Document Directory

12 Feb 01 - CJD - Malaysia - Mad Cow
12 Feb 01 - CJD - No Mad Cow disease in Iran
12 Feb 01 - CJD - Brazil beef ban brings block on Canadian pop
12 Feb 01 - CJD - Bickering over Brazil beef persists
12 Feb 01 - CJD - BSE concerns force review
12 Feb 01 - CJD - EU approves 971 million euro extra budget for 2001
11 Feb 01 - CJD - Anti-BSE Measures Strengthened
11 Feb 01 - CJD - BSE rules threaten bullfight fiestas
10 Feb 01 - CJD - Food, Agri-Biz Stocks on Mad Cow Watch
10 Feb 01 - CJD - BSE 'ruined faith in food safety'
10 Feb 01 - CJD - Vaccine safety to be reviewed after BSE criticism
10 Feb 01 - CJD - Talking bullocks
10 Feb 01 - CJD - Chronic conditions
10 Feb 01 - CJD - CJD may rule out young organ donors
10 Feb 01 - CJD - Farmers blighted by latest BSE data
10 Feb 01 - CJD - NZ Absent From Mad Cow Warning List
10 Feb 01 - CJD - South Africa Still Free Of Mad Cow Disease, Officials Say
10 Feb 01 - CJD - Vet Lab Helps Keep eye on Herd Health
10 Feb 01 - CJD - Asian countries step up efforts to curb Mad Cow disease
10 Feb 01 - CJD - Mad Cow cause imported by Canada, British figures say

12 Feb 01 - CJD - Malaysia - Mad Cow

Staff Reporter

IRNA- Monday 12 February 2001

Malaysia on alert for "Mad Cow" after report of two Thai cases Kuala Lumpur, Feb 12, IRNA -- Malaysia's Agriculture Ministry has directed the Veterinary Services Department to be on the alert following a report that two people in Thailand have been infected with "Mad Cow" disease.

Deputy Minister Mohd Shariff Omar said on Monday that the department should take stringent measures to check the movement of cattle at the Thai-Malaysian border to ensure the disease does not break out in the country.

He said the department should strictly follow quarantine rocedures and liaise with its Thai counter art to determine the source of the brain-wasting disease considering the fact that Thailand is a beef supplier for Malaysia.

"The department should also check whether farmers in Thailand feed their livestock with bone meal from Europe, which we have stopped giving our cattle," he said.

"We are not taking any chances although Thailand banned the im ort of beef from seven Euro ean countries two weeks ago," he added.

Mohd Shariff said the government had banned the import of beef and bone meal when news of the deadly disease first surfaced. The disease, officially known as Bovine S ongiform Encephalopthy, is believed to be spread through infected cows fed with animal feed.

Malaysia, he said, buys its beef and animal feed supplies from Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

12 Feb 01 - CJD - No Mad Cow disease in Iran

Staff Reporter

IRNA- Monday 12 February 2001

SVO Head assures people of no case of Mad Cow disease in Iran Tehran, Feb 11, IRNA -- Head of the State Veterinary Organization (SVO) Abbasali Motallebi said here Sunday that the meat imported from Brazil and India are not infected with Mad Cow disease, which is also called Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), and there is no reason to worry.

Motallebi said after inspecting veterinary activities west of this northern Iranian rovince that last year 14,000 tons of red meat had been imported, and since last December Iran has suspended imports of beef from all Euro ean Union countries over concerns about the dangers of BSE.

Iran has now got self-sufficient in production of the red meat and halted imports would not affect domestic consumption market, he added.

He said no case of BSE disease had been observed among Iranian cattle.

The official said Iran authorizes meat imports on the basis of regulations beyond those approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international organizations.

Iran had planned to import 4,000 tons of German beef in the current fiscal year, which runs from March 21, 2001 to March 20, 2002, of which around 1,400 had already been received. Iran is a large consumer of meat, importing around 700,000 tons of red meat and 600,000 tones of poultry each year.

The daily Resalat said recently that Iran is threatened with the killer Mad Cow disease in the wake of infected cattle being smuggled from Afghanistan into bordering Sistan Baluchestan. It said the Taliban militia had purchased the infected cattle from Pakistan which had imported them from Europe.

Germany discovered its first case of BSE in November.

The number of countries imposing bans on beef imports from Europe is on the rise. The spread of deadly brain-wasting illness has sparked a new wave of concern among world countries which are trying to prevent the disease from affecting humans.

BSE swept through British herds in the 1980s and is now being found in herds across Euro e, though in much lower numbers. After Britain, France has been the most affected.

12 Feb 01 - CJD - Brazil beef ban brings block on Canadian pop

Staff Reporter

CBC- Monday 12 February 2001

A Brazilian radio station has dropped Canadian pop music in a row over beef.

Canada has banned Brazilian beef and now artists like Shania Twain and Bryan Adams are off the playlist at Radio Jovern Pan FM.

Brazilians are also being urged to boycott other Canadian products, such as duck, whisky and beer.

Canada's ban has caused outrage in Brazil, home to South America's largest commercial cattle herd, which has had no confirmed cases of Mad Cow disease, the Ottawa Sun reports.

12 Feb 01 - CJD - Bickering over Brazil beef persists

Staff Reporter

CBC- Monday 12 February 2001

Canadian officials continue to deny the 10-day old import ban on Brazilian beef is linked to a trade dispute. They insist they're protecting Canadians from the risk of Mad Cow disease.

Mad Cow disease, also known as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) attacks the central nervous system of cattle.

Its human equivalent, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, is a fatal brain illness.

There are no confirmed cases of BSE in Brazil, but Ottawa fears there is a possibility that infected cattle from Europe may have made their way to Brazil.

Outraged Brazilians, and reportedly some Health Canada scientists, believe the ban comes out of an ongoing trade dispute, and not health concerns.

Canada's Bombardier and Brazil's Embraer are locked in a multi-billion-dollar race for aircraft orders.

Industry Minister Brian Tobin said Monday that despite appearances, the beef ban has nothing to do with the fight over aircraft subsidies.

"It's like saying if there's a question of food supply, and if it's bad timing and if officials have a question in mind, they should politically say the timing's not good, let's not raise the red flag right now," he said in Toronto. "Now would that be good public policy?"

The bickering over beef has led to Brazilians boycotting just about everything Canadian - a popular radio station in Brazilia has even dropped Celine Dion, Shania Twain and Bryan Adams from its playlist.

Brazilian beef products taken off Canadian shelves

Brazil's government says the faster Canadian inspectors look at the country's cattle, the faster this ban will be lifted.

"We think there was no justification to impose it and we would like it lifted as quickly as possible," Valdemar Leao, a spokesman at Brazil's Foreign Minister, told CBC Newsworld.

But the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says the ban will remain until its inspectors, due in Brazil this week, are satisfied with the way Brazil's cattle are processed.

12 Feb 01 - CJD - BSE concerns force review

By Michael Mann

Financial Times - Monday 12 February 2001

The UK has been forced to review its record of exporting potentially dangerous meat and bone meal as fears grow that Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or "Mad Cow" disease, may have spread across the globe through infected meal produced in Britain.

Officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and Customs & Excise are working around the clock to try to get a true picture of meal exports, afraid that existing figures give a misleading impression and may lead to panic.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation has warned that BSE could spread to as many as 100 countries through exports of cattle and sheep based meal infected with the disease.

Official UK figures show 65 countries may have bought infected meal between 1988 and 1996, with Indonesia alone buying almost 55,000 tonnes of animal meal.

MAFF officials stress that this does not give a fair picture as the figures cover a much wider range of products than the cattle and sheep based meal which has been blamed for the fatal brain-wasting disease.

"These figures are misleading as they cover much more than just ruminant MBM. We've also identified errors in the data," said MAFF. "We don't want to spread panic by releasing faulty data."

The UK banned the feeding of mammalian protein to cattle in 1988, but continued to export it until 1996 when it was banned from all animal feed in Britain.

The rest of the EU banned meal from cattle feed in 1994 but only banned it from other animal feed this year. Several EU states, including France, Belgium and the Netherlands, are known to have re-exported meal bought in from the UK.

"Our chief vet wrote to importing countries as early as 1990 to advise them of the situation," said MAFF.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Health Organisation have issued stern warnings to countries outside Europe to be on their guard against an outbreak of BSE.

12 Feb 01 - CJD - EU approves 971 million euro extra budget for 2001


PA News- Monday 12 February 2001

BRUSSELS (AFX) - EU finance ministers have approved the 971 million euro EU supplementary budget for this year to cover beef industry costs in the wake of the BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) cattle disease crisis, officials said.

The money comes from a margin within the existing 2001 budget.

Though European budget commissioner Michaele Schreyer said fresh money may be needed to finance costs of the BSE crisis, several ministers stressed spending must remain within the long-term financial guidelines agreed in 1999, they said.

German finance state secretary Caio Koch-Weser told journalists any extra money for beef must come from within the EU's planned budget.

11 Feb 01 - CJD - Anti-BSE Measures Strengthened

Park Jong-se, Sunday 11 February 2001

The government has decided to enforce control of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) related products and illegally imported livestock materials from outer and coastal ports. In addition, a plan is being considered to prevent people who have stayed in England for a long time from donating their blood. The government decided to take prompt precaution methods at each related ministries against the epidemic more widely known as Mad Cow disease during a second meeting for the BSE special countermeasure committee led by vice minister Kim Dong-keun at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry vice minister's room.

First all, inspections will be reinforced for cows imported from Brazil and some thirty countries in the European region, customs clearance will be thoroughly made for all animal protein products, medicines and food, concentrating on meat products and fodder, while complete inspections will be made on baggages and illegally smuggled meat products at all ports and airports.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Public Health and Welfare and the National Health Institute will look into the matter of applying Japan's and the United States' BSE preventive measure of forbidding long-term sojourners from England from donating blood. The government plans to hold frequent meetings of experts to share information on case stories and prevention worldwide for BSE and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD).

11 Feb 01 - CJD - BSE rules threaten bullfight fiestas

Emma Daly in Madrid

Guardian- Sunday 11 February 2001

The famous Iberian fighting bull is threatened by Mad Cow disease, although no case has ever been found among these privileged animals, which spend their first four years running wild and feeding on grass, hay and vegetable proteins.

EU regulations to control the disease require the testing of all cattle aged above 30 months before their meat can be sold. Breeders say that because the compensation scheme is too slow and cumbersome, carcasses of bulls which perish in the 'moment of truth' will have to be destroyed.

They fear the loss of income from the sale of the carcasses - the meat is a prized ingredient in local stews - will be destabilising. More than 40,000 fighting bulls are killed every year, yielding meat worth about 7 million.

It is feared 80 per cent of Spain's bull-fighting fairs, which take place in small towns and villages in places such as Ajalvir, a village north-east of Madrid, could disappear this year.

'We cannot continue things as they are,' said Jaime Sebastian de Erice, secretary-general of the Union of Breeders of Fighting Bulls. He said the compensation scheme, to be funded by Spain's 17 autonomous communities, has been accepted in principle only by two.

Antonio Fernandez, who sits on Ajalvir's fiesta committee, fears that without paying a hefty subsidy the village will no longer be able to mount its traditional bullfight fair. Its impresario, Lazaro Carmona, said: 'Bull meat is very safe, very organic. But today the bulls will be incinerated because we simply cannot apply the BSE tests. There is nowhere to store the animals while we wait five days for the results.'

Pablo Mayoral, a breeder, said: 'It's a shame, because these animals are raised running wild, with very little feed.

'There is anxiety about how this will affect us - but not because we are afraid of testing positive for BSE, the probability of that is minimal.'

10 Feb 01 - CJD - Food, Agri-Biz Stocks on Mad Cow Watch

By Deborah Cohen Saturday 10 February 2001

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Europe's Mad Cow disease scare has yet to spook the U.S. investment herd away from food and agribusiness stocks, but if American consumers turn their backs on beef, there could be a stampede.

For worldwide hamburger giant McDonald's Corp. (MCD.N), the disease has already hurt sales in one of its largest markets. But Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM.N), a large producer of grain-based feed, has seen a short-term boost in its stock price on increased demand for feeds that are not beef-based.

``I think this is an evolving process,'' said Merrill Lynch food analyst Leonard Teitelbaum. ``I don't know if it's (Mad Cow disease scare) stopped growing and is in decline or if it's only on its first leg.''

The brain-wasting disorder, known as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), has been found in European cattle and eating tainted beef is believed to have caused the deaths of more than 90 people there.

BSE has never been found in the U.S. and since 1997 the government has banned the feeding of ruminant animal parts back to cattle because this practice is believed to have helped transmit the disease in Europe.

But analysts say no matter how good a company is at quality control, the uncertainty over the future of the disease must be factored into stock prices.

And for a host of U.S. companies largely dependent on consumer confidence in the domestic beef supply, the verdict depends largely on events beyond their immediate control.

The biggest problem companies now face is the emotional reaction of consumers to media reports of the disease. Because individual cases of the disease often take a long time to show up, the risk for companies dependent on beef products cannot be fully measured, analysts said.

``The risk is that this fear is continuing,'' said Prudential Securities food analyst Jeffrey Kanter. ``I see 30 reports on this thing a day. If it really starts to gain momentum in the (U.S.) public eye, you could see some adverse behavior on beef.''

Investors are already skittish. McDonald's shares fell sharply following a recent earnings report that revealed European sales had suffered in the fourth quarter due to consumers' aversion toward hamburgers. The company uses muscle meat, believed to be safe, to make its products.

``There's a gap between reality and perception,'' said Salomon Smith Barney analyst Mark Kalinowski. Salomon believes concern among U.S. investors has heightened enough to warrant a special Tuesday conference call on the issue. The firm has named a host of U.S.-based restaurants, including Wendy's International Inc. (WEN.N), Darden Restaurants Inc. (DRI.N) and Taco Bell parent Tricon Global Restaurants Inc. (YUM.N) as stocks to watch.

Along with McDonald's, analysts believe that No. 2 U.S. hamburger maker Burger King Co., a unit of U.K.-based food conglomerate Diageo Plc (DGE.L), has suffered. The chain, which is readying for an initial stock offering, might see investors' appetite wane, should the public sentiment carry across the Atlantic, analysts said.

Sara Lee Corp. (SLE.N), a large multinational which sells processed meat in Europe, had said it saw some adverse affect on its European sales. But public confidence in the U.S. beef supply has sustained the stocks of large meat packers such as IBP Inc. (IBP.N) and ConAgra Foods Inc. (CAG.N).

``So far, I don't think it's had an impact on our stocks,'' said Prudential's Kanter. In a recent report, however, he stressed that ``should the U.S. consumer begin to lose their appetite for beef, companies like ConAgra, IBP and Cargill could be in for some difficult times.'' Cargill is one of the world's largest privately-held companies.

Advocates of the U.S. beef industry, including the National Cattlemen's beef Association, have begun vigilant public awareness efforts to show that the government and the industry have developed a range of safeguards to ensure the disease never crosses U.S. borders. Last week, the U.S. joined Canada and Mexico in banning imports of Brazilian beef as a precaution, though no Mad Cow has been reported there.

But the American public is so dependent on beef that even moderate sales downturn of one or two percent could be devastating to markets, analysts said. Last year, on average, Americans ate about 66.2 pounds of beef per person.

``I think it could really have a major impact,'' said Robert Goldin, a consultant with Technomic Inc., a market research firm focused on food industry trends. ``I wouldn't be to quick to dismiss it having an impact in the U.S.''

What is bad news for some U.S. companies could be a windfall for others. Feed makers ADM and Corn Products International Inc. (CPO.N) have seen demand for their grain-based feed exports to Europe rise, following Europe's December switch to non-animal based feeds.

Midwest Research food analyst Christine McCracken said that chicken producer Tyson Foods Inc. (TSN.N) and pork producer Smithfield Foods Inc. (SFD.N) could also get a boost if demand for non-beef exports to markets typically served by Europe rises as European consumers eat more locally-produced chicken and pork.

A host of other companies, such as those who create the tests for Mad Cow disease, and companies that use rendered animal products, such as paint makers and other industrial companies, might gain, should a glut of rendered meat-and-bone-meal hit the market and drive prices lower. For now, though, it's largely a wait-and-see game, analysts said.

``If this issue continues to play out for a long time, I think it could be detrimental to many more companies,'' said Edward Jones analyst Patrick Schumann.

10 Feb 01 - CJD - BSE 'ruined faith in food safety'

By David Brown Agriculture Editor

Telegraph- Saturday 10 February 2001

People's confidence in food safety had plunged because of the BSE crisis but there were now "no serious gaps" in powers to protect consumers, the Government said yesterday.

However, it promised widespread public consultation on measures to sharpen the response of the agriculture and health departments to any future emergencies and asked for suggestions to tighten the powers of the Food Standards Agency. More than 80 people have died of new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which has been linked to BSE.

In its interim response to the Phillips Inquiry report, which attacked the Whitehall machine for delaying public protection measures in an attempt to prevent panic, the Government said: "There has been a significant loss of public confidence in the arrangements for handling food safety and standards, due in large part to the events surrounding BSE. The Government recognises that its efforts to build and sustain trust through openness cannot succeed unless it is fully prepared to acknowledge uncertainty in its assessments of risk.

The Government does not believe there are any serious gaps in its powers to take proportionate emergency action against hazards to human or animal health. The Government intends that this interim response should be the subject of positive action to seek the views of interested parties." The Phillips Inquiry, which published its findings last October, said: "Officials and ministers followed an approach whose object was sedation."

10 Feb 01 - CJD - Vaccine safety to be reviewed after BSE criticism

James Meikle, health correspondent

Guardian- Saturday 10 February 2001

Government advisers will next month begin to review the safety of vaccines dating back to the early 1970s, following criticisms that they had not sufficiently examined all the possible ways that BSE may have spread from cattle to humans.

Evidence has recently emerged that oral polio vaccines using material from British cows was in use until last October despite long-standing controls that were meant to prevent just such an occurrence.

The new checks are part of the government's response to the verdict on the BSE scandal by Lord Phillips, the master of the rolls, who called for major changes in the way ministers, civil servants and advisers responded to such crises in future.

Lord Phillips's report demanded less secrecy, more willingness to consider unwelcome scientific opinion and better contingency planning for "worst case" scenarios. It was also fiercely critical of the way government departments failed to monitor basic safety measures when the possibilities that people could catch new variant CJD, the fatal human form of BSE, from infected cow meat were first raised in the late 1980s.

The possibility that vaccines offered another route to infection has long been recognised and successive guidelines were introduced during the 1990s. The guidelines were meant to ensure only sources from countries without BSE were used.

Foetal calf serum has long been used to help "grow" strains of viruses to use in vaccines against diseases such as polio. The committee on the safety of medicines only last year looked at vaccine production dating back to 1980, and last October a vaccine using British-sourced material was withdrawn.

The government insists the risk of catching variant CJD is "incalculably small" but has ordered more checks because Lord Phillips concluded that BSE had probably been prevalent but unnoticed through much of the 1970s.

Ministers have also agreed to consider opening up the system for approving medicines; make sure any bovine-based products including cosmetics are tracked; and re-examine whether present methods for disposing of the meat industry's waste are safe.

The government's 102-page interim response to Lord Phillips's report accepted or agreed with most of its 167 findings. But it argued much progress had already been made on ending departmental turf wars, widening the range of scientific advice, being more open with the public, and planning for the worst - notably the possibility that BSE might have transferred to sheep.

However the response questioned Lord Phillips's judgment that BSE most likely first started as a mutation in cattle and said the origin remains uncertain. A review of the current state of knowledge is already under way. It also stated that: "The government does not believe there are any serious gaps in its powers to take proportionate emergency action against hazards to human or animal health."

A handful of civil servants who are still in their posts and more than two dozen ministers, officials and advisers criticised by Lord Phillips will not be disciplined.

Nick Brown, the agriculture minister, said yesterday: "There isn't one person who is to blame for this. It was an institutional failure and a political failure right across government." However the Conservatives "were thrown out of office, at least in part, because of the way they managed the BSE crisis."

MPs will debate the government's response next week and the public have been invited to comment before ministers determine whether further action is necessary.

10 Feb 01 - CJD - Talking bullocks

John O'Farrell

Guardian- Saturday 10 February 2001

No good looking for scapegoats. The Tories had turned them all into cattle pellets

Yesterday the government gave its response to the long-awaited inquiry into the BSE crisis. There was incredulity in Whitehall that although Lord Phillips's report stretches to 17 volumes, at no point did he manage to squeeze in the "Mrs Thatcher; Mad Cow" gag.

As someone who worked on various comedy shows through the late 80s and early 90s, I saw at first hand the grim consequences of BSE. Every day at the Spitting Image offices, two sackloads of unsolicited sketches would arrive from aspiring writers who thought there might be a connection to be made between the phrase "Mad Cow" and the personality of the then prime minister. Hadn't they noticed that we did that joke seven times in the first show of the series?

Lord Phillips is mildly critical of the last government, saying they were guilty of prevarication and disingenuousness regarding Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy. "That's easy for you to say," replied the Tories. But in reality his report has been far too timid. The BSE crisis encapsulated everything that was wrong with the last Conservative administration: profit put before public safety, ministerial dithering followed by a clumsy cover-up, all rounded off with a mean-spirited failure to compensate victims.

Successive Tory agriculture ministers tried to pretend there was nothing strange about feeding sheep to cattle because, as everyone knows, cows are naturally carnivorous; it was only the political correctness of loony Labour councils that had forced cows to become vegetarian. Douglas Hogg is currently on safari in Africa, hoping to spot a pack of wildebeest hunting down some poor defenceless lion. The reason that Mad Cow disease began in the UK is because Mrs Thatcher abolished the health and safety laws that prevented the feeding of raw infected sheep carcasses to dairy cows. She said if it was good enough for her...

As the cases of BSE steadily increased, the Tories caused instant panic by reassuring consumers that there was absolutely nothing to worry about. John Gummer famously demonstrated the safety of British beef for the cameras by feeding his daughter a beefburger. She only ate it because she was so hungry after a morning spent swimming at the Sellafield health spa. Even the visiting Jacques Chirac was served up a dish of British beef, which he accepted without comment, although he was spotted slipping off to the toilets several times with a bulging serviette.

It was all part of a Conservative strategy to reassure our European partners about the safety of the roast beef of old England. To be fair, they had an uphill task. Every week thousands of tourists would arrive in London, slightly anxious about the effects of Mad Cow disease. First stop would be the Tower of London where an old man with a big smile and a funny costume would come up to them and say "Hello, I'm a beefeater!"

"Oh really?" they'd say, backing away slowly, trying not to make eye contact. Then they'd notice he was wearing a skirt and orange stockings and was coming towards them with a big axe. It was soon after this that British beef was banned on the continent. Not just beef, but all related products and every night millions of Britons tuned in to the evening news to see if Moira Stewart could say "bull's semen and bullocks" without cracking a smile.

The European ban on British beef then became another reason to knock the European Union, even though the US had banned the importing of British beef several years before. The Conservatives had reacted swiftly to this, saying, "That's fine, Mr President. Whatever you think's best."

Lord Phillips's report also notes that in the early days there was very little information forthcoming about the risks of BSE. Perhaps this was because the government had already spent its leaflet budget warning everyone about Aids. So all we knew was that if a cow had BSE and was also a heroin addict, it was probably best not to share needles.

Where were the public information films featuring celebrity cows like Ermintrude off the Magic Roundabout? "Hey calves, if a farmer offers you a pellet of recycled sheep, Just Say No!" Where were the health warnings at the bottom of Steakhouse menus? "HM Government Warning. Eating a T-bone steak may cause you to get up from your chair and stagger sideways into the salad cart."

The present government has set up the food standards agency and, unlike its predecessor, has agreed to pay compensation to the victims. For once there is a political issue that is as black and white as a Friesian cow. Labour should be given due credit and the report should have had the courage to say that the Conservatives behaved appallingly.

Instead Lord Phillips opened by saying he would not be looking for scapegoats. But then I suppose he probably wouldn't have found any; the goats all disappeared years ago. The Tories had them converted into cattle feed along with all the sheep.

10 Feb 01 - CJD - Chronic conditions

The Guardian

Guardian- Saturday 10 February 2001

Secrecy and departmentalitis live on

The 16-volume report of the inquiry into BSE exposed many government shortcomings and two notorious, but familiar, Whitehall diseases: obsessive secrecy; and departmentalitis. The cost of this massive administrative bungle is now well documented: 5m slaughtered cows; 5bn compensation to farmers and meat renderers; and the destruction of a thriving high quality meat export industry.

More serious still, some 94 humans have caught the human form (vCJD) of the degenerative animal brain disease, 86 of whom are already dead - with many more hundreds of victims, given the long incubation period, expected to follow. Yesterday, in an interim response to last October's report, ministers set out their reactions to the inquiry's 167 findings.

How much progress has been made? There is now much more openness on health hazards and less "sedation", to use the inquiry's term, of public anxieties. A new independent food standards agency (FSA), set up before the report, is breaching the Berlin wall separating agriculture from health officials.

Remember, pet food manufacturers were told about BSE jumping species before health officials were. The FSA meets in public and seeks to publish its advice and contracted research findings. In its response to the recent scare about BSE jumping to sheep, its response was exemplary: publishing details of the potential risk (which is low) on its website and openly talking to journalists. It was less good on possible GM contamination of oilseed rape, leaving it to ministers to announce a possible risk.

True to Whitehall's put-it-in-writing tradition, yesterday's report devotes 100 pages to progress in handling risk, scientific uncertainty, and changing civil service behaviour. But anyone who believes the two main "diseases" have been contained is wrong. Departmental infighting continues. Secrecy shrouds Whitehall's soul. Given a new infectious disease jumping from animals to man, Whitehall could still restrict publication, despite the new open government act.

The same is true of drugs. The American regulatory authority has published its research data on adverse effects of new drugs for years; yesterday's report only concedes a review of current British secrecy. Yet encouragingly, the scientists have become bolder. We report today their call for restrictions on organ donations to reduce the risk vCJD cross infection. To make government listen, however, they may need to be bolder still.

10 Feb 01 - CJD - CJD may rule out young organ donors

James Meikle, health correspondent

Guardian- Saturday 10 February 2001

Organ donations by young people may have to be restricted to cut the unquantified risk of transmitting variant CJD between patients, according to experts in BSE and its deadly human form. In a scientific paper sure to raise new concerns about the supply of organs for transplants American and British scientists have proposed that some procedures might use tissues only from people over 30. Most known victims of vCJD have been relatively young.

The authors singled out corneal eye transplants as an area where changes might be made, but said that had to be balanced against scaring potential donors and wrecking the whole transplant programme.

The scientists, in an article for the US Centers for Disease Control, outlined the need for Britain to consider new policy moves, such as organ restrictions, as a precaution against transferring vCJD. Controls on blood donation, imports of plasma products, far wider use of disposable surgical instruments and new decontamination procedures have already been introduced or are planned because doctors are worried that a rising number of people have vCJD but have not displayed signs. Eighty-six Britons have died and another eight cases been diagnosed.

Campaigners wishing to encourage organ donations fear the recent body parts controversy at Alder Hey hospital, in Liverpool, has already lengthened the 6,000-strong waiting list for transplants.

The report coincided with a government promise yesterday to review again the safety of vaccines that used material from cattle over the past 30 years, to consider opening up the secret licensing process for medicines and to prepare contingency plans for the consequences of new BSE-like diseases.

But its interim response to the 16 volume report of the Phillips inquiry into BSE, published last October, says many improvements already exist or are underway, including the establishment of an independent food standards agency.

The authors of the new paper include Paul Brown, of the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, a consultant to the European CJD surveillance programme, Robert Will, head of the CJD surveillance unit, Edinburgh, and Ray Bradley, who sits on Seac, the government's main advisory committee on BSE and CJD.

In their report on the background, evolution and concerns about BSE and vCJD, they recognise that "in the absence of a screening test, a zero-risk policy is untenable because it would require termination of the national organ donor programme. A compromise might be the temporary deferral of organ donors - or perhaps only corneal donors - younger than 30 or 40 years of age. However, this measure might so diminish (and panic) the donor population as to be inadvisable."

They added that sound medical practice could not be suspended on the basis of a theoretical risk. Dr Brown, the principal author, told the Guardian, however: "It would be a good idea to talk about it and find out whether or not this would be an acceptable compromise." Restrictions on the use of corneas might be a useful test case since the eyes linked to the brain and were a potentially infective part of the body.

"You would not necessarily accept organs, say, from people who died under a certain age, until we found out more about how risky these are. At the moment we can assume they are either not risky or very low risk. There is a world of difference between the two."

Experts are particularly worried about eye and teeth surgery because of their links to the central nervous system where vCJD strikes. Opticians and dentists have already been warned to change procedures.

The thinking behind restricting corneal donation to older people appears to be the supposition that most victims of vCJD so far have been relatively young. They were most at risk in the mid-80s to early-90s when food safety controls were introduced. Also, unlike other organs such as hearts, lungs or kidneys which deteriorate with age, eyes from far older donors can still be offered. However, many scientists believe they do not know enough about the incubation or infectivity to justify age differentials.

The Department of Health said: "We are not proposing to change our policy on CJD risk grounds at the moment."

10 Feb 01 - CJD - Farmers blighted by latest BSE data

By John Manley

Irish News- Saturday 10 February 2001

Northern Ireland's short-term hopes of achieving BSE low incidence status evaporated yesterday after new figures released by the Department of Agriculture showed a higher incidence of BSE than was previously expected.

Tests carried out on 2,500 fallen cattle over thirty months old revealed that 54 had BSE. The EU stipulation for BSE low incidence is 100 cases in one million.

But while the figures are bad news for the north's beleaguered beef industry, they also raise major public health concerns.

None of the cattle were destined for the human food chain and the department is insisting that because of the "high risk" nature of the sample, the proportion of infected cattle among Northern Ireland's herd is significantly less.

The cattle tested were suffering from injury and illness, and therefore seen as most likely to be harbouring BSE.

However, the results are nonetheless alarming, considering the total number of reported BSE cases in the north last year was 22.

The tests were carried out in advance of an EU-wide screening programme and were designed to help Northern Ireland's case for a lifting of the restriction on its beef exports to Europe.

Agriculture Minister Brid Rodgers said the tests also revealed that animals under four years of age did not test positive for BSE, providing proof that measures to eradicate the disease introduced in 1996 were working.

"I want to stress that, while these results are disappointing, they are not entirely surprising. My department targeted the highest-risk group of cattle - old sick animals," she said.

"Since this was a high-risk sample, it should not be assumed that the level of BSE we found is representative of the overall picture."

The minister said she would continue to press for the restrictions on Northern Ireland beef to be lifted on the grounds that the incidence of BSE was still less than other parts of Europe.

10 Feb 01 - CJD - NZ Absent From Mad Cow Warning List

David Brough

News New Zealand- Saturday 10 February 2001

The United Nations said on Wednesday that at least 100 countries were at risk from Mad Cow disease and urged them to take tough action including a ban on feeding meat-based meal to cattle, sheep and goats.

``FAO estimates that between 1986-96 up to today, meat and bone meal (MBM) from Europe was exported to more than 100 countries,'' Jacques Diouf, director-general of the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), told Reuters.

``Around 100 countries imported live cattle. Some countries also re-exported MBM to third countries,'' Diouf said in a written answer to Reuters questions on 'Mad Cow disease,' or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE).

``All countries which have imported cattle or meat and bone meal which originated from Western Europe, during and since the 1980s, can therefore be considered at risk from the disease,'' Diouf added.

``Regions which have imported sizeable quantities of meat meal from the UK during and since the 1980s include the Near East, Eastern Europe and Asia,'' said the director-general, whose organisation is best known for its drive to reduce world hunger.

BSE was first found in British herds in 1986.

Many scientists believe the use of MBM in cattle feed triggers the brain-wasting disease. The EU has banned the use of MBM in animal feed for six months from January 1.

Diouf advised countries at risk from Mad Cow disease to ban feeding MBM to cattle, sheep and goats.

The director-general was asked by Reuters what advice he would give to countries outside Western Europe that are concerned about the possible threat of BSE.

``For countries which have imported animals and MBM from BSE-infected trading partners, FAO advises the adoption of a precautionary approach,'' he replied in a written response.

``A ban on the feeding of meat and bone meal to cattle, sheep and goats. To reduce the risk of infection even further, countries could consider a ban on the feeding of MBM to all animals.

- Active surveillance measures for the detection, control and eradication of BSE.

- The requirement to remove specified high-risk materials (like spinal cord, brain, eyes, tonsils, parts of the intestines) from cattle, sheep and goats from the human and animal food chains. These materials account for over 95% of infectivity.

- The prohibition of dead animals not fit for human consumption being used for feed production.

- Improved risk management and communication on food safety issues.'' So far Switzerland is the only nation outside the 15-nation EU to report the appearance of BSE. All EU states have reported BSE cases except Finland, Sweden, Austria and Greece.

Meanwhile in Brussels, the European Commission on Wednesday proposed a ban on the use of the vertebral column from cattle aged over 12 months in 10 EU countries, effectively curbing the sale of T-bone steaks there.

Many scientists believe humans may catch an equivalent form of Mad Cow disease, new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), through eating infected beef.

At least 80 people in Britain and two in France have so far died of vCJD. ``From the information presently available, FAO has no reason to believe that milk is not safe,'' Diouf said.

FAO believed that the United States and Canada were unlikely to have cases of Mad Cow disease, but this possibility could not be ruled out, Diouf said. He said his organisation endorsed a European Commission risk assessment study into BSE.

``According to this study, it is 'highly unlikely that the BSE agent is present' in Argentina, Australia, Chile, Norway, New Zealand and Paraguay,'' Diouf said.

``Canada and the USA are unlikely to have BSE in their herds but it cannot be excluded,'' he said.

10 Feb 01 - CJD - South Africa Still Free Of Mad Cow Disease, Officials Say

Staff Reporter

All Africa- Saturday 10 February 2001

Johannesburg: While several people were being treated still for suspected cases of anthrax in two Northern Cape hospitals, the health department confirmed this week that South Africa was still free of Mad Cow disease.

This comes after a woman died in Rustenburg last year reportedly after having contracted Mad Cow disease. But health department spokesman Joanne Collinge said tests conducted in the US on brain tissue of the deceased showed up negative.

At Schmidtsdrift outside Kimberley, medical tests also had not yet confirmed that the 19 people in the hospitals had contracted anthrax, but hospital officials said all indications were that this was the problem.

10 Feb 01 - CJD - Vet Lab Helps Keep eye on Herd Health

Associated Press Saturday 10 February 2001

Lincoln (AP) - brain tissue from adult cattle that die from unknown causes in Nebraska end up in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's veterinary diagnostics lab.

Dave Steffen, DVM, removes beef brain tissue for testing for Mad Cow Disease at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The lab is along the front line of a national surveillance network out to detect any signs of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, more commonly known as Mad Cow disease.

The lab receives tissue samples from about three to four cattle each month, and the samples are then sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, where they are tested.

"What we do here is a small, small part of the program," said Dave Steffen, laboratory director in Lincoln.

At a time when beef producers in other countries are reeling from the effects of a disease that eats holes in an animal's brain, nothing is small about the size of concerns in a state that generates almost $5 billion annually from beef sales.

"To say that they're tremendously concerned is not an overstatement and it may be an understatement," said Greg Ruehle, executive vice president of Nebraska Cattlemen. "I think it's on every producer's radar screen in the state of Nebraska."

Consumer response to news in November that German cattle had contracted the disease was immediate and powerful. beef demand in that country plummeted 50 percent in weeks.

That's in sharp contrast to increases in beef demand in the United States in 1998 and 1999 that the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation estimated were worth $244 million in this state.

Much of the source of public unease in Europe is research that shows a link between eating beef products contaminated with the disease and contracting a variation of a rare but deadly human neurological disorder called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

The human illness, which is like Mad Cow disease, is believed to have killed 80 people in Great Britain since it was first detected in 1994, a decade after the British first discovered Mad Cow disease in their herds.

The State Department of Agriculture is reminding buyers of Nebraska beef that a case of Mad Cow disease has never been found in the United States.

"Nothing should be able to slip through the net, if everybody does their part," said Denis Blank, the department's chief administrator.

In another sign of heightened vigilance, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services recently added Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease to its list of diseases that doctors and hospitals must report cases of to the state.

The state averaged about one case of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease per year per million residents from 1990 through 1995. State Epidemiologist Tom Safranek said there is no reason to believe that any of those cases are linked to Mad Cow disease, but he is studying recent records and a wide variety of research findings.

Ruehle points to "a series of fire walls" designed to keep Mad Cow disease out of the country, including a long-standing ban on imports of British cattle and meat, the ban on the feeding of bone meal to cattle and sheep, and careful review of new trading relationships with countries that might be sources of suspect cattle.

10 Feb 01 - CJD - Asian countries step up efforts to curb Mad Cow disease

Staff Reporter

News Asia- Saturday 10 February 2001

Countries in Asia are taking further measures to prevent the spread of Mad Cow disease, or BSE, from European countries.

Thailand issued an alert on Friday after two patients in hospital were found to be infected with VCJD, the human variant of the Mad Cow disease.

Japan has announced that it is going to revise a law on imported beef to protect against BSE.

Under the new law, beef without a certificate proving the meat is free of Mad Cow disease will not be imported.

Japan's Health Minister said that a clause of the Food Sanitation Law is scheduled to be revised next Thursday.

The revision of the law will be applied to imports of beef as well as cattle organs and bones.

In another preventive measure, Taiwan is to ban the import of some cosmetics from three European countries that may contain Mad Cow disease.

China also plans to inspect its cattle for Mad Cow disease over concern that the disease could spread to its as-yet unaffected herds.

10 Feb 01 - CJD - Mad Cow cause imported by Canada, British figures say

By Dennis Bueckert-- The Canadian Press

Canoe- Saturday 10 February 2001

OTTAWA (CP) -- Canada imported 125,000 kilograms of British meat and bone meal in the 1990s after it had been identified as a likely cause of Mad Cow disease, British figures indicate.

The figures from U.K. Customs and Excise contradict claims by Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief, who has categorically denied that Canada ever imported bone meal from countries of the European Union.

"Never," said Vanclief outside the Commons on Friday. "Canada has not imported meat and bone meal from the European Union."

The Sunday Times reported last week that Prosper de Mulder, Britain's largest rendering company, exported potentially contaminated material to as many as 70 countries, including Canada.

U.K. government figures indicate that Canada received 30,000 kilograms of meat and bone meal in 1993; 22,000 in 1994; 31,000 in 1995; and 42,000 in 1996.

In a worldwide alert last week, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization reported that meat and bone meal from Europe was imported by more than 100 countries from 1986 up to today.

All those countries are at risk, said the report.

"All countries which have imported cattle or meat and bone meal that originated from Western Europe, during and since the 1980s, can therefore be considered at risk from the disease."

Federal officials have cited the UN report as a factor in their decision to ban imports of Brazilian beef to Canada.

The UN report says the "least likely risks are in Latin America, Australia and New Zealand because of the nature of their industries, systems of production and sources of (meat and bone meal)."

The report says Canada and the United States "are unlikely to have BSE in their herds but it cannot be excluded."

Consumption of beef from cattle infected with Mad Cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephelopathy (BSE), is the suspected cause of new-variant Creutzfeldt- Jakob Disease (vCJD) in humans.

VCJD has caused more than 80 deaths in Europe and has devastated beef sales. The first symptoms of the disease are extreme depression and anxiety.

No one has yet been known to recover from it.

Figures from Statistics Canada do not jibe with those from the United Kingdom.

The Statscan figures show Britain was the source of 21,716 kilograms of meat waste and scrap of dead animals for the manufacture of animal feed in 1990.

No such imports from Britain are shown in subsequent years, but there were imports of meat waste from Germany as recently as 1998.

Mad Cow disease was recently confirmed in Germany.