Document Directory

11 Mar 01 - CJD - Queniborough: farm kill in local sausages
11 Mar 01 - CJD - Mad Cow risk from infernos
11 Mar 01 - CJD - New law to prevent BSE being transmitted by drugs
11 Mar 01 - CJD - Scare over cow diseases leaves some with a bad taste
11 Mar 01 - CJD - Wider 'Mad Cow' Blood Ban Urged
11 Mar 01 - CJD - FDA, Red Cross in Minor Blood Feud
11 Mar 01 - CJD - Obituary - Dr Joe Gibbs
10 Mar 01 - CJD - Link 'discovered' between cluster of five CJD deaths
10 Mar 01 - CJD - CJD deaths 'from one source'
10 Mar 01 - CJD - 'Mad Cow' history traced
10 Mar 01 - CJD - Scientists find cause of CJD cluster
10 Mar 01 - CJD - Brain diseases breakthrough
10 Mar 01 - CJD - Out-of-date polio vaccine
09 Mar 01 - CJD - Villagers to learn CJD cluster cause
09 Mar 01 - CJD - Political football
09 Mar 01 - CJD - Italian farming's year to forget
09 Mar 01 - CJD - Beefburger passes its best-by date in Europe
09 Mar 01 - CJD - After scares, Germans have rethink on food
09 Mar 01 - CJD - Polish Turkey Firm Hopes to Gobble up Market Share Due to Mad Cow Scare
09 Mar 01 - CJD - Europe buys into the green revolution
09 Mar 01 - CJD - Australia sees new meat markets in Europe
09 Mar 01 - CJD - David Byrne speech
09 Mar 01 - CJD - ICMSA Packing Call
09 Mar 01 - CJD - Agri Aware Information on BSE



11 Mar 01 - CJD - Queniborough: farm kill in local sausages

Mad Cow correspondent

Mad Cow---Sunday 10 March 2001


Although the reason for the Queniborough 5 death CJD cluster will not be revealed until 21 March 2001, local speculation is that the deaths were caused by local BSE infected farm slaughtered cattle. The meat was sold on the black economy to a local sausage/pie maker who supplied a number of local butchers.

The delay in the announcement is to enable MAFF to put in place new safety measures.


11 Mar 01 - CJD - Mad Cow risk from infernos

Herald Correspondent and Reuters

News New Zealand Herald--Sunday 11 March 2001


LONDON - Britain's blazing foot and mouth funeral pyres risk giving people the human form of mad-cow disease, the British Government has admitted .

The Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Foods (Maff) accepts after commissioning an independent risk assessment that there is a chance the pyres will spread the prion that causes both BSE and variant CJD into the air and water supplies. Other assessments have suggested that the E.coli and salmonella might also be released.

Joyce Quin, an agriculture minister, admitted in a written reply to Liberal Democrat MP Nick Harvey there was a possibility that "small numbers" of cattle affected by foot and mouth "may be in the pre-clinical stage of BSE and may harbour some of the BSE agent."

However, Maff has not consulted local environmental health officers in areas as far apart as Devon and Northumberland about the safest place to put the pyres to avert health risks.

Maff and other experts say the risk of people contracting CJD and other diseases from pollution arising from pyres is "very low." But since everyone agrees that the epidemic itself poses no threat to human health, the cure appears to pose more danger than the disease.

The health concerns have surfaced as Maff admits that the foot and mouth epidemic has spread much further, and will last much longer than thought even a few days ago.

The number of confirmed cases rose to 138 yesterday, and experts were anticipating still more outbreaks in a "second wave" of the disease. The latest outbreaks were confirmed at three farms in Cumbria, two in County Durham and farms in Devon, Dumfries and Galloway and Anglesey.

By the end of last week, according to Maff figures, 7624 cows, 41,796 sheep, 3649 pigs and six goats had been burned on 81 pyres around Britain. Experts say open-air pyres burn less efficiently than special incinerators used to burn animals slaughtered at over 30 months, and that there is therefore more chance that the BSE prion, which is very hard to kill, will escape into the air or water.

Maff said late last week an independent assessment it had commissioned concluded there was a "very low" risk of the prion being spread, and that it was keeping the situation "under review." Experts are also concerned that, though salmonella and E. Coli are more easily destroyed by heat, it is possible that they could also get into water supplies.

Meanwhile, British tourist chiefs say the holiday industry could be devastated by grim pictures of the diseased livestock being burned on the giant funeral pyres.

This "green and pleasant land" is looking increasingly ominous to overseas visitors, said Philippa Swaine of the British Tourist Authority.

"We are very concerned about what the foot-and-mouth outbreak is doing to Britain's reputation overseas.

"Overseas visitors bring in about 13 billion ($45.6 billion) every year to this country, and if our reputation is tarnished by this it will have a serious effect on the industry."

She said British international tourist call centres had gone "suspiciously quiet", with some overseas markets even confusing foot-and-mouth with the much more deadly mad-cow disease that can be transmitted to humans.

Sports fans have suffered blow after blow. Rugby and horse racing have been badly affected. The Badminton Horse Trials, showpiece of the eventing calendar, is the latest casualty.

"People are either deciding to go elsewhere or are waiting to see what will happen. If the crisis carries on into the key Easter season, it will have a big effect on Easter and summer bookings," Swaine said.

Much of the British countryside is effectively under quarantine because of the disease, which can even be carried on the wind or on people's clothes.

Foot-and-mouth has little or no effect on humans.

But because of worries about spreading the scourge, people have been urged to stay out of the countryside.

Many pathways through farms and open country have been closed to walkers and horse riders.

Tourists are being disinfected when travelling abroad.

Even the 100-year-old Queen Mother, one of racing's most avid fans, could not escape the foot-and-mouth fallout.

She joined bookmakers, jockeys and thousands of racegoers on Saturday in walking across a disinfectant mat to enjoy a rare day at the races when Sandown Park, one of the few courses outside an infected zone, staged its weekend fixture.HERALD CORRESPONDENTS and REUTERS NZP

BRITISH GOVT OFFICIALS SAY THEY WERE SURPRISED BY FOOT-AND-MOUTH

London, March 10 AP - Foot-and-mouth disease proved the great leveller Saturday, as the Queen Mother Elizabeth joined thousands of horse racing fans in sloshing across a disinfectant mat on her way to a day at the races.

The 100-year-old royal matriarch joined crowds at Sandown Park, near London, to watch two of her horses compete. Racing resumed in Britain on Wednesday after a week-long suspension due to the outbreak of the highly infectious livestock ailment.

As the number of cases continued to rise Saturday, officials admitted they were surprised by the scale of the crisis, which has all but paralysed the British countryside.

"I have to say that we have been taken by surprise by the extent of the outbreak," Chief Veterinary Officer Jim Scudamore told the BBC.

"It is a very rapid spread throughout the whole country."

The number of confirmed cases rose to 139 Saturday. Twenty new cases were reported Friday, the highest daily total since the infectious disease was identified in Britain on February 20.

Veterinary authorities defended their actions to combat the outbreak, which have severely restricted the movement of animals, discouraged travel in the countryside and led to the cancellation of scores of sporting and social events.

"We haven't taken any risks," Scudamore said.

"We had a complete ban on movements of animals. Since then we have looked at each case one by one, we have looked at the risks involved, and we have taken steps to minimise those.

"If we need to take additional measures then we will consider those."

Scudamore warned farmers not to let their guard down as the outbreak entered its fourth week.

"It is essential farmers monitor their stocks daily, especially if they bought them in February," he said.

The latest casualty of the disease was the prestigious Badminton Horse Trials. Organizers announced late Friday they were calling off the three-day event in western England, which had been due to start on May 3. The show site is in a rural area surrounded by farms.

So far more than 82,000 animals have been killed and another 32,000 earmarked for slaughter in a bid to stop the disease's spread. Officials say the huge pyres of carcasses are becoming a nuisance, and some farmers are growing impatient with the pace of the burning.

Junior Agriculture Minister Baroness Hayman said carcasses have begun to be shipped in leak-proof trucks to a plant where they would be rendered rather than burnt.

"We hope to make inroads into what is an extremely distressing situation," she said.

At a southwest England farm owned by Prince Charles, slaughtered sheep and cattle were stacked on a pyre to be burnt, days after the disease was found there.

Scottish officials said Saturday they were investigating reports that sheep in one flock had shown signs of life hours after being shot.

"It is a key priority of the present disease control measures that animals should be slaughtered humanely and their welfare is paramount," a spokeswoman for the Scottish Executive said.

The European Union has closed all livestock markets and banned imports of meat, livestock and milk products from Britain in response to the disease.

Foot-and-mouth disease - which strikes cloven-hoofed animals such as sheep, pigs and cows - is easily spread by afflicted animals or by carriers such as humans, horses and wild animals. It can also become airborne, though officials say it seems to have spread through the air only several times during this outbreak.

Meat from an infected animal is safe to eat, but animals that recover from the disease produce less meat or milk. So a country that imports livestock touched by the disease risks infecting its own herds, thereby endangering its export business.


11 Mar 01 - CJD - New law to prevent BSE being transmitted by drugs



Just Food--Sunday 11 March 2001


A law passed in Germany yesterday has meant that pharmaceuticals may no longer use ingredients deemed at risk of carrying BSE. This essentially means the industry cannot use spinal cords, brains or mechanically separated meat from cattle.

Continuing uncertainties about Mad Cow disease and how it is transmitted promoted the law, according to health minister Ulla Schmidt. She continued to explain that the law aimed to remove all risk of BSE, and its associated human brain wasting disease vCJD, from consumers.

Nearly fifty cases of BSE have now been discovered in Germany, with the latest case confirmed in the southwestern region of the Rhineland-Palatinate area.


11 Mar 01 - CJD - Scare over cow diseases leaves some with a bad taste

By Julie Deardorff, Tribune Staff Writer

YAHOO--Sunday 11 March 2001


Vegetarians, long ridiculed for their tofu-eating lifestyle, can't help but feel a bit smug these days. Between the Mad Cow crisis and unappetizing reports of hoof-and-mouth disease, the meat-free diet is suddenly gaining converts.

Albert Ugarte knows that neither of the high-profile diseases has been found in the United States. But it doesn't matter. After reading about infected cows and slaughterhouses, he's sworn off bratwurst and Italian beef for good.

"Since the Mad Cow thing, I've tried to go hard-core" vegetarian, said Ugarte, 32, a freelance designer from Western Springs who has previously made unsuccessful stabs at giving up meat.

That kind of attitude is exactly what the U.S. cattle industry wants to head off at the pass. Widespread mistrust of meat -- even if it's based more on publicity than reality -- could badly damage business.


11 Mar 01 - CJD - Wider 'Mad Cow' Blood Ban Urged

By Adam Marcus

YAHOO--Sunday 11 March 2001


FRIDAY, Jan. 19 (HealthScout) -- Citing the spread of "Mad Cow" disease into parts of Western Europe, a panel of U.S. infection experts has recommended people who've spent extended periods of time in France, Portugal and Ireland be banned from donating blood in this country.

The exclusion would apply to people who stayed at least a decade in those countries since 1980, and builds on an earlier ban covering prospective blood donors who had lived for six months or more in Great Britain between 1980 and 1996. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel Thursday declined to narrow that window to less than six months, or make it apply through the present.

The FDA usually follows panel recommendations, but isn't bound by them.

At least 91 people have died in Europe from new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD), the human version of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy. All but four were in England. Three were in France and one in Ireland, officials say.

So far, no one in America has been diagnosed with nvCJD, nor have any cattle been found with the brain-wasting ailment, which is believed to be caused by tiny rogue proteins called prions.

However, an unknown number of sheep in this country do carry and die from a similar disease called scrapie, and related infections have turned up in elk and deer herds.

The risk of contracting nvCJD through tainted blood is thought to be extremely small, and no case has yet been reported. Still, American health officials, anxious to keep the illness from getting a foothold in this country, have recently taken a number of regulatory steps.

The American Red Cross supports the extended ban and had urged the FDA panel to shorten the British exclusion to less than six months and to widen the period it covers from 1996 to the present.

Recommendation 'on target'

When the British exclusion was implemented in 1999, the Red Cross predicted that roughly 2 percent of its donors would fall under the rule, but officials say the actual number has been closer to 0.5 percent.

Theresa Wiegmann, general counsel for the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB), says the proposed exclusions covering France, Portugal and Ireland will have a "significantly lower" impact on the nation's blood supply.

While the AABB favors the policy changes, Wiegmann says the group hopes regulators will not inadvertently discourage people who don't meet the exclusion criteria from donating blood "by making the process too complicated or confusing."

Dr. James Louie, vice president of the New York Blood Center, says his group is "very pleased" with the FDA panel's recommendation.

"We are very concerned about the safety of the blood supply. I think their recommendations are right on target in terms of being cautious about the spread of this disease," Louie says.

The ban on blood from donors potentially exposed to BSE resonates with the early failings of blood banks to respond quickly enough to the AIDS epidemic.

Most recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that more than 9,000 people contracted HIV through transfusions before blood supplies were tested for the virus starting in the spring of 1985, Haley says. Since then, only 41 cases from transfusions have occurred.

As of July 2000, more than 176,000 cases of mad-cow disease were confirmed in more than 34,000 herds of British cattle, the FDA reports. Tests of American cattle have turned up no cases of BSE.

However, U.S. regulators have expressed concern that many livestock feed producers in this country are not complying with rules designed to keep BSE out of animal food. Some animal food contains tissue from cows, including glands, collagen and other materials, that could possibly transmit the infection.

The FDA also has asked vaccine makers to stop producing human vaccines that rely on cattle tissue imported from countries where BSE has appeared. The agency notes that the risk of contracting nvCJD from a tainted dose of vaccine is on the order of one in many billions, so slim as to be negligible.

What To Do

To learn more about giving and receiving blood, try the American Red Cross or the AABB.

For more on mad-cow disease and related conditions try the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the U.K. Department of Health.


11 Mar 01 - CJD - FDA, Red Cross in Minor Blood Feud

By Adam Marcus, HealthScout Reporter

YAHOO--Sunday 11 March 2001


FRIDAY, Feb. 16 (HealthScout) -- Federal regulators, concerned about the spread of Mad Cow disease to the United States, are expected to announce a policy that beefs up restrictions on potential blood donors who have spent time in Europe.

At the same time, however, the American Red Cross says it will be pushing a much stricter plan that some blood supply experts fear could put unnecessary burdens on the already strapped transfusion system.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which now bans blood donations from people who spent at least six months in Great Britain between 1980 and 1996, will soon prohibit them from people who've spent a total of 10 years or more in France or Portugal since 1980. The agency has opted not to extend the policy to Ireland, as a panel of its advisors had recommended last month.

"All of these measures are precautionary, designed to head off a theoretical risk," says Lawrence Bachorik, an FDA spokesman. The agency's policy will appear as a draft guideline in the coming weeks, and will be finalized over the next few months. The FDA will review its stance on other European countries, such as Ireland, later this year.

Meanwhile, the Red Cross is set to issue a competing policy that would bar donors who spent three months in England and a year elsewhere in Europe, says Dr. Linda Chambers, a senior medical officer at the Red Cross.

"It's a safety issue," Chambers says. "We've got the problem of a pathogen that we don't understand. It really is a judgment call what you do as you're waiting for the knowledge to catch up."

Mad Cow disease, or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, first appeared in England but has since spread to several countries in Europe.

The human form of Mad Cow disease, new-variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, has appeared in Britain and France. However, while roughly one of every one million Americans suffers related infections, no case of the beef-borne illness has been identified to date in either cattle or people.

Unlike standard CJD, which can take decades to cause symptoms, signs of the new variant form of the disease can appear in as little as a year or two. The brain-wasting ailments, which are believed to be caused by rogue protein fragments or possibly a yet-unidentified virus, create sponge-like holes in the brain that cause severe mental and physical debility and ultimately death.

Red Cross faulted

Dr. Robert Jones, president and chief executive officer of the New York Blood Center, says his group will follow the FDA's lead in imposing restrictions to safeguard its supply from Mad Cow.

"We as an organization trust the FDA to make the correct scientific judgments about transfusion safety. The scientific evidence doesn't support any further extension into any western European countries other than France." Thus, he says, "we don't see the American Red Cross's move as being particularly productive."

In fact, the scientific evidence to this point has shown only one thing about Mad Cow in the blood supply: There doesn't seem to be any, and if there is, the risk of contracting CJD from a transfusion is probably minute.

In England, the country hardest hit by Mad Cow disease, at least 20 people were exposed to the infection by receiving blood donated by people who had the human form of the illness but didn't yet know it, Jones says. None has developed the disease. "There has been no demonstration of transmission of Mad Cow through blood transfusions," he says.

The Red Cross, which supplies about 40 percent of the nation's transfused blood, has estimated that its rigorous ban would exclude roughly 6 percent of its current donor pool.

Jones says that policy could handcuff the New York blood supply more than other areas, since the city and its surroundings are "cosmopolitan."

However, Chambers says the Red Cross "fully intends" to make up for the lost blood by increasing its recruiting activities.

Reaction to the now-theoretical threat of Mad Cow in the blood supply reflects in large part on how officials failed to recognize quickly enough the risk of AIDS from transfusions. Figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that more than 9,000 people contracted HIV through transfusions before testing for the virus began in the spring of 1985. But since then, and thanks to aggressive screening of donated blood, only 41 such cases have occurred.

"I think there's interest in maybe this time being much more conservative," says Chambers of the Red Cross.

What To Do

For more on blood supply safety, try the American Red Cross, or the American Association of Blood Banks.

For more on mad-cow disease and related conditions, try the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the U.K. Department of Health. The Food and Drug Administration also has information about the disease.


11 Mar 01 - CJD - Obituary - Dr Joe Gibbs

Staff Reporter

YAHOO--Sunday 11 March 2001


NEW YORK (AP) - Dr. Joe Gibbs, and expert on neurological diseases who helped show that maladies like Mad Cow disease and scrapie are infectious rather than genetic, died Feb. 16 in Washington. He was 76.

Gibbs ran a laboratory for many years at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, in Bethesda, Md. that specialized in a mysterious class of disorders known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies.

The disease is known by different names, depending on which species it affects. In cows, it is commonly known as Mad Cow disease; and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans.


10 Mar 01 - CJD - Link 'discovered' between cluster of five CJD deaths

Steven Morris

Guardian--Saturday 10 March 2001


Health specialists investigating a cluster of five deaths from the human form of Mad Cow disease yesterday said they believed they had discovered a link between the cases.

The conclusions by the team from Leicestershire health authority on the cluster, which is centred on the village of Queniborough, near Leicester, will not be released until they have been ratified by independent experts and until the families of victims are informed.

However, it is understood they do not contradict the findings of an interim report in November. This revealed that the investigation was concentrating on the preparation and selling of meat products during the 1980s. Other possibilities, such as the village being infected via the water supply, surgery, vaccines, work places or baby foods, had been discounted.

Residents will be told of the conclusions on March 21. Privately, some families of victims are concerned at the apparent delay between the link being discovered and the official publication of the report.

All five who died from variant CJD between August 1998 and October last year had lived in the Wreake and Soar valleys of Leicestershire. They did not have a common butcher.

Yesterday the man who has led the inquiry, Philip Monk, consultant in communicable disease control at Leicestershire health authority, said the inquiry was "virtually finished" but would not say what conclusions had been reached. He said the link was not obvious.


10 Mar 01 - CJD - CJD deaths 'from one source'

By John Askill

The Sun--Saturday 10 March 2001


Residents from a village hit by five CJD deaths last night learned that the outbreak sprang from one source.

But scientists will make them wait for 11 nerve-racking days to learn the cause.

Last night some reacted with fury. Others said they don't want to know the source of Mad Cow Disease in case they were infected too.

The village of fear is Queniborough, Leics, where scientists have discovered the reason for the outbreak after a nine-month investigation.

One doctor said the answer had been "staring us in the face" all along.

But despite the breakthrough, the team said it would keep details of the contaminated meat source secret until a public meeting on March 21.

Experts from the National CJD Surveillance Unit and London School of Hygiene began the probe with local health officials last year after the spate of deaths.

Dr Philip Monk, consultant in communicable disease control at Leicestershire Health Authority, said yesterday: "Knowing what I know, the source is extremely obvious.

"Like many scientific matters it was staring us in the face."

But he confirmed locals in the farming village - population 1,800 - would have to wait to hear the cause.

Village councillor Mike Preston said: "People are divided, but I think we need answers to bring the sad matter to a close."

Bank clerk Pamela Bayliss, 24, was first to die from the disease in 1998.

The others were Stacey Robinson, 19; farm worker Glen Day, 34; Christopher Reeve, 24; and an un-named lad of 19. All had eaten beef infected with BSE from 1980-91.


10 Mar 01 - CJD - 'Mad Cow' history traced

By Shianee Mamanglu

Manila Bulletin--Saturday 10 March 2001


Wondering how the term ''Mad Cow'' was coined? Scientists christened the cattle disease - termed scientifically as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) - as such in 1986 because they observed that cows infected with the BSE were acting strangely, as if they were intoxicated.

The cattle were also noted to be stumbling and having difficulty in standing up, and they suffered significant weight loss. The sick cattle died months after contracting BSE.

The scientific community first noted the fatal disease in 1986 when a number of cows died of a mysterious disease in the UK. Epidemiological studies conducted in the UK latter indicated that the source of the BSE was cattle feed prepared from carcasses of other animals, including sheep and goats.

Scientists also observed that the brains of infected cows had sponge-like lesions, thus the name Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy.

"When scientists noted all these symptoms, the term 'Mad Cow disease' came into being," said Dr. Eric Tayag, a Department of Health (DoH) epidemiologist and spokesman for the inter-agency Task Force on Mad Cow Disease

He said that BSE has a long incubation period of two to six years before it develops in cattle. Within weeks or months, infected cattle die from it.

Contrary to what people believe, Tayag said BSE affects only the brain and spinal cord of cows. Even the meat, he said, is safe to eat because this has no infectious particles.

"For extra precautionary measures and for the reason that when beef products are processed, the meat might also be contaminated, we included the ban on meats, especially if these came from BSE-contaminated countries," Tayag stressed.

In the UK, after noting the BSE epidemic among cattle, infected cows were immediately isolated to prevent healthy cows from getting the disease.

The cases of BSE among cattle in Europe have continue to decline since 1992, he said.

"This is because the EU (European Union) has been imposing stringent measures to prevent the sale of food and food products containing beef from the UK to other countries. Other products derive from the bovine tissues were also prohibited for sale."

In 1999, the EU lifted the ban after specific requirements was put in place - for example, importing de-boned beef from animals from farms which have no cases of BSE and where the animals are less than 30 months of age at slaughter.

Tayag assured that local beef is safe and is continuously monitored for the presence of BSE.

GM foods

The "Mad Cow" plague in London is not caused by genetically engineered crops processed into animal feeds as claimed by some sectors. It is caused by feeding livestock with feed containing animal products such as meat and bone meal from the carcass of slaughtered and often diseased animals, said Sonny P. Tababa, network administrator of the Biotechnology Information Center (BIC).

Tababa said scientific findings and news reports from European Union countries never made any reference or linked the disease to genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

"The US and Argentina, biggest growers and users of GM-derived products as well as major meat producers and exporters, have no reported cases of 'Mad Cow' disease. Nor does Australia," Tababa said.

GM staple food crops, he said, have been and are being developed to address environmental, nutritional, health, and low yield concerns of developing and poor countries. These include sweet potato (virus resistant), potato (virus resistant and insect resistant), rice (golden rice and high yielding rice), corn (Bt and herbicide tolerant), and cassava and banana (virus resistant, vaccine containing), among others.

Last Feb. 15, the European parliament voted overwhelmingly to endorse GM licensing legislation which in effect lifted the European moratorium on GM crops that was in place in the last three years.

Tababa said the new directive which still requires endorsement includes stricter labeling and monitoring of GM foods, feeds, seeds, and pharmaceutical products.

"The vote should free about 14 GM crops including potatoes, tomatoes, corn, and processed oils which will now be licensed and put on that market years earlier than expected," he said.

Field testing of GM crops are being undertaken in by Asea neighbors such as Indonesia and Thailand as well as in other developing countries such as Brazil, Kenya, and India, Tababa said.

He added that China, which faces the problem of feeding its ever rising population, has proceeded to commercialize production of GM crops.


10 Mar 01 - CJD - Scientists find cause of CJD cluster

Staff Reporter

BBC--Saturday 10 March 2001


Investigators say they have traced the exact cause of Britain's first CJD cluster in the village of Queniborough in Leicester. But the results will not be published until villagers themselves are told on 21 March.

Dr Philip Monk, consultant in communicable disease control at Leicester Health Authority An inquiry was launched last July after five people with close connections to Queniborough died from the illness.

An interim report into the cases of Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (vCJD) in November decided that meat supplied locally was probably to blame for the cluster.

Scientists ruled out baby food and school meals as the source of the infection.

They also discounted drinking water supplies and the jobs done by the five victims, who all lived within a five-kilometre (three-mile) radius of one another.

Death toll

They said that the disproportionate death toll from the disease was unlikely to be a coincidence.

The only common link between the victims was that they all ate beef or beef products, but they did not share a common butcher.

Dr Philip Monk, consultant in communicable disease control at Leicester Health Authority, said the latest finding pointed to an extremely obvious source.

He said: "Knowing what I know, it is extremely obvious.

"When I shared with colleagues what we had found, they said why didn't we think of that before."

"Like so many scientific matters, it was staring us in the face."

Leicester victims

The Leicestershire vCJD cluster was first reported in November 1998, after the disease claimed three lives within 12 weeks that year.

Glen Day, 35, from Queniborough and Pamela Beyless, 24, from nearby Glenfield died in October 1988.

Stacey Robinson, 19, formerly of Queniborough, had died two months earlier in August.

A 19-year-old man died from the disease in May this year at the Leicester Royal Infirmary and at the same time health officials said it was "highly probable" that a 24-year-old man in the county had also contracted the disease.

A fifth person, a male farm worker, died in September, last year.


10 Mar 01 - CJD - Brain diseases breakthrough

Staff Reporter

BBC--Saturday 10 March 2001


Scientists have made a breakthrough in the search for cures for the brain diseases Alzheimer's and CJD.

They have discovered that how ordinary proteins within the body turn into the insoluble plaques believed to be at least partly responsible for the diseases.

Researchers at Oxford University's Centre for Molecular Sciences (OCMS) carried out a series of tests which exposed myoglobin - an essential protein which stores oxygen in the body's muscle cells - to a variety of different environments, including changes in temperature and pH.

They found that the protein could adopt two distinct and highly-organised forms:

a compact folded structure typical of most proteins in the body an insoluble thread-like structure typical of deposits found in the brains of many patients suffering from neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's

The researchers believe that the compact fold assumed by most proteins is an evolutionary adaptation which ensures that the thread-like structure is never formed under normal circumstances by the components that make up the proteins.

Adoption of this structural form therefore prevents the formation of harmful deposits within the carefully regulated environment of the cells.

However, when this environment is disrupted, perhaps by age, genetic mutations or the ingestion of harmful material, the proteins can lose their folds and assume the alternative structure.

The OCMS researchers studied proteins from families with a history of brain diseases.

Their findings suggest that the folded structures of the proteins in these individuals are less stable than usual and therefore are more likely to assume the insoluble thread-like forms - making them more susceptible to disease.

The researchers believe that the discovery of these tiny molecular changes could help research into treatments for these diseases - all of which are currently incurable.

Professor Christopher Dobson, OCMS director, said: "We are a long way away from over-the-counter medicine at the moment, but our discovery does suggest new paths we can take in the search for cures.

"For example, there are compounds which might stabilise natural proteins and prevent them from converting into their alternative, disease-related structures.

"Perhaps most exciting is the prospect that, with our new knowledge of protein behaviour, we could design more stable proteins which could be administered to patients by gene therapy, but of course, this option is very much in the future."


10 Mar 01 - CJD - Out-of-date polio vaccine

By Joe Humphreys

Irish Times--Saturday 10 March 2001


Up to 10 per cent of polio vaccines from a batch under investigation for links with CJD may have been issued after their expiry date , it emerged yesterday. Calls were made for improved vaccination tracing mechanisms.

A total of 4,520 out-of-date polio vaccines from the queried batch were issued in five health board areas, the Department of Health and Children has confirmed. A further three health boards have yet to report their findings.

The cases were discovered in the course of investigations into a polio vaccine batch, issued to an estimated 50,000-60,000 children, which contained serum from a donor who had been diagnosed with variant CJD.

Mr Denis Naughten TD (FG) said the findings raised questions as to whether other vaccinations such as the three-in-one MMR shot, or the Hib vaccine, were issued in date. "GPs are supposed to be competent and they should not be issuing out-of-date vaccines like this."

The effectiveness of the polio vaccine is diminished if used more than one month out of date. The Department is now seeking to establish how many children fell outside this timescale to ensure they are re-vaccinated.

Mr Naughton said the revelation was "a further indication of the chaos inherent in our health services " and called for the immediate introduction of "smart cards" for immunised children to help prevent similar incidents recurring.

The Irish Medical Organisation's GP spokesman, Dr Cormac Macnamara, said doctors were already seeking to develop better tracing mechanisms as part of an overhaul of the immunisation programme. "The problem stems back to the 1950s and 1960s when immunisation was treated in a very ad hoc and cavalier manner."

Answering criticism of GPs, he admitted "at the end of the day the individual GP, of course, should have checked the dates". However, he noted health boards often issued vaccines on, or close to, their expiry date, which did not help GPs.

IMO checks in one health board area indicated that "not one of the kids" recorded by the board as having received out-of-date vaccine was recorded as such by the relevant doctor.

The National Immunisation Steering Committee, established by the health boards' chief executive officers, is to consider possible mechanisms to guard against the use of out-of-date vaccinations in the future.

According to the Department, parents of children who received the out-of-date polio vaccine will be contacted via the health boards or their GPs.

As regards the risk of CJDinfection from the vaccine, the Minister for Health and Children, Mr Martin, has stressed it was "almost certainly" zero.

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service has deferred for a further week an announcement on whether to ban 15,000 donors from giving blood because of a risk of carrying variant CJD.


09 Mar 01 - CJD - Villagers to learn CJD cluster cause

Ananova

PA News--Friday 9 March 2001


Experts have found the cause of Britain's first cluster of deaths from CJD .

However, they are refusing to reveal their findings ahead of a meeting at which villagers at the heart of the cluster will be told.

An investigation was launched in July last year after five people with close connections to Queniborough, in Leicestershire, died from the illness.

A progress report in November said lines of enquiry had been narrowed and were concentrating on the meat supply chain as the only remaining factor.

Dr Philip Monk, consultant in communicable disease control at Leicestershire Health Authority, said: "Knowing what I know, it is extremely obvious.

"When I shared with colleagues what we had found they said 'Why didn't we think of it before'. Like so many scientific matters it was staring us in the face."

A meeting to give the results to villagers in Queniborough has been set for March 21. On the same day the cause will also be made widely available.


09 Mar 01 - CJD - Political football

Staff Reporter

Clare Champion--Friday 9 March 2001


The Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, Joe Walsh recently dismissed the Labour Party proposals as an opportunistic attempt to turn the serious issues of BSE into a political football.

"They add there is nothing new in the way of consumer protection to the comprehensive range of control measures already implemented on a scientific and precautionary basis in this country. The effectiveness of the controls applied in Ireland has been recognised by the EU Scientific Steering Committee. The Labour Party proposals show a lack of appreciation and understanding of the depth of the response in Ireland to the BSE problem", Minister Walsh claimed.


09 Mar 01 - CJD - Italian farming's year to forget

Philip Pullella

Altavista--Friday 9 March 2001


ROME, March 8 (Reuters) - Italy's farming sector suffered a bleak year in 2000 as it was struck by Mad Cow disease, bad weather and reduced crop yields.

A report by national statistics institute ISTAT issued on Thursday showed overall farm production fell by 1.8 percent from 1999 levels, which compared with 4.0 percent growth in agriculture in 1999 and 2000 Italian gross domestic product expansion of 2.9 percent.

``The year that just passed has left us an agricultural sector gasping for breath,'' the report said.

ISTAT said the Mad Cow scare took effect mainly in the last two months of 2000. Slaughtering of cattle had risen 1.5 percent year-on-year in the first 10 months of the year but then plummeted 19.8 percent in November and 9.6 percent in December compared with the same months of 1999.

Slaughter of cattle in the whole of 2000 fell by 1.4 percent, while slaughter of adult animals fell by 2.8 percent.

Fish production rose 9.8 percent but an ISTAT researcher who helped prepare the report said this was partly due to the fact that the war in Yugoslavia in 1999 had reduced production in the Adriatic.

WHEAT AND CHAFF

ISTAT said the soft wheat harvest fell 2.4 percent as 4.4 percent less land was given over to the crop. Durum wheat production was off 4.5 percent, also due to reduced plantings.

Reduced yields cut rice production by 16.9 percent and rapeseed by 22.1 percent.

Olive production fell by a 28.3 percent, coinciding with sector estimates released last year which predicted that Italy would lose its place as the world's largest producer of olive oil to its rival Spain.

In November the olive oil producers' association (UNAPROL) said 2000 production was hit by alternate year flowering cycles and drought in many areas of Italy, particularly the south.

On the plus side maize production last year rose 1.1 percent, the sunflower harvest rose 4.4 percent and the soybean harvest was up 3.8 percent, ISTAT said.

Overall farm prices were up 1.2 percent after three years of falls.

Agricultural employment was down 2.4 percent.


09 Mar 01 - CJD - Beefburger passes its best-by date in Europe

Katie Nguyen

Altavista--Friday 9 March 2001


BRUSSELS, March 9 (Reuters) - The beefburger is falling victim to Europe's Mad Cow crisis as the fast-food business rewrites menus to reflect a shift in consumer tastes.

Across the 15-member European Union, beef consumption has dropped by 28 percent on average since Mad Cow disease spread through continental Europe late last year, according to a report by the bloc's executive Commission.

Fears about the spread, via infected meat, of the deadly human form of BSE have sent restaurant sales sliding and caused food retailers to rethink beef.

``If we have another Mad Cow scare we'll be in big trouble,'' Chris Van Steenbergen, head of Belgian fast-food chain Quick, told Reuters.

The chain said earlier this week it would be serving up more chicken, fish, salad and vegetarian meals after it became clear its one-concept hamburger brand was too vulnerable.

``We want to make it less hamburger-centric. That's where the consumer is heading,'' Van Steenbergen said.

Quick's decision to diversify its menu coincided with the release on Monday of its worst full-year results in three years. It reported zero net profit in 2000 compared with a 1999 profit of 9.0 million euros on flat sales of 945.0 million euros.

Even McDonald's, the world's largest restaurant company and the king of fast food, has had to diversify.

Its latest move, aimed at finding fresh markets and growth drivers beyond hamburgers, was to take a 33 percent stake in the increasingly popular UK sandwich chain Pret-A-Manger.

McDonald's global reach has not been enough to shelter it from wilting consumer confidence, most marked in Europe, with fourth quarter sales showing a seven percent fall. European sales slipped 10 percent from the year-ago period.

Last month McDonald's said first quarter sales had been hit by Mad Cow concerns in Europe, with German and Mediterranean consumers shunning the beefburger most.

CONSUMER CONFIDENCE

The EU Commission's survey showed German beef sales halved after the first find of BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) in a home-reared animal last November -- a discovery that cost two ministers their jobs.

Italy, Spain and Greece have also gone off beef in a big way, with consumption diving by 45 to 40 percent.

But France and Britain -- where the human variant of Mad Cow disease has killed more than 80 people -- were fairly immune to changing consumer tastes. Britain even showed a three percent increase in beef consumption.

``We haven't seen any significant changes in terms of consumer demand,'' said a spokesman for Whitbread, which owns the Beefeater and Brewers Fayre restaurant chains.

``We have been hit though in cost prices going up, mainly for pork and English lamb. Prices have risen significantly.''

In Spain the appetite for the meat of fighting bulls, a highly-prized dish, has waned, according to Carlos Blanco Navarro. He owns Los Carriles restaurant, a meat specialist located near Madrid's main bull ring.

``Many people used to ask for our speciality, stuffed bull's tail with potatoes, but sales have fallen by 70 percent,'' Blanco said.

Hamburger sales at leading fast food chain VIPS, which has 42 outlets across Spain selling a range of foods from sandwiches to cooked meals, have also been hit, a spokesman said.

``We haven't changed our menu,'' he said. ``But people are definitely switching away from meat and towards fish and chicken, especially after Mad Cow disease.''

In Greece major beef and cold cuts producer Nikas reported a 56 percent drop in 2000 group pre-tax profits while pork producer Creta Farm saw a 99 percent increase.

FOR SOME, BEEF IS STILL KING

But even though hamburger chains across Europe have added to their menus to adapt to changing consumer tastes they are loth to abandon the beefburger altogether.

``We've had a lot of choice on our menu for quite a long time, but beef remains king,'' said UK Burger King spokeswoman Emma Sturt.

Bertrand Bereaud, head of quality control at Buffalo Grill, a chain specialised in grilled meat, said his group had even chosen the opposite strategy.

``While our competitors diversified their menus, discrediting the beef product, we chose to reinforce beef. We know how to make grilled meat, we know where it comes from and we check it. The customers trust us,'' he said.

He reported a major drop in sales in November 2000 as the Mad Cow crisis spread in Europe, but sales had risen since then and were almost back to normal levels.

``We intend to reconquer our market over the long term,'' Bereaud said. (additional reporting by Jess Smee in Madrid, Mian Ridge in London, Martina Schlicht in Athens and Estelle Shirbon in Paris)


09 Mar 01 - CJD - After scares, Germans have rethink on food

Mark John

Altavista--Friday 9 March 2001


SPANDAU, Germany, March 9 (Reuters) - Alfred Bredel is getting ever more takers for his home-made horsemeat sausages, the pungent aroma of which wafts onto the street outside his family butcher's in this west Berlin suburb.

His horsemeat chops, horsemeat carpaccio and speciality pickled horsemeat joints are also in demand. In fact, he says business is almost as brisk as it was just after World War Two.

``For decades, horsemeat has been seen as poor man's meat. But since the food scares, demand has gone up sharply. And the customers are getting younger,'' he notes.

Not cloven-hooved, horses are seen as safe from foot-and-mouth disease. And with histories as riding school mounts or family pets, Bredel's animals are unlikely to have been fed on the meat-based fodder blamed for Mad Cow disease.

``Besides, horses are fussy eaters. If it isn't grass, hay or cereals like oats, they turn their noses up at it,'' he insists. ``That's why they taste so good.''

STOMACH-CHURNING IMAGES

The revival of fortunes in Bredel's 105-year-old business, the last remaining horse butcher in Berlin, is just one of the more unexpected effects of a long-term shift in German eating habits that has accelerated of late.

News late last year of the first confirmed case of Mad Cow in a home-reared animal sent the demand for meat into a tailspin just as Germans should have been stocking up Christmas tables with beef, goose and other traditional fare.

And just when it started to recover early this year, evening news broadcasts were packed with stomach-churning images of cattle being culled in a European Union scheme to support beef prices. ``Cow Holocaust,'' muttered some commentators here.

The outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Britain only prolonged the animal slaughter as herds around Europe suspected of contact with British animals were killed protectively.

While Germans are seen, wrongly, by many as big volume-eaters of meat -- the French and Spanish are way ahead in per capita consumption -- the scares have finally upset a relationship with meat here that can rightly be said to be special.

Along with the powerful car and the foreign holiday, a heavily meat-based diet became a symbol of good living during the 1960s and 1970s for a generation determined and rich enough to sample luxury after the privations of the war years.

Quite apart from the fact that the national delicacy is the sausage, meat -- and particularly pork -- is almost omnipresent in traditional German cuisine. Vegetarian tourists are often dismayed when the pea soup or potato dish they unsuspectingly ordered turns up flavoured with large chunks of smoked pork.

No one personified the passion for meat better than Helmut Kohl, who as chancellor relished introducing visiting world leaders to delicacies liked stuffed pig's belly. Organisers of a G8 summit in Britain three years ago had to launch a nationwide search for a bed big enough to accommodate his well-fed frame.

But while successor Gerhard Schroeder shows the same penchant -- vowing at a recent news briefing to stay true to his favourite type of hot dog despite the food scares -- German eating habits have been changing for the past decade.

GERMANS EATING LESS MEAT

Meat industry figures show a decline in consumption from a peak of 101 kg (222 lb) of meat per head in 1990 to 94 kg (207 lb) in 1999, prompted by broad social and food market shifts.

``Many people today either haven't got the time or the skills needed to prepare a joint of meat,'' said Thomas Vogelsang of the Bonn-based German Meat Products Industry Federation.

``There are more competing products on the market now, convenience foods like pizzas, which people can quite easily substitute for meat,'' he added.

At the same time, the new concern for fitness -- and above all slimness -- is fuelling a switch towards lighter eating. Olive oil and Mediterranean vegetables, not large knuckles of ham, are now the symbol of a trendy, upwardly mobile lifestyle.

The new food philosophy is embodied by Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, a self-confessed former beer-swilling glutton who has converted to macro-biotic food, marathon-running and near teetotalism. Now thinned down, he is often heard extolling the benefits of ``tasty pulse-based cuisine.''

With others in the public eye also outing themselves as lentil-lovers, even all-out vegetarianism -- practised by just half a percent of Germans a decade ago -- is shedding its former image here as a freakish aberration.

A poll by news magazine Focus this month showed 15 percent of Germans saying they ate no meat products at the moment. A survey last year showed the percentage had already risen to around eight percent before the food scares.

VEGETARIANS ON INCREASE

``Every time there is a crisis we get a few more people come over,'' said Norbet Moch of the German Vegetarian Federation, membership of which has surged since last November.

Yet Moch has no illusions that vegetarians will be in the majority any time soon, in Germany or anywhere else in Europe.

In Britain, beef consumption has now exceeded levels in 1995 just before BSE was linked to the human brainwasting disease that has killed more than 80 people there and two in France.

``People have very short memories,'' Moch says.

Others argue that the shift is merely a rational consequence of a return in trust towards a beef sector following a massive cattle cull and the tightening of animal fodder regulations.

That may be. But Iwer Diederichsen, a psychologist who has studied eating habits, argues that safety considerations cannot always be relied on to be the main factor determining people's food choices -- particularly when money is involved.

He tells of how a Baden-Wuerttemberg butcher, desperate to clear his overloaded stocks as new BSE cases emerged in Germany, recently offered 200 kg (440 lb) of beef to the public free.

``He couldn't get rid of it fast enough -- they didn't even want to know where it came from,'' says Diederichsen. ``Now is that rational behaviour?''


09 Mar 01 - CJD - Polish Turkey Firm Hopes to Gobble up Market Share Due to Mad Cow Scare

Agence France Presse

Central Europe Online--Friday 9 March 2001


WARSAW, Mar 9, 2001 -- (Agence France Presse) Polish turkey packer Indykpol SA plans to double production over the next two years to meet growing demand for poultry by consumers frightened by the Mad Cow scare, a spokeswoman said Friday.

A new slaughtering line to be in place by summer will help slash costs and allow the company to double production to 60,000 tons per year within the next two years, Krystyna Szczepkowska told PAP news agency.

Poultry producers are benefiting from the Mad Cow scare as consumers often snub the beef counter, she said.

Sales of beef have plunged by 70 percent since the beginning of the year in Poland because of fears related to Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE or Mad Cow disease), meat producers said Tuesday.

No cases of the disease have been registered in Poland, but authorities have imposed a strict ban on imports of beef products, and have removed several dozen tons of food products from store shelves.


09 Mar 01 - CJD - Europe buys into the green revolution

Staff Reporter

CBC--Friday 9 March 2001


PARIS - The recent scare over foot-and-mouth disease and the resurfacing of Mad Cow disease in Europe has consumers clamoring for organic food.

'What we have been stuffing into ourselves is just ridiculous,' German consumer

European Union officials are having to take extreme measures to stamp out BSE -Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy - measures that could bankrupt Europe.

In addition, Britain's outbreak of foot and mouth disease has sparked panic. France, Germany and Belgium have imposed tough restrictions on the transportation of livestock.

In many countries, beef consumption has fallen by 50 per cent.

North of Berlin, farmer Wilhelm Shaekel has built an organic refuge - a cattle ranch free of herbicides and pesticides. Shaekel says demand for his meat has doubled since last December, when Germany discovered its first cases of BSE.

"BSE is a tragedy for the farmers but a great chance for organic," Shaekel told CBC Television.

Just down the road, Armin Stutz is less effusive. Prices for his "conventional" beef has fallen by half. He's had no sales in weeks.

In Germany, there's now a consumer rebellion against factory farming. Many believe the advent of industrial farming has spawned BSE and the current agricultural crisis.

"I can't stand this factory farming any longer," says one German consumer. "What we have been stuffing into ourselves is just ridiculous."

'The first step is to say I won't put this food on my plate' Renate Kunast, German agriculture minister Spearheading this movement is Germany's new agriculture minister, ecologist Renate Kunast. Her recent appointment is meant to restore trust in the food chain.

"We're at the beginning of this big change... and the first step is to say I won't put that food on my plate," says Kunast.

Kunast wants to raise Germany's share of organic farming: from 2.5 per cent to 20 per cent in less than 10 years.

She may be well on her way. For the first time, thousands of Germans have turned to organic food stores. Sales are up at least 30 per cent. The number of vegetarians has doubled.

"People aren't prepared to trust mass production as they did before... they're prepared to pay more for quality," says Andrika Upmeier who works at an organic company.


09 Mar 01 - CJD - Australia sees new meat markets in Europe

Ananova

PA News--Friday 9 March 2001


Australia will try to boost beef sales to Europe in the wake of a foot-and-mouth outbreak.

But Prime Minister John Howard warns demand for meat is dropping.

European Union import quotas will also have to be overcome.

He warns Australian farmers the market for beef is shrinking as consumers stop buying meat because of fears created by foot-and-mouth and Mad Cow disease.

"Certainly we are ready, and we have already made contact," he said.

"Not in any ghoulish way, but quite pragmatically and sensibly and quite upfront.

"If we can get increased Australian beef sales into the European Union, and you can only do that by getting a variation in the very strict quotas, then we will take advantage of that."

Britain has been hit in recent weeks by an outbreak of foot-and-mouth.

The disease - which strikes cloven-hoofed animals such as sheep, pigs and cows - is easily spread by afflicted animals or carriers such as humans, horses and wild animals.

Australia, which has not had a case of foot-and-mouth in more than a century, hopes its reputation for healthy meat will aid exports.


09 Mar 01 - CJD - David Byrne speech



European Commission--Friday 9 March 2001


David BYRNE European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection "BSE, Topical Aspects" Economic and Social Committee Brussels, 9 March, 2001

DN: SPEECH/01/116 Date: 2001-03-09

TXT: EN PDF: EN Word Processed: EN

SPEECH/01/116

David BYRNE

European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection

"BSE, Topical Aspects"

Economic and Social Committee

Brussels, 9 March, 2001

Mr Chairman, ladies and gentlemen

I am very pleased to join you today to discuss an important issue "BSE, Topical Aspects". I would like to congratulate you on taking the initiative to organise this very worthwhile hearing.

I note that the key issue to be discussed here today, in the context of BSE, is animal by-products. The term "animal by-products" means little to the general public. However, "meat and bone meal" has acquired mythical status. It is commonly associated with BSE. And with good reason. But before entering into discussion on that issue, I would like to clear up a few misconceptions.

When I entered into Office, in September 1999, I knew that food safety would be a priority. I also noted, however, that it would be wrong to view my role only in relation to food safety. Without going into too much detail I need only point to other key determinants of health which fall within my portfolio of responsibilities. Tobacco. Communicable diseases like AIDS and TB. Drug prevention. Blood and blood products. Etc.

I must confess to a degree of disappointment that many very significant initiatives which I have taken in these fields have not attracted the attention they deserve. Less than two weeks ago, for example, I worked until 2.30 in the morning to broker an agreement between the Council and the Parliament on a final agreement on a ground-breaking regulation on tobacco.

This regulation has real potential to contribute to a significantly higher level of health protection, especially of young people, throughout the European Community. And we are talking of an issue, tobacco related diseases, which contributes to half a million deaths a year in the EU. Yet, this landmark achievement received only a very small fraction of the media attention it deserves.

However, the reality is that a succession of events have ensured that my time and energies have been disproportionately taken up with food safety issues. The European Commission, clearly, has a key role to play in this respect. We have key responsibilities in regulating the internal market in trade in food and foodstuffs. This trade can only take place if Member States can be confident that the health and safety of their citizens is not at risk from imported products.

The Commission is also, in its role in relation to the Common Agricultural Policy, responsible for the market management of all the key commodity sectors cereals, beef, milk products, fruit and vegetables, wine and olive oil to name but a few.

I would loosely categorise these roles as facilitation of trade and market management. Both very important considerations. We should not lose sight of the huge economic importance of the food and agricultural sectors and the attendant jobs. And of the need to ensure that food is affordable.

But, my own personal approach is guided by one over-riding principle: food must be safe. There should be no ambiguity on this issue. How can we stand over and defend our current systems of food production, food regulation and trade unless this fundamental requirement is respected? Safety is the glue which holds the system together.

The Commission has repeatedly identified food safety as a key political priority. This is not gesture politics. It is a reflection of the acceptance by my colleagues that it is a hugely important area of concern. And an area where the Commission must deliver on expectations. Consumers, voters, the public at large might legitimately ask: if the European Commission cannot ensure that food is safe, what can it be trusted with?

I can think of very few issues which have caused as much political controversy and damage in recent years as food safety. The Commission, in 1997, was found seriously wanting in its own handling of food safety in the European Parliament's report on the BSE crisis.

We are determined to learn from these past mistakes and to move on. Since my appointment we have embarked on a huge and extensive programme of measures aimed at ensuring food safety throughout the food chain. A white paper on proposed new initiatives was agreed in January 2000. Again, this was not political camouflage designed to create an appearance of action.

One has only to look at the legislative diary in all the Community institutions, including the Economic and Social Committee, to see the very substantial number of new initiatives directly resulting from the White Paper. We are making our way through the full list of initiatives proposed in the white paper.

There are major proposals on transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), on the re-casting of the entire body of existing EU food hygiene regulations, on food additives, on officials inspections and controls on safeguard measures. And, of course, on animal by-products, to which I will return shortly. I will spare you the full list but one accusation that has not been made against us is of inaction on the legislative front.

Chief among these initiatives, of course, is the proposal to establish a European Food Authority to provide independent, high quality and up-to-date scientific assessment on food safety issues. This proposal is currently with the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. There is a clear understanding in both institutions that they must work urgently on this dossier.

Inevitably, any debate on food safety will turn to BSE. It is less than four months since the current crisis broke out. You are very aware of the huge damage which has occurred over this period. Consumer confidence and beef consumption have both fallen sharply.

The irony is, however, that never before have there been so many and so comprehensive safeguards in place to ensure that beef is safe. Prior to the present crisis, there were already a wide range of Community measures. Let me briefly remind you of these measures:

A ban on the feeding of mammalian meat and bone meal (MBM) to cattle, sheep and goats, as of July 1994;

Higher processing standards for the treatment of mammalian waste (133 degrees, 3 bars of pressure for twenty minutes), as of 1 April 1997;

Active surveillance measures for the detection, control and eradication of BSE, as of 1 May 1998;

The requirement to remove specified high-risk materials (SRMs) from cattle, sheep and goats from 1 October 2000 from the human and animal food chains. Only a few months ago, I was satisfied that these measures were sufficient to ensure that beef was safe. I was not of course alone in this assessment. It was a view supported by the scientific community, by the farming industry and by the Member States. Consumers were also confident in the safety of beef and consumption was returning to close to pre-1996 levels.

What has happened, therefore, to require the introduction of a wide range of new and expensive measures? The answer lies in a loss of confidence in the safety of beef. I attribute this largely to the belief of consumers that the authorities were not taking the necessary measures to protect them from the risk of BSE. They, the public, felt very badly left down. This required even greater efforts to restore the credibility of measures to tackle BSE.

The process of rebuilding confidence throughout the Community will take time, effort and resources. This largely explains the range of new measures which have been agreed in recent weeks:

- The suspension on the use of meat and bone meal in feedingstuffs for farm animals;

- The testing of all animals aged over 30 months destined for human consumption;

- A ban on the use of mechanically recovered meat from the bones of cattle, sheep and goats;

- The extension of the list of specified risk materials to include the entire intestine of bovines and the vertebral column.

This series of measures is extraordinarily complete. I am satisfied that it represents very, very close to what is reasonably practical to eliminate the risk of transmission of BSE.

I will now turn to the issue of animal by-products. And I hope you will excuse me if I use the term meat and bone meal MBM - in what I have to say. There are two very important forces which must influence our approach towards MBM. One is economic. The other is public health.

Turning to the first force, economics. We produce huge quantities of animal by-products in the EU each year up to 16 million tonnes. These are not suitable for human consumption. Not necessarily because they are unsafe, but because they are not to our taste. It is perfectly right that we should find safe uses for these by-products. And preferably uses which offer some economic return. meat and bone meal is a clear example of such uses.

The EU produced over 2 million tonnes of MBM each year. This was a valuable protein source. In many respects, it represents a very good example of re-cycling. Until very recently there was a consensus that this was too valuable a resource to waste. To be frank, any suggestion that MBM should be banned would have been received with outrage.

I will turn now to the public health aspects. Mammalian MBM, contaminated with the BSE agent, was indisputably the key factor in the propagation of BSE. There is an unacceptable danger from contaminated MBM. Very strong measures were necessary to eliminate that danger.

The question arises as to which of these two considerations economic or public health should prevail. The answer is clear. Public health must take precedence. But, equally, could a way be found to accommodate both considerations. Or, put more simply, could MBM be used without it being a threat to public health?

Until very recently, the belief was yes, it could be safely used. MBM was allowed to be fed to animals. Subject, of course to very strict controls:

- there was a ban on the feeding of mammalian meat and bone meal to ruminants, notably cattle;

- specified risk materials had to be removed and destroyed and could not be used in meat and bone meal;

- meat and bone meal had to be processed pressure cooked - to very high standards;

- active surveillance measures, including random testing, were in place to prevent cases of BSE from entering the feed chain.

In both theory and practice these controls could and should ensure that MBM is not a threat. The scientific evidence supported this view. And, indeed, the record of several Member States in keeping BSE incidence at a very low level while also allowing MBM to be fed to animals also suggested that it need not be a threat to health.

What happened, therefore, to require the suspension on the feeding of certain animal proteins, namely meat and bone meal, to farm animals. The answer lies in controls and more particularly in a loss of confidence in controls.

The controls I have just outlined pressure cooking, a ban on feeding mammalian MBM to ruminants etc - can only be effective if properly implemented. Inspections by the Commission's Food and Veterinary Office pointed to weaknesses in the implementation of these controls. These weaknesses included, ominously, potential cross contamination of feed for ruminants with feed for other species.

A loss of confidence was another critical factor. I wrote to all Ministers for Agriculture on a number of occasions seeking reassurances that controls were being properly implemented. The replies or rather the lack of replies were far from reassuring.

Clearly, there was an erosion of confidence in the past implementation of controls. The rising incidence of BSE in some Member States, or its discovery for the first time in others, had to be explained. Time and again the finger of blame pointed in the direction of contaminated meat-and-bone meal.

France, for example, took a unilateral decision to ban MBM in November of last year and a lack of confidence in controls on MBM was the clear motivating factor. Lest there be any misunderstanding, this was very responsible decision in the circumstances.

Another motivating factor in the suspension was the ban on specified risk materials. This ban only came into force throughout the Community from 1 October 2000 although a Commission proposal was on the table of the Council since 1996. There is a long history to this delay which I do not propose to go into in any detail. But, the consequence of the delay is that high risk materials were, inevitably, entering the feed chain for far too long.

This combination of factors led the Commission to conclude that a suspension was necessary. The Member States, in the Agriculture Council on 4 December, supported this view. Accordingly, the use of a range of animal proteins was suspended in feedingstuffs for farm animals from 1 January 2001. An exception was made for the continued use of fishmeal in feed for pigs and poultry, under strictly controlled conditions.

The story does not, however, end here. In many respects, it now only begins. A simple view is that the solution is to make the ban permanent. And there are already pressures in that direction. If I take the view that a permanent ban is necessary to ensure that public health is not at risk, I will not hesitate to present such a proposal.

However, I consider that it is far too early to arrive at such a far-reaching conclusion. The fact of the matter is that we cannot avoid the need to find safe and efficient means of treating the animal by-products produced in the Community. And, ironically, the Commission has a proposal which achieves exactly this aim currently before the Community institutions, including this Committee.

I am referring, of course, to the proposal for a regulation on animal by-products. This proposal provides the opportunity for putting in place a comprehensive framework to ensure that all the relevant issues relating to animal waste are addressed. It is, if I may say so myself, an excellent piece of draft legislation.

Key to the proposal is the belief that there is a place for MBM produced under safe conditions. This in turn follows from the belief that the recycling of carcasses and slaughter waste by the production of MBM (for animal feed) offers the best alternative on economic, environmental and health policy grounds. However, the proposal also works on the three very fundamental principles:

- only material from animals which are fit for human consumption may enter the feed chain;

- the highest rendering standards pressure cooking - have to be used; and

- dedicated rendering plants are essential.

Ladies and gentlemen, I will shortly conclude.

It remains to be seen if the events of recent months have fundamentally changed that view. And key to this is the question of if and how the necessary controls can be implemented. I am greatly encouraged that in the discussions which have taken place to date in the European Parliament, there is no knee-jerk reaction to simply make the current ban permanent.

Instead, there is a welcome view that the Commission proposal is in the right direction. Certainly, there are qualifications. For example, that feeding of MBM should only be allowed for monogastric species. Or that there should be a total ban on any intra-species re-cycling. But, nonetheless, a determination that reason, science and most of all public health protection should be the determining factors.

I hope that this hearing will take a similarly enlightened view and that we can continue the process of finding a long-term solution to the safe use of animal products.


09 Mar 01 - CJD - ICMSA Packing Call

Staff Reporter

Clare Champion--Friday 9 March 2001


The ICMSA has called on the EU Commission to immediately put in place a compensation package worth cover 150m for Irish farmers to cover losses suffered to date and future losses in 2001 due to the BSE crisis.

Pat O'Rourke, Association President, added that further provision should be made to cover losses in future years.

"Already to date, Irish beef producers have lost around 35m since the beginning of the current BSE crisis. When the BSE crisis of 1996 arose, a compensation package of almost 150m was put in place for beef producers.

"The Minister for Agriculture must ensure that the report due from the EU Commission since January dealing with producer losses is on the table at the next meeting of the Council of Agriculture Ministers. A package of measures should also be established to compensate al beef producers for the losses suffered to date and for future losses. A top-up on the slaughter premium should be the main policy instrument used to support beef producers who sold beef at very low prices. This is what is needed - and it is needed now", he stressed.

"All Irish farmers have heard from Brussels to date are methods that will cut our direct income supports and put our extensive grass based production system at a further disadvantage. This is unacceptable. A proper compensation package for farmers and a policy reform that will fully protect and promote a natural extensive grass based production system as we have in Ireland needs to put in place immediately", Mr. O'Rourke concluded.


09 Mar 01 - CJD - Agri Aware Information on BSE

Staff Reporter

Clare Champion--Friday 9 March 2001


Agri Aware, on behalf of the agriculture and food industry has launched the first information leaflet to answer consumer queries on the present BSE situation.

The leaflet answers many of the commonly asked questions that have occurred as a result of the current BSE situation. It was prepared with the assistance of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and the Department of Agriculture and Food.

'One of Agri Aware's key functions is to provide the general public with concrete information about agriculture and food, and there is a clear need to effectively communicate information on the present situation in order to reassure and empower the general public' said John McCullen, Chairman of Agri Aware.

'The crisis of BSE in Ireland is a market crisis and not a food safety crisis. Irish controls in relation to BSE are among the best in the world and have been classified as such by the European Union Scientific Committee. There is obvious confusion among consumers with many seeing the present schemes including the Purchase for Destruction (PFD) and enter testing as consumer confidence measures. The current measures are, as has been stated many times by both the Department of Agriculture and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, Pan-European market support mechanisms. ' added Mr. McCullen.

The stakes in Ireland are huge, as despite the technological revolution agriculture remains a corner stone of the domestic economy. For the producer, worker and service people involved there is a great frustration in watching markets and jobs vanish before their eyes, even though the product being sold is of supreme quality.

'The Food Safety Authority of Ireland stated that younger animals in Ireland have never had access to contaminated meat and bone meal, and prime beef in Ireland is as safe as it has ever been before BSE came along So people when they are going to their local butcher and local supermarket buying prime cuts of beef; are buying beef from animals that have never eaten meat and bone meal, are not infected with BSE and that meat is perfectly safe' - Mr McCullen outlined.

'Irish consumers show a high level of sophistication in choosing their food products. In return for this they are entitled to a flow of actual information about food from the farm to the table. I am confident that this leaflet will answer many of the questions that Irish consumers have in relation to beef and reassure them as to the safety and quality of Irish beef'.

The leaflet is available at Tesco and SuperValu stores nation-wide and through the Associated Craft Butchers network. Any consumers or retailers wishing to get copies of the leaflet can contact Agri Aware on (01) 4601103 and the leaflet is also downloadable from the Agri Aware website at www.agriaware.ie.