Document Directory

21 May 01 - CJD - Politicians and Scientists Warn of BSE Complacency
21 May 01 - CJD - Red Cross to Reject Some Blood
21 May 01 - CJD - Nationwide control for Mad Cow Disease
21 May 01 - CJD - Food Safety in an Enlarged EU
21 May 01 - CJD - BSE crisis talks over risk from cattle cull
21 May 01 - CJD - £40m a year to keep 'BSE mountain' safe
21 May 01 - CJD - Mad Cow threat affecting nation's blood supply
21 May 01 - CJD - EU working to restore confidence in meat -Fischler
21 May 01 - CJD - Frequently asked questions about BSE
21 May 01 - CJD - Frequently asked questions about BSE-tests

21 May 01 - CJD - Politicians and Scientists Warn of BSE Complacency

Staff Reporter

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung--Monday 21 May 2001

F.A.Z. BERLIN. Just a day after a state minister gave the all-clear over Mad Cow disease, a spokeswoman for Germany's minister of consumer protection. food and agriculture said it was too early to make such an announcement.

On Sunday, Klaudia Martini, a Social Democrat and environment minister in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, said that of the 28,000 cattle tested for BSE, only two animals had shown signs of the brain-wasting disease. In addition, she said, high-risk material such as bone marrow and brain products were no longer entering the food chain. She also urged the European Union to ease its ban on using animal remains in feed.

However, the spokeswoman for Renate Künast, a member of Alliance 90/The Greens, contradicted Ms. Martini on Monday, saying that "we have to remain wary."

"Unfortunately, we have registered several more cases of BSE in the past weeks, and we have to be prepared for more in the next years," she added.

Bärbel Höhn, North Rhine-Westphalia's agriculture minister, also warned of complacency on the issue. Nearly 70 cattle, she said, have been diagnosed with the disease. "As long as we continue finding BSE cases, we cannot give the all clear or start saying that we no longer have a problem with BSE," she said. Ms. Höhn also favors extending the EU-wide ban on using meat- and bonemeal products in animal feed. Such products are considered to be a source of BSE transmission.

Scientists and research institutes joined the chorus of those warning against a relaxation of anti-BSE measures. In a joint statement, the Robert Koch Institute, the Federal Institute for Health-Related Consumer Protection, the Paul-Ehrlich-Institute and the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices said: "The likelihood of cases of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease being found especially within the European Union, and therefore in Germany, is increasing."

Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is the human form of BSE and is believed to be transmitted through the consumption of beef products.

However, the scientists stressed that the transmission rate of the BSE pathogen, which is made of molecules known as prions, to humans would be extremely low. There is no known case of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in Germany so far. According to an estimate by the institutes, the number of BSE cases would climb from close to 70 to between 150 and 500 by year's end. Around 700,000 cattle have been tested in Germany for BSE since Nov. 24, when the disease broke out.

Monday also saw the start in Germany of the second EU-wide mass culling program designed to stabilize the beef market, which had been close to collapsing as a result of the BSE crisis. Unlike the first program, there is no requirement to destroy the tested meat. Instead, it can be stored or processed. In the first mass slaughter, only 88,000 cattle were killed compared with the 400,000 originally earmarked for culling.

21 May 01 - CJD - Red Cross to Reject Some Blood

Staff Reporter

Las Vegas Sun--Monday 21 May 2001

WASHINGTON- Guarding against Mad Cow disease, the American Red Cross said Monday that it will stop accepting blood donations from people who have spent as little as three months in Britain or six months anywhere in Europe.

The Red Cross rules, which will take effect in September, are much stricter than those contemplated by the Food and Drug Administration.

Experts worry that the dueling policies will further confuse the public about the baffling disease. The American Red Cross said Monday that caution is needed given that there is no blood test for the human form of Mad Cow disease, which has a long latency period.

"In light of tremendous scientific uncertainty, we have to make the best judgment possible," said Red Cross spokeswoman Blythe Kuvina.

The Red Cross estimates that the new rule will make 8 percent of its current donors ineligible, Kuvina said, adding that the organization was already working to increase its pool of donors.

Last year, the FDA banned blood donations by anyone who spent a total of six months in Britain between 1980 and 1996, when that country was the epicenter of the Mad Cow outbreak.

But with Mad Cow disease spreading throughout Europe, in January the FDA's scientific advisers recommended banning donations from anyone who spent a total of 10 years in Portugal, France and Ireland since 1980. The expert panel, which included some of the nation's top Mad Cow experts, concluded that these countries were of most concern, but said the risk there was lower than that in Britain.

In February, the FDA indicated that its policy would closely adhere to the recommendations of its advisers, who argued that the Red Cross' call for tighter restrictions went farther than necessary. The FDA's blood chief, Dr. Jay Epstein, said then that the agency was likely to impose the ban only on travelers to Portugal and France.

Under the Red Cross policy announced Monday, donations will be banned from:

-Anyone who has lived in the United Kingdom for a total of three months or longer since 1980.

-Anyone who has lived anywhere in Europe for a total of six months since 1980.

-Anyone who has received a blood transfusion in the United Kingdom.

The Red Cross, which collects about half of the nation's blood supply, is legally allowed to set stricter standards than required by the FDA. But its blood banks may not say or imply that their blood is safer than those collected by banks following the FDA standards.

Defending the Red Cross' plans earlier this year, Dr. Bernadine Healy, the group's president, called the FDA standards "minimal." If the nation won't import any European cattle, she said, her blood banks should adopt a similar standard.

Healy said she was not implying that the Red Cross standard was better than the FDA's.

"They're making a judgment. We're making a judgment," she said.

Mad Cow disease seems to spread to people through eating infected beef. There is no proof yet that it or its human counterpart spreads through blood. But how to protect the blood supply in case the disease eventually hits the United States and proves a real threat is controversial.

Competing blood banks fear patients will perceive the Red Cross policy as safer and thus they will have to follow suit, risking shortages by turning away longtime donors like military families.

21 May 01 - CJD - Nationwide control for Mad Cow Disease

Staff Reporter

Norway Post--Monday 21 May 2001

The Norwegian Veterinay Authorities will on July 1st begin an extensive nationwide control of beef cattle, in order to reveal possible cases of Mad Cow Disease in Norway. The control will take one year to complete.

The Head of the laboratory at the Tromsoe Veterinary Institute, Kjell Nyberg, does not believe there will be found any trace of the disease in Norway.

The control will be carried out according to EU-regulations, and samples will be taken of brain tissue from all beef cattle older than 30 months.

21 May 01 - CJD - Food Safety in an Enlarged EU

European Commission

European Commission--Monday 21 May 2001

David BYRNE European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection Food Safety and enlargement Swedish Presidency Seminar on the implementation of the White Paper on Food Safety in an Enlarged EU Brussels, 21 May 2001

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- DN: SPEECH/01/234 Date: 2001-05-21

TXT: EN PDF: EN Word Processed: EN



European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection

Food Safety and enlargement

Swedish Presidency Seminar on the implementation of the White Paper on Food Safety in an Enlarged EU

Brussels, 21 May 2001

I was delighted to accept Margareta's invitation to give some introductory remarks at today's seminar. May I welcome all participants from Candidate Countries and I hope that you will find today's proceedings useful in terms of gaining insights into our implementation of the wide range of measures set out in the White Paper on Food Safety.

Enlargement is one of the key priorities of the Commission. It is hugely important for a host of reasons geo-political, social and economic. I am personally committed to ensuring that enlargement happens successfully and as quickly as possible.

My own work involves many issues that are crucial to the success of enlargement, none more so that food safety.

Food safety has a high priority in the European Union. The Commission's White Paper on Food Safety of January 2000 addressed existing weaknesses and consumer fears and proposed a substantial number of actions based on the "farm to table" approach.

In order to restore and strengthen consumer confidence, it underlined the need for a review of existing EU requirements in the field of food safety as well as for the establishment of the European Food Authority. The underlying objective is to deliver a high level of public health and consumer protection throughout the Union.

A safe food chain from farm to fork, correctly regulated and effectively controlled is the road to building this confidence. Food businesses have their role to play in this regard, as ultimately it is the responsibility of every business to ensure the safety of the foods they produce, manufacture or sell.

The Commission is committed to ensuring that European consumers have access to the safest food supply in the world. I am personally determined to establish a comprehensive legal framework with effective and open organisational structures so that we can rebuild the fragile confidence in our food supply.

Food safety has to be the driving force in the regulation of the food supply. In addition our legislation must be modern and flexible enough to regulate a highly technologically advanced European food industry while at the same time provide sufficient safeguards in smaller more traditional food businesses. Not only do we have to consider the food law itself but also we have to ensure that our procedures are efficient.

For example where we have approval mechanisms for products, the scientific assessments must be carried out thoroughly and comprehensively, and without undue delay.

Where food safety is assured we must not needlessly block industrial innovation, through over bureaucratic requirements.

One of the key building blocks for an effective food safety regime in the Union is our legislation laying down the general principles and requirements of food law and establishing the European Food Authority. We published our proposals in this regard last November and since then they have been subject to intense scrutiny in the Council and the European Parliament.

I am delighted to say that the legislation is making speedy progress. Let me compliment the efforts of the Swedish Presidency for the extremely hard work they are putting in to advance the legislation.

Given the rate of progress, I am confident that we will be in a position to establish the Authority from the beginning of next year.

Food safety plays an important role in the accession preparations. The Commission's Enlargement Strategy Paper of November 2000 underlined that "in the area of food safety the candidates need to ensure coherent transposition, implementation and controls throughout the whole food chain".

In order to ensure the coherence of the accession preparations in the food safety area, I have asked each of the candidate countries, complementary to the on-going accession negotiations, to draw up a Food Safety Strategy. This document should outline the plans for transposition and implementation as well as for co-ordination between the administrative and enforcement services responsible for food safety.

In the Common Positions on Agriculture of June 2000, the EU underlined that the preparations for enlargement with regard to food safety have direct implications for the functioning of the internal market and the preservation of consumer confidence with regard to all products of animal and plant origin.

Against this background, all concerned must ensure that enlargement will in no way result in a reduction of the present levels of food safety. It is important that consumers feel confident that enlargement will not lead to any weakening in the standards of food control and that safe food will circulate freely in the enlarged Union.

The food safety acquis covers a large number of legislative acts that are often broad in scope and demanding in terms of transposition, implementation and enforcement. It is therefore of crucial importance to ensure that the acquis is fully transposed into national legislation and administrative structures and procedures are strengthened and reformed in good time before accession.

Although progress has already been made in this respect it is clear that substantial efforts are still needed in all Candidate Countries.

In addition to the efforts to achieve compliance with present EU requirements, the Candidate Countries need to take into account that the food safety acquis is a fast moving target that is continuously developing. On the basis of our White Paper on Food Safety a substantial number of initiatives are under preparation in order to guarantee a high level of food safety.

For example, the food safety acquis is developing quickly in the fight against BSE. It will be necessary during the accession preparations that candidate countries achieve full compliance as regards BSE related measures, such as, inspection, testing, and removal of specified risk materials (SRM) and restrictions on the use of meat and bone meal (MBM).

It is clear that the food safety area represents a major challenge in the accession preparations. The Community will be insisting that the candidate countries ensure coherent transposition, implementation and controls throughout the whole food chain so that food safety is not compromised. A high level of food safety in the whole of the enlarged Union is crucial for the functioning of the internal market and for the preservation of consumer confidence.

The candidate countries still need to devote major efforts in the food safety area in order to achieve full compliance with EU requirements as regards transposition, implementation and enforcement of legislation.

Particular efforts will be needed with regard to such areas as the internal market control system, external border controls, public health requirements for establishments for animal products and animal welfare.

Candidate countries must also ensure that inspection systems and laboratories are upgraded and sufficiently equipped and staffed with fully qualified personnel. In addition, the candidate countries must have the capacity to adapt to future changes of the acquis in the field of food safety, which can be expected to develop substantially in the coming years.

All efforts must be made to ensure that the available preaccession instruments are fully used to support this process. The monitoring of the progress made and problems encountered during this process will become an increasingly important element of the accession negotiations.

Consolidating food safety standards across an enlarged EU is crucial to make enlargement a success.

21 May 01 - CJD - BSE crisis talks over risk from cattle cull

Paul Harris and Jason Burke

Guardian--Monday 21 May 2001

Ministers have summoned their top scientific advisers to an emergency meeting as fears mount that ash and the buried carcasses of cows slaughtered during the foot and mouth epidemic could be spreading the deadly human version of BSE .

On Thursday new evidence from tests at hundreds of sites where cattle have been burnt or buried will be reviewed by experts. Ministers are concerned that proteins known as 'prions' which cause Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans and are found in BSE-infected meat may have polluted the water supply or the air. The hastily convened meeting shows the depth of Ministers' concern .

Members of the committee have confirmed to The Observer that the mass slaughter programme posed a risk of infection from prions. 'There is certainly a risk, but we do not know how big or small it is,' said Professor Harriet Kimbell.

Another committee member, veterinary surgeon Peter Jinman, said he had been called early last week and told of the meeting 'specifically to look at this issue of possible contamination'.

The problem lies with cows that are older than 30 months and may have developed BSE. Though enormous efforts have been made to stamp out the disease in Britain, experts believe that nearly 2 per cent of cattle are still infected .

Usually the infected cattle have special rules governing the disposal of their carcasses, but during the foot and mouth epidemic whole herds were slaughtered and disposed of without testing.

Environmental health officials in Devon, one of the areas hardest hit by foot and mouth, told The Observer that in many instances piles of ash remain unburied. In some cases the ash has lain exposed for up to three months. That raises the risk of prions being blown away on the wind or washed into local streams and rivers .

Nicholas Mann, a senior commercial services manager for Torridge District Council, said there were up to 40 ash pyres in his district alone. Adverts in local newspapers have been placed asking residents within two kilometres of a pyre to come forward to have their water supplies tested for ash contamination.

Aside from prions, other possible contaminations include bacteria such as E.coli and campylobacter, which are harmful to humans. 'It is a worry and we are seeking advice from our local health authority on communicable disease,' Mann said.

A spokesman from the Environment Agency said that routine tests were continuing. She said that all ash was disposed of after assessment of potential health and environmental risks.

21 May 01 - CJD - £40m a year to keep 'BSE mountain' safe

By Macer Hall

Telegraph--Monday 21 May 2001

The government is paying £40 million a year to store remains of cows slaughtered because of the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy crisis.

About 400,000 tons of animal waste, boiled and ground to dust, is being kept at 15 sites around the country because of a shortage of incinerators. Piled in warehouses, much of the waste dates from the beginning of the BSE slaughter programme five years ago.

While precise details of how much money is being paid to keep the remains have not been revealed, a worker in the waste industry told The Telegraph that some firms were earning up to £250 per square foot a day for storing meat and bonemeal. He said: "If they were storing non-hazardous waste, they might expect about £1.50 per square foot a day for storing it.

"This BSE mountain is growing. It is stored in ordinary warehouses and there could even be a threat to public health. It's an enormous problem that's got to be looked at properly," he said. The animal waste is a consequence of the policy of slaughtering an estimated 3.5 million cattle aged more than 30 months in an attempt to eradicate BSE.

The meat and bonemeal has to be incinerated at temperatures of 1,830°F (1,000°C) to destroy BSE proteins that could enter the food chain. Because there are only three suitable incinerators , however, the stockpiles are growing.

There are nine storage sites in England: Preston and Longton in Lancashire, Widnes in Cheshire, Prescot in Merseyside, Blyton and Barton Heath in Lincolnshire, Greendale Barton and Wrangaton in Devon, and Wymington in Bedfordshire. There are two in Scotland: Glenrothes in Fife and Bonnington in Borders; and four in Northern Ireland: Castledawson in Co Londonderry, Strabane in Co Tyrone, and Maghaberry and Mallusk in Co Antrim.

Four years ago, Labour accused John Major's Conservative Government of "dangerous incompetence" for allowing the cattle waste to pile up and called for a public inquiry into the problem. At that time, there were 174,000 tons of waste, less than half the present amount.

Storage costs are paid by the Government out of funds for dealing with the BSE crisis. The Intervention Board, a Government department that deals with European Union agriculture policy, is overseeing the slaughter, storage and incineration programme.

A spokesman for the board said that the waste was being incinerated but the cattle-over-30-month slaughter scheme had been suspended because of the foot and mouth crisis. "We have got a target to incinerate 60 per cent by 2002. In the winter months we were slaughtering something like 15,000 cattle a week on average."

Figures from the board showed that the cost of storage and transport of meat, bonemeal and tallow between May 1996 and November 2000 was £178 million, almost £40 million a year . The spokesman refused to comment on the fees being paid to storage companies saying: "We negotiate contracts with various companies. They are commercially sensitive prices."

Tim Yeo, the shadow agriculture minister, said: "The Government has swept this issue under the carpet. It is not being addressed with the urgency needed. This is yet another example of an issue that Labour made a fuss about in Opposition only to be ignored once they are in government."

21 May 01 - CJD - Mad Cow threat affecting nation's blood supply

By Pam Firmin

Sun Herald--Monday 21 May 2001

Mad Cow threat to affect pool of blood donors

Terms: One pint, or unit, of whole blood can be donated by a healthy person every 56 days, or a maximum of six times a year. Each unit of whole blood is broken down into several components, including one unit each of red blood cells, plasma and platelets. Usage: More than 26.5 million units of blood components are transfused into 4.5 million hospital patients in the U.S. each year; 32,000 units of red blood cells are needed daily.

Donors: About 13.9 million units of whole blood are donated each year in the U.S. by about 8 million volunteers. About 5 percent of people who are eligible donate blood, and from 5 to 11 percent of those would be deferred with the changes that are expected. The average blood donor is a college-educated, white man between 30 and 50, married and of above-average income.

Who: People 65 and older comprise 13 percent of the population but use about 25 percent of all blood transfused. Transfusions most typically are needed by accident victims, cancer patients and surgery patients.

Future: Blood substitutes are being developed but now are used only in critical situations. Blood banks must look for younger donors as their reliable post-World War II donors are aging out of the donor pool.


What: The Red Cross Blood Center in Biloxi collects from donors four days a week. A person may donate one pint, also called one unit, of blood every 56 days.

When: The schedule is: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday and Wednesday; 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday; 8 a.m.-1 p.m. first and third Saturday.

Where: 2782 Fernwood Road, corner of Fernwood and DeBuys Roads, Biloxi.

Usages: A trauma patient who has been in a car accident will require between four and 100 units of blood; an organ transplant patient, between five and 100 units; and a heart bypass patient, approximately four units.

Details: 896-6772


Stringent new measures to protect the U.S. blood supply against the fatal human form of Mad Cow disease could soon have blood collection centers around the country turning away up to 9 percent or more of their regular donors, blood center officials say. Creating new donors to replace them will be the focus of the future.

There is no documentation that the disease can be passed from one person to another through blood transfusions, said Dr. Kenneth McMilin of the American Red Cross, but it's too soon to know for certain.

Because there is a long lapse of 10 to 20 years before a person becomes symptomatic, he said, and because the human form of the disease was diagnosed only in 1995, not enough time has passed to eliminate the possibility.

McMilin is chief medical officer of the agency's Alabama Region, which works with the Mississippi Gulf Coast Region.

Researchers are two or three years away from developing a blood test that would identify the disease, McMilin said, "and from the perspective of the Red Cross, the primary concern (now) is protecting the safety of the blood supply."

McMilin said this is a new disease believed to have spread from sheep to cows, with the first cow diagnosed in 1985 in England. Ten years later, in 1995, the first person was diagnosed as having its variant human form, called vCJD, the acronym for variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The animal form of the disease is called BSE, the acronym for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy.

In both forms, the disease attacks brain tissue and causes death.

Based on current scientific knowledge, McMilin said, a person can acquire vCJD only by eating contaminated beef from Europe and the United Kingdom. The total number of cases throughout entire world, he said, is just under 100, with the vast majority in the United Kingdom. There have been no cases of BSE in the United States.

By fall, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to tighten its rules so blood will not be accepted from donors who have lived in Europe for a total of a year at any time since 1980. A ban on blood from people who lived in the United Kingdom for a total of six months between 1980 and 1995 is already in effect. The FDA's 1995 end date is expected to be extended to the present. The UK encompasses England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and several small islands.

"The presumption is people who spent time in (these places) have an increased risk for becoming infected," McMilin said.

The Red Cross is considering even more cautious criteria than the FDA is expected to require, Dr. John Burch, medical director of the New York-Pennsylvania Blood Region, told the New York Assembly in March. This criteria would defer donors who:

Have lived in the UK for a cumulative total of three months or more since 1980.

Have lived in any other European country for six months or more since 1980.

Who have received a blood transfusion in the United Kingdom.

On the Coast, this could mean the loss of more than 5,000 donors and 8,800 units of whole blood a year just for the American Red Cross.

Mississippi Blood Services and The Blood Center also supply and collect here, but in smaller quantities than the Red Cross.

The Red Cross stands to lose about 9 percent nationwide, or 400,000 current donors, equivalent to four Super Bowl stadiums full of people, said Keith Jordan, of the Alabama Region of the American Red Cross.

A higher-than-average donor loss is projected for the Coast, he said, because personnel at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi and the Naval Construction Battalion Center at Gulfport get overseas assignments to European countries.

Keesler Air Force Base operates its own blood center and has already experienced a 2 percent drop in blood donations since the UK deferrals took effect. This leaves frequent donors who are now deferred "understandably very disappointed they no longer qualify," said Maj. Toni Mattoch, chief of the Keesler Medical Center Blood Bank. The anticipated effect of the final guidelines will probably be less on Keesler than other military bases because of the student population that has not spent time overseas, she said.

The Seabee Center had no figures available.

Nationwide, about 1.25 million pints of blood from 720,000 current donors stand to become unusable if the expected FDA deferrals said effect, said Sara Foer with the American Association of Blood Banks in Bethesda, Md., which represents about 90 percent of all blood collected in the U.S.

At the same time, Foer said, "The demand for blood is increasing every year because people are living longer, and need more blood.

"Less than 5 percent of all eligible people who can donate actually do donate blood. If this deferral is expanded, we are estimating we will lose anywhere from 6 to 11 percent of donors. It will be a big hit on the donor population and blood supply."

Facing the loss of regular donors, blood collection agencies are working harder to recruit the 95 percent of eligible donors who don't donate.

"It is important that there be education of young people on the importance of donating blood," McMilin said. "There's a double benefit when we have a blood drive at a school, to help develop that lifelong habit of being a blood donor."

Jordan said the Red Cross will launch extensive publicity campaigns at local and national levels to increase donors nationwide.

Once the terms for the tightening are known, Jordan said the Red Cross will contact donors to explain what's happening. It hopes to enlist newly deferred donors as volunteers in other areas with the message, "just because you can't give blood, there are other ways to be on the team."

Pam Firmin can be reached at 896-2312 or at

21 May 01 - CJD - EU working to restore confidence in meat -Fischler


Forbes--Monday 21 May 2001

DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) - EU Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler said during a visit to Iowa Saturday that farmers in Europe are just beginning to recover after outbreaks of Mad Cow and foot-and-mouth disease shook consumer confidence in meat.

"What we have to do now is we have to try to restore consumer confidence," Fischler said during a stop in the heart of the U.S. farm belt. "Therefore, it's necessary that whatever we do, we do it in full transparency."

Fischler said Mad Cow disease was "under control" in Europe, although research on the fatal brain-wasting illness would continue.

"We have all the necessary measures in place so we can really say that European beef is safe," he said. "Meanwhile, our markets are starting to recover."

Fischler said a separate livestock ailment, the highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease, was being conquered in Britain.

"This is a very positive step.... We are going to eradicate foot-and-mouth disease from European farms," he said. "I think we have a very good chance."

Fischler said a majority of EU member states never recorded a case of foot-and-mouth during outbreaks of the disease earlier this year.

The United States in March banned fresh meat products from all 15 EU countries, although the disease has only been found in four of them. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said Friday the ban would be relaxed in some regions in the next couple of weeks.

In Iowa, where there are eight times more pigs than people, Fischler assured his hosts that he was not carrying the foot-and-mouth virus.

"One has to be careful; therefore, I can give you a guarantee that in the last weeks, I never visited a European farm.... Also, we are using disinfection carpets and things like that," Fischler said.

After touring agricultural research facilities at Iowa State University in Ames Friday, Fischler ate breakfast Saturday with Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack and was then escorted to a few farms.

"I got the impression that we are really here in the heartland of rural America," Fischler said.

He was slated to attend the World Agricultural Forum's World Congress in St. Louis, Missouri, which starts Sunday. Copyright 2000, Reuters News Service.

21 May 01 - CJD - Frequently asked questions about BSE

European Commission

European Commission--Monday 21 May 2001

The overall incidence of BSE in the European Union is falling, led by the improvement in the situation in the UK where over 99% of all cases to date have been registered. However, the incidence is rising in some Member States which has revived public fears over the risks from eating beef. There is an extensive range of Community measures in place to protect the public against the risks from BSE. If these measures are strictly implemented, the public can be confident in the safety of beef. Confidence could be further strengthened by rapid progress on key Commission food safety proposals currently before the Council and Parliament (Food Authority, Animal By-Products, Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs) etc). The Commission decision to require targeted testing for BSE has been vindicated by the results of such tests in France. These tests will now be extended, progressively, to cover all cattle aged over 30 months. Member States must ensure full implementation of all Community measures relating to BSE. They must also improve their communication efforts to the public on BSE and on the protective measures in place.

BSE and vCJD

What is the origin of BSE and what is its incidence in the EU?

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) is a disease of the brain in cattle. It was first diagnosed in the UK in 1986. It reached epidemic proportions due to the inclusion in cattle feed of meat and bone meal produced from animal carcasses. To date, there have been over 179,000 cases in the UK and about 1,300 cases elsewhere in the European Union. While it is continuing to fall sharply in the UK, it is rising in a number of other Member States. However, it remains at low levels in these Member States relative to the UK figures.

What about its human equivalent vCJD?

Variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (vCJD) was first diagnosed in 1996. It is now accepted to be caused by the transmission of BSE to humans. There are 89 confirmed or suspected cases in the EU to date, mostly in young people. All cases have occurred in the UK with the exception of France (3) and Ireland (1). Estimates of future prevalence vary widely as too little is known about the incubation period between exposure to the infective agent and the emergence of symptoms.

What is the incidence of BSE by Member State?

Currently, the overall BSE incidence in the Community is falling. In the UK, the incidence has fallen sharply to 1,136 so far this year, a fall of about 40% compared to 1999. This compares to over 36,000 cases in 1992 when incidence peaked. In the Netherlands, a new case was reported recently, the first since early 1999. In Luxembourg, no cases have been reported since 1997. In Portugal, the incidence has been stable since mid-1999. On the other hand, the incidence is increasing in France, Belgium and Ireland. In Ireland, the number of cases has increased from 95 cases in 1999 to 110 cases. In Belgium, the corresponding increase is from 3 to 9 cases. In France, the number of cases has increased from 31 in 1999 to 103. Finally, Denmark, Germany and Spain have reported their first native BSE cases ever in 2000. Five Member States (Italy, Finland, Sweden, Greece, Austria) have not yet officially registered a native BSE case.

What is the expected future evolution of the disease?

Targeted rapid post mortem testing for BSE, which will be compulsory throughout the EU as of 1 January 2001, is expected to increase the number of detected BSE cases in all Member States, possibly also in Member States with no detected cases so far. On the other hand, the age structure of the positive cases is shifting towards older animals in all Member States, which is a positive sign. Currently all cases, except three, have been born (and probably infected) before the BSE crisis in March 1996. The present increase in the number of BSE cases in some Member States is therefore probably not due to possible shortcomings in the preventive measures currently in place, but rather to an increased rate of new infections in 1993-1995. As the average incubation period of BSE is 4-5 years, the effectiveness of the current measures in place can only be fully assessed in 2004-2005. The majority of the cases have been found by traditional passive surveillance (mandatory reporting and examination of suspect animals). In France, a significant number (40) have been found by rapid post mortem testing.


What has the EU done to protect the public?

The European Commission has put in place a very comprehensive series of Community measures in relation to BSE:

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 animal waste (133 degrees, 3 bars of pressure for twenty minutes) to reduce infectivity to a minimum, as of 1 April 1997;

Active surveillance measures for the detection, control and eradication of BSE, as of 1 May 1998 and the introduction of post-mortem testing from 1 January 2001;

The requirement to remove specified high-risk materials (SRMs like spinal cord, brain, eyes, tonsils, parts of the intestines) from cattle, sheep and goats throughout the EU from 1 October 2000 from the human and animal food chains. These materials, which account for over 95% of infectivity, were already being removed in several Member States prior to this ban;

The introduction of targeted testing for BSE, with a focus on high risk animal categories, from 1 January 2001. This measure will be reviewed and extended to all cattle aged over 30 months entering the food chain from 1 July 2001;

The prohibition of dead animals not fit for human consumption to be used for feed production as from 1 March 2001 onwards.

In addition there are country specific measures in force in several Member States, especially those with the highest incidence of BSE. All Community measures are based on scientific advice and are regularly reviewed by the EU Scientific Steering Committee. The Commission's Food and Veterinary Office also carries out inspections to monitor enforcement of these controls. Its reports have encouraged action in the Member States to improve compliance. These reports are published on the Commission website

What other measures are proposed to protect the public from BSE?

In addition to the measures outlined above, a number of other important Commission proposals are currently under consideration by the Council and Parliament:

A proposal for a Regulation on the prevention and control of Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs). It is expected that a common position will be reached at the Agriculture Council in December 2000;

A proposal for a Regulation on Animal By-products which will ensure that only material from animals fit for human consumption can be used in animal feed (this will be introduced for dead animals as an emergency measure from 1 March 2001);

A proposal for a European Food Safety Authority which will provide for improvement of risk assessment and communication on food safety issues. The European Commission's ongoing response to BSE must also be judged in the wider context of the White Paper on Food Safety (see IP/00/20) which sets out a very comprehensive range of proposals aimed at ensuring that food is safe from the farm to the table.

What is being done to tackle the risk of BSE cases entering the food chain?

The Commission estimates that there will be less than 500 cases of BSE detected in the Community herd of over 70 million (outside the UK) this year. These cases are destroyed and do not enter the food chain;

Any animals with signs suggestive of BSE at inspection before slaughter must be checked to determine if BSE is present;

High risk tissues (the specified risk materials - SRMs) are removed at slaughter from all cattle aged over 12 months and destroyed. This reduces the level of potential exposure from animals which might be in the early stages of the disease to an extremely low level;

Furthermore, the targeted testing for BSE of animals entering the food chain proposed by the Commission will provide further assurances that beef is safe. Recent developments concerning BSE

Why is there a new crisis of confidence in the safety of beef?

There have been 99 cases of BSE to date this year in France, compared to "only" 31 cases in 1999. This amounts to 10 cases per million cattle aged over two years of age, well below the international definition for high incidence countries of 100 per million. It also reflects the introduction of targeted tests for BSE in France which accounts for about one third of the cases found this year. However, this increased incidence, the knowledge that in the past cases went undetected and an incident of the marketing of beef from a herd found to include a BSE case have provoked a crisis of confidence in the safety of beef in France. This has had repercussions in other Member States.

What is the impact of the present crisis?

There is a sharp fall in beef consumption and producer prices in France. The authorities have responded with a range of new protective measures, notably the introduction of a temporary ban on the feeding of meat and bone meal to all animals, a possible ban on vertebral column ("T-bones"), an extended list of SRMs and increased controls, including 475 new control staff. The crisis has had important repercussions in other Member States with renewed question marks over the safety of beef and the introduction of a range of restrictions on imports of beef from France. Non-EU countries have also responded with restrictions.

Is the Commission surprised at the increase in France and the first cases of BSE in Germany and Spain ?

No. The Commission fully expected an increase in the incidence of reported cases of BSE due to three factors:

Studies were carried out for the Scientific Steering Committee on a "geographical risk assessment" of BSE incidence. These studies, on which Member States were consulted, pointed strongly towards a higher than reported incidence of BSE in the EU;

The introduction of sensitive new tests, in accordance with a Commission decision, was likely to detect cases of BSE which could not be detected by traditional ante-mortem inspections;

Better surveillance by national authorities and inspections by the Commission's Food and Veterinary Office on the Community controls in place was also likely to increase the incidence of reported cases. The strength of the consumer reaction underlines the Commission view that Member States have not performed well in communicating to the public the risk from BSE and the efficiency of the control and surveillance measures in place.

How does the Commission explain the higher BSE level in some Member States?

The improved surveillance measures now in place, including the use of targeted tests, has led to an increase in the number of detected cases. Member States are now actively looking for cases and they are being found. It is essential that this should continue. It is also important to put the increase in to perspective. The number of BSE cases still amounts to a small fraction of the cases found in the UK (over 99% of all BSE cases are of UK origin). Moreover, the full impact of the increased controls introduced since 1996 and stricter implementation of these controls will only be clear in a number of years due to the long incubation period of the disease.

What are the lessons to be learned from the present crisis?

The need for strict implementation of the existing Community framework of measures on BSE is once more evident. Such a framework is the most credible means to protecting public health;

It is clear that there is a higher incidence of BSE in Member States than previously acknowledged, as the experience with targeted testing in France indicates;

The level of testing for BSE must be extended, beginning with animal categories at risk and extending, in the light of experience, to include the entire Community cattle herd;

There is a continuing problem with the communication to the public of the risks from BSE and of the adequacy of protective measures. All Member States need to improve the transparency and clarity of their risk communication efforts. This includes, in particular, Member States with no recorded cases of BSE to date;

Member States and the Parliament must accelerate their work on the Commission proposals on key areas of food safety (Food Authority, TSEs, Animal By-Products, staff resources etc.). Other issues arising from the crisis

Is there not a need for a fundamental re-think of the Community approach towards food safety?

This is already taking place. President Romano Prodi has consistently identified food safety as a top priority of this Commission. All key areas of responsibility relating to food safety have been brought together under the single roof of the newly created Directorate General for Health and Consumer Protection (SANCO). A single Commissioner, David Byrne, has been designated with responsibility for this area. Food safety is also a top priority in relation to the additional resources requested from the Budgetary Authority to allow the Commission to carry out its responsibilities. A White Paper on Food Safety was agreed in January 2000 (see IP/00/20) and a range of important new legislative measures on food safety has been proposed. The Commission approach has been broadly welcomed by all the key actors Heads of Government, the Council, Parliament, consumers, food industry and farmers.

What is the Commission doing to ensure that BSE controls are implemented?

The FVO has carried out multiple BSE related inspections in each Member State since 1996. The inspection reports are published on the Commission web-site and brought to the attention of the Member States. Shortcomings are continuously being reported, but despite that it is clear that the overall situation, in particular in relation to the treatment of animal waste has significantly improved since the inspections started in 1996. The FVO inspections will be stepped up and particular attention will be given to a correct implementation of the feed ban and the recently adopted measures on SRMs and testing. A further series of inspections will take place in the Member States by the end of the year.

Impact on the beef market in the EU and outside

France is the most important beef producer in EU (20% of EU production, 26% of EU herd). It produces about 17% more beef than it consumes.

The drop in consumption in France since the start of the crisis mid-October 2000, is estimated at about 40%. Also in other Member States, reductions in consumption are noted (in particular in Italy). Furthermore, it is clear that markets outside France will indirectly be influenced as their exports of beef to France will fall or stop (France imported, in 1999, 350,000 tons of beef, veal and bovine animals from other Member States).

Since the start of the crisis, prices for live cows fell by 24% in France, 18.6% in Germany and on average 17.0% in the EU. The price fall for cow beef is biggest, as the French market is mainly consuming cow beef. Furthermore, part of this fall is explained by the seasonal autumn price drop for cows. A more severe price fall is foreseen (in France as well as in other Member States) when the animals currently kept on the farm due to the depressed market are eventually put up for sale.

The market situation could deteriorate further through protective measures taken by trade partners. Spain, Austria and Greece refuse all bovine reproducing animals as well as animals for fattening except if they will be slaughtered or re-exported before 20 months. Italy refuses live animals above 18 months and bone-in beef. The measure with the most significant effect is the one decided by Italy (which imported in 1999 about 80,000 t bone in beef from France).

Poland and Hungary refuse all beefmeat and animals. Russia refuses beefmeat and animals from 9 French departments. France itself has extended the list of SRM (specified risk material) to include the thymus and intestine. The consequence is that these products, as well as processed products containing them, cannot be imported into France. This will stop the trade of calf thymus from Netherlands and sausages from several Member States (like Mortadella from Italy). Measures to stabilise the beef market

The Commission has brought forward a private storage scheme for cow meat. Starting on 27 November 2000, 60 million euros will be available in all Member States to support private operators to buy in and store cow meat for between 3 and 6 months. The contracts to be concluded until end January 2001. In addition, the export refunds for cow meat were substantially increased.

The Commission will carefully continue to monitor the development on the beef market and, if necessary, take further market measures in order to support the beef sector. It is vital to restore the confidence of consumers in beef. The general testing of all cattle over 30 months can contribute to this. This will cost money, but this money is a good investment - and the EU stands ready to play its part.

What effects could the French ban on MBM in animal feed have on imports and production of oilseeds?

meat and bone meal provides an important source of protein. If it cannot be used, it must be substituted using vegetable material. The alternative sources of this substitution will be determined by technical and economic factors, based on a mixture of different raw materials with an equivalent feed value. Part of the substitution would be domestic and some would come from imports. The most important material is soya meal, of which the EU is already importing 15 million tonnes from non-EU countries per year, mostly from the Americas. Producing this quantity in the EU would require not only a completely different set of policies, it would also require a different climate and agronomic environment.

The EU has a commitment to respect its international WTO obligations (Blair House), which restricts EU oilseeds production to about 5 million hectares. However, by aligning the direct aid paid for oilseeds to the aid for cereals (63 €/t) from mid-2002 on, this restriction will then become irrelevant. If the demand for oilseeds increases, prices will go up and the production becomes more attractive for EU farmers.

In the Agenda 2000 the importance of protein crops (peas, beans, sweet lupines) as a source of home-grown proteins was already underlined. Consequently, a higher aid (72.5 €/t) in comparison with the aid for cereals and oilseeds (63 €/t from 2002 onwards) was fixed. There is a plentiful supply on the world market and imports take place duty free.

Facts and Figures on EU oilseeds and protein crops

EU oilseeds production 1999/2000: 13.4 million t on about 5 million hectares (Blair House limit), of which:

67% rapeseed

23% sunflower

10% soybeans

Self-sufficiency of the EU

Rapeseedmeal: 96%

Sunflowermeal: 30%

Soybeanmeal: 4%*

* this means that only about 4% of the soybeanmeal in the EU is derived from EU grown soybeans - the rest is either imported meal or meal produced from imported grains

Meal content of the plant which can be used for animal feed

Rapeseed: 56%

Sunflower: 56%

Soybeans: 78%

What will be the Commission's response to third countries which have imposed bans on animal products from the EU?

Under the current circumstances, the Commission is unlikely to take action in the short term against third countries which impose measures, where these measures are reasonable and are in line with international standards. However, there are some products, such as semen, milk and dairy products, where there is international consensus that they do not present a risk to animal or public health. The Commission therefore would be likely to react to measures against these products. The Commission will do all possible to explain to third countries the EU law on BSE, its scientific basis, and the level of protection it provides, and to encourage them to keep their own measures in line with those of the EU.

What is the impact of the French measures on the supply of animal feed?

As there is already a Community ban on the use of mammalian protein in ruminant feed, the new rules will impact mainly on the use of MBM, including fish meal, for pigs, poultry and fish. This will certainly cause supply problems, but fortunately substitutes are available, in the form of vegetable protein, mainly soya. The problem is more acute for fats. Animals fats are a key ingredient of milk replacement diets for farm animals, and cannot readily be substituted by vegetable oils. Questions arise as regards pet food as well.

21 May 01 - CJD - Frequently asked questions about BSE-tests

European Commission--Monday 21 May 2001

Brussels, 19 December 2000 What will a BSE-test look for?

The commonly accepted cause of BSE is a misshaped prion protein (PrPres). This misshaped protein causes other normal proteins to become misshaped. These proteins clump together to form sheets. There are other theories of the cause of BSE and some variations on the above theory. The presence of PrPres is regarded as a marker for the disease.

BSE tests will determine if a detectable level of PrPres (either the cause of BSE or a marker for the disease) is present in the tissue examined.

How many tests have been approved by the European Commission?

To date, the European Commission has approved three rapid tests developed by:

CEA (name of test: Biorad)

Prionics AG (name of test: Prionic check)

Enfer Technology Ltd.(Enfer test system) Five further rapid tests are currently under examination.

How do the tests operate in practice?

All three tests operate by detecting the infectious agent or marker PrPres in the central nervous system. Following slaughter of the animal a sample of brain or spinal cord is taken from the animal using a special tool. This tissue is taken to the laboratory and tested for the presence of PrPres. Rapid tests are quick and reliable, and allow large numbers of samples to be tested.

What other methods are used to diagnose BSE?

Other laboratory techniques used to diagnose BSE include histopathological examination (detection of spongiform encephalopathy), examination of BSE fibrils (equivalent to scrapie associated fibrils), examination by immunohistochemistry.

For what purpose can the tests be used?

Tests may be used for surveillance and also to provide additional protection for the consumer.

1. Surveillance

Tests can be used to determine if BSE exists in a population and to obtain an indication of its prevalence. Used over time these can be used to monitor changes in the level of the disease. This type of surveillance can be carried out by testing risk groups of animals, especially cows which have died on farms or cows presented for emergency slaughter. If BSE occurs, it is more likely to be found in this population so the sampling is more effective. Actively searching for the disease in this manner is more likely to detect it in a population (if it exists there) than passive monitoring, i.e. waiting for farmers to report suspicious signs.

The European Union will apply such a testing programme amongst its "at-risk" population on animals over 30 months from 1.1.2001 onwards.

2. Additional Health protection

BSE is a relatively rare disease. However, routine testing of animals prior to slaughter may detect animals presented for slaughter which may have unnoticed signs of BSE and also animals with the disease which are not yet showing signs. The identification and removal of these animals will be an additional protection for the consumer. However, the prime method of consumer protection is the removal of specified risk material like brain or spinal cord from every animal slaughtered. These tissues harbour almost all infectivity if any present. Removal of specific risk materials is obligatory in the EU since 1.10.2000.

PrPres is always found in brain and central nervous tissue in animals with clinical signs of the disease and in animals in the months before they develop the disease. Its presence in cattle appears to parallel the development of infectivity.

The EU will apply such a testing programme on all bovine animals over 30 months of age from 1.7.2001 onwards. Until then, all animals over 30 months which cannot be tested will need to be destroyed.

How did the European Commission evaluate BSE tests?

Test developers who had test in the final stages of development were asked to submit them for possible evaluation. In all ten applications were received. Following review by an expert group, the four most promising tests were evaluated as follows:

Under supervision laboratories were asked to test 1,400 samples taken from healthy and diseased animals. The samples were coded so that the laboratory staff did not know which type of animals they were from (i.e. they were tested blind). In fact the 1400 samples were made up of 1064 samples from 1000 different healthy animals and 336 samples from 300 animals with confirmed BSE.

The evaluation was carried out in accordance with the guidelines of the International Office of Epizootics (OIE).

The detection limits of the tests were also assessed by testing BSE positive brains serially diluted in negative brain.

How were you sure that the positive animals had BSE and that the negative animals were healthy?

In evaluating a test it is extremely important to be sure that the samples from the diseased animals really had BSE and that the samples from the healthy animals were really not infected. Otherwise the evaluation is not accurate. In this case the samples from the diseased animals were obtained from cows from the UK which had shown signs of BSE and in which the disease had been confirmed by microscopic examination of the brain. The samples from the healthy animals were obtained from New Zealand as this is the country most recognised as free from BSE. They were healthy cows and their brains were also examined microscopically.

What were the results of the evaluation?

Three of the four examined tests managed to identify every single one of the samples correctly. The fourth test correctly identified 70% of the disease samples and 90% of the healthy samples. The report of the evaluation is on the Commissions web site at:

How do these results compare with tests for other diseases?

These results compare very well with test for other diseases. For example tests for other animal diseases such as tuberculosis or brucellosis are less accurate that these even in the very late stages of these diseases.

What can the test do early in the infection?

No method will detect BSE early in the infection. BSE has an average incubation period of 4-6 years. Therefore the EU testing programmes are targeted at animals over 30 months. The PrPres has not been detected in bovine brain or other nervous tissue very early in the disease and infectivity has not been shown either. In experimental infection where very high doses were administered, infectivity has been found in the ileum, part of the intestine. This has not been detected in natural infections.

What does the dilution series tell us?

In the dilution series, brain tissue from BSE infected cows of a known infectivity titre was serially diluted in healthy brain tissue. This was done to obtain a proxy to early infection when the levels of PrPres in the brain are much less.

This is a useful proxy but must be interpreted with care as certain test technologies may affect a dilution series differently than material from pre-clinical cows.

Why not use tissue from pre-clinical cows?

Such tissue is not available for routine use. This tissue can only be produced by experimentally infecting cows and then slaughtering them later before they develop symptoms.

Have the tests detected pre-clinical animals?

All three approved tests have identified pre-clinical animals. These are animals not yet showing clinical symptoms. The CEA/Biorad detected pre-clinical animals in an experiment. The Enfer test has detected several pre-clinical animals, particularly from herds which have been slaughtered because one case of BSE has been detected. The Prionics test has detected pre-clinical animals from herds depopulated because of BSE and also in animals at normal slaughter in Switzerland and now in Germany. The two cases identified in Germany were in normal animals presented for slaughter.

In the case of animals detected at slaughter, we can be confident that no obvious signs of BSE were present but we cannot know how advanced the disease was.

Several cases of BSE have also been identified by the tests in animals presented for emergency slaughter. These are not pre-clinical animals. They showed some disease signs but these signs had not been treated as suspicious for BSE.

How much have tests been used to date?

Tests have been used routinely in Switzerland for the past three years. They have also been used in Ireland in testing animals from depopulated herds where BSE has been identified. In recent months they have been used in other Member States, particularly France and have resulted in an increase in detection of the disease. The first cases identified in Germany were detected as a result of a test.

How many cases do you expect to find?

As said earlier, BSE is a relatively rare disease. The rate of detection in the general population (i.e. normal slaughter cows) would be expected to be many times less that in the 'at-risk' groups of animals that have died on farm or that re subjected to slaughter because of health problems. In Switzerland the ratio was calculated to be about one case in the normal population for 186 cases in the 'at-risk' population.

What parameters may be used to select a test?

The three tests use different methodologies which will suit different laboratories. Factors to take into account include the current expertise in the laboratory, familiarity with the test technology, degree of automation desired etc.

How much do the tests cost?

Member States purchase following competitive tenders. The cost will depend on this and also factors such as size of order, whether items such as training are included etc. Tests cost about €15-€20 at present, not including laboratory work and items such as the transport of samples etc.