosophical. "In my age group we think, well, if we've not got it by now, what's the point in stopping? Me and the wife go down to Doncaster market where the meat is unbelievably cheap. I get a full joint of beef for £5 and it's delicious." The Asda superstore in Doncaster also reports no discernible change in fresh beef sales. "We sell 100 per cent British beef and we were the only supermarket chain to stick with it during the BSE crisis," says a spokeswoman. "We have actually seen sales of fresh beef grow over the past two years by 7 per cent."

As the search for answers goes on, it is tempting to speculate that class may be significant. Many victims have been from working-class families and in an area such as Armthorpe, battered by poverty and unemployment during the miners' strike, families may have been forced to buy cheaper cuts of meat that might carry more risk of infection. The families dismiss this suggestion, however. "We have thought about it. Barry is the eldest of nine so there wasn't much spare cash around for Adrian's grandmother," says Mrs Hodgkinson, "but we don't think it's significant."

Her husband adds: "I think that's a red herring. Vegetarians have died from this disease." John Middleton agrees: "Zoe Jeffries died recently, the youngest ever victim at 14 years old, now she could have got it from baby food . How do we know what was in that?" Dr Radford says that the inquiry will examine practices at local abattoirs in the 1980s, but adds: "The selling off of old meat would not necessarily be linked to variant CJD. You could have an old piece of rubbishy meat that, if properly cooked, could do you no harm. The prion protein could be in an apparently good-quality piece of beef. The problem with this disease is that we are at the beginning of something. We don't yet know if there will be more cases in the area."

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


22 Nov 00 - CJD - French beef ban rejected as Europe tests for BSE

Andrew Osborn in Brussels and James Meikle

Guardian ... Wednesday 22 November 2000


Downing Street last night refused to countenance banning French beef as a rising tide of consumer hysteria in France helped to prompt its European partners into an EU-wide testing programme for BSE.

A spokesman for Tony Blair said neither British food standards chiefs nor EU scientists considered a ban was necessary, but Italy , Spain , Austria , the Netherlands and Greece all began restricting imports either of live cattle or beef.

There were no plans for such action in Britain "for the simple reason that the scientific advice is not there to justify it".

But ministers and the food standards agency welcomed new measures, which included better labelling of the country of origin. The agency plans to seek new assurances from France on how it will implement controls to prevent beef banned in France from being exported.

Imports of processed beef are difficult to check but the only beef products made from animals over 30 months old that are allowed into Britain are from a handful of specialised herds in Britain or from 14 BSE-free countries.

The agency said yesterday: "There have been no substantiated cases of imported beef over 30 months old [from other countries] reaching UK consumers. It is illegal and the penalties are high. There is no reason to advise consumers against eating legally sold EU beef in the UK, although we are constantly checking the situation."

France accounts for about 5,650 tonnes of the 147,000 tonnes of beef imported into Britain each year, but has steadfastly refused to import British beef since the EU export ban on Britain was lifted in August last year.

The British government is, however, playing down the impact at home of EU-wide measures, which will also include bans on feeding mammalian meat and bone meal to cattle, a practice banned in Britain since 1996.

Britain is unique in already barring nearly all cattle over 30 months old from food, although it will undertake 17,000 random tests on older cattle killed in slaughterhouses and fallen stock over the next year. Smaller scale checks have in the past suggested 0.3% of such animals in Britain might have BSE, in addition to the 177,465 cases so far identified since 1986.

Other EU countries have barely 1,500 cases between them and even France has this year had only 99 cases compared with 1,141 in Britain. The official inquiry into BSE last month said it appeared Britain had exported the problem years ago through live cattle or infected animal feed.

The breakthrough on EU measures came yesterday at the end of a 16-hour meeting of farm ministers in Brussels at which France tried and failed to persuade other European countries to lift their own unilateral bans . Doubts about the safety of French meat surfaced after tests picked up dozens of new cases of BSE. Two French nationals have died after contracting the human form of the disease, vCJD. A third case is suspected.

In the ensuing panic domestic beef sales in France have plummeted by 40% . Paris is furious at the threat to its exports and persuaded other countries to agree to provide scientific evidence to justify their action. "France is not off the hook yet," said one EU diplomat who added that the entire testing scheme would not have been agreed without strong arm tactics from France, which is desperate to prop up its industry.

The Tories, meanwhile, seized on a report that Nick Brown, the agriculture minister, has warned Mr Blair that BSE-tainted French beef may be able to enter the UK .

"There are now serious question marks about French beef and I think the government should introduce a ban immediately to protect British consumers," the shadow agriculture minister, Tim Yeo, told the BBC.

"We can't allow the government's very well known reluctance to confront France on any issue to interfere with a proper response."

But the government declined to substantiate the report and the National Farmers' Union went out of its way to play down the dangers of eating French beef.

The new tests will see every beast in Europe considered to be "at risk" and over the age of 30 months tested for BSE from January 1 onwards. In July the testing programme may be extended to cover all animals over 30 months across the EU in a move which it is estimated would affect 7m cattle.


22 Nov 00 - CJD - Ministers back BSE tests as sales plummet

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in Brussels

Telegraph ... Wednesday 22 November 2000


European Union farm ministers agreed to impose BSE tests on all cattle over the age of 30 months yesterday to restore consumer confidence and clarify the extent of Mad Cow disease across the Union.

The deal came after an 18-hour battle in which ministers argued until 5am, blaming each other and the European Commission for letting the BSE crisis escalate out of control . Beef sales in France have plunged by 40 per cent over the last three weeks, with panic spreading to Italy, Belgium, and beyond. Beef prices in Spain have fallen 30 per cent.

In an effort to end the confusion of criss-cross sanctions and counter-sanctions by member states, each government will have to justify its BSE rules to the European Union's scientific steering committee.

The tests will start in January for cattle over 30 months from designated "risk groups", expanding next July to cover all healthy cattle more than 30 months old, despite the cost for north European states that have never had a case of home-grown BSE.

The £20 tests will be funded by the commission and the member states. They require specialised equipment and laboratories backed by inspectors. The BSE-free countries defeated French demands for a total European Union ban on meat and bone meal feed, at least for now.

Such a move would require a costly switch to alternative soya feed production. The European Union produces three million tons of animal feed annually, of which almost 20 per cent is exported.

David Byrne, the food safety commissioner, said the present rules provided adequate safeguards if enforced. These include a ban on animal feed for ruminants, the treatment of animal waste at 133 degrees for at least 20 minutes, and the withdrawal of all risk material from slaughtered cattle, vastly reducing the risk that infected tissue will enter the food chain.

Italy , Austria , Spain , Holland and Greece have imposed some sort of ban on French cattle exports, causing rage in Paris. France is the only European Union state that has carried out mass testing to gauge the true spread of the epidemic. The campaign has so far shown that France has seven infected cows per million - roughly four times the ratio of cases previously declared - but is still far below the 100 per million definition of "high incidence".

The testing will establish for the first time which countries are BSE-free and which have swept their cases under the carpet. A task force of commission inspectors will monitor the enforcement procedures in each state to make sure that nobody cheats.


22 Nov 00 - CJD - EU to test older cattle for Mad Cow disease

By Valerie Elliott

Times ... Wednesday 22 November 2000


A huge testing programme to stop "Mad Cow" disease entering the European Union food chain will start in the new year.

The first phase will target "at-risk" cattle - those over 30 months who are more likely to develop signs of the disease.

It is thought about 400,000 may be tested, although Britain will be exempt because it does not allow meat from older animals into the food chain.

EU ministers will study the results before expanding the tests. One possible option is to test all animals over 30 months before slaughter for human consumption, which may lead to tests on seven million cattle.

Agriculture ministers will discuss further policy details on December 4. It was clear last night that Sweden , Finland , Austria and Denmark will resist participation because they are low-risk countries. The EU veterinary committee is expected to make further specifications about testing when it meets in Brussels today.

The EU has already approved three BSE testing kits for use on beef carcases in abattoirs. Each costs about £20. The three companies that produce them stand to see sales boom, although none will say how much it stands to make from the tests.

The three are Prionic , developed by Swiss-based Prionic AG; Enfer Scientific , based in Tipperary and Kildare, Ireland; and CEA , a French research group. Each test was considered safe by the EU and distinguished between BSE and non-BSE cattle.

The Prionic test is based on post-mortem brain samples and detects abnormal prion protein. The results are available within 24 hours.

The CEA, a research group, has developed a test known scientifically as sandwich immuno assay . It also detects abnormal prions from brain and spinal cord. This is considered a particularly sensitive test and can detect BSE infection in younger animals. Results are given within 24 hours.


22 Nov 00 - CJD - Britain 'must ban older beef imports'

By Valerie Elliott, Consumer Editor

Times ... Wednesday 22 November 2000


A Leading vet and government adviser called last night for a ban on all EU beef aged more than 30 months being imported into Britain.

Mac Johnston, Professor of Veterinary Public Health at the Royal Veterinary College , and a member of the EU scientific committee , also demanded an increase in the audits at European meat plants and abattoirs supplying beef, and in checks to ensure that controls were being rigorously policed.

He spoke out yesterday after The Times disclosed that Nick Brown, the Agriculture Minister, had written to Tony Blair giving a warning that it was possible that beef aged more than 30 months had disappeared into the food chain and expressing concerns about enforcement arrangements.

Professor Johnston said last night: "I believe we should bring in only beef that is under 30 months to ensure standards... I am concerned about the blackmarket stuff which might be getting into the cheaper end of the food chain."

He said that beef should come into Britain only if it had full traceability on documents, including country of origin, and there was sufficient evidence that meat production and abattoir controls in the exporting country matched British standards.

He believed that a boost for consumer confidence would be for importers to commission vets to conduct "unannounced audits" at supply firms and to check documents sent with products. He also thought that UK enforcement authorities should ensure that importers provided adequate evidence that they had made checks on paperwork from suppliers. His intervention increased pressure on the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to ensure that adequate checks are in place and that policing work is being enforced by environmental health and trading standards officers.

Mr Brown highlighted possible loopholes in the system after harsh words in the BSE inquiry report that lack of enforcement in abattoirs had increased the BSE crisis. He was seeking clarification that there was an effective policing system over Britain's ban on providing beef over 30 months for human consumption.

While Downing Street last night insisted that there was no scientific reason to ban French beef, it is clear the Government is determined that there must be rigid checks in place on imported meat.

Sir John Krebs, FSA chairman, made clear last night that it was seeking French assurances within seven days on how they intended to prevent unsafe meat reaching the UK. He is also to summon experts, including vets, customs and environmental health officers to assess risks posed by imported beef or beef products. Sir John made clear that there was no reason to advise consumers against eating legally-sold EU beef in the UK.

He added, however, that the position would change if the incidence of BSE in France or other countries increased sharply, or if control failures were discovered.

Tim Yeo, Tory Agriculture spokesman, said last night that he was writing to the FSA to find out how imported beef was controlled.

Ben Gill, National Farmers' Union president, said that there was a need to ensure that proper enforcement and checks were in place to deal with any possible attempts by countries with growing incidence of BSE to dump their products in the UK.


22 Nov 00 - CJD - France's BSE outrage echoes British woes

From Charles Bremner In Paris

Times ... Wednesday 22 November 2000


Anger flared in France yesterday over the European Union's "unfair" treatment of its beef as protesting politicians began to sound like members of John Major's Government in the depths of the 1996 BSE crisis.

The indignation was spurred by the decision of EU states to impose bans of varying types on French beef over BSE - "Mad Cow" disease - and by what was seen as French humiliation at a Brussels council of farm ministers.

As Britain did in the 1990s, France now feels under European siege over its beef. "What is the point of Europe?" screamed the front page of Le Parisien after Jean Glavany, the French Agriculture Minister, failed yesterday to persuade the EU Commission to rule on the restrictions on French meat and animal feed, imposed by Italy , Spain , Greece and The Netherlands .

Britain and Germany are also said to be considering measures against the import of contaminated French beef.

M Glavany, who chairs the EU farm council, also failed to persuade the continental EU to follow France's ban on the use of meat-and-bone meal, but he had to promise that no French meal would leave the country. He did manage to win agreement on extending diagnostic tests to cattle older than 30 months across the EU.

"France, which depicts itself the world champion in the field of maximum food safety, now finds itself in the uncomfortable position of the accused," said Le Parisien.

No one needed reminding that France decided to flout the EU last year when it retained its ban on the import of British beef. In tones close to Mr Major's in 1996, Lionel Jospin, the Prime Minister, fulminated against "unjust" sanctions by EU states against French beef.

France was being penalised because its strict control measures had exposed a certain level of BSE, said M Jospin. His argument, widely shared by the media, is that France is leading the way in anti-BSE measures while other continental EU states are dishonestly claiming that they were unaffected by the disease. "If you don't look, you won't find anything ," said M Jospin, referring to France's extensive campaign of diagnostic testing, which has helped to bring the total of BSE cases this year to more than 100.

Le Figaro said France was paying the price of being too honest. "We should not be punished for the demands that we have imposed on ourselves," it said. The Government, faced with a collapsing beef industry and a rising rate of BSE, is citing an EU scientific study last summer which argued that the disease had probably reached all but four EU states.

BSE is assumed to have been spread around the Continent in the late 1980s when Britain exported tens of thousands of tonnes of meat-and-bone meal after its use was banned in Britain.