Document Directory

19 Mar 01 - CJD - New Mad Cow Disease Case Found in Germany
19 Mar 01 - CJD - Scientists called on to develop BSE test
19 Mar 01 - CJD - Mad Cow, Foot-and-Mouth Disease: BigMac Flirts with VeggieBurgers
19 Mar 01 - CJD - Some UK Companies Don't Meet Mad Cow Safety Rules
19 Mar 01 - CJD - Group Says Cow Tissue in U.S. Supplements Risky
19 Mar 01 - CJD - EU farm ministers debate meat crisis
19 Mar 01 - CJD - Meat eaters switch to humous over food scares
19 Mar 01 - CJD - Q&A on agricultural policy, BSE, the environment and quality
19 Mar 01 - CJD - Quotes EU Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischle
19 Mar 01 - CJD - BSE: Commission will adopt special market measures for beef
19 Mar 01 - CJD - BSE risk could restrict blood donors
19 Mar 01 - CJD - Kangaroo meat a safer bet

19 Mar 01 - CJD - New Mad Cow Disease Case Found in Germany

People's Daily---Monday 19 March 2001

The first case of Mad Cow disease has been found in Saarland, a German state bordering southeastern France, local press reported on Saturday.

Previously, most of the confirmed cases of BSE had been restricted to the state of Bavaria. With the latest case in Saarland, the total number of cows testing positive has now risen to 48 in Germany.

In the coming week, about 170 cattle will be killed in the farm in Saarlouis county of Saarland, where a five-year-old cow was tested positive of BSE.

Meanwhile, a trade food organization NGG complained that because of the BSE plague, some 5,000 people had already lost their jobs in Germany.

The jobs were most related to meat processing as demand for beef sharply declined, said NGG chief Franz-Josef Moellenberg on a Berlin radio.

He said that 12,000 people have had to work on shortened time and 40,000 more will face job insecurity if the plague persists.

19 Mar 01 - CJD - Scientists called on to develop BSE test


YAHOO--Monday 19 March 2001

The urgent need for quick, effective and reliable diagnostic tests to identify diseases such as BSE and vCJD has prompted the government to call for scientists to submit research proposals.

Little is known about the nature of this group of diseases, called Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSE), so co-ordinated research is a priority.

The government departments and agencies that are funding public research in this area are the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Department of Health, the Food Standards Agency (FSA), the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (MAFF) and the Medical Research Council.

The individual interests of each organisation should ensure that the proposals offer comprehensive research into human and animal health and include all aspects where diagnostics will play a role in detecting, preventing and treating TSE diseases. All high-quality proposals will be given priority funding from the organisations.

After consideration by an independent panel, the proposals will be referred to the most appropriate body. MAFF is looking for simple tests to detect infection in live animals and to differentiate between BSE and scrapie strains. The FSA is interested in rapid low-cost diagnostics to detect indicators of TSE infection in cattle, sheep and goats.

The Department of Health wants to encourage research into ways to detect and distinguish between all forms of CJD and to estimate the size of potential epidemics. It also wants to prevent the spread of the disease through routes that currently have a theoretical risk of secondary transmission, for example, blood, organ transplants and surgical instruments.

Sir John Pattison, chair of the joint funders group on TSEs, said that, despite the progress made so far, there are many aspects of the diseases that remain unknown. "Reliable diagnostics are crucial to animal and human health. We need to try as many approaches as possible to develop a range of diagnostics that, in turn, will make the prospect of developing effective treatments and suitable programmes of healthcare for patients and veterinary medicine for animals more of a reality," he said.

19 Mar 01 - CJD - Mad Cow, Foot-and-Mouth Disease: BigMac Flirts with VeggieBurgers

By Nigel Thorpe

Al Bawaba--Monday 19 March 2001

Just as the "coke set" were returning to the "burger-halls" after the Mad Cow disease scare, CNN and the Associated Press report that the foot-and-mouth epidemic has sent fast-food customers diving for cover again.

In February, McDonald's announced that its sale's figures in Europe and the Middle East have fallen drastically due to their customers apprehension about eating beef. On Saturday, reported that thirteen cases of the dreaded foot-and-mouth disease have been confirmed on Palestinian farms in the occupied territories.

To win back its lost customers, McDonald Web's site announced a two pronged attack; in the States, the company will insist that its meat suppliers confirm to strict federal regulations while in the Middle East, its restaurants will promote veggie burgers and other "safe" non-red meat alternatives as substitutes for their traditional Big Macs.

In view of the media-hype, a cold look at the scientific evidence is needed to differentiate irrational panic from prudent precautions. The first key fact is that, although they can both infect sheep and cattle, Mad Cow disease and foot-and-mouth are very different diseases.


The American scientist and Nobel Laureate, Stanley Prusiner demonstrated that Mad Cow disease (bovine encephalitis [BSE]), and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) in humans, are caused by a newly discovered group of 'infectious proteins' called prions and not, as had been previously thought, by a virus, bacteria or any other type of microbe ('germ'). The prion is a body protein that has 'collapsed' into an abnormal shape. The protein 'necklace', with its amino acid 'beads' is not folded into the correct three-dimensional shape. (Diagram 1)

The sinister property of prions is that when they come into physical contact with the normal form of the body protein, they cause the normal molecule to collapse and form a second prion. This newly formed prion, together with the original prion, will then 'collapse' further normal proteins beginning a relentless and viscous cycle that repeats itself over and over again. As the number of prions in the membranes of nerve cells increases, the cells collapse leaving empty spaces in the brain and spinal cord. It is these spaces that give the brain tissue of the Mad Cow or infected human brain its spongy appearance (Diagram 2). The diseased brain can no longer control body movements correctly and the "mad" or demented symptoms appear.

Foot and mouth disease, however, is caused by a virus related to the rhinoviruses which attack membranes in the nose. (Diagram 3) Seven main types of the virus are recognized and the FMD virus currently infecting the UK, Europe, and now the Middle East, has been identified as the highly virulent pan-Asiatic O strain.

Although it is still extremely small, the virus is relatively much larger and more complex than the prion molecule that causes Mad Cow disease.

The geometrically-shaped virus is surrounded by a protein coat which protects it while traveling from host to host, and also helps it to enter the body cells of its next victim.

The nucleic acid (RNA) core at the center of the virus enters the host cell where it is copied thousands of times. The commandeered cell is damaged and then breaks down releasing new virus particles which, in turn, each infect another host cell.



Sheep, it is believed, were the original host for prion-induced (scabies) diseases. Feeding cattle fodder containing ground brain and spinal cord material from diseased sheep, it is thought, allowed the prions to invade a new host, cattle, where it produced Mad Cow disease or Bovine Spongiform Encephalitis (BSE).

The prion's then "jumped host" a second time when people began eating infected beef and developed the human form of the disease, Creutzfeldt Jakob disease (CJD).

The numbers of cases of CJD in the United Kingdom continue to climb with, according to Lord Justice Phillips chairman of the government committee investigating Mad Cow disease, a total of over 100 reported cases in 1999. Due to its very long incubation period, Phillips describes this number as "the tip of the iceberg" and experts predict that over the next decade, thousands, if not millions, of Britons are at risk of developing the brain wasting disease.


The foot-and-mouth virus infects cloven-hoofed animals such as cows, sheep, goats, pigs and buffaloes. Camels and lamas can contract the disease but have a low susceptibility. CNN news items and other media sources have reported that human beings cannot contract foot-and-mouth disease. While this message is a desirable and understandable one to belay public fears about the disease, it is not scientifically accurate.

There are well-documented cases of farmers contracting foot and mouth but the disease is extremely rare, mild and of short duration in humans. The official UK Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAA) website reports that there was only one confirmed human case of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) during the serious outbreak in 1966. In the website's words, "FMD is not considered a public health problem."

It is very important to note that human hand foot and mouth disease, a relatively common childhood aliment, is caused by a different virus, and is not related to the foot-and-mouth disease which is an extremely rare human disease.


The incubation period for BSE in cattle is measured in months but for the human form of the disease (CJD) it lies in the range of five to 30 plus years. For foot-and-mouth disease, the incubation period is only two to 14 days.


Beefburger addicts should take Mad Cow disease (BSE) seriously but forget about foot-and-mouth (FMD). The reasons for this advice are twofold. First, humans can develop a form of BSE, but are with, extremely rare exceptions, immune to FMD. Secondly, unlike FMD, CJD is a very serious, and usual fatal disease.

The prions that infect the body during BSE and CJD destroy the central nervous system of their host forming spongy spaces in the brain which can then no longer control movements such as normal walking. Cows develop the typical "staggering gait," tongue and eye rolling. In humans walking and speaking becomes increasing difficult and memory loss and dementia soon follow. To date, there is no effective cure for CJD.

In foot-and-mouth disease, as its name suggests, the virus produces blisters (vesicles) in the mouth, on the hooves, and around the udders. Although the disease is rarely fatal in adult animals, the fever, loss of appetite, weight loss and health risks mean that it is not commercially viable to nurse infected animals back to health. Animals normally recover in 8 - 15 days but by that time, they cannot "earn their keep." Mortality, due to heart disease (myocarditis) is, however, often high in young animals.


The important message for beef burger eaters is that CJD, but not FMD, can be contracted by eating infected meat. Meat contaminated with brain, spinal cord, eye, intestine, spleen, and lymph node materials are particularly dangerous. A second vital point to remember is that prions are more heat resistant than viruses so normal cooking may not be enough to make beef completely safe.

Controversy still surrounds the possible transmission of CJD by contaminated blood. US health authorities insist the "there is no evidence that CJD can be transmitted by blood products." Tom Pringle, molecular biologist and webmaster of the definitive website, however, insists that there is also "no evidence that the disease cannot be transmitted by this route." Pringle therefore concludes that it is prudent to avoid blood, and blood products that may have come from infected humans, sheep or cattle.

Cows, sheep and pigs can contract highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease by direct, or indirect contact with infected droplets of animal fluid such as mouth secretions, urine, faeces, milk or semen. The virus can survive for a long time in frozen infected meat and for about a month in dry fodder.

People, animals and 'things' such as car tires can act as "vectors" and carry the virus from one farm to another. Although horses do not suffer from FMD, UK equine events have been cancelled to reduce the chances of the virus being spread on their hooves or on the shoes and car tires of their riders.

Viruses in the breath of infected cattle can infect sheep in a neighboring field, while the MAA quotes examples of the virus being carried 60 kilometer over land, and up to 300 kilometers over the sea.

One fascinating possibility that seems to have been overlooked by the UK Ministry of Agriculture and Food is that the current foot-and-mouth infection could have been brought from Asia, to the United Kingdom, by migratory ducks or geese. A series of articles in 1998 and 1999 in the New Scientist and Scientific American journals proved that migratory birds can carry the flu virus from farm ponds in China to British lakes and reservoirs.

A common media comment is that "modern agriculture has only got itself to blame for the recent Mad Cow and foot-and-mouth outbreaks."

"Traditional, natural farming methods," it is claimed, "minimize or prevent the transmission of these diseases." It is certainly true, particularly in the case of Mad Cow disease, that unnatural feeding methods, keeping animals in crowded conditions, and centralized marketing / slaughtering promotes the spread of such diseases.

Cattle by nature are herbivores and feeding them animal meal containing ground up brains and spinal cords of sheep is now recognized as being a fatal mistake. The CJD "time-bomb" in the UK and Europe ticks slowly on as the public health authorities wait to see if the human victims of this unwise policy will be numbered eventually in the thousands or in the millions.

A commonly asked question is wouldn't it be better to vaccinate, rather than destroy infected animals? Vaccination is not, unfortunately, the "magic bullet" it appears because the viral "enemy" keeps "changing its uniform." The vaccine developed against the pan-Asiatic O strain would not work if in the future Europe was hit by a new strain or by one of other seven strains of FMV.

Poor manufacturing techniques can also result in vaccines which contain active viruses and could infect the animals with, rather than protect the animals from the disease. At present, the absence of FMD antibodies in the blood is clear evidence that the animal is disease free. If a widespread vaccination program were introduced, the presence of antibodies could mean that the animal is infected, or that it had been successfully protected against the disease by vaccination. The resulting ambiguous blood tests would greatly complicate the handling of foot-and-mouth outbreaks. A final point is that a large-scale vaccination program could be prohibitively expensive.

The "bottom line" health warning is probably "forget about foot-and-mouth disease but exercise extreme caution with mutton, lamb and beef." McDonald's policy of buying meat only from suppliers conforming to Federal regulations is certainly a step in the right direction but many people may feel that until the health picture becomes clearer, a BigMac Veggieburger might be their safest bet.

19 Mar 01 - CJD - Some UK Companies Don't Meet Mad Cow Safety Rules

By Richard Woodman

YAHOO--Monday 19 March 2001

LONDON (Reuters Health) - Twenty-eight pharmaceutical companies risk having their products withdrawn from sale in the UK because they have not complied with safety guidelines to prevent the theoretical risk of ``Mad Cow'' disease transmission, the British Department of Health warned Monday.

Because of concern over transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, holders of licenses to market medicines in the UK were required to prove by March 1 that they complied with European guidelines on the use of animal materials in medicines they manufacture.

Mad Cow disease, known as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), is believed to cause a human form of the disease, which is contracted by eating beef from tainted animals.

The department said responses with respect to 15,745 products have been received by the Medicines Control Agency (MCA) but, despite reminders, nothing has been heard from 28 companies with licenses for 816 products in the UK.

The department declined to name the companies involved.

It said around 100 of these product licenses are likely to be out of use--and the products no longer marketed in the UK--but that still leaves a question mark as to over 700-plus products.

A spokesman told Reuters Health that a risk assessment was being undertaken on these products because ``matters cannot be left as they are as we have regulations to comply with.''

He explained that the risk assessment will see if there are any substitutes for the products involved. If none exist, patients could be at far greater risk if products are withdrawn rather than left on the market. However, where there are substitutes, the stage could be reached where product licenses would be withdrawn.

The department has previously made clear it ``will not hesitate to take action to protect public health in the UK if this proves necessary.'' Last October, a polio vaccine marketed by Medeva was withdrawn because it was discovered to have been manufactured using bovine (cow) materials.

Material of animal origin is used in the manufacture of a large number of medicines and in many cases there is no synthetic or other alternative available.

In the UK there have been guidelines governing the use of certain animal materials in the manufacture of medicines since 1989. Therefore, license holders should merely be confirming that they are following the latest version of those guidelines.

There are some 23,000 licensed medicines on the market in the UK. Of these, some 5,000 are licenses for products imported from elsewhere in the European Union and a further 600 are European licenses issued by the European Medicines Evaluation Agency in London.

The remainder are licenses issued by the MCA.

19 Mar 01 - CJD - Group Says Cow Tissue in U.S. Supplements Risky

By Todd Zwillich

YAHOO--Monday 19 March 2001

WASHINGTON (Reuters Health) - The nation's largest dietary supplements industry group has issued new guidance to manufacturers amid concerns that some products contain cow brains and other organs that could pose a risk of transmitting ''Mad Cow'' disease or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE).

The guidance, published by the National Nutritional Foods Association (NNFA), encourages manufacturers to eliminate all bovine (cow) neurological tissue from their products. Consumption of brains and spinal cords from cows infected with BSE are widely believed to be the source of the human brain wasting illness known as new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD).

``It becomes of paramount importance for manufacturers to choose raw materials in a manner that will minimize the risk of transmission'' of BSE, the document reads. It states that ``no neurological bovine materials should be purchased or accepted'' by dietary supplement makers when they choose ingredients for their products.

About 200 dietary supplement products--0.5% of the total US market--contain potentially risky cow tissue including brains and spinal cords, according to the association. One of the most common is a product used by chiropractors containing cow hypothalamus tissue--a type of brain tissue--that is supposed to support hypothalamic functioning in humans.

While the latest guidance constitutes no more than a recommendation for manufacturers, ``the message is to stay away from these high-risk products,'' said Dr. Phillip Harvey, NNFA's director of science and quality assurance, in an interview with Reuters Health.

The organization currently offers its seal of approval to dietary supplement makers that meet its standards for good manufacturing processes. Approved products that fall behind on manufacturing standards are subject to remediation or expulsion from NNFA. It is possible that ``a handful of companies'' who make products containing cow brains and spinal cords could still carry the seal, Harvey noted.

But the association, which represents some 4,000 retailers, manufacturers and wholesalers, could soon move to ban such products from companies seeking to acquire or keep membership.

``We're probably close but we're not there yet. Since these products are so suspect, why are we even dealing with them? Why risk the credibility of our companies because of the bad apples in the lot,'' Harvey said.

The federal government has already placed an import ban on any bovine central nervous system products originating in European countries that have seen cases of BSE. Most manufacturers and raw materials distributors use purification techniques before making products, but there is no way to identify or selectively remove the infectious proteins known as prions that are thought to cause BSE.

The National Science Foundation and United States Pharmacopoeia are currently considering quality programs designed to keep contaminants out of herbal products, vitamins, and other dietary supplements.

``People want to know that they are taking safe products,'' NNFA CEO David Seckman told reporters at a briefing on Friday.

``There is no evidence on either side that (purification) would remove or not remove a prion.''

Concerns over BSE and vCJD during the last few years have cause several manufacturers to move away from bovine brain ingredients and instead use brain parts from pigs and chickens in their products, he said.

19 Mar 01 - CJD - EU farm ministers debate meat crisis


PA News--Monday 19 March 2001

Nick Brown has assured his European Union colleagues the UK is doing all it can to stop the foot-and-mouth outbreak from spreading across mainland Europe.

European ministers are relieved that no cases have been found on the mainland since the disease was detected a week ago in six cattle on a farm in France.

The Agriculture Minister said restrictions on French exports of livestock, meat and dairy products should be lifted by March 27, if no further cases are found.

"I'm going to make it absolutely clear that we're going to confine this disease to Great Britain, isolate it and exterminate it," Mr Brown said as he arrived for an EU meeting of farm ministers which debated foot-and-mouth and Mad Cow diseases.

"I can tell you today, dear colleagues that the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease detected in Mayenne on March 13 is contained and mastered by the French veterinary services," French Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany told the meeting.

Ministers have continued to resist calls for a vaccination campaign, insisting the current policy of destroying animals suspected of coming into contact with the disease and restricting livestock movements, is the best way of handling the outbreak.

"We should not move to a vaccination policy," Mr Brown said. "We may have to retreat to it, but it would be a substantial retreat, by far and away the best policy is

the current one."

Although some farmers have called for vaccinations, EU governments are reluctant to launch a costly immunisation programme unless the disease really begins to spin out of control.

EU officials have argued that any immunisation campaign would be expensive and cost European nations their current "foot-and-mouth-free" status in world trade markets.

Experts also point out that vaccinations are not 100% effective and could hinder tracking of the disease since vaccinated animals carry the same antibodies as those infected.

19 Mar 01 - CJD - Meat eaters switch to humous over food scares


PA News--Monday 19 March 2001

Europeans are eating humous instead of meat because of foot-and-mouth and BSE food scares.

Producers in Israel have noted a massive surge in demand for the high-protein Middle Eastern chickpea dish after the latest meat safety scare swept across the continent.

Israel's financial newspaper Globes says food company Tzabar Salads reported a sales leap of 24% in Europe in the last two months.

The company's director-general told Globes that the company has been forced to increase exports as humous has been flying off the shelves in European supermarkets.

Fears over Mad Cow disease and the general safety of eating meat have been resurrected by the foot-and-mouth outbreak - although experts say it poses no risk to humans.

19 Mar 01 - CJD - Q&A on agricultural policy, BSE, the environment and quality


European Commission--Monday 19 March 2001

DN: MEMO/01/96 Date: 2001-03-19

TXT: FR EN DE PDF: FR EN DE Word Processed: FR EN DE


Brussels, 19 March 2001

Questions and answers on agricultural policy, BSE, the environment and quality

How is the EU supporting farmers in the BSE crisis?

Beef consumption has fallen by about 30% on average, producer prices have collapsed, and more than 50% of exports are blocked. This means that many farmers cannot find a market for their beef. Every fall in price by one per cent means a loss of EUR 200 million for the EU's farmers. The following support measures are already in force:

Public intervention buying of male beef

A programme for the safe destruction of cattle older than 30 months not tested for BSE, for which farmers receive financial compensation (70% from the EU and 30% from the Member States)

Private storage of cow meat

Early payment of premiums to prevent cash flow problems.

On top of these measures, a special buying-up programme for cattle older than 30 months will start soon. Carcases of animals not eligible for intervention buying-in (in particular cow meat), which are more than 30 months of age and which have all tested negative for BSE will be covered. The scheme can only apply in Member States which have demonstrated full testing capacity for cattle older than 30 months. In addition, the regime would only be applicable in those Member States which are faced with a weak market for cow meat. Therefore purchases will only be made in Member States where the price for cows is below a trigger price over a period of two weeks. This trigger price should be fixed for each Member State. The financial compensation (70% from the EU and 30% from the Member States) paid to farmers will be maintained. No fixed quantities per Member States will apply, either for storage or for destruction. The special measures under the new scheme will apply until the end of 2001. For those Member States without full testing capacity, the provisions of the "purchase for destruction scheme" remain in force until 30 June 2001, when compulsory testing comes into force. This is to prevent non-BSE-tested meat from cattle over 30 months from entering the food chain.

What the Member States can already do today to make their farming more environmentally friendly and quality-oriented

Member States already have a wide range of measures at their disposal to make their agriculture more sustainable, environmentally friendly and quality-oriented, but many Member States are not yet making full use of the flexibility this affords.

All Member States must define minimum environmental standards with which all farmers must comply ("cross-compliance"). If they do not, Member States can penalise them by reducing direct farm aid or withdrawing it altogether. Member States decide individually which minimum standards farmers must meet (nitrate inputs, animal welfare standards, etc.), and these vary considerably from one country to the next. But every Member State is free to lay down more ambitious standards - it is not the Commission that decides.

Under the new rural development policy (total budget for 2001: EUR 4.5 billion), the Member States and regions can provide special assistance for organic farming. It is up to them to decide how much. EU funds are also provided for conversion to organic farming. The number of organic farms in the EU has doubled since 1992 to 105 657. This is expected to increase further in the future.

Under rural development policy, EU financial support can be granted for the marketing of quality products if Member States so wish. The instruments available under the common agricultural policy (CAP) to promote environmentally sound production methods

Agenda 2000 introduced an additional "extensification premium" for beef producers who do not farm intensively (low stocking density).

Farmers receive "agri-environmental" payments in return for environmental undertakings. These payments reflect the income foregone or higher production costs resulting from voluntarily signing up to these commitments. With Agenda 2000, we have substantially increased the amount of EU funding devoted to these agri-environmental measures.

Organic farming is also promoted under these agri-environmental measures.

Agenda 2000 also provides for special additional aids (EUR 25 to 200 per hectare) for farmers in less-favoured areas such as upland regions. Ensuring full and continued land use in all regions of the EU is an important requirement for maintaining environmentally important areas of countryside.

Does the EU support big farms?

The trend towards larger farms is part of a general pattern, independent of the type of farm policy pursued. The CAP has helped to preserve small and family farms.

To reflect the economic advantages of large farms, under Agenda 2000 we introduced "modulation", the right for Member States to reduce direct payments for large farms by up to 20% and to use them instead for additional rural development measures. In is therefore odd when Member States complain about Brussels heavily subsidising the "big boys", while they themselves are proving to be very reluctant to apply this modulation option.

Does the common agriculture policy (CAP) favour "unhealthy industrialised" production?

In the last decade the CAP has undergone a fundamental change. Unlike the past, the incentives for farmers to produce more have been substantially reduced. With the 1992 and Agenda 2000 reforms, the price guarantees for farmers for the main types of product have been reduced by 35%. Today 70% of the farm budget goes directly to farmers whereas in 1991 as much as 90% of the budget went on intervention buying and export refunds.

It was not the Commission which forced farmers to feed meat and bone meal to cattle. We forced them to STOP feeding it in 1994. It is a business decision what kind of feed is used and not a decision imposed by the EU, unless the safety of consumers is concerned. This is why the Commission banned meat and bone meal for ruminants immediately after the relevant scientific advice became available.

The term "industrialised agriculture" is often used in a negative way, although it is far from clear what it actually means. If it means increased productivity, it should be remembered that this a main feature of market economies not of policy. Higher productivity means a more prudent use of our scarce natural resources. This is not restricted to agriculture but is a general economic trend which has been observed for decades in all sectors. But regardless of scientific evidence, the public tends to be sceptical about productivity-boosting production methods. It is consumers who can ultimately influence producers because they decide what sells.

To give an example of the existing structure of European farming, 90% of all dairy cows are kept in herds smaller than 100 animals.

Efficient production of farm products is not in itself bad or dangerous. It helps European farmers to stay in business against ever-increasing competition from third countries and creates jobs in the processing industry.

Large scale production of food is not dangerous if producers comply with the strict EU safety standards.

Is small always beautiful?

BSE is not a big versus small problem: most of BSE cases detected in Germany happened on a small-scale farm.

Some politicians claim that agriculture should go "back to its roots" and do away with big farms. This would hit those farmers who can compete on the world market and operate profitably. Jobs in both primary production and the processing industry would be lost.

The EU is the world's second largest exporter of farm products because of their high quality! Quality is a general feature of European agriculture which is not limited to small farms.

More details are available on the Internet in various fact-sheets by the Agriculture Directorate-General (Agenda 2000, agri-environmental measures, etc.):

19 Mar 01 - CJD - Quotes EU Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischle


European Commission--Monday 19 March 2001

DN: MEMO/01/95 Date: 2001-03-19

TXT: FR EN DE PDF: FR EN DE Word Processed: FR EN DE


Brussels, 19 March 2001

Quotes EU Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischle

... on BSE and the common agricultural policy

"There has been a fundamental change in the job agriculture is expected to do and the common agricultural policy has also changed, but not enough. The writing is on the wall for all to see: mankind must work with nature and not against it. That is the lesson we must learn from the BSE disaster. We must not turn cows into cannibals. We must stop using particularly sensitive foods as "loss-leaders" to push higher consumption. We must be prepared to pay a fair price for quality food. We must allow agriculture and forestry to play their role in energy and raw material production. We must not give credence to false gurus who say that agriculture is an industry just like any other."

"Ever since we achieved self-sufficiency, agricultural markets have been demand-driven, and it is therefore only logical to centre agricultural policy around the consumer. We all have a duty to take the right action at the right time. If we do that now, this major crisis could even prove to be an opportunity."

"But we do not need to re-invent the wheel - the world's natural cycles already take care of that for us. What we must do now is ensure full delivery of what society expects of farming. We must ensure the quality and safety of the food we eat. We must get back into step with the natural cycles which we have come to neglect. We must ensure that the much-touted sustainability is translated into practice."

"For individual countries to go it alone is not the answer because at last the barriers at the Union's internal borders have gone. But precisely because of that every country must bear its share of responsibility for the whole. If something goes wrong in one country the effects are felt in the Community as a whole. That is why we need Community rules, and why everyone must be able to rely on the others to ensure that they are properly applied."

"The Commission is bound by what the Heads of State and Government have decided, i.e. a review of agriculture policy in 2002. It is therefore unfair to accuse us of following orders from the Member States. There is no virtue in coming up with spectacular proposals that turn out to be spectacular failures. What I'm interested in is tangible results, not pulling vague reform ideas out of a hat. Because everything involved in farm policy is interlinked: milk production is tied up with beef, beef with cereals."

"The Commission will be conducting a thorough analysis of the Agenda 2000 reforms this year, as will the Member States. The Commission is committed to a mid-term review next year, which will be an opportunity for further improving measures to meet what society demands of agriculture."

"I would point out that the Commission proposed doing more for the environment, organic farming and rural development back in 1999. The outcome is well known. After the negotiations with the Member States, Agenda 2000 emerged minus reform of the milk sector, but with a silage maize premium favouring intensive cattle rearing."

... on the crisis on the beef market

"Stockpiling unsaleable beef is not part of my model for a sustainable agriculture. In the short term, however, there is no alternative. When people say that instead of storing meat we should be giving free rein to market forces, they should realise what that means in practice. A 1% cut in the beef price means a loss of income for EU farmers of EUR 200 million. Do people seriously think that the way to restore shattered consumer confidence is to cut the price of steak by another two euros? I believe we also have a social responsibility to our farmers."

"Short term there is a big surplus of beef on the market. That meat is there and any amount of discussion will not make it disappear. Nor can the Agriculture Commissioner turn production off at the flick of a switch. But there is no EU slaughter order, or any obligation to destroy millions of cattle. Cattle slaughtering is at an all-time low."

"The Heads of State and Government made it clear at the Nice Summit that there would be no changes to Agenda 2000 funding. This means no extra money for tackling the BSE crisis. The Commission's hands are tied. Unlike in the 1996 BSE crisis there are no EU funds available for additional direct income aid for farmers."

"National aid can be granted only on certain conditions. If a Member State can show that its farmers have suffered exceptional income losses on account of the BSE crisis, the aid is time-limited and that farmers are not being over-compensated, the Commission may approve the aid. We shall examine each case on its merits. Any payments without prior authorisation would automatically be illegal."

19 Mar 01 - CJD - BSE: Commission will adopt special market measures for beef

European Commission--Monday 19 March 2001

DN: IP/01/407 Date: 2001-03-19

TXT: FR EN DE PDF: FR EN DE Word Processed: FR EN DE


Brussels. 16 March 2001

BSE: Commission will adopt special market measures for beef

Following today's vote in the management committee for beef and veal, the European Commission will now formally adopt the special market measures for cattle older than 30 months (see IP/01/302). Carcasses of animals which belong to categories not eligible for intervention purchases, which are more than 30 months of age and which have all been tested negatively for BSE will be covered. The scheme shall be applied immediately in those Member States which have demonstrated full testing capacity for cattle older than 30 months provided there is a weak market for cows. It may equally be applied in the other Member States if there is a week market for cows. Therefore purchases shall only be made, through tender procedure, in Member States where the price for cows is below the trigger price during a period of two weeks. This trigger-price is fixed for each Member State. The Community financing of purchases is fixed at 70% of the price for the meat. Be it for storage, be it for processing through rendering, no fixed quantities per Member States apply. The new measure will enter into force following the formal adoption by the Commission in the days to come. The special measures under the new scheme shall apply until the end of 2001. For those Member States without full testing capacity, the provisions of the "purchase for destruction scheme" (see IP/00/1456) remain in force until 30 June 2001.

Commenting on today's vote, Commissioner Franz Fischler stated "Faced with increased quantities of beef that cannot find a market, this measure is necessary and without alternative. We are living up to our social responsibility towards the farm community. Buying in beef is the last resort in a crisis situation. But it is not the way forward. The beef production of the future must be sustainable - socially, environmentally and ethically. The Commission has already started its reflections. We will bring forward our long-term vision within the mid-term review of the Common Agricultural Policy in the first half of 2002."

The new scheme will apply in those Member States where a weak market for cow meat (below the trigger price, see annex) prevails. This is currently the case for Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Spain, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal and Austria. Purchases may only be made in Member States recording prices for cows below the trigger price during a period of two weeks. No purchase price will be accepted which exceed the trigger-price plus the processing margin. The EU will finance 70% of the purchase expenditures. All other costs related to the beef purchase scheme shall be borne by the Member State concerned.

Subject to the trigger mechanism being activated, the Member States which have opted out of the "purchase for destruction scheme" following full testing capacity shall apply it immediately while other Member States may apply it on an optional basis until 30 june 2001. It is therefore possible for the latter Member States to implement the new measure, in parallel with the "purchase for destruction scheme".

Today the management committee also decided to buy into public intervention 30,796 tonnes of male beef (Belgium 100 t, Spain 14,572 t, France 7,739 t, Italy 7,145 t, Austria 810 t, Germany 430 t).

Annexes :

The trigger price per Member State

The actual market price for cow meat per Member State

Annex 1 :

Trigger prices

(/100 kg carcase weight)

until to 30 June 2001 from 1 July to 31 December 2001

Belgium 180.0 167.3 Denmark 178.2 165.6 Germany 177.7 165.2 Greece 158.0 146.9 Spain 158.0 146.9 France 218.3 202.9 Ireland 193.3 179.6 Italy 158.0 146.9 Luxembourg 188.2 174.9 The Netherlands 185.2 172.1 Austria 161.5 150.1 Portugal 158.0 146.9 Finland 169.4 157.4 Sweden 205.7 191.1

Annex 2 : The actual market price (week 10 of 2001) for cow meat per Member

State/Price Belgium 162.1 Denmark 170.4 Germany 134.5 Greece 180.0 Spain 120.3 France 201.4 Ireland 168.0 Italy 178.6 Luxembourg 194.3 The Netherlands 167.9 Austria 148.5 Portugal 148.1 Finland 182.1 Sweden 215.8

19 Mar 01 - CJD - BSE risk could restrict blood donors

James Meikle, health correspondent

Guardian--Monday 19 March 2001

Nearly one in six blood donors may be banned from giving blood to avoid the theoretical risk that they may pass on the fatal human form of BSE.

Thousands of volunteers would be rejected simply because they had received transfusions themselves. The move could create huge shortages and leave the blood services struggling to meet demand.

Officials had estimated that between 5% and 10% of donors had received blood themselves but a survey has revealed the figure may be as high as 16%. One in five potential donors could not remember or did not know whether they had received a transfusion, making calculations more difficult.

At least 13 of the 95 British victims of variant CJD have been blood donors and authorities have been struggling over the ethical problem of whether people who have received blood transfusions or vaccinations including donations from these should be informed of the potential risk.

At present, the general guidance is that they should not be informed since there is no test, no cure and no treatment for vCJD. New restrictions could help ease that problem, as well as providing extra safeguards against accidental infection.

White blood cells are already filtered out of blood donations because they are considered most likely to carry the agent responsible for vCJD. But tests which have indicated that sheep can transmit BSE through blood transfusion have strengthened fears that people too could unwittingly infect each other.

The advisory committee on the microbiological safety of blood and tissues for transplantation will consider the measures on blood donation next month, the department of health confirmed last night.

19 Mar 01 - CJD - Kangaroo meat a safer bet

Patrick Barkham

Guardian--Monday 19 March 2001

Following the BSE and foot and mouth scares, demand for the flesh of Australia's national icon has jumped by 20% in Europe this year.

The faces of the customs officers at Australia's international airports are creased with worry.

Sniffer dogs in hand, they are working overtime during the foot and mouth crisis in an attempt to keep the country free from the disease. There are draconian restrictions on what you can bring into Australia and even after a 24-hour flight, every tourist from Britain is searched and their shoes scrubbed with disinfectant.

If the disease breaks out in Australia it will be a calamity for the country, whose economy - now dipping into recession - depends on its multibillion dollar farming industry far more than in the UK.

But there is one group of Australians who are profiting from the foot and mouth crisis across the world. Demand for the flesh of Australia's national icon, the kangaroo, has jumped by 20% in Europe this year as the BSE scare and the foot and mouth outbreak dent consumer confidence.

The kangaroo industry is racing to supply new markets in eastern Europe, who would normally buy cheap cuts of beef from the European Union. Bargain-basement kangaroo meat is now being used instead to make salami and sausages in countries such as Russia, Romania and Serbia.

The Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia (KIAA) says that most of the 20% increase comes from sales to Germany, France, Holland and Belgium, which with their strong tradition of eating wild meat have naturally taken to kangaroo. Demand in Britain remains relatively low because it doesn't have much of an appetite for game cuisine, says John Kelly of KIAA.

Animal rights groups continue to strongly object to the consumption of kangaroo, which takes pride of place on Australia's coat of arms. But, traditionally used in pet food and for leather football boots, human consumption of the versatile marsupial in Australia has increased 50-fold in the last decade. Many of the country's top restaurants now offer high quality kangaroo steaks along with other innovative "bush tucker" dishes.

"It's cheap, it's safe, it's clean and green. High quality kangaroo meat tastes a little bit like deer and folk say it's good for you," says Don Cairns, a senior Australian trade commissioner based in Bucharest.

Chefs extol kangaroo's flavour and leanness. The marsupial only eats grass and has an active "free range" lifestyle, which means it contains less than 2% fat, of which 48% is healthy polyunsaturated fat. The meat is also high in iron.

There are 35 million kangaroos hopping around Australia. None are farmed yet, but each year national parks officers assess how many can be culled sustainably, usually ruling that up to 10% of the kangaroo population can be killed. Still in its infancy, the kangaroo industry has yet to fill any of its quotas.

Mr Kelly says: "It is environmentally wise for us in Australia to produce our food from animals that belong here, rather than use introduced exotics like sheep and cattle which cause considerable environmental damage."

Unlike hard-hoofed animals, such as sheep, native kangaroos have soft pads, which cause less damage to Australia's fragile plains. "Harvesting" wild kangaroos has far less of an impact on the land than the high-intensity farming of beef cattle, for which forests are often cleared.

Red and grey kangaroos are not threatened species. But the Australian Conservation Foundation says that although some culling operations could be justified, it opposes the commercial hunting of wild kangaroos, while any proposals for kangaroo farming should be subject to stringent environmental controls.

"We're pretty cautious about kangaroo farming because local circumstances can dictate the sustainability of farming practices," says Charlie Sherwin, an ACF spokesperson. "Producers should be required to prove that their operations won't adversely affect the ecology, genetics or sustainability of wild or captive kangaroo populations."