Document Directory

07 Jan 01 - CJD - Organ donors face new screening
06 Jan 01 - CJD - Germans Suspect New Link Between Feed, 'Mad Cow'
06 Jan 01 - CJD - vCJD story is not likely to lessen the public's fears
06 Jan 01 - CJD - European beef ban down under
06 Jan 01 - CJD - Mad Cow testing reliable on 30 month-old cattle upwards - EU
06 Jan 01 - CJD - Australia and New Zealand in 30-nation beef ban
05 Jan 01 - CJD - BSE-hit Germany gives help to organic farmers
05 Jan 01 - CJD - Surgeons will 'use and bin' equipment
05 Jan 01 - CJD - CJD doctors study throwaway surgical tools
05 Jan 01 - CJD - Mad Cow alert hits surgical tools
05 Jan 01 - CJD - Germans Seek Mad Cow Steps
05 Jan 01 - CJD - Australia and New Zealand ban imports of European beef
05 Jan 01 - CJD - Hospitals told to clean up over CJD
05 Jan 01 - CJD - Failure of BSE tests revealed
05 Jan 01 - CJD - New Zealand and Australia ban European beef
05 Jan 01 - CJD - European beef not welcome Down Under
05 Jan 01 - CJD - Hospital drive to cut CJD Risk
05 Jan 01 - CJD - Germany proposes tighter BSE tests
05 Jan 01 - CJD - beef ban
05 Jan 01 - CJD - Europe's growing concern



07 Jan 01 - CJD - Organ donors face new screening

By Julie Szego

The Age- Sunday 7 January 2001


New rules governing organ transplants could be introduced as part of a growing list of measures aimed at preventing the introduction and spread of Mad Cow disease.

Yesterday Australia's chief medical officer, Professor Richard Smallwood, said the committee monitoring the spread of the fatal human variant of BSE - or Mad Cow disease - might recommend that would-be organ donors disclose time spent in Britain . He said the change would ensure organ recipients were aware of all risk factors from potential donors.

The committee of experts was set up by the National Health and Medical Research Council to advise the Federal Government on how to prevent the spread in Australia of the variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, responsible for 88 deaths in Britain.

Mad Cow disease, or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, attacks the brains of cattle. Humans who eat contaminated beef are at risk of contracting vCJD. Australia has already taken the precautionary measure of banning people who have spent more than six months in Britain between 1980 and 1996 from donating blood.

Professor Smallwood said although many Australians had spent time in Britain, few would be carriers of the disease. He said the risk of transmitting the disease through organ and tissue transplants could only be assessed on a case-by-case basis and had to be weighed against the benefit to the recipient.

The committee, to meet again next month, may also ban cosmetics and pharmaceuticals containing beef extracts, despite there being no recorded cases of vCJD transmission by such products.

Professor Smallwood said: "We, as health authorities, are looking at these issues across the board but some consumers are not far behind in thinking about it."

With cosmetics it would be about looking at the future, he said. He thought it would be a sensible policy not to import beef products from countries with BSE .

Last weekend supermarkets cleared shelves of beef products from 30 European countries after a precautionary Federal Government ban.

The UK Government upgraded hospital procedures for sterilising surgical instruments after alarm about the number of people who may be incubating vCJD. It ordered disposable instruments be used for removing tonsils after experts said there was a risk of instruments transmitting the disease.


06 Jan 01 - CJD - Germans Suspect New Link Between Feed, 'Mad Cow'

By Peter Finn

YAHOO- Saturday 6 January 2001


Animal Fat in Milk Fed to Calves May Have Caused Outbreak

BERLIN, Jan. 5 -- As two more suspected cases of "Mad Cow" disease were discovered in Germany, the government today unveiled emergency plans to try to cope with the bewildering and growing crisis . At the same time, investigators began to focus on a familiar but newly garbed suspect for the outbreak in Germany, which had long been believed to be free of the disease.

Investigators have long believed that the disease can spread through the feeding to cattle of meat and bone meal from infected cattle. But, increasingly, officials here are looking at fat produced from carcasses and used to supplement milk fed to calves .

Germany had banned the feeding of meat and bone meal to cattle in 1994 but continued to allow its use for pigs and poultry, and, through dietary supplements, for calves, a process that was not believed to risk contamination. The fat supplement was a low-cost substitute for the richer fat in cows' milk, which was removed to make butter.

The milk theory is just a theory, as are all attempts to determine the cause of the disease. But if the theory is borne out, it will constitute the latest discovery of an unsafe practice involving the feeding of carcass byproducts to grass-eating animals despite serious doubts Britain raised about the practice 12 years ago. Ninety-one people -- 87 in Britain, three in France and one in Ireland -- are believed to have died from a brain disease whose origin lay in contaminated meat.

The cattle's disease, formally called Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, first surfaced in Britain in 1986, leading to a countrywide breakout that infected 180,000 head of cattle. Close to 4.8 million cows eventually were destroyed to stem the epidemic.

The disease has since spread across Europe, although in nowhere near the same numbers, with scattered cases confirmed in France, Ireland, Portugal, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Spain as well as Germany. Officials warn that it may yet appear in other major agricultural countries such as Italy and Poland, which have not begun widespread testing for the disease. Two more cases also surfaced in Spain this week.

News of the disease has caused panic in several European countries. Governments have pulled certain beef products from the market, and many people have stopped buying beef altogether.

"We don't know where it's coming from," said Peter Harry Carstensen, a member of the opposition Christian Democratic Union who sits on the German Parliament's agriculture committee. "And if you don't know where it's coming from, all your efforts are like shooting a cannon at a little bird in the sky."

German Agriculture Minister Karl-Heinz Funke today unveiled a plan calling for all 15 countries of the European Union to ban animal feed that contains animal proteins and fats. He also endorsed tougher food-safety inspections, more government money for food-safety research and more organic cattle-raising.

Health Minister Andrea Fischer introduced a proposal to lower the age of beef cattle to undergo mandatory testing to 24 months from 30 months. This follows a diagnosis of the disease in a 28-month-old cow in late December.

Both Funke and Fischer brought their proposals before an emergency meeting of parliamentary committees on health and agriculture, which are looking to restore shattered consumer confidence in beef -- concern that is spreading to other meats now that the government has begun testing sheep for the disease.

While the cause of the outbreak is difficult to pinpoint, blame is easy to come by. Funke, under pressure to resign, accused Germany's states of resisting early testing because they mistakenly believed the country was free of the disease.

The European Union and the German opposition accused Funke of being asleep at the wheel. And the government, in response, said the opposition didn't do enough to protect Germany's cattle when it was in power and the British scare was at its height.

"We all underestimated the dangers," said Gerd Sonnleitner, president of the German Farmers' Association. "We must have a [meat and bone meal] ban not just in Germany but in all of Europe."

The EU has banned the meal for six months, but Germany and Finland would like the ban to be permanent. A total ban, which looks increasingly likely, would cost the European Union billions in disposal costs and in losses to industries that depend on beef.

meat and bone meal is basically the ground-up detritus of everything left over after a cow or steer has been turned into food and leather and other everyday items, including pharmaceuticals and beauty products.

Britain banned the feeding of such meal to cattle in 1988, but continued to export it to countries such as France and Ireland, the two other places where infection apparently jumped to humans in the form of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Why countries continued to import the meal from Britain, despite a ban on British beef in some cases, is the subject of acrimonious debate and second-guessing across Europe.

Between 1988 and 1994, Britain exported 31,413 tons of meat and bone meal, according to a British report. The report noted that some British officials felt this was a moral failure.

"We believe that the government should have been anxious to ensure that the misfortune that we were suffering in the United Kingdom was not shared by our neighbors," said a British report published last year on the Mad Cow epidemic. "The evidence suggests to us that the only reliable way of protecting foreign countries from the risk of the incorporation of British [meat and bone meal] in their cattle feed would have been to prohibit its export."

Nonetheless, infected meal from Britain does not appear to explain the German problem, illustrating that very little is known about the disease -- its origins, its mechanism of transmission and its implications for humans who have consumed meat infected with the prion proteins that appear to cause it. Estimates of the number of people who could contract Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in Europe range from hundreds to tens of thousands.

Germany did not import British meal . It produced its own meal with added safety measures, including treating the product at much higher temperatures, according to German officials. Moreover, German cattle farmers did not use the product widely; it was mostly exported or fed to pigs and poultry.

But the ban on British meal, as officials now realize, does not preclude the possibility that some cattle were fed inadvertently with the material or that feed machines were somehow contaminated by it. A peppercorn-size piece of meal can be infectious, according to the British report.


06 Jan 01 - CJD - vCJD story is not likely to lessen the public's fears

Padraig O'Morain, Health and Children Correspondent

Irish Times- Saturday 6 January 2001


Fifteen years after the disease was identified in the UK, the BSE scare is coming back to haunt us.

Variant CJD has brought a new and frightening dimension to a problem which many had assumed, wrongly, was a matter for the British and for farmers.

A decade and a half after Mad Cow disease was first identified in the UK, we are getting a glimpse of just how widely our lives will be affected by the fight against vCJD in humans, which appears to have the same cause as Mad Cow disease (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy or BSE).

This week in Britain a 200 million overhaul of hospital sterilisation facilities was announced. The move came after the government's expert committee on BSE said there was a theoretical risk that vCJD could be passed on through surgical instruments. Disposable instruments are to be used for all tonsil surgery.

The pre-Christmas announcement that one British donor out of more than 60,000 who contributed to a pool from which a polio vaccine - later administered to Irish children - was made is another example of this. The donor developed vCJD, bringing into doubt the safety of the vaccine product.

There is a threat to the blood supply if people who lived in the UK at the height of the BSE crisis are prevented from giving blood here. Unless donations from other people can be substantially increased, patients could die for want of blood transfusions.

The EU has banned the feeding of meat and bonemeal to animals for six months from January 1st, to allow rendering plants all over Europe time to install the best technologies for making the product safe. The Irish plants already have these safe technologies, which allows 17 pig producers to feed meat and bonemeal to pigs under licence, and we export the product.

Some European farmers are turning to maize as an alternative source of protein for their animals. This may well reduce the supply of maize in Africa with disastrous consequences for some people there.

The chief executive of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, Dr Patrick Wall, has already had a call from a former colleague in Tanzania complaining that people in Africa will starve because of the EU policy.

At the heart of all this are the fears about vCJD. A distinction needs to be made here. There are two types of CJD. There is classic CJD which has been known for over a century and the cause of which remains a mystery. It mainly affects people over 65, bringing on rapid dementia and loss of control of movement. People normally die from it after about five months.

Variant CJD, however, was unknown until 1996, when it was identified publicly in the UK. It affects young people, who suffer disturbed behaviour, loss of balance and difficulties in walking. They survive on average for about 13 months. It is generally accepted that it is caused by the same agent that causes BSE.

The year's major scare about vCJD was the recent revelation in the UK that some scientists had known since 1990 that BSE could cross from one species to another but covered up the information. In the intervening period the public was told that beef was safe for humans.

beef is, of course, safe so long as it isn't contaminated, as Dr Wall is quick to point out. The source for vCJD, he believes, will turn out to be mechanically recovered meat. This is produced by removing meat residues from bones, turning it into a sort of slurry and then using it for pies, burgers and sausages.

It was not until 1996 that the British finally banned this practice. The British predilection for pies may have put large numbers of people there at risk of vCJD.

So far 88 people in the UK have developed vCJD, including one in Northern Ireland. There have been two cases in France and one in the Republic. This last case was in a person who lived in the UK and who, it is thought, contracted the disease there.

It may be that the largest incidence of vCJD will occur in Britain - certainly the statistics point in that direction. But given the number of Irish people who have come back from Britain we can also expect to have cases in this State.

If this occurs it will be against a backdrop of intense public distrust of State agencies, especially in the light of the Lindsay tribunal hearings on transmission of HIV and hepatitis through blood products.

That is a large part of the reason why so many people were worried and upset at the announcement about the possible contamination of a polio vaccine administered in 1998. The experts and the Department of Health and Children said the risk was zero, or practically zero.

But we live in an age in which the experts have to work harder to convince people that everything is all right. And the vCJD story, as it develops, will do nothing to lessen public doubts. Worse, it may absorb resources which would be better used elsewhere.

Because of its novelty and the fears it generates, vCJD may get funding which might be better spent on reducing road deaths, deaths from heart disease, smoking and so on.

But vCJD's menacing unpredictability feeds into our fears about food and medicines, and that is what makes it so different.


06 Jan 01 - CJD - European beef ban down under

Patrick Barkham

Guardian- Saturday 6 January 2001


Australia and New Zealand are to clear supermarket shelves of European beef on Monday and are imposing a blanket ban on beef products from the continent. The move is aimed at checking the spread of BSE in the south Pacific.

The Australia New Zealand Food Authority (Anzfa) said its request to suppliers to suspend the sale of beef products from 30 European countries was a precautionary measure. British beef has been banned in Australia and New Zealand since 1996.

Anzfa managing director, Ian Lindemayer said the steps being taken were aimed at keeping Australian beef among the safest in the world. Australia's federal agriculture and forestry minister, Warren Truss, claimed that the country was one of only five in the world recognised as being BSE-free.

Australia has a large domestic beef industry and imports little of the meat. Such meat from Europe makes up about 0.2% of the beef consumed there each year.

Australia's chief medical officer, Professor Richard Smallwood, admitted that the risks to Australians from European beef products was "extremely small", but people were urged by Anzfa yesterday to discard any products on their kitchen shelves containing European beef.

The beef ban could be extended to bovine-derived medical and beauty products.


06 Jan 01 - CJD - Mad Cow testing reliable on 30 month-old cattle upwards - EU

Ananova

PA News- Saturday 6 January 2001


BRUSSELS (AFX) - EU member states may test cows of all ages, the European Commission said, but cautioned that established screening has only proven fully reliable in tests on cattle aged 30 months or more .

The 30 month age limit is "a justifiable and acceptable" one, a commission spokesman said, commenting on Germany's decision yesterday to extend tests for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) - Mad Cow disease - to all slaughtered cattle aged over 24 months.


06 Jan 01 - CJD - Australia and New Zealand in 30-nation beef ban

Ananova

PA News- Saturday 6 January 2001


Australia and New Zealand have banned all beef products from 30 countries, including all 15 EU nations, because of fears over Mad Cow disease.

Shops have been told to withdraw the products - mostly canned or prepared foods - and consumers advised to dispose of any they have in their cupboards.

The foods include soups, meat flavourings, pate, preserved meats and filled pasta.

Australia has already banned some foods that contained British beef in 1996 because Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE, or Mad Cow disease) was linked to variant CJD.

"The risk to the health of Australians from the consumption of these products is extremely small," Australia's chief medical officer, Professor Richard Smallwood, told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"However, we need to keep one step ahead of the BSE/vCJD situation that is causing great concern in the UK and the rest of Europe."

However, the affected products make up only about 0.2% of the beef consumed annually in Australia.

The announcement comes weeks after the Australian government banned blood donations from people who had lived in Britain for more than six months in the 1980s.


05 Jan 01 - CJD - BSE-hit Germany gives help to organic farmers

By Christopher Zinn in Canberra and Imre Karacs in Berlin

Independent- Friday 5 January 2001


Germany unveiled plans yesterday to promote organic farming and tighten controls on meat production. In a separate development, the BSE panic reached Australia and New Zealand.

At an emergency session of the German parliament, the two ministers widely blamed for underestimating the impact of BSE faced harsh criticism. Andrea Fischer, the Green Health Minister, reacted by proposing mandatory testing for all beef from cattle older than 24 months.

The Social Democrat Agriculture Minister, Karl-Heinz Funke, had an eight-point plan of his own. The government, he vowed, would back a "consu-mer and environment-friendly food policy". Farmers would receive subsidies for switching to organic production, and the planting of soya to replace animal-based feeds would be encouraged.

Despite the discovery of seven confirmed cases of BSE in the domestic herd so far, Germany still sees it as an imported disease, and is urging stricter EU controls. But much of the problem is Germany's own making. Warnings from Brussels bureaucrats and German scientists have been widelyignored.

Now every day brings fresh reports of the discovery of contaminated fodder and, worse, of potentially lethal meat ending up in the food chain. After steaks, wurst has disappeared from the dinner table. According to the latest poll, 6 per cent of Germans have become vegetarians this week alone.

Meanwhile, the governments of Australia and New Zealand, reacting to alarming reports from Europe, banned imports of beef and beef products yesterday, including pate, corned beef and filled pasta from the EU. These products, and of course German sausages, are to be immediately withdrawn from shop shelves, and householders are being advised to throw them out.


05 Jan 01 - CJD - Surgeons will 'use and bin' equipment

By David Charter, Health Correspondent

Times- Friday 5 January 2001


Disposable instruments for tonsil surgery are being introduced to prevent any risk of spreading the human form of "Mad Cow" disease, ministers announced yesterday.

The "single-use" instruments will cost about 25 million a year.

Disposable equipment for other types of surgery may be introduced later.

A further 200 million will be spent on modernising hospital sterilisation facilities.

The Government's expert committee on BSE said that there was a theoretical risk that variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) could be passed on by means of surgical instruments.

John Denham, the Health Minister, said: "We have no evidence of any patient being infected with vCJD in hospital. But while we are still learning about the progress of vCJD we should take precautions to reduce the theoretical risk of transmission to patients."


05 Jan 01 - CJD - CJD doctors study throwaway surgical tools

By Celia Hall, Medical Editor

Telegraph- Friday 5 January 2001


Government scientists are considering introducing disposable surgical instruments because of the possible risk of passing on the human form of Mad Cow disease.

A 200 million programme to modernise sterilisation equipment in the NHS was announced yesterday. Throwaway instruments are to be used in surgery to remove tonsils from this year and Prof Peter Smith, head of the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee, said the use of disposable instruments in a wider range of operations could be the next step.

"This is something that will have to be looked at over time. At the moment I have to stress there is a theoretical risk. tonsillectomy is being used as a pilot study to some extent to see what the problems and the possibilities are. I think consideration will be given to whether it should be extended to other procedures."

Such a move would be extremely costly. The cost of using throwaway instruments in tonsil surgery is estimated to cost about 25 million a year. The 200 million investment will be used in England to modernise NHS decontamination and sterilisation units. It will allow the provision of fully-automated machines for cleaning surgical equipment.

John Denham, the health minister, said: "We have no evidence of any patient being infected with variant CJD in hospital. While we are still learning about the progress of vCJD, we should take precautions to reduce the theoretical risk of transmission to patients."


05 Jan 01 - CJD - Mad Cow alert hits surgical tools

By Jamie Walker in London and Agencies

News Interactive - Friday 5 January 2001


The public health threat posed by the human form of Mad Cow disease was underlined yesterday when the British Government ordered the use of disposable surgical instruments for tonsil removal, and suggested other commonly performed operations could be next.

The announcement came after an expert committee confirmed long-held fears that there was a theoretical risk of transmitting variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (vCJD) via contaminated surgical instruments.

Unlike infectious agents such as HIV, the rogue protein prion believed responsible for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy and its deadly human offshoot is so robust that it can withstand hospital-standard sterilisation.

tonsil surgery will be the first performed with throw-away instruments, and could be followed by appendix removal, eye operations and brain surgery.

Tissue in these four areas has been found to be especially susceptible to contamination.

While medical experts cautioned that there was no proof that vCJD could be passed on through surgery, junior Health Minister John Denham said the measures were prudent despite the estimated $500 million-plus cost.

"We have no evidence of any patient being infected with vCJD in hospital," he said. "But while we are still learning about the progress of vCJD we should take precautions to reduce theoretical risk of transmission to patients."

To date, infected beef has emerged as the most widely accepted cause of vCJD, especially low-quality cuts or cast-off meat products with bone marrow and spinal cord matter.

tonsil surgery has come under close scrutiny partly because of the commonness of the procedure, but also due to the disproportionately high number of young people who have died of vCJD in Britain, the epicentre of the epidemic. Of the 88 known British victims, more than a third were aged under 25.

Researchers at St Mary's Hospital in London have estimated that if there are 10,000 people in Britain incubating the disease -- which can take 10 years or more to become symptomatic -- about half the sets of tonsillectomy instruments in the country could be contaminated.

Yesterday's precautionary move by the British health authorities coincided with a flurry of activity on vCJD across Europe.

London's Guardian newspaper reported that meat in Britain had been passed fit to eat while still containing potentially infected material, including spinal cord, considered one of the most potent infectious agents.

At the same time, the German Government unveiled a seven-point action plan to overhaul farming practices and restore consumer confidence in beef after the outbreak of BSE in that country.

German Health Minister Andrea Fischer was due to announce compulsory BSE testing on cattle aged over 24 months after a 28-month-old cow was suspected of contracting the brain-wasting disease.

BSE testing has so far only been compulsory on cattle aged 30 months or over.


05 Jan 01 - CJD - Germans Seek Mad Cow Steps

Associated Press

Las Vegas Sun - Friday 5 January 2001


BERLIN (AP) -- Top German officials, under growing pressure in the country's Mad Cow scare, proposed new steps to counter health concerns Friday as they faced lawmakers' questions about the government's handling of the crisis.

Health Minister Andrea Fischer brought her latest proposal - lowering the age for mandatory testing of beef cattle to 24 months from 30 months -- before an emergency meeting of parliament's committees on health and agriculture. Her move came after a 28-month-old cow in Bavaria state tested positive for Mad Cow disease this week.

Fischer was one of two Cabinet members appearing at the daylong closed meeting in Berlin. Ministry officials said she was also due to lay out plans to ban all risky beef materials, such as brain and spine, from the food chain in Germany. Currently, the ban applies only to cows older than one year.

Also appearing before the committees Friday was Agriculture Minister Karl-Heinz Funke, who has felt most of the heat and faced calls to quit since the disease was first reported six weeks ago in cows born and raised in Germany.

Funke has come under direct criticism from the European Union's health and consumer affairs chief, who accused him of ignoring an EU warning last March that Mad Cow disease would likely be found in Germany. Consumer groups and media commentators have assailed Funke and other officials for insisting that German beef was safe until shortly before the first case was discovered.

Attempting to fight back and regain public confidence, Funke put forward a broad eight-point plan Friday for fighting Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or BSE, as Mad Cow disease is formally known.

His proposals included calls for an EU-wide ban on animal feed that contains animal proteins and fats, tougher food safety inspections, more government money for food safety research and legislation promoting organic cattle raising.

Germany has confirmed seven BSE cases. Scientists have linked the fatal cattle disease to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a similar brain-destroying ailment in humans that has killed more than 80 people, mostly in Britain. Researchers believe it is contracted by eating infected beef.


05 Jan 01 - CJD - Australia and New Zealand ban imports of European beef

Associated Press

Independent- Friday 5 January 2001


Australia and New Zealand will ban all beef imports from Europe to protect consumers from the human variant of Mad Cow disease, the federal government said Friday.

The ban, which takes effect Monday, affects all beef products from 30 European countries including Belgium, Denmark, France and Germany. British beef is already banned.

It was not immediately clear how much beef Australia and New Zealand import from Europe, but Australia has a large domestic beef industry and imports little of the meat.

The move came as the Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) announced other steps to safeguard the food supply against the effects of the deadly brain wasting disease variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human form of Mad Cow disease.

ANZFA managing director Ian Lindenmayer said the authority would examine possible amendments to the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code to ensure imports of beef and beef products were free of Mad Cow disease, also known as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE).

"We have written to major retail organizations asking them to identify processed beef products from Europe and to remove them from shelves as soon as possible as a precaution," Lindenmayer said.

In the meantime, Lindenmayer said, consumers should check labels on any imported foods and discard corned beef, luncheon meat, frankfurters and other products which contained beef with a European country of origin.

"Australia and New Zealand have one of the safest food supplies in the world, and the current steps are intended to keep it that way," Lindenmayer said.

Agriculture and Forestry Minister Warren Truss also moved to reassure consumers of the safety of Australian beef and beef products.

"Australia is one of only five countries in the world recognized as being free from BSE in their cattle," Truss said.

Australia's chief medical officer Professor Richard Smallwood said foods containing British beef had been banned from importation into Australia since 1996 following concerns about the spread of the disease.

"It is becoming clearer now that more countries in Europe may be affected by BSE in their cattle," Smallwood said.


05 Jan 01 - CJD - Hospitals told to clean up over CJD

James Meikle, health correspondent

Guardian- Friday 5 January 2001


Hospitals have been ordered to improve their decontamination and sterilisation procedures to reduce the theoretical risk of patients catching the fatal human form of BSE.

The government yesterday promised 200m would be spent in England alone on new equipment - and confirmed that surgeons must use throw-away instruments for all tonsil operations in Britain, a change that will cost a further 30m a year.

The measures, part of an extensive overhaul of hospital hygiene to fight the spread of variant CJD, compare with the 6bn cost of programmes to control BSE in cattle and lost exports.

Ministers and senior officials hope that the modernisation of cleansing will help reduce the costs for far more expensive rekitting of hospitals with disposable equipment for more complicated and more expensive operations than tonsillectomy, which is usually performed on children with equipment costing just a few hundred pounds. But they concede that the changes in that operation, expected to be completed this year, could provide valuable lessons for far wider use of once-only instruments if that were necessary.

Eighty-three people have died from vCJD, with five known victims still alive, but scientists still have little idea of the eventual size of the epidemic. The Department of Health is so worried that present decontamination, sterilisation and even washing arrangements are not up to scratch that it is conducting a national survey and has appointed a central management team to ensure improvements are carried out. Every NHS trust is expected to have an official responsible for changes.

Problems with existing sterilisation equipment, regardless of the vCJD threat, were highlighted late last year by orthopaedic surgeons at a Portsmouth hospital who threatened to stop all emergency operations, saying patients' lives were at risk.

The new money for equipment in England will be phased over two years. The NHS in Scotland set aside 3m for improvements this year and an audit is under way to see just what changes may be needed in Wales.

Pat Troop, deputy chief medical officer for England, said: "We still do not know how many people might be incubating vCJD. There is a theoretical risk that it can be passed through surgical instruments from those who have yet to show symptoms of the disease. The highest standards of decontamination are the cornerstone of our strategy to reduce risks."


05 Jan 01 - CJD - Failure of BSE tests revealed

James Meikle, health correspondent

Independent- Friday 5 January 2001


Worried food standards chiefs last night admitted that meat has been passed as fit to eat while still containing potentially fatal material, despite tight controls designed to stop BSE-contaminated material going into food.

Cattle and sheep carcasses containing spinal cord have been found by government vets in spot checks on at least two abattoirs in the last year. Another case in Northern Ireland involving a cow is still under investigation.

Spinal cord, among the most potentially infective parts of cattle not displaying obvious signs of BSE, has also been found in carcasses imported from Ireland in the last year.

The food standards agency last night admitted that it was worried by the apparent lapses but insisted that investigations to date indicated that these were isolated incidents and that the carcasses had since been destroyed.

Staff are expected to be given new warnings over the importance of cast-iron procedures for inspecting carcasses because in the two proven cases the responsibility lay with a government meat inspector and a contract vet, rather than abattoir workers.

Before the latest lapses, no meat passed as healthy had been found with spinal cord since 1996, when the probable link between eating BSE-infected cattle and vCJD in humans was established. Similar anti-BSE measures now apply in sheep because of the theoretical risk they too could be infected.

The cases come to light just weeks before European commission vets inspect Britain's anti-BSE regime.

The Human BSE Foundation, representing the families of victims, 83 of whom have so far died in Britain, said the incidents showed there was no room for complacency.

Spokesman Malcolm Tibbert said: "I have always thought there was still scope for BSE-infected material to enter food and this goes to show that any attempt to let the industry regulate itself would be beyond belief."

The Consumers' Association said: "We have to find out whether these are isolated cases or evidence of a larger problem."

It was concerned that in some instances the abattoirs where the failures had been discovered had not been named, especially as consumers are regularly told by the food standards agency to check where food is coming from.

A food standards agency spokesman said last night: "We are worried. The meat hygiene service says the presence of any SRM (the risk materials) in healthy marked carcasses is viewed very seriously."

Failures by inspectors could be regarded as gross misconduct and lead to dismissal. "While there is no reason to suppose people are becoming more laissez-faire and could not care less anymore, these cases are a matter of concern."

The government argues that controls are now far better than in the mid-90s when horrified agriculture officials and Tory ministers discovered appalling lapses.

In January last year a member of the state veterinary service checking standards at a Manchester abattoir run by Cruisedeal Ltd found a piece of spinal cord more than two inches long hanging from a beef carcass. It had been marked fit for consumption by an inspector working for the meat hygiene service, then answerable to the agriculture department but now to the food standards agency.

The inspector was suspended pending inquiries but the investigation team found "mitigating circumstances" at the plant at the time and he was allowed to return to work at another plant after a formal caution.

The abattoir later lost its licence for other hygiene failings.

In Northern Ireland there have been five breaches of anti-BSE controls in meat imported from Ireland, prompting stiff exchanges with Dublin.

But in another case in September, vets working for the Northern Ireland executive found spinal cord in a meat plant. All the carcasses were destroyed.

Officials there insist the cases are not evidence of a larger on-going problem but will not give further details while investigations continue.

Last month checks by government vets at a Devon abattoir found remains of spinal cord in a sheep carcass.

The contract vet involved is likely to be allowed to return to similar work. He appears to have missed the sheep out when returning to the inspection line after being called away.

The food standards agency has insisted that procedures are changed to ensure such a mistake does not happen again.

It is not identifying the plant "because it is the meat hygiene service at fault, rather than the abattoir owner".


05 Jan 01 - CJD - New Zealand and Australia ban European beef

Staff and agencies

Guardian- Friday 5 January 2001


Australia and New Zealand today banned imports of beef from across Europe over fears about Mad Cow disease.

British beef imports have been banned in Australia since 1996 but the government has now decided to suspend imports of all beef products from all 15 European Union nations.

Australia's chief medical officer, Richard Smallwood, said the temporary suspension, which comes into force on Monday, was triggered by fears about links between BSE and variant Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (vCJD) in humans.

Prof Smallwood said New Zealand will also ban EU beef. "It is becoming clearer now that more countries in Europe may be affected by BSE in their cattle," he added.

"While the number of cattle involved in these countries is still small compared to the UK, federal health minister Dr Michael Wooldridge has taken action, in conjunction with other relevant ministers, to exclude these products from sale in Australia as a precaution.

"The risk to the health of Australians from the consumption of these products is extremely small. However, we need to keep one step ahead of the BSE/vCJD situation that is causing great concern in the UK and the rest of Europe."

Retailers would be asked to introduce a voluntary withdrawal of the beef products specified in the ban, and consumers should throw away any cans of food that contained beef from a European country, Prof Smallwood said.

Food already on its way to Australia and New Zealand would be stopped from entering shops.

Imported beef and beef products from the countries specified in the ban accounts for just 0.2% of beef consumed annually in Australia, he said.

A formal certification process is being established to assess future imports to ensure they are BSE-free.

Australia and New Zealand had no BSE in their cattle, Prof Smallwood added.

The import suspension affects 30 countries: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Yugoslavia.


05 Jan 01 - CJD - European beef not welcome Down Under

Staff Reporter

CBC- Friday 5 January 2001


CANBERRA, - Australia and New Zealand are closing their borders to all European beef products, starting Monday.

The ban affecting beef products from 30 countries, is being implemented to protect consumers from the human variant of Mad Cow disease.

Japan banned all imports of beef from the European Union beginning Jan. 1.

The EU has been struggling to control the spread of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or Mad Cow disease.

The EU has decided that slaughterhouse tests of all cattle older than 30 months must be performed starting in July.

Consumers in France panicked last fall when they learned infected meat may have been sold in supermarkets.

That's a possibility the Australians and New Zealanders want to avoid.

Eating contaminated meat could cause the human form of the disease, new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD).

About 90 people have died from vCJD, most of them in Britain, the hardest hit of any country. But cases have been diagnosed elsewhere.

Britain's beef industry was nearly wiped out when the government implemented drastic measures to stop the spread of BSE. Australia banned all British beef in 1996.

The impact the new ban will have is not clear. Australia has a large beef producing industry of its own.

Government officials there say Australian-produced beef is safe


05 Jan 01 - CJD - Hospital drive to cut CJD Risk

Staff Reporter

BBC- Friday 5 January 2001


The NHS is to spend millions of pounds to prevent any risk of people contracting the human form of BSE during surgery.

From now on, surgeons will have to use disposable instruments when they carry out tonsil surgery, at a cost of 25m a year.

As part of the programme, the government is giving hospitals a further 200m to modernise NHS decontamination and sterilisation facilities to prevent transmission of vCJD

The Department of Health stresses that the risk of contracting variant CJD during surgery is only theoretical.

Disposable equipment for other types of surgery may be introduced at a later date.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England and Wales, Dr Pat Troop, said: "We still do not know how many people might be incubating variant CJD.

"There is a theoretical risk that it could be passed on through surgical operations from those who have yet to show symptoms of the disease. The highest standards of decontamination are the cornerstone of our strategy to reduce the risks."

She said the government was following advice from the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) in addressing tonsillectomy operations at this stage.

She added: "This will allow us to learn valuable lessons should we decide ultimately to extend the use of single use instruments to other procedures."

Theoretical risk

tonsils are thought to be a safe haven for these prions. And the worry is that they could be carried on scalpels or other surgical instruments.

Health minister John Denham said: "We have no evidence of any patient being infected with variant CJD in hospital. But while we are still learning about the progress of variant CJD, we should take precautions to reduce the theoretical risk of transmission to patients.

"Scientists tell us that the most effective way to prevent the potential spread of this disease in hospitals is by cleaning and sterilisation to the highest standards."

He said there were no moves as yet to extend single-use instruments to other types of operations.

"SEAC said tonsils were an area where practical steps could be made and that's what we're doing.

"In other areas of surgery, it would be some time before it was practical to introduce single-use instruments. By that time, we will know more about the process of transmission and be able to take a sensible decision then."

Last December, surgeons at one hospital in Portsmouth threatened to stop operations because of faulty sterilisation facilities.

BSE expert

Hugh Pennington, a professor of bacteriology at Aberdeen University and a expert in BSE. the animal form of CJD, told BBC News Online the government's decision was a sensible move.

He added: "By focussing this approach on young people who have tonsillectomies, it's a very rational and sensible way forward that isn't going to bankrupt the NHS.

He said studies had found prions - possibly the infectious agent responsible for vCJD - present in the tonsils of those who had died of the disease, but not in any studies of tonsils removed from the general population.

Professor Pennington added that there was a theoretical risk of transmission if the same instruments were used in successive operations.

"That is always a possibility that if you cut into the tonsil of someone who's going to come down with CJD in a year or so."

He added current procedures to sterilise instruments were not strong enough to eradicate prions, and said sterilisation particularly needed to focus on forceps and other instruments that have a blade.

The number of confirmed cases of vCJD rose from 15 in 1999 to 25 last year.

The Royal College of Surgeons backed the measures, and said it would work with the Department of Health and instrument manufacturers to ensure single use instruments are available as soon as possible for tonsil surgery.

A spokesperson said: "Although the risk is theoretical and there is no evidence of any surgical patient being infected with variant CJD in hospital, it is sensible to take these precautions."

In 1996, almost 59,000 patients had tonsillectomies.

Dr John Collinge, from the Medical Research Council has been calling for action from the government for the last three years.

He said it was known prions, in addition to being found in tonsils, were concentrated in the brain and the spinal column, the spleen, and probably also in the eye.

He told the BBC: "Operations involving those kinds of areas are the ones we're most concerned about."

But he added"tonsillectomies, which is a common procedure that's carried out on young people, particularly children, is a wise place to start."


05 Jan 01 - CJD - Germany proposes tighter BSE tests

Staff Reporter

BBC- Friday 5 January 2001


Germany's health and agriculture ministers have proposed new measures in response to a recent BSE scare.

Health Minister Andrea Fischer and Agriculture Minister Karl-Heinz Funke announced the proposals at a parliamentary committee meeting, where they faced tough questions about their handling of the BSE crisis.

Ms Fisher proposed a reduction in the age at which German cattle are screened for the disease, which is linked to the fatal Creutzfeld-Jakob disease in humans.

Mr Funke put forward a plan to tighten food safety inspections.

In the all-day emergency meeting, the ministers were asked to respond to allegations that they knew almost a year ago that German beef was not as safe as the public thought.

Spreading blame

But reports from the meeting say both ministers stopped short of assuming responsibility for the crisis, which broke last November when the first case of BSE was discovered in a German-born animal.

Both ministers have previously admitted making mistakes in their handling of the crisis

But on Friday they attempted to share the blame with the authorities in Germany's various federal states.

The meeting came shortly after Australia and New Zealand announced they were suspending the import of all European beef products because of Mad Cow disease.

Ms Fischer suggested that all slaughtered cattle older than two years should now be tested for BSE.

At present, tests only apply to animals older than 30 months.

A case of BSE was recently found in a 28-month-old animal in Germany.

Mr Funke's proposals included

- calls for an EU-wide ban animal feed that contains animal products

- tougher food safety inspections

- funds for food safety research

- and legislation promoting organic cattle rearing

Mr Funke has been under pressure from some quarters to resign.

He is accused of ignoring an EU warning last March that Mad Cow disease was likely to reach Germany.

Consumer groups and media commentators are angry that he and his officials continued to insist that German beef was safe until shortly before the first case was discovered.

Friday's meeting comes a day after two new suspected cases of BSE were reported at farms in the south German state of Bavaria.

The Bavarian Social Affairs Ministry said the affected farms had been closed.

Animal feed ban

Earlier this week, there were demonstrations in Bavaria by farmers angry at the government's handling of the emerging crisis.

The farmers' union, facing a slump in beef demand, wants legal action against the feed companies, which it blames for bringing BSE into the country.

Germany banned animal products from cattle feed seven years ago, but until last month it was still legal to feed meat and bone meal to pigs and poultry.

The German parliament introduced a total ban following suspicion that meat was also being fed to cattle.

Until late last year, German consumers were being assured that BSE did not affect German cattle. Our correspondent in Berlin says there is public anger that even some kinds of traditional sausage could be at risk.

A quarter of a million people work in Germany's beef industry.


05 Jan 01 - CJD - beef ban

Staff Reporter

BBC- Friday 5 January 2001


Australia and New Zealand have announced a total ban on the import of beef products from 30 European countries because of fears of "Mad Cow" disease.

A joint statement by the Australia-New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) said the ban followed confirmation that Mad Cow disease - or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) - had spread well beyond the UK.

The announcement comes as the German Government holds an emergency meeting to discuss its growing BSE crisis.

ANZFA's managing director, Ian Lindenmayer, said that, although there was only a very small possibility that any of the European products were contaminated with BSE, the new measures would further reduce the risk.

"Australia and New Zealand have one of the safest food supplies in the world - and the current steps are intended to keep it that way," he said.

Japan's ban

The ban applies to the 15 European Union countries and another 15 countries in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.

A ban on British beef has been in force since 1996, when scientists linked BSE to the fatal brain-wasting disease Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD).

Last month, Japan also decided to ban imports of EU beef, processed beef foodstuffs and cow sperm.

China has also banned EU meat-based animal feeds.

Mad-cow free

Agriculture Minister Warren Truss said the decision had been taken in order to protect Australia's status as a country free from Mad Cow disease.

No cases of BSE have been reported in Australia or New Zealand.

The ban will only affect a relatively small number of products.

Australia does not import fresh beef. Imported products from the countries listed in the ban amount to about 1,000 tonnes a year - less than 1% of annual beef consumption.

Interim measures

Interim measures announced by the authorities included advising retailers to remove all European beef products - such as corned beef, pate, frankfurters and soup - from their shelves.

Consumers will also be asked to dump European imports stored in their cupboards at home.

beef products already being shipped to Australia and New Zealand will be prevented from entering.

The European Union and other countries have now banned the use of all animal-based feeds for livestock, believed by scientists to be the main medium by which BSE is transmitted to cattle.


05 Jan 01 - CJD - Europe's growing concern

Staff Reporter

BBC- Friday 5 January 2001


Ireland

has had 551 cases of the disease since 1989, but 104 of these have been recorded so far this year. Numbers of affected cattle have been steadily rising since 1996.

Despite the rising numbers, Ireland has strict controls of its beef industry. meat and bone meal are banned from cattle feed, and factories are subjected to clinical tests.

From January, all cattle over 30 months old will be subjected to a mandatory test for the disease using a technique pioneered in Ireland.

As a result of the stringent measures, Ireland recently announced plans to market its beef as 'BSE-free'.

The EU, however, has rejected this. "I don't think any member state can give a guarantee that their beef is BSE-free," said Ireland's European Commissioner David Byrne.

UK

The first cases of BSE-infected cattle were recorded in the UK in 1986. Feed containing sheep carcasses was banned in 1988, but BSE cases rocketed reaching a peak of over 36,000 in 1992.

However public concern over the disease came to a climax in 1996 when the government admitted it had covered up research which proved a link between BSE and CJD.

The EU reacted quickly, imposing a strict export ban on British beef and related products. Cattle over the age of 30 months have been banned for human consumption in the UK since 1996.

The beef industry in the UK suffered huge losses from which it has still not recovered as a result.

Cases of BSE still dwarf that of any other country. But the cases are declining every year; while in several European countries the disease is on the increase.

Holland

The first Dutch case occurred in 1997, but the Netherlands has seen relatively low levels of BSE infection in its herds.

The Dutch Agriculture Ministry recently reported the country's seventh case had been discovered at a farm near Utrecht.

This was the first BSE case in 2000 in the Netherlands and compares with two cases in each of the past three years.

To head off any potential problems, however, the ministry intends to step up testing in 2001, conducting about 12,000 tests compared to several hundred in 2000.

The tests are expected to focus on sick or dead animals.

Denmark

Denmark banned animal-based cattle feeds in the early 1990s, and banned the sale of beef in February 2000 when the first case of BSE was found in Danish-bred cattle.

It was only the second case of BSE in Denmark in 10 years. The previous known case, in 1992, was in an imported Scottish highland cow.

The case alarmed Danish authorities and raised questions about how the animal was infected. Norway and Lithuania immediately banned imports of Danish beef as a result.

France

France is at the centre of the BSE fears spreading across Europe.

Last year 153 cases of BSE were found, five times as many as the year before.

In January France began testing all cattle over 30 months old for BSE.

The French Government also announced a $426m (FF3.24bn) package of measures designed to help the meat and farming industries recover from the crisis.

The package also includes cash to help research to find alternatives to animal feeds spreading the disease.

Last year France defied a European Union ruling and imposed a ban on British beef imports. It still faces legal action from the European Court for continuing with the embargo.

Portugal

Since 1997 there have been 391 known cases of BSE in Portugal. Levels have increased each year, although figures for this year do not yet show an upturn.

The Portuguese Agriculture Ministry estimates BSE in Portugal currently stands at 200 per million, down from 240 recorded in the 12 months up to September 1999.

No cases have been reported for cows born since 1995, when the use of meat and bone meal in animal feed was banned.

Officials believe the disease has peaked and may be eradicated completely from the country by 2003.

Portugal has not yet recorded a case of new variant CJD, but is still banned from exporting its beef to the European Union because of the relatively high levels of BSE in its herds.

Spain

The first two cases of BSE in Spain were uncovered in November 2000, and another two were discovered in January 2001.

Health authorities in the north-western Spanish region of Galicia detected the disease during testing of 132 cattle.

The discovery followed Spain's banning of French cattle and beef exports.

However, Spain's Agriculture Minister, Miguel Arias Canete, said the country was not facing an epidemic.

According to Mr Canete, testing methods have ensured that infected animals have not entered the food chain.

Belgium

Belgium recorded its first cases of BSE in 1993. This year, four cows have been slaughtered after being tested positive.

An EU Commission report also warned that cattle in Belgium have been exposed to possibly contaminated animal feed imported since the 1980s.

Scientists believe that although there may be more cases, the probability of an epidemic is decreasing over time.

One of the main reasons for this is the introduction of a computerised monitoring system in 1997.

However, the EU has warned the Belgian government to stay vigilant and increase testing.

Switzerland

Switzerland has recorded 364 cases of BSE to date, and along with Ireland and Portugal has seen one of the most rapid increases in the disease.

It is also the only country in the world to test for 'hidden' BSE in the carcasses of cattle that did not show any signs of the disease prior to death.

These results have doubled Switzerland's previous total, and prompted fresh concerns that substantial numbers of cases are escaping detection elsewhere in Europe.

Germany

For years, Germany considered itself an oasis of BSE-free beef in Europe. The government repeatedly assured the public that German beef was safe.

But the discovery of the country's first two cases last year shattered this illusion, triggering widespread public concern and anger.

Six cases were discovered in 2000, and another two cases were discovered in January 2001.

Allegations that government ministers knew for almost a year that German beef was not safe to eat has triggered widespread public anger.

"They made fools of us with the long-winded promises that Germany is safe from BSE," said the Berliner Morgenpost newspaper.

Germany banned animal products from cattle feed seven years ago, but until December 2000 it was still legal to feed meat and bone meal to pigs and poultry

Germany has also dropped its opposition to an EU-proposed ban on the human consumption of animal brains and spinal cords.

The meat industry in Germany has been sent reeling by the crisis, and there are fears over the future of thousands of jobs.

Italy

Italy has banned imports of adult cows and beef on the bone from France, following revelations that several tonnes of meat from a BSE-infected herd had gone on sale in French supermarkets.

Italy is France's biggest beef customer, but consumption has slumped by three-quarters in recent months.

Italian butchers have to display the country of origin of fresh meat they offer for sale, and many restaurants are following suit.

But Italians eat more veal than any other kind of meat and usually prefer veal to beef on the bone, so no great change is forecast in Italian eating habits.

Nevertheless, the government is treating the possibility that the disease may have spread into Italy without being detected very seriously.

New regulations to improve veterinary monitoring in the slaughter houses and a ban on bonemeal being fed to cows and sheep have recently been introduced.

Italy could also start testing for BSE in cattle aged over 24 months, in January.