Hague escapes by helicopter
MAFF: Mad cow disease an 'act of God'
£45m aid fails to placate farmers
Germany's carnivores turn to soy schnitzels
Hazards of the British diet
Bad News in the British System
British watchdog body says vegetarians alarmist
Beleaguered Hogg blames press scares
Rich farmers to get aid for long-required clean-up
Vets in Germany deny cover-up of BSE
Neuro-surgery tool horror story
Relation of JCB to foreign BSE under-reporting

Bad News in the British System

Hague escapes by helicopter

The Welsh Secretary, William Hague, was rescued by helicopter when 100 farmers protesting against the Government's handling of BSE used tractors, muck-spreaders and other machinery to blockade roads at Crymych, Dyfed. Mr Hague, who was visiting a school, was taken by police helicopter to his next engagement, at Cardigan.

British watchdog body says vegetarians alarmist

Reuter Information Service Oct 17, 1996

LONDON ( 01:37 a.m. EDT) - Britain's advertising watchdog on Wednesday accused the Vegetarian Society of being alarmist and inaccurate in a campaign it launched against meat. One of the society's advertisements showed the rear view of a bull and carried the caption: "If you eat burgers, here's a couple of half pounders you might recognise."

It suggested parts of the body, including testicles, feet and the rectum, were often found in meat products and that meat had been linked to a range of diseases. After receiving complaints from farmers and meat groups, the Advertising Standards Authority said the advertisements had used "inaccurate and emotive language."

British beef sales plummeted earlier this year when the government admitted there may be a link between so-called mad cow disease and its human equivalent.


Beleaguered Hogg blames press scares

By David Brown, Agriculture Editor
Daily Telegraph ... Wednesday 16 October 1996

Douglas Hogg, the Minister of Agriculture, hit back yesterday at critics who want him sacked for his handling of the beef crisis and blamed "scaremongering" press coverage for damaging Government efforts to restore consumer confidence. He accused tabloid newspapers of indulging in sensationalism instead of putting across a "balanced and accurate message" on mad cow disease.

Mr Hogg warned meat industry leaders in London that, despite signs of recovery in the marketplace, the crisis was so serious that it would lead to "a permanent drop in the consumption of beef". He defended the Government's efforts to give consumers "the facts", saying that ministers, the Government's Chief Medical Officer and other officials had all given regular briefings together with Prof John Pattison, the independent chairman of the Government's Spongiform Encaphalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC).

It was a rousing defence from a minister who last week was given a vote of no confidence by farmers' leaders. Yesterday Mr Hogg had to listen to more criticism when the meat manufacturers accused the Government of giving most BSE cash aid to farmers and none of it to them.


£45m aid fails to placate farmers

The Times: Politics & Government October 9 1996 BY JAMES LANDALE

ALMOST a thousand farmers gathered at the conference in Bournemouth yesterday to protest at the Government's handling of the BSE crisis Despite a pledge by Douglas Hogg to give the beef industry an extra compensation package worth £45 million, farmers left the demonstration dissatisfied with the Agriculture Minister's performance. Many called for his resignation.

John Major cleared time to hold talks with farmers' leaders and promised to do everything he could to ease their problems. But while farmers said the 1 1/2 -hour meeting had been useful, they said their patience was exhausted and demanded further action. The Prime Minister, who met Sir David Naish, presi dent of the National Farmers' Union, and a small group of farmers, said: "I absolutely understand why there are so many farmers out there today and sympathise with their position."

Sir David said: "We have been patient but our patience is exhausted. We need now to see our actions, which we have put to the Prime Minister, brought to bear." One of the farmers' demands is for a restoration of the basic compensation price for each cow slaughtered, which was cut from an average of £500 per cow to £450 ten days ago.

Outside the conference hall, farmers were sceptical. A sea of banners and placards declared: "Fire that chinless Hogg now" and "No more Hogg-wash". Inside, farmers said that no one had fought as hard for the industry as Mr Hogg.


Germany's carnivores turn to soy schnitzels

THE TIMES: FOREIGN NEWS October 9 1996 ... FROM ROGER BOYES

GERMANS, once the carnivores of Europe, are turning into vegetarians. That is official, according to the German Vegan Society yesterday. It calculates that a fifth of the nation now eats little or no meat. Political analysts are wondering if this will have a long-term impact on the electoral prospects of Helmut Kohl, the Chancellor.

The shift in eating habits, which contrasts with Herr Kohl's fabled pig-stomach menus, has been prompted in part by fear of "mad cow" disease, although meat-eating has been in decline since the late 1980s. But vegeterianism marks more than a change of diet. It is the beginning of the end of a national obsession. No political rally is complete without sausages; no wedding, christening or funeral is authentic without a banquet of hams or pork knuckles. Children feel betrayed if their lunch pack does not contain a sandwich with pork or beef dripping. Teenagers fall in love over beefburgers.

The marriage of Gerhard Schroeder, the Lower Saxony prime minister and likely challenger to Herr Kohl in 1998, fell apart partly because his wife was a militant vegetarian. The politician used to have his chauffeur stop at sausage stands on the way to work to catch up with his meat intake. When he started to live with a young carnivorous journalist, public sympathy swung behind him.

Until recently, every man, woman and child in Germany consumed 56lb of sausages a year. Now, however, Germans are searching for interesting ways of eating Brussels sprouts and broccoli. The biggest growth is in part-time vegetarianism, dropping meat consumption to once or twice a week.

People aged under 39 bought a third less meat last year than in the year before. Hareico, a well-known sausage and meat manufacturer, has added soy sausages and soy nuggets to its range. Karl-Georg Ferber, the product manager, said: "I believe in the future of veggie schnitzels and burgers."


Mad cow disease an 'act of God'

The Times: Britain: October 9 1996 BY MICHAEL HORNSBY

"MAD cow" disease was "an act of God" and the Government should not be blamed for it, a senior official in the Ministry of Agriculture told MEPs yesterday. While the Government might have responded differently to the disease with hindsight, the overreaction of some European Union countries had made the crisis worse, Richard Packer, the ministry's Permanent Secretary, said.

Speaking in Brussels at a European Parliament committee of inquiry into BSE, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, Mr Packer said: "Was the British Government responsible for the whole disastrous mess? No it wasn't. "In the main it was an act of God, if you like. Some of the things we have done we might with the benefit of hindsight have done differently. To that extent the British Government accepts responsibility ­ but that is not very much of the responsibility."

Douglas Hogg, the Minister of Agriculture, had been asked to address the inquiry but he refused because he said he was attending the Tory party conference in Bournemouth. To José Happart, a Belgian Socialist MEP, who wanted to know who was to blame for the BSE crisis if it was not the British Government, Mr Packer replied: "I do not accept that when something goes wrong it is necessarily somebody's fault.

"It is true in the case of BSE that not all our controls were 100 per cent effective and to that extent we have a share of the responsibility. But that is a small share. It does not follow that if we take ­ hypothetically ­ 1 per cent of the blame, that 99 per cent is spread around somewhere else."


The British Diet

Our London Corresnpondent

Tom, as you probably know, beef consumption has fallen less in the UK than anywhere else in Europe despite the fact that the BSE epidemic is concentrated here. I'm afraid most people still aren't too worried about BSE.

This may be partly due to the fact that everyone knows that although contaminated feed was banned for herbivores in 1988, the ban wasn't enforced until 1995 (approx. 50% compliance until then). Also, the contaminated feedstocks were still produced but diverted to pigs, chicken, and fish feed. However, the government deliberately misled the public into believing that the feed was no longer produced, consequently most everybody who switched out of beef in 1988  went to pork, chicken and fish and ate BSE anyway. To put it another way, 99% of us over here have eaten the stuff for 8-9 years unawares. I guess a lot of people now have a fatalistic attitude.

I don't eat beef or its by-products at all, have lots of vegetarian stuff, sea (not farmed) fish, and fruit. I drink skimmed milk (Soya milk is not easily obtainable over here), coffee, tea, beer, wine. It's not possible to avoid English cheese as its included in so many vegetarian products, but I always buy foreign cheese otherwise. Not as much fruit juice as I should because its expensive (food prices here are about double yours).

You have to be really careful about beef by-products, for instance the filler in stores own brand crab and shrimp paste is beef lard, biscuits often contain "non-dairy" fat (=beef fat), and also some ice-cream (I sent you an article on that). Fortunately more people are avoiding beef by-products and there is an increasing number of vegetarians, so manufacturers are switching into non-animal derived alternatives to obtain Vegetarian society approval for their products, or else be able to label the as "suitable for vegetarians". ALWAYS READ THE SMALL PRINT ON THE PACKAGING!

Its the silly things that catch most people out, for instance most bread contains beef fat, I only eat the brands approved by the Vegetarian Society. I completely avoid all processed meat such as sausages, salami, meat pies, etc. This all contains MRM (mechanically recovered meat) which is the brains, offal, guts, etc steamed out and reconstituted. Even ham sold over here is pig MRM which has been steamed out, coloured, flavoured, and pressed.

Having said all that, my wife and I are in the minority here and are looked upon as "slightly odd" for bothering about BSE. As over there, its the young that take it more seriously.As I have mentioned before, the human health aspects of BSE are simply not an issue at the moment. It's mainly politics, especially at this time of the year when the party conferences.


Bad News in the British System

A London Correspondent 10.8.96

Publishing or not publishing research research:
As the research is funded externally from MAFF the results may well become public. The Barclay Brothers, who are both fabulously rich and eccentric (not to mention publicity shy), are probably the main funders. They are anti-establishment and would encourage publication.

Bad news and British elections:
If there is bad news coming in a few weeks it could well have a political impact. The Conservatives would prefer to wait until the last minute for the next election (May 97), but really bad BSE news might force their hands to go for this Autumn before it breaks. You ought to mention this on your web page. Remember that BSE is mainly a Europe/farming issue in this country at the moment and the government would prefer to keep it that way. The government has been remarkably successful in diverting publicity away from the human health implications.

Releasing CJD data:
It is obvious that MAFF will have to release the data sometime as the EU have said it is a prerequisite to lifting the beef export ban, the same applies to the number of suspected cases known by the CJD monitoring centre which is also being withheld. I have no doubt that the intention is to push back any further revelations about CJD and humans until after the next general election, but Collinge may baulk them if he can't be silenced. We are too placid for civil unrest over here, there are virtually no guns or anything in public hands in the UK. The possibility of riots or the like is remote.

Is UK health system ready for v-CJD caseload?
The government has run down our health service to the extent that over 75's are no longer admitted under any circumstances and it looks like the London hospitals will shut there doors for 3 hours every day in a rotation to try and manage the winter sickness peaks. The last time this happened was in the second world war when there were genuine resource shortages. This time it is just that the government wants to kill the Health Service for reasons of its political dogma.

Even a minor (just a few thousand cases in a year) CJD outbreak would blow the health system, resulting in the need for dramatic measures such as euthanasia and activation of the civil defence network to manage the crisis. It is just a mechanism for managing large scale crisis whilst the democratic processes (such as they are over here) are suspended. It is called "a state of emergency".

MAFF is suppressing BSE information, the CJD center is suppressing the number of suspected cases, and now the civil defence organisation has been activated. I suspect that a valid analogy would be the way that the government suddenly started enforcing the abattoir rules (announced in 1988) in 1995, just six months before the CJD/BSE link was made public. Now there may be more bad news on the way, but the government will be desperate to "keep the cat in the bag" until after the general election.

A counselor (bereavements) who works for a county council, went to a meeting which appears to have been a wake-up meeting for the civil defence organisation. The Chief Medical Officer of the county told all those present, in no uncertain terms, to stop eating beef. If CJD turns into an epidemic the hospitals will be overwhelmed as victims can take years to die, so euthanasia will be necessary with counseling for survivors. The civil defence organisation may be on standby to handle a major CJD outbreak, probably a precautionary move.

US Agency denies rich farms will get funds for cleanups already required by law.

Associated Press ...13 October 1996

WASHINGTON -- The government soon will be doling out federal dollars to farmers and ranchers to help fight pollution from manure and other sources. Even before it starts, the program is under attack as a potential cash cow for corporate farms.

Several lawmakers, including Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle, are joining advocates for small farmers in criticizing rules proposed Friday by the Agriculture Department for distributing the $200 million newly available each year.

By failing to set clear limits on who can collect, the critics contend, the rules leave the way open for taxpayer dollars to help corporate farms build pollution controls that the Clean Water Act already obliges them to install. The department denies the allegation. The rules failed to spell out who should qualify, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman admitted, but he promised that wealthy operations will get nothing.

''I have no intention of awarding large-scale operations any of this assistance. Period,'' he said in an interview. The voluntary Environmental Quality Incentives Program, created by the 1996 farm bill, pays up to 100 percent of the cost of building manure containment lagoons or to switch to farming practices that lower pesticide use.

Payments are limited to $10,000 per person per year, with a cap of $50,000. During debate on the farm bill, the Senate wanted to set size limits to coincide with those of the Clean Water Act. It dropped precise language after Glickman pledged to come up with limit definitions. Instead, Friday's proposals left it to state conservationists to decide. The Agriculture Department scheduled a nationwide round of public hearings starting next week. It will use the information to come up with guidance to the states on the program's administration.

Critics say state conservationists -- federal employees who will run the program on a state level -- will be vulnerable to intense lobbying. The program will become unmanageable, they say, because 50 standards will prevail, not one. ''This could turn a very useful conservation program into corporate welfare that will drive family farmers out of business and poison the landscape all over rural America,'' said Ferd Hoefner, Washington representative for the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, an advocacy group based in Pine Bush, N.Y.

The critics also include Democratic Sens. Daschle, D-S.D.; Patrick Leahy of Vermont, ranking Democrat on the Agriculture Committee; Tom Harkin of Iowa; Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl of Wisconsin; and Paul Wellstone of Minnesota.


Vets in Germany deny covering up BSE

Listserve 10.10.96 Prof. Dr. W. Klee In some of the recent postings it was speculated that true incidence of BSE is much higher than reported incidence, and Germany is obviously one of the "candidate" countries with only four cases officially acknowledged.

All I can say is that in the last 2 1/2 years, any cow that came into our clinic (which services an area of roughly 100 km around Munich) with behavioral abnormalities or obvious CNS involvement went to post mortem (including brain histopathology) if she did not recover (which would be extremely unlikely in the case of BSE).

Prof. Braun in Zurich, on the other hand, has seen many cases in his clinic. I see no reason whatsoever why practicing veterinarians in southern Bavaria would not refer suspect cases to our clinic if they did occur. In a retrospective study of brains submitted to veterinary investigation centers for rabies diagnostics with negative results not a single case of BSE was detected.



Neuro-surgery tools horror story

Listserve Items10.8.96

I saw an absolutely ghastly statement [from Gibbs et al. J. Neurol.Neurosurg.Psychiatry 1994; 57: 757-8] in Prusiner's Ann Rev Microbiol v48 1994 article: surgical EEG electrodes, used unknowingly on a CJD incubator and used subsequently on two children and _18 months later_ on a monkey, giving rise to disease in all three. One supposes neurosurgery tools would be given a good cleaning between operations.

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Dr R G Will (1996) Letter to Neurologists, 21 March, states: "If you are considering brain biopsy in any suspect cases of CJD it is essential to follow the Department of Health guidelines which state that neurosurgical instruments used on any case of CJD must be destroyed and not reused".


Relation of JCB to BSE

Listserve 10.9.96

It also appears that many countries (including USA) may be burying BSE. The European joke is that BSE may be called JCB in many countries.

Explanation:JCB is the the initials of Johnathan C. Bamford, the original manufacturer of mechanical diggers. Today, the term JCB is used here as a generic term for the large mechanical diggers used in road- and tunnel- making, although many firms make such equipment today. JCBs are also used to dig graves for the burial of animal- and human- remains.

Hence the joke: BSE may be JCB, and the sicker joke (for countries which do not perform brain histopath routinely on humans dead of CNS disease), CJD may be JCB. Background:
We hear that cows which show nervous signs which fail to respond to treatment for hypomagnesaemia, lead toxicity, tetanus, acidosis etc are treated by JCB (killed and buried without notification of the veterinary authorities) ! Thus, many countries, especially those which do not have BSE as a Notafiable Disease (with free investigation and full compensation payable) can honestly say that BSE has not been reported in those countries. THat does not say that those countries are FREE of BSE.

Apart from brain biopsy (rarely used), most countries have no reliable premortem diagnosis of BSE or CJD at this time. Thus, without routine postmortem brain histology, statistics on national incidence of BSE or CJD incidence must be highly suspect. And before brain histopath, the carcass/corpse must be submitted to the lab.