Cows fed human sewage
Vermont mad sheep furor
Maine deer examined for CWD
Utah issues warning on deer and elk consumption
BSE `may have started with single cow'
Beef brain sandwiches feared link to CJD death in Indiana
Beef brain bits in jugular
French offered taste of best British beef
Blood tests accuracy comes at a cost
Lancet dares to publish Frankenfood study
28 Oct 99 news wiresComment (webmaster): To a certain extent, the stories below are just a mud-slinging contest, with the British retaliating for the continuing ban of BSE beef by trumpeting unsanitary practises in the French cattle industry.
However, there is value to this in calling attention to the foul material that domesticated animals are forced to eat in intensive agriculture today, whether it be carcasses of mad cows, human toilet waste, hormones, or persistent chemicals.
Tue, Oct 26, 1999 By Geoff Meade, European Editor, PA News in BrusselsEurope's food safety Commissioner, David Byrne, was under fire today after telling Euro-MPs that he had known about the French sewage scandal for more than two months.
Last night he disclosed that he had been aware since August 12 that animal feed in France was being made from human waste.
Conservative Euro-MPs said they were "stunned" -- and stepped up calls on Brussels to take swift action against the French authorities. After Mr Byrne's admission to the European Parliament's environment committee, Tory MEP John Bowis said: "EU officials are taking too long to act over this latest food scare.
"EU Commissioner David Byrne now tells us that five animal feed plants in France broke the 1991 EU directive that specifically bans `the use of urine, faeces, the content of the digestive tract and solid matter filtered >from water used to wash down slaughter houses'. "Why has it taken Byrne between August and now to reveal this to Parliament?"
Mr Bowis, the Conservative Euro-spokesman on the environment, went on: "The European Commission has had the power to act immediately against France and any other EU countries that are breaking the rules on animal feed. "Consumers across Europe are feeling sick at the thought of French animals being fed on excrement and sewage. The term `sludge' fails to describe the full horror of what has been going on." He wants the Commission to release a full list of other EU countries breaking the law on animal feed contents as doubts remain over Belgian, German and Dutch feed plants.
Fellow Tory MEP and chairman of the environment committee Caroline Jackson added: "The amazing revelations by EU Commissioner David Byrne prove that I was right to insist that he faced Parliament's environment committee. We now want the EU Commission to act more quickly over this vital issue of human health. Europe's consumers will not accept further delays."
She accused Mr Byrne of lacking a sense of urgency: "The European Commission still cannot tell us whether sewage and human waste has been similarly recycled and used to make animal feed in other EU member states. "Given the high degree of public concern over this latest health scare, MEPs must remain at the elbow of the European Commission. EU officials are meant to be our safeguard and must start to act."
The use of sewage from animals and humans in feed is said to have taken place in Germany, Holland and Belgium. Pigs, cattle and poultry are thought to have been fed on it. Last night a food hygiene expert warned that the practice was "inherently dangerous" and could create a BSE-style health crisis.
A European Union (EU) disclosure reported some French meat had been produced from animals and birds reared on processed sewage caused outrage among British farmers, already angered over the French government's refusal to lift its ban on British beef.
It now appears that the practice has occurred elsewhere in the EU, including Germany, a country which has a record of being obstructive towards British beef.
German authorities have denied the reports, but Dutch health officials have admitted finding human sewage being added during the manufacture of animal feed. It is apparently perfectly normal in Holland to add sludge from slaughterhouse water-purification systems to animal feed. At one plant, it was discovered company lavatories were connected to the water system.In Belgium, a regional farming report accused one waste-processing firm of using sludge to make feed. Ingredients are said to have included waste water from showers and lavatories as well as waste from abattoirs. The Belgian agriculture minister, Jaak Gabriels, stated the practice has ceased.
The EU banned the use of effluent in animal feed in 1991, but sludge from slaughterhouses, including faeces, is still commonly added to the remains of animals for the manufacture of meat-and-bonemeal (MBM). This was banned in Britain in 1996, but is still widely used elsewhere in Europe....
The European Commission said a questionnaire on the use of sewage sludge in animal feed had been urgently sent to all member states. A spokeswoman said France, Germany, Holland and Belgium had claimed the problem had been resolved. But she could not guarantee sludge was not still being used. The Commission has already sent a reminder to member countries that processing "sludge from sewage plants treating waste waters" is prohibited.
Serge Roumagnac, a farmer outside the village of Caumont, northwest of Toulouse, swept aside concerns and laughed at suggestions that traditional French farming methods were not superior to Britain's high-tech, highly regulated industry.
Roumagnac acknowledged the reports last week of farm waste being used in the production of French chicken and pig feed. "Yes, these things go on, but not on the scale that you have had in Britain," he said.
"You know we have always taken our produce more seriously and we have not allowed it to be industrialised in the way you have. Our slaughter methods may still be traditional in some cases, but we have not abused the food chain so the risks are not the same.
"Our food is anchored in the soil. This is what brings us together in our stand against the beef with hormones from the United States or the risks of the mad cow from Great Britain."
His views are not shared by Tim Yeo, the shadow agriculture minister, who will next week embark on a fact-finding mission to prove French standards of hygiene and food production are light years behind the UK.
The Tories are determined to show France's ban on British beef is hypocritical and intend to collect photographic evidence from shops, farms and slaughterhouses that standards in France fall short of UK and EU standards.
Archie Norman, shadow spokesman on Europe and chairman of the supermarket giant Asda, said last week's sewage scandal alone showed the diversity of standards. "If a British farmer had been discovered feeding animals with sewage- based products, 1,000 bureaucrats would have descended on him and the farm would have been closed instantly." British food campaigners claim a trip to any French butcher or abattoir will show up practices illegal in the UK.
French beef is still displayed at markets with spinal tissue and brains, livestock carcasses are not inspected by qualified veterinarians before going to market, and pigs can still be fed on pig bone marrow.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he described the practice of feeding chickens sewage as "horrible" - but stressed it was important to keep the law on Britain's side: "The European commission are doing the right thing. They have examined the issue and are insisting the French comply with the rules the rest of us comply with."
October 26, 1999 REUTERS NEWS SERVICEBONN - Germany's agriculture ministry said it was ready to support the inspection of rendering plants by the European Commission after suspicion fell on Germany that sewage sludge had been used in its feed plants.
"The EU could include Germany in the group of countries to be visited and we would be prepared to organise such visits," an official in the ministry's feeds department said. "The EU has often enough said it would carry out such inspections." The official was responding to an enquiry after the Commission last Friday warned France to improve controls in rendering plants after its inspectors found that some had been passing on sewage sludge to animal feed makers for years.
Dutch, Belgian and German rendering plants were also under suspicion.
The German official stressed the use of sewage sludge in animal feed, regardless of its origin, was unlawful. The EU decided to investigate French rendering companies in August following media reports suggesting French feed had been tainted with dangerous pesticides, heavy metals and human waste.
In the same month, the Dutch health ministry also reported the discovery of treated sewage from toilets in animal feeds at two plants and similar conditions were also found at an abattoir in Germany's Bavaria state. In September, the Flemish regional farm ministry in Belgium reported similar irregularities at a local plant. The German official said he had not heard of any other sewage sludge cases since that time.
In a related matter, the EU had studied the dioxin content in industrial feedstuffs production in Germany - in the wake of the Belgian dioxin-in-food scare - at the end of June which had shown there was no reason for concern over raised levels.
Sat, Oct 23, 1999 By Cahal Milmo, PA NewsA top food hygiene expert today warned that the use of sewage by French farmers to feed livestock could lead to a BSE-type crisis in France. Professor Hugh Pennington, who conducted the inquiry into the E.coli food poisoning outbreak which claimed 21 lives in Lanarkshire three years ago, said the French practice represented a "classic" means of transmitting disease.
The Aberdeen University academic highlighted the potential disaster in a strong attack on the French stance over British beef, saying that meat from this country was now amongst the best and safest in the world. Asked about the implications of the sewage scandal, Prof Pennington told BBC Radio Five Live Breakfast: "This could be a re-run of the BSE problem, which started because we were recycling dead beef into beef.
"Clearly, the material that these animals have been getting is potentially full of nasty bugs. It is a classic way of spreading disease by actually eating manure, not to put too fine a point on it. "It may well have been satisfactorily controlled and the bugs `may' have been killed stone dead three times over -- but to be safe they would `have' to be killed three times over."
He added that he had "doubts" about whether the process to produce animal feed with ingredients including animal and human sewage was properly supervised, saying that it was an "inherently dangerous" practice.
The bacteriologist hit out at French intransigence over lifting the ban on sales of British beef because of claimed lingering fears over its safety, saying that French agriculture was not without its own problems.
He said: "My own view is that the French refusing to take British beef is 99% politics. It does make you very angry because we have in this country an extremely good case that our meat is now the safest in the world. "For anybody to challenge that when they have their own problems -- and not just this particular issue because the French have BSE as well -- is quite out of order." British consumers should choose beef from their own country while he would be actively avoiding meat from France, Prof Pennington added.
He said: "My advice to anybody when they are buying beef is to buy British -- it is of extremely high quality and tastes good as well. Now I feel I know more about has been going on, I would not buy French."
The Lancet, Vol. 354, October 9, 1999, p. 1276.- Karen BirchardThe EU Commissioner for Food Safety David Byrne asked European farm ministers to back his forthcoming proposal for the systematic monitoring and testing of beef and fish for dioxin and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) residues at a meeting of agriculture ministers in Brussels on Sept. 27.
Byrne said there was obviously a problem associated with rearing animals close to some industrial facilities, and in particular near waste disposal incinerators. Byrne was referring to a new Belgian report that found PCB and dioxin residues in ten out of 1000 cattle tested after the recent food contamination problems in Belgium (see Lancet 1999; 353: 2048). This high degree of contamination meant that Byrne was prepared to add dioxins and PCBs to the list of substances for which member states had to carry out mandatory testing.
Byrne said that a white paper, or draft proposal, identifying all current loopholes in animal feed law and proposing specific remedies would be ready by December. "I am convinced that the public needs the reassurance that we are monitoring dioxin levels in our foodstuffs," he added. The white paper would also cover legislation on labelling animal feed manufactured using genetically-modified ingredients, said Byrne.
Meanwhile, the Belgian government admitted on Sept. 27 that sludge from slaughterhouses, tainted with waste from toilets, showers, and cleaning products, regularly ended up in Belgium's food chain. Farm Minister Jaak Gabriels said, "Often we didn't realise what kind of filth was mixed into [animal] fodder."
The minister stressed that the practice ended when the dioxin food crisis broke in late May, which led to an intensified inspection process of Belgium's food chain.
Byrne also said that he would bring forward legislation to define sewage sludge if EU states continued to insist that there was ambiguity about what could be added to animal feed. He said the problem of sludge being used as an additive had also been found in France, Germany, and the Netherlands.
Mon, Oct 25, 1999 UPI US & WorldThe fear of mad cow disease in Vermont is prompting the federal government to seek the slaughter of the only two herds of rare East Friesian sheep in the nation. The U.S. Department of Agriculture believes the animals may have been exposed to the untreatable and always fatal disease and wants to buy up the sheep and dispose of them.
Vermont Health Commissioner Jan Carney is expected to make a ruling on the fate of the two herds sometime this week. Located in the towns of Warren and Greensboro, the animals were imported into Vermont three years ago for their milk-producing capability and their potential as breeders. The Dutch-bred Friesian sheep give 10 times as much milk as the average U.S. sheep -- 1,000 pounds a year vs. 100 pounds -- and a breeding ewe can fetch up to $25, 000.
Before their entry into the United States, the animals underwent extensive testing and quarantine and were pronounced free of scrapie, a transmittable brain disease occurring in sheep and goats.
But the USDA now says it wants to kill the sheep because they came from an area in Europe where bovine spongiform encephalopathy -- commonly known as mad cow disease -- was found. BSE caused the death of 46 people in Great Britain. It prompted the slaughter of millions of animals and led to a costly ban on the sale of British beef throughout Europe. USDA officials said no mad cow disease has ever occurred in the United States, and Washington wants to protect the nation's food safety. Washington fears the Vermont sheep could have been exposed to BSE through processed commercial animal feed in Europe.
Sheep owner Larry Faillace of Warren spent six years doing research on the genetics of the breed and his farm produces a variety of specialty cheeses from the sheep's milk. He is vigorously protesting the proposed slaughter of his animals. Faillace said in Monday's Rutland Herald, "The chances of any sheep in the world (getting BSE) is remote. The chances of these particular sheep getting it -- well, you'd have a better chance of a meteor landing on your front step tomorrow."
The owner of the Greenboro herd, philanthropist Houghton Freeman, envisioned the sheep as offering a way to help promote Vermont hillside farming.
Dr. Linda Detwiler of the USDA, a BSE specialist, said, "The overriding issue is human health." She said while there was nothing "overly" wrong with the sheep, no one can be absolutely sure the European food contained no meat nor bone meal.
Friday, October 22, 1999 By ROBERTA SCRUGGS, Staff Writer Blethen Maine NewspapersFederal veterinarians will collect brain samples from 300 deer in western Maine next month as part of a nationwide investigation into a rare, but fatal, brain disease in humans.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was looking for any link between three young victims of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. All three had eaten deer or elk meat, and one of them, a 28-year-old woman, had eaten meat from a deer taken near Rangeley in the 1970s. From that tenuous tie, the study in Maine began.
"It's a jigsaw puzzle and they just have to get all the pieces," said Henry Hilton, a wildlife biologist at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob, which strikes about one person per million, is part of a family of diseases, called transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, that do similar damage to the brains of different mammals ó deer, sheep, cattle, mink and humans. But they are different diseases, specific to each animal. In deer, it's called chronic wasting disease and there's no evidence it's ever been transmitted to humans, said Kathleen Gensheimer, state epidemiologist in Maine.
It's extremely rare even in deer. So far it's been found in only one place in the world ó a corner of southeastern Wyoming and northeastern Colorado. About 4,500 deer have been tested for the disease elsewhere, from New Jersey to California, but all the tests have been negative.
"We all doubt very, very, very much that we even have chronic wasting disease among deer in Maine," Gensheimer said.
But it's not the deer disease that primarily concerns the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and state agencies. The CDC is tracking Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), which became notorious in 1996 when the British government announced a possible link between it and the version found in cattle, which became known as mad cow disease. A new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease has now claimed more than 40 lives in Great Britain and France. It's much more likely to strike younger people than the traditional form of the disease, which is mainly found in those over 55, Gensheimer said.
There have be no cases of that variant reported in the United States, Gensheimer said. Nor has there been any sign of mad cow disease in cattle here, according to Mike Marshall, state veterinarian for Utah.
But because of the heightened concern, any cases of CJD that strike a young person are thoroughly investigated. In addition to the victim who had eaten deer meat from Maine and elk meat from out West, there were two victims who had eaten elk or deer meat from Utah or Oklahoma, where deer studies also are being conducted.
"CDC is just trying to be thorough in their investigations of some of these unusual Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease cases that have been presented to them the last few years," said Michael Miller, state veterinarian in Colorado. Unlike mad cow disease, though, there is no evidence that the deer disease can be transmitted to people. Even where chronic wasting disease exists in Colorado and Wyoming, there has been no sign that the incidence of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease has increased, state officials said.
"The only connection is that those two diseases are both part of a whole family of diseases," Miller said. "But it's similar in my mind to the relationship between canine distemper and measles in people. The viruses that cause distemper and measles are both in the same family of viruses, but they cause very different diseases. . . . Dogs don't get measles and people don't get distemper."
Chronic wasting disease was first discovered in 1967 among captive animals at a Colorado wildlife research center. Over time, it also was found in the wild, affecting Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer which make up Maine's deer herd and black-tailed deer. It has spread slowly, Miller said, but affects about 5 percent of the roughly 62,000 deer in the infected area, between Cheyenne, Wyo., and Fort Collins, Colo.
Although the incubation period of the human form of the disease may be many years, in deer it only lasts 18 to 36 months, Miller said. In the late stages, sick animals can be spotted by those familiar with the disease, but in earlier stages deer may simply look skinny. There is no way to treat the disease, Miller said, and no way to make a sure diagnosis until the animal is dead and the brain tissue can be studied.
In the past 30 years, many people have hunted, handled and eaten infected deer with no apparent consequences, said Tom Thorne, former state veterinarian in Wyoming. "And I'm one of them," Thorne said. "I guess we're an on-going experiment. And I'm not worried."
Although Wyoming and Colorado hunters have received plenty of information about the disease, they continue to hunt in the infected area and eat elk and deer meat, Thorne and Miller said.
"In public meetings with hundreds of sportsmen," Miller said, "chronic wasting disease hasn't come up as an issue at all. What they're really wanting to know is what we're going to do to get more deer out there." [Miller's department draws 51% of its income from sale of hunting tags to non-residents -- webmaster.]
A big concern for Maine health and wildlife officials is that hunters and those who eat venison could be frightened by the study. Gensheimer said they hope to develop a brochure that stresses two main points: It's very unlikely that Maine deer have chronic wasting disease, and there's no evidence the disease would have any effect on people who consume venison. But she and wildlife officials also emphasize that it's just common sense not to kill or eat a deer that looks sick.
Gensheimer also said that there's no indication of unusual levels of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in Maine. With a population of 1.2 million people, Maine has one or two cases a year, she said, which is about average. But she stops short of saying Mainers have nothing to worry about.
"If you were to say, 'Is there a problem with consuming venison?' the answer is certainly 'probably no.' But I'd have to put the qualifier 'probably,' "Gensheimer said. "The cautious answer is we simply don't know. And because we don't know, it's very important that we collaborate and work together to try to determine whether or not chronic wasting disease is even here in the Northeast. " [The disease is very likely present at Vermont game farms at a minimum -- webmaster]
So state wildlife biologists in western Maine will be collecting the heads of 300 deer from meat processors next month, Hilton said, and bringing them to a central location in the area. Then USDA veterinarians will take the brain samples they need and send them to a national laboratory in Iowa. It may take six months to a year before the results are known.
The details of the study are still being worked out, Gensheimer said, but if a sample does test positive she expects the hunter who harvested the deer will be notified.
20 Oct 99 Vet Record and wire servicesComment (webmaster):
It all sounds very similar to earlier publications of Tam Garland et al., which were already reported back in Dec 96. There the chunks of brain ended up all over the place after being knocked into the circulatory system during slaughter of the cow. While details may vary depending on the specific captive bolt tool used, it is really a much more general phenomenon associated with head trauma, for example, road accidents.
October 20 1999 SCIENCE Times of London NIGEL HAWKESBRITISH precautions for preventing the spread of variant CJD through beef contaminated with BSE are comprehensive. But is there a weakness in the abattoirs which could enable infective agents from the brains of cows to reach the parts we eat?
Cows are killed in slaughterhouses by guns with captive bolts which are discharged into the animal's brain. A team from Bristol University Veterinary School, Bristol Frenchay Hospital and the National Blood Service has looked into the possibility that the captive bolts can inject brain material into the animal's bloodstream.
In Veterinary Record, the team reports that samples of brain material were indeed found in the jugular vein of four out of 15 cattle slaughtered with a captive bolt. The results "confirm the potential risk" of this killing method, say the authors, although they cannot say whether brain material can reach the arterial circulation and be deposited in edible material.
Reuters World Report Wed, Oct 20, 1999Abattoir methods can result in tiny bits of brain tissue being sent through cattle's bodies, increasing health risks if they are incubating mad cow disease (BSE), according to New Scientist magazine.
Haluk Anil and researchers at the University of Bristol in western England said the method of stunning cattle to immobilise them before slaughter meant brain tissue could get into an animal's jugular vein, and, in theory, move around the body in the few minutes the heart is still beating.
"This finding, which will renew fears about the safety of beef, comes at a bad time for the British government, which is currently battling to end French and German bans on the import of British beef," the magazine said. The research has been presented to the government's Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee, which decided there was not enough evidence to change slaughterhouse practices, it added.
Anil and his team studied different stunning techniques. In a system used in the United States and Europe but not Britain, particles of brain tissue were found in the jugular veins of four out of 15 cattle. In Britain most cattle are stunned in a different way and only one in 16 cattle had brain tissue in the jugular vein. [If 3 million cattle are slaughtered each year in Britain, 1 in 16 implies brain material was put in the circulatory system of 187,500 cattle. For the US, 33 million cattle are slaughtered each year, 4 in 15 works out to 8,800,000 such cattle. Some, but not all, of this brain material may end up in food for human consumption. -- webmaster]
Britain has threatened to take its European neighbours to court over their continued ban on British beef. The European Union earlier this year lifted a ban imposed on British beef in 1996 after scientists said a new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), the human equivalent of mad cow disease, might be linked to eating beef contaminated with bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE.
Reuters World Report Wed, Oct 20, 1999Stunning cattle before they are slaughtered can send tiny bits of brain tissue through their bodies which could increase health risks if they are infected with mad cow disease, a magazine said on Wednesday.
Haluk Anil and researchers at the University of Bristol in western England said the brain tissue could get into the animal's jugular vein, and, in theory, move around the body in the few minutes the heart is still beating after the cow has been stunned.
"This finding, which will renew fears about the safety of beef, comes at a bad time for the British government," the magazine New Scientist said, noting that Britain is battling to end French and German bans on the import of British beef. It said the research had been presented to the government's Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee but that the government had decided there was not enough evidence to justify changing slaughterhouse practices.
Anil and his team studied different stunning techniques. In a system used in the United States and mainland Europe but not Britain, particles of brain tissue were found in the jugular veins of four out of 15 cattle. In Britain most cattle are stunned with a different method, and only one in 16 cattle had brain tissue in the jugular vein.
Britain has threatened to take France and Germany to court over their refusal to implement the lifting of a European Union ban on British beef. The EU lifted its ban on British beef earlier this year. It had been imposed in 1996 after a new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), the human equivalent of mad cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), was linked to eating beef from cows contaminated with BSE.
Thu, Oct 14, 1999 By Eileen Murphy, Consumer Affairs Correspondent, PA NewsThe BSE epidemic may have begun in 1970 with a single cow in Dorset becoming infected with "mad cow disease" from infected feed, a leading scientist suggested to the public inquiry investigating the outbreak today.
Professor Roger Morris from Massey University in New Zealand presented his latest research on the origins, nature and course of the BSE outbreak. Speaking to the south London-based inquiry by satellite link, Professor Morris said the conventional wisdom was that BSE arose from a large number of the British cattle population becoming infected by eating feed containing the BSE agent around 1981. The first cases of the disease in cattle emerged five years later and the epidemic peaked soon after that.
However, the professor proposed instead that the disease may actually have surfaced much earlier in the south west of England and the southern part of Wales as early as 1970 but went undiagnosed for more than a decade. He said the origins of the disease could have been a single cow in Dorset in 1970 which went on to initiate a further outbreak in 1975 and the final epidemic which surfaced in 1981. He told an audience including fellow eminent epidemiologists he had accepted the original theory for how BSE came about until three or four years ago.
The professor, who has 34 years experience in control of animal diseases including research on BSE for the past two, explained: "The initial conclusion, quite reasonably drawn, was that this was a common extended source epidemic". But subsequent evidence of where and when the disease proved most prevalent was "more consistent" with the theory that BSE arose specifically in the south west of England - in the Dorset and Somerset area - and the south of Wales where BSE was "most intense".
Professor Morris said: "Herds in the south west began to break down earlier than in other regions and more of them were affected earlier." He said the disease probably then spread out from these regions as cattle were moved around to different regions. He added: "The closer they are on average to the south west the earlier the epidemic builds up in those areas." The professor said his theory worked on the belief that the BSE agent infected the cattle population at a much earlier date than 1981, as traditional theories had suggested.
Instead, he believes there may have been two "mini epidemics" which led up to the major outbreak. He put forward the idea that somewhere up to 40 animals may have become exposed to BSE in a "short, sharp shock" between 1970 and 1972. He suggested that this may have led on to another bout of exposure of between 60 and 200 cattle around 1975 to 1977 and, ultimately, the full blown exposure to the epidemic in 1981.
He said it was perfectly feasible that BSE cases at these earlier stages could have gone unnoticed and undiagnosed. Professor Morris, who also has wide experience in the control of national diseases, said the subsequent bans introduced by the British Government on cattle field around 1988 were one of the most notable "success stories of global disease control".
He said the risk of infection would have been 40 times higher just 12 months after its introduction if it had not been imposed at that time. But the professor, who has not fully completed his research, would not put forward any new hypothesis on how cattle initially became infected by the deadly disease.
He would only add: "I suggest there may be as few as two to four species that remain in serious contention and, if we are really lucky, there may only be one". Today was the first day of hearings in the final session of the inquiry before it reports back to government by March next year.
Deseret News 12 Oct, 1999Wildlife officers started asking hunters for samples of deer or elk brain from the animals killed during the October 1999 hunts. The samples will tell if Utah has its first registered case of chronic wasting disease (CWD). There has never been a recorded case of CWD in Utah.
Testing is because herds of deer and elk on the Wyoming/ Colorado border have the disease. The disease has been detected in private elk herds around the country, and 3 years ago Utah opened its door to private elk ranching. CWD attacks deer, and some elk, but at this point, has not been linked to humans.
CWD is in the family of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, which are transmitted diseases including scrapie, which is found in sheep; bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, which devastated the British cattle markets; and a variant form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), which is the human version of mad cow disease.
There are no tests capable of detecting the disease in live animals. The disease is currently determined from histological (microscopic) examination of the brain tissue, after the animal has died or been killed.
The death of a hunter in March 1999 from what is believed to have been CJD has officials from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with state agencies, looking more closely at tests from this year's hunt.
Officials are trying to establish some link between the disease, the hunter and a similar case recently diagnosed in Nebraska. The longtime hunter frequently consumed wild game, but never hunted in the Wyoming/Colorado area. Officials hope to take at least half of the target samples from areas where McEwen hunted.
CWD was first identified in the 1960s as a disease syndrome of captive deer. It was detected in herds on the Wyoming/Colorado border in 1981, "but it could have been in the herds before that," said Mike Miller, wildlife veterinarian for the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
Recently, CWD has been diagnosed in privately-owned elk on game farms in Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Canada. Since Utah approved private elk ranching and legislative action earlier this year approved hunting on privately owned elk farms, some wildlife officials are concerned over possible transmission into the wild elk population.
Mike Marshall, state veterinarian for the Department of Agriculture, said there are checks in place to prevent CWD from entering Utah. Elk ranchers are required to report sick animals or those that die of mysterious causes. "We will not permit transportation of animals into Utah from sites under quarantine for diseases."
It is uncertain how CWD is transmitted between animals. Possibly, infected deer and elk transmit the disease through animal-to-animal contact and/or contamination of feed or water sources with saliva, urine and/or feces.
Marshall said, "We don't know the animals have the disease until it begins to show clinical signs, like twitching, staggering, circling, not eating or rubbing off hair." Other symptoms include excessive salivation, increased thirst and urination, stumbling, trembling and depression, always followed by death.
Hunters should be wary of animals acting strangely, realizing, there are other diseases that can cause these symptoms. It is recommended certain parts of a deer or elk, such as the brain, eyes and spinal cord not be eaten.
Paul Harvey radio report; also October 10, 1999 edition of Evansville Courier & Press by Roberta Heiman tel 812-464-7432"EVANSVILLE - A 68 year old man who had a fondness for beef-brain sandwiches may have died this summer after contracting "mad cow disease" a local forensic pathologist says. Francis Will died July 10 after suffering form months from symptoms of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), a rare and fatal brain disorder related to what become known in Britain as mad cow disease.
Woll's relatives believe he contracted the disease by eating beef-brain sandwiches, which are a local delicacy brought to the region years ago by German immigrants.
"My father lived 11 months ater the first noticable symptoms," said Vicki Chandler of St. Louis, one of Will's three daughters. "He had always been so healthy. In the 37 years he worked at Bristol (Brisol-Myers Squibb), he missed one day."
Forensic pathologist John Heidingsfelder also suspects that Will may have died from a form of the CJD. He said within the last year he has seen three suspected cases, one confirmed by autopsy, in the region.
[A family member wrote this web site on 16 Oct 99 giving permission and encouragement for dissemination of this story. The reporter who wrote the story was said to have been issued a warning by the cattle association not to print any further articles; a deer hunter may also be dying of a TSE about 20 miles from Indiana victim's home. Autopsy reports are not back yet; Ghetti and Gambetti are apparently the principal investigators involved in characterizing the cause of death. Even if the death is confirmed as CJD, no evidentiary link is established thereby to the beef brain sandwiches. While most Americans do not eat these, there are also a great many other German immigrants in the US.
This case is unlikely to be nvCJD because the UK strain of BSE is not plausbily present in Indiana beef brain. It is not known how other strains of BSE would manifest themselves pathologically or if they even exist at significant levels. Other dietary, medical, and genetic risk factors would also have to be evaluated. One thing has been affirmed: the American public is very suspicious of possible dietary exposure to TSE . -- webmaster]
Sun, Oct 17, 1999 By Helen William, PA NewsAn 8 lb joint of prime British beef was being delivered to France's Ambassador in London today, in an attempt by MPs to persuade the French to revoke their beef ban. Liberal Democrat chief whip Paul Tyler and shadow agriculture minister Colin Breed were delivering the joint -- a cut of rump from a pedigree Sussex steer -- to Daniel Louis Bernard at the French Embassy in Knightsbridge, central London.
They hope to show not only that British beef is safe but to give the French a taste of what they are missing in refusing to stock British beef in the wake of the mad cow disease crisis. "We want to impress upon the Ambassador the folly of illegal obstacles to EU agreements on the resumption of British beef exports," said Mr Tyler.
The French risk souring Anglo-French relations and are "inviting a massive boycott of French food in Britain", he warned. "Protecting their beef farmers from competition only results in a devastating decline in the sale of their cheese, wine and other products in the UK." Last week, Prime Minister Tony Blair threatened to take France to the European court after Paris refused to implement the EU's August decision that British beef was now safe to eat.
In retaliation to the French ban, announced this month, Mr Tyler has already lodged an official request to ban French produce in House of Commons restaurants and bars. Like all British beef, the joint which was being delivered to Mr Bernard has been "produced by fully traceable means and is as safe as safe could be", Mr Tyler said.
The joint has been provided by Mr Tyler's local butcher in Launceston, Cornwall. It hails from cattle reared in Lameroo, a small beef-only farm in nearby Horsebridge. The herd is owned by farmer Geoffrey Lambert, who has never had a case of BSE in his cattle. At last week's EU summit in Finland, French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin said his country had no choice but to keep the ban after a panel of French scientists claimed British beef was still a threat.
Reuters World Report Sat, Oct 16 By John MorrisonFrench Prime Minister Lionel Jospin hit back on Saturday after a verbal battering from his British counterpart and angrily rejected the idea that his government's ban on British beef was protectionist. Jospin, told by Blair on Thursday that Britain would take the strongest possible action against France if it failed to follow European Union rules, told a news conference the charge of protectionism was false.
But Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told journalists that Britain had European law on its side and could take France to the European Court of Justice if it refused to lift the ban. "They are ultimately going to have to give in on this," he said. Jospin said the French food safety agency which queried the EU decision to lift the ban was composed entirely of scientists with no commercial links or motives.
It would have been absolutely impossible for the government to flout the recommendation of a body which it had set up to protect consumers without destroying its credibility, he said. "We did not know what advice it was going to give," he said, saying the agency's verdict on British beef and BSE (mad cow disease) was different from that of EU experts because its studies had taken place 18 months later.
"I think it is this chronology which no doubt accounts for the difference," Jospin said. He said France's experts were worried by the fact that the British BSE epidemic "does not seem to be diminishing the way one might expect." Jospin said he understood the British government's concern but said it was in Britain's interests for the uncertainties about its beef to be lifted once and for all.
President Jacques Chirac, sitting beside Jospin at the news conference, backed his prime minister, saying: "When health is at stake, one cannot take any risks." On Thursday the European Commission, the EU's executive, said its scientists had failed to reach an opinion on what France says is new evidence justifying its continued ban.
Britain slaughtered suspect livestock to help restore international confidence in its beef and now says British beef is among the safest in Europe with some of the world's most stringent health checks. The commission lifted its 3-1/2-year worldwide embargo on British beef exports on August 1, following approval by EU scientists and ministers.
Only France and Germany have yet to pass legislation bringing them into line with that decision. France handed the commission a 600-page report last week detailing its reasons for wanting to keep its domestic embargo. Commission President Romano Prodi said he would "look deeply" at the issue and promised a decision on "this very hot subject" when EU experts hold their next meeting on October 25.
Thu, Oct 14, 1999 By Geoff Meade, European Editor, PA News in BrusselsThe Government was tonight asked to provide fresh information about the safety of British beef as talks on the French trade blockade ended without agreement. A seven-hour meeting of EU scientific experts in Brussels ended with no decision on whether France's refusal to import UK beef was justified. The experts will meet again on October 25 -- and meanwhile they want updated figures from the UK on the incidence of mad cow disease.
Even the next meeting is unlikely to resolve the affair, with EU officials likely to send the issue to a full meeting of the Scientific Steering Committee on October 28. The delays, coupled with fresh pressure on Britain to establish the health and safety credentials of UK beef, are bound to increase the mounting anger of British farmers over what the Commission acknowledged tonight was a breach of current EU law by France.
But a spokesman for Food Safety Commissioner David Byrne insisted tonight that Mr Byrne had a duty to investigate the new claims raised by France that there was still a question mark over beef from Britain. Today's meeting was called to consider a massive dossier of 600 pages -- 300 sheets typed both sides -- submitted by France to back up claims from its new Food Safety Agency that it would be "premature" to allow UK beef back on to the French market. And its failure to resolve the issue means the spotlight switches to Prime Minister Tony Blair at an EU summit in Helsinki this weekend, where he plans to confront his French counterpart.
The latest Anglo-French trade row came after France and other EU governments accepted strict health and safety measures put in place by the UK authorities to halt the spread of mad cow disease. After a three-and-a-half year worldwide trade blockade imposed by EU governments, British beef was supposed to be exported to the Continent once more from August 1. But now the French government says its Food Safety Agency's assessment of British beef must be treated seriously and has refused to open its markets -- prompting Germany to delay British beef imports until the French complaint is resolved.
The National Farmers' Union expected the issue to be resolved tonight -- almost certainly with France being ordered to open its markets or face EU legal action. NFU president Ben Gill said: "It is ridiculous that we are two weeks down the line and a decision is still potentially a further two weeks away. "It is also unacceptable that we are having to go over old ground in providing the same information to counter misleading information put forward by the French. "The EU Commission must prove it is effective at ensuring that all member states abide by the same rules. If not, the credibility of, and confidence in, the Commission is jeopardised.
"The NFU will keep the pressure on until we get this outrageous situation resolved. "Our farmers have waited patiently for three-and-a-half years, why should they suffer any longer in the face of this thinly veiled attempt by France at protectionism?"
The EU experts want the latest figures for the incidence of BSE because France is concerned over two new outbreaks in France. So far this year, the UK has recorded 1,341 cases of BSE, compared with 3,197 for the whole of last year. The "ball-park" prediction for 1999 is between 2,000 and 3,000.
It was not clear tonight how fresh figures will fit into the latest inquiry. And there is now the possibility that the EU experts will find some justification for the French action, throwing the entire British beef export market -- as well as consumers -- into fresh confusion.
Today's talks, which included a French expert representative, were described by the Commission tonight as "frank and open". But that was little comfort for UK beef exporters desperately struggling to create their once-lucrative markets on the continent. Germany's decision to delay a recommendation to resume UK beef imports while the French situation is unresolved has only hardened fears that the agreement to end the worldwide trade blockade could yet unravel.
Theoretically, British beef exports are now flowing to all EU member states except France and Germany. In reality, lingering consumer doubts prompted by France mean little British beef is being sold anywhere in the EU, six weeks after the export markets were opened again to a fanfare.
Australian Associated Press Sun, Oct 17, 1999Blood screening in Australia will dramatically reduce the infections that slip through the net but the huge cost of the system has rattled health authorities. The new system is called Nucleic Acid Testing (NAT) and is already in use in Europe, the UK and the US, said National Serology Reference Laboratory director, Assistant Professor Elizabeth Dax.
Its virtue is that it reduces by half the time it takes for infections to be detected. However NAT will cost $10 to $12 million a year. "We've shortened the risk, but at a huge cost," Asst Prof Dax said. "Once it's up and running it'll cost $10-12 million a year and it'll pick up one HIV and 10 hepatitis cases a year," she said. [How many cases does it need to pick up before it becomes "worthwhile"? If it is cheaper to treat 11 victims a year, should the test not be done? -- webmaster]
At the moment blood donors can have HIV, but for three weeks after they contract the virus it cannot be detected by current methods and blood they donate in this period could be infectious. It was because of this shortcoming that HIV-contaminated blood was given to a teenage girl in Victoria this year, sparking wide public concern and a series of reviews.
Prof Dax said the girl's case was a tragedy - but for the National Serology Reference Laboratory, which assures the quality of blood supply testing, it highlighted just how effective blood screening procedures had been. "We've done 14 million blood donations since we started testing for HIV (in 1985) and the child's the first," she said. "It's really a stunning achievement." [It is questionable that they have done any follow-up on 14 million transfusions. -- webmaster]
Current testing procedures, however, still relied on detecting the presence of antibodies to alert authorities to a donor's blood being infected. Using this method hepatitis C cannot be detected for two months and HIV for three weeks. Prof Dax said NAT would slash this window for potential infection by half. Nucleic Acid Testing is more efficient because it detects viral genetic material directly, rather antibodies, which are the body's responses, as is the case at the moment. She said five NAT centres would be set up in state capitals to open in April next year. Health ministers considered the new testing system last week and trials were due to begin almost immediately, she said.
Fri, Oct 15, 1999 Dow Jones By Stephen D. Moore Staff Reporter See also a large collection of GM background informationSince raising questions about the safety of genetically modified foods 15 months ago, British researcher Arpad Pusztai has been assailed by many eminent peers but feted by luminaries such as the British Medical Association and the Prince of Wales.
Dr. Pusztai is getting mixed reviews once again this week as the latest issue of the U.K.'s leading medical journal, the Lancet, belatedly publishes results of his controversial experiment in which rats appeared to develop unexpected biochemical and immunological effects after being force-fed a diet of genetically modified potatoes.
The results of that experiment were quickly overshadowed, however, by the way the 68-year-old native of Hungary divulged them. Flouting the traditional research code, Dr. Pusztai vaulted into the limelight by revealing his findings on British television -- and warning that the public was being used as guinea pigs in the roll-out of new genetically engineered crops. He was immediately suspended by his employer, the Scotland-based Rowett Research Institute. His data were confiscated and his research team disbanded. Then, in a scathing public denunciation, Britain's Royal Society claimed that Dr. Pusztai's experiment "was flawed in many aspects of design, execution and analysis and that no conclusions should be drawn from it."
The Lancet received a separate account of the experiment late last year from Dr. Pusztai and his associate Stanley Ewan. But the journal agonized for months over whether to publish it. In an editorial comment, Lancet Editor Richard Horton acknowledges that six specialist advisers brought in to review the data asked for three revisions from Drs. Pusztai and Ewan -- and finally disagreed among themselves about whether the paper should be published.
Mr. Horton insists that publication isn't a vindication of Dr. Pusztai's earlier claims -- but instead represents the first step in wider scientific appraisal of the safety of genetically modified foods. Many researchers and industry executives welcome such an open debate in Britain where public opinion has swung dramatically against genetically modified foods in recent months. Some analysts blame at least part of that backlash on the high-handed treatment received by Dr. Pusztai -- and hints of a cover-up in the way his claims were quashed by his employer. Dr. Putzai wasn't available for comment, and Dr. Ewan declined to comment until after the Lancet's official publication on Friday.
In this week's issue, the Lancet also includes an independent assessment of Dr. Pusztai's results by experts from the Netherlands' National Institute for Quality Control of Agricultural Products. The Dutch scientists describe the experiment as incomplete -- and echo the Royal Society by criticizing the study for a lack of controls "that would show that genetic modification of potatoes accounts for adverse effects seen in the guts of test animals."
That verdict may cause Dr. Pusztai's recent celebrity to fade. But it isn't likely to allay serious questions about methods used by authorities to evaluate the safety of genetically modified crops. Indeed, yet another Lancet article by researchers at Scotland's Dundee University show that a gene spliced into potatoes as protection against attack by certain insects may be able to interact with human blood cells in a way which previously wasn't considered possible.
"People like Dr. Pusztai have been working in rats -- but we don't know a lot yet about how (some transplanted genes) relate to humans," says Caroline Bolton-Smith, a Dundee University researcher. "This is a simple set of experiments and we have no desire to make any major claims," she adds.
But it's a potential warning sign -- this this gene binds to blood cells there is potential for it to do things we don't want it to do in the human body. We're just saying `hold on a minute, we don't really know enough yet to say whether this is going to be safe.' " Like many European scientists, Dr. Bolton-Smith is frustrated by the public furor in Britain where, she says, Dr. Pusztai's case "blew everything out of proportion." And at the moment "people are trying to make claims and counter claims based on thin air," she says.
Tackling remaining gaps in knowledge through pragmatic research such as the experiment by her group could help defuse "the mass hysteria side of things," Dr. Bolton-Smith believes. "A truly scientific approach by independent researchers -- without vested interests -- has been incredibly lacking in this field. A little more of that in the future might work wonders."
Reuters World Report Wed, Oct 13, 1999Comment (webmaster): Here is a most odd headline and lead sentence. The original report by a well-known expert in a leading journal is scarcely mentioned. The focus instead is on unsubstantial comments made on behalf of the food industry by individuals whose potential financial conflicts are not disclosed.]
Scientists reacted angrily on Wednesday to a commentary in a leading science magazine slamming the criterion used to assess the safety of genetically modified foods. They said the commentary in Nature magazine by food safety policy expert Erik Millstone of the University of Sussex and his colleagues was flawed.
Millstone said the safety measure known as "substantial equivalence," showing genetically modified (GM) food was chemically similar to its natural equivalent, was inaccurate and should be ditched. The commentators called for better methods to test the toxicity and safety of GM foods and said they should not be taken for granted.
"Last week's commentary by Millstone et al. is misleading and inaccurate," Derek Burke said in a letter in the current issue of Nature. Burke, a former chairman of the UK advisory committee on novel food and processes, said the team's accusations and ignorance denigrated the whole regulatory process. Anthony Trewavas of the Edinburgh University and Chris Leaver of Oxford University said the commentary was based on ill-informed logic. "Their arguments are a distraction from the task of developing a sustainable and environmentally friendly agriculture, which combines the best of conventional plant breeding approaches with new technologies," Trewavas and Leaver said in a separate letter to the journal.
Nature, one of the world's most prestigious science publications, said its commentary section was intended to convey original and stimulating opinions. "Publication does not imply endorsement by Nature of the authors' views," it said.
Reuters Online Service Fri, Oct 15, 1999 By Patricia ReaneyThe scientist at the center of an international uproar for raising safety concerns about genetically modified (GM) food said he hoped the publication of his work in a leading medical journal would lead to more research and tests. Dr Arpad Pusztai stood by his claims that the effects of GM potatoes need to be looked at more closely and said the decision by The Lancet to publicize the data Friday added respectability to his research.
"I wouldn't be human if I said I didn't feel elated," he told BBC radio, adding that he felt he had been wronged by the scientific community. "What is important is that we are talking about the issue. I hope it will be a sort of push in the right direction. These things need to be tested."
Pusztai was sacked from his job at Scotland's Rowett Institute and ostracized by many other scientists more than a year ago for publicly voicing his concerns about GM foods before his research was published in a peer-reviewed journal.
In a research letter in The Lancet, Pusztai and Stanley Ewen, a pathologist at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, said the studies of rats fed GM potatoes containing a protein called lectin -- which is found in the snowdrop and increases the plant's resistance to pests -- had harmful effects on the animals' internal organs.
Six expert advisers reviewed the research before it was accepted by The Lancet. The majority agreed it deserved to be published but two criticized the study, saying it was incomplete, lacked adequate controls and did not support the conclusions reached by Pusztai and Ewen.
Harry Kuiper and his colleagues at the Netherlands State Institute for Quality Control of Agricultural Products reached a similar conclusion. "The results are difficult to interpret and do not allow the conclusion that the genetic modification of potatoes accounts for adverse effects in animals," they said in a commentary on the research.
Lancet editor Richard Horton defended the decision to publish but said it was "absolutely not a vindication" of Pusztai's earlier claims, which were discredited by Britain's prestigious science academy, the Royal Society. "In fact we've seen already in the past 24 hours that his earlier claim that GM foods could stunt the growth of rats has had to be withdrawn and I think this is one very important beneficial effect of putting this paper through careful peer-review publication," he told the BBC.
Horton said there was genuine scientific difference of opinion and more research needs to be done to confirm or refute what he called very preliminary and findings that could not be generalized. "We are at the bottom of a very steep learning curve of research. We're only in the foothills," Horton added.
The Royal Society stood by its earlier criticism of the research and slammed The Lancet's decision to publish it. "The Royal Society would not have published this paper...since it confirms the society's original judgement that the experiments on which this paper is based were flawed," its president Sir Aaron Klug said in a statement.
Reuters World Repor Fri, Oct 15, 1999Europe's concern over genetically modified foods was driven by fear of the unknown following the mad cow and dioxin scares, a senior U.N. Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) official said on Friday.
FAO food and nutrition division director John Lupien said European consumers' concerns over the safety of GM foods reflected a lack of consultation as the foods were introduced and a loss of confidence in food safety regulators. "These worries are more a fear of the unknown, I would say, than fear of increased problems with food safety," he told a media briefing. "We really think there is a great need for better information to everyone about what is going on, and from the U.N. level we are trying to provide that."
U.S. corn and soybean growers have been angered by difficulties they have faced exporting to Europe as a result of the GM issue, which has caused an uproar among consumers. Lupien said Europe's approach could leave it open to challenge under international trade rules if safety or technical issues were seen as unfair trade barriers. "No-one has challenged them on that yet, so we will wait and see about that," he said.
He told reporters that European consumer trust in food safety had suffered a double blow due to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, and the contamination of some food in Europe with dioxin this year. But Lupien said FAO and World Health Organisation (WHO) consultations had found no food safety problems with genetically modified foods.
"One minor exception was the possibility of introducing allergenicity into foods by changing the genetic makeup of the foods. It hasn't happened yet, but it is something that has to be taken care of," he said. The FAO Codex Alimentarius, or food code committee, has set up an intergovernmental task force to look at GM food issues, with the committee's work to get underway next year.
Lupien said there remained disagreement on international labelling laws for GM food. "We have to try and reach consensus among those different points of view. So far we have not reached it," he said. Lupien was in Melbourne to attend the International Food Trade Beyond 200 conference, organised by the FAO. Representatives from the WHO and World Trade Organisation were among the delegates. "It's our job to pursue this," Gensheimer said. "See if we can get any answers. See if one clue will lead to a bigger clue."