Electronic tagging planned to trace BSE cattle
Europe ready to scrap beef export deal
'No need to change rules on calf meat'
Widower fears for his children
Farmers: worst days since the Depression
Union flag burnt by protesting Germans
Scientists debate mad cow implications
Mad cows can pass disease to their calves
SEAC Statement on Maternal Transmission of BSE
Direct Quotes from EU Commission in Brussels
Huge new cull in calves scare
CJD fear for babies of women victims
From Milk to Mouse
Study shows difficulty of disease eradication
Ministry of madness strikes again
Ministers are increasingly incredible over BSE
Missing ministers
Advice that failed to stand test of time
BSE strategy flung into confusion
BSE scare takes toll of profits
Precautions sufficient, say French farmers
EU threatens to extend ban on British beef
England Gets Some Bad News on Mad-Cow Disease
Reassuring statements fail to win confidence
Germany: "Our worst fears realized"
Fighting spirit goes out of Europe's flabby bulls
BSE scare takes toll of profits

Electronic tagging planned in effort to trace BSE cattle

BY MICHAEL HORSNELL
The Times: Britain: August 3 1996

A NATIONAL computer database of Britain's 11 million cattle is expected to be opened within three months by the livestock industry as part of the attempt to eradicate "mad cow" disease. Details will be disclosed to the Ministry of Agriculture in a working group's report next week. The government-funded scheme, costing £5 million, will begin with the electronic tagging of all new-born calves. Farmers will be compelled to register all animals with details of their date and place of birth, sex, breed, dam, health record, and movements, making them traceable at the press of a button. But it is understood that the huge registration operation, in which cattle will have a computer chip inserted in each ear, will not be finished until the end of next year.

There are fears that it will be difficult to trace the more than 20,000 extra cattle that might now be slaughtered ­ born to dams that contracted BSE within six months of giving birth. After the disclosure of evidence that cows can infect their progeny, two European Union scientific committees are examining the evidence of maternal infection. They are expected to recommend the increase in the planned slaughter of 147,000 cattle from previously infected herds. Without a database to find the 20,000 calves, the oldest of which was born in 1986, the Agriculture Ministry will have to rely on their own records of BSE-infected cows and return to the farms where the last-born were raised.

Although farmers tag their animals and keep their own records ­ many on computer ­ the reliability varies. Difficulties in tracing last-born will be compounded by their lifetime movements, and the records of auctioneers will have to be used. An industry source admitted: "Some farmers are rather better at keeping records than others. It will be a challenge but not an impossible one." The database working group, including representatives of the cattle industry, trading standards, retailers and consumers, began considering an electronic tracing system before the European summit in Florence six weeks ago. One of the preconditions agreed for the lifting of the export ban on beef was that Britain introduce an effective scheme to identify animals and record their movements on an official register. Angela Browning, the junior Agriculture Minister, announced yesterday that the working party's report would be studied by a team of consultants who would complete their work by the middle of next month.


Europe ready to scrap beef export deal

BY PHILIP WEBSTER, POLITICAL EDITOR, AND MICHAEL DYNES IN BRUSSELS
The Times: Britain: August 3 1996

JOHN MAJOR'S hopes of lifting most of the ban on British beef exports by November were in tatters last night after Germany and Brussels virtually tore up the deal that ended the beef war with Europe. After the revelation that "mad cow" disease can be passed from mother to calf, the German Agriculture Minister called for a return to the total ban on British beef and its by-products while Franz Fischler, the European Agriculture Commissioner, called for a rethink of the framework drawn up in Florence six weeks ago.

As the crisis deepened Douglas Hogg, the Agriculture Minister, came under pressure over charges that he deliberately withheld from Parliament interim information which he had given to Herr Fischler, suggesting evidence of maternal transmission of BSE. In a Commons debate on July 24, Mr Hogg made no mention of the study by Government scientists on cow to calf transmission which had been put before the Government's Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee five days earlier, on July 19. Mr Hogg had been aware of the interim findings and, according to Herr Fischler's spokesman yesterday, had communicated them to him three weeks ago.

But Agriculture Ministry officials said Mr Hogg could not have been expected to inform the Commons of the findings until the specialist committee had reported to him, which it did earlier this week. Herr Fischler said in a letter to Mr Hogg, released yesterday, that he understood it was the new information about maternal transmission that had led him to postpone last month the implementation of the programme for the selective slaughter of 147,000 cattle.

But officials said Herr Fischler was mistaken. They pointed to Mr Hogg's explanation in the Commons debate that there was already a big backlog in the related scheme for the slaughter of up to one million cows aged 30 months and over. Paul Tyler, the Liberal Democrat agriculture spokesman, accused Mr Hogg of "a deliberate failure to inform Parliament of the latest BSE scientific evidence", and said that if MPs had known last week that the whole programme was back in the melting pot he would have had a much rougher ride.

Frank Dobson, Labour's environment spokesman, said: "It has now been revealed that Douglas Hogg told Herr Fischler about the latest evidence on BSE being passed from cow to calf three weeks ago. But he didn't tell the House of Commons, even though he had every opportunity to do so. The Tories claim they stick up for Britain in Europe and stick up for the rights of the British Parliament. Douglas Hogg hasn't done that. Quite the reverse. He stuck two fingers up to the House of Commons." Senior MPs said that if the Commons were still sitting, Mr Hogg would have been in serious trouble yesterday over the disclosure that he had not told MPs.

There was also doubt over Mr Hogg's assertion that only last-born calves were at risk from the transmission of the disease from infected mothers.

Derek Ammon, herdsman at Park Farm, Limpsfield, Surrey, gave The Times details of three cases in which the first-born calf of mothers which had died from the disease had also perished. In one case the mother and calf died on the same day.

"This evidence disputes everything they were saying yesterday. Herdsmen on other farms have told me the same thing has happened there. Once again we are being given bogus information," he said. Euro-sceptic Tory MPs reacted with anger after Jochen Borchert, the German Agriculture Minister, called for a total embargo on British beef, with the EU reconsidering its decision to relax the ban on exports of semen, gelatine and tallow. Some MPs called for the EU non-cooperation tactic to be revived, although ministers are likely to reject the idea as counter-productive. After the Florence summit, Mr Major said he hoped most of the ban would be over by November. But Mr Hogg's decision to delay putting the selective cull orders to the Commons means that there cannot be parliamentary authority for it until October at the earliest. Mr Tyler predicted yesterday that Mr Hogg would lose the vote and his position would become untenable.

The biggest blow was the letter from Herr Fischler to Mr Hogg, suggesting that a review of the framework deal would be required now that the new route of BSE infection had been discovered. He asked two EU scientific committees to look into whether the selective slaughter of up to 147,000 cattle from previously infected herds planned for this autumn should be extended to calves. Their recommendations will be considered by the EU Standing Veterinary Committee at the beginning of September, when new demands will be drawn up.

Britain would have begun implementing the selective slaughter programme on August 1, so that all animals which had developed BSE could be traced to their farm of origin, enabling the entire cohort to be identified and destroyed. That programme has now been postponed until veterinary experts in London and Brussels decide whether it will now be necessary to slaughter all the offspring of infected cows as well, and for the eventual vote in the Commons. Veterinary experts are expected to concentrate their attention on how the disease is transmitted from mother to calf.

Herr Fischler said that while he understood the Government's reasons for postponing the selective cull, the decision would "have the effect of postponing further the reduction in the incidents of BSE which is a cornerstone in our policies ... In any case, it will be necessary to consider the need for expanding the selective slaughter programme. "We will need to consider what other implications this information may have from the step by step approach (for lifting the ban) which was approved in Florence." Herr Fischler said later that while the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee details did not require any new measures at European level to protect consumers, "it cannot be excluded that they will have consequent implications for the measures necessary to fight the disease."


'No need to change rules on calf meat'

The Times: Britain: August 3 1996

THE Meat and Livestock Commission attempted to reassure consumers yesterday after the disclosure by government scientists that cows can pass BSE to their calves (Nigel Hawkes writes). Colin Maclean, chairman of the commission, said no change to the regulations on calf-meat consumption was necessary: all but the thymus and intestines of calves up to six months old can be eaten.

Helen Grant, a neuropathologist, argues that if calves have been infected with BSE in the womb, during birth, or immediately after it, they should be subject to the same regulations as other beef products, with brain and spinal column also excluded from the food chain. This was recommended by a select committee of the House of Commons in 1990, but has never been acted on, she says. The Government's Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (Seac) this week said that no changes were necessary.

Mr Maclean says that he does not see any problem. The regulations are designed to exclude from consumption the parts of the animal likely to have the highest concentration of the infective agent. Experiments have shown that for the first 18 months after infection, the agent is present only in the intestine. Experiments by ministry scientists have failed to show any infectivity in cow placenta. Nor has the infective agent been found in milk or blood. "We agree that there's no need for amendments," Mr Maclean said.


Widower fears for his children

BY DOMINIC KENNEDY
The Times: Britain: August 3 1996

A FATHER spoke of his uncertainty about the health of his three children after learning that they are being monitored for the human equivalent of "mad cow" disease, which killed their mother. Anthony Bowen, 36, is particularly unsure about his nine-month-old son Anthony, who was born while his mother was dying of CJD in hospital. He is also concerned in case his daughters Natalie, six, and Jacqueline, nine, could have the illness. All the children are healthy.

Mr Bowen has been told by Richard Lacey, a microbiolo gist, that his son could have a 50 per cent chance of catching the disease, Natalie 30 per cent and Jacqueline 10 per cent. The Department of Health said that with only 12 people dead and one person dying of the new strain of CJD, knowledge of the disease was at an early stage. Mr Bowen, of Manchester, said of his son's prospects: "50:50, that's a spin of a coin. I can imagine them in the future going one at a time and I will end up with nothing. We just carry on as a normal family."

His wife died last Novem ber, aged 29, in a coma after their son was delivered 11 weeks prematurely.

Professor Robert Edwards, editor of the journal Human Reproduction, emphasised last night the importance of monitoring the children of women and men who die of CJD. "We should have an extensive programme of checking," he said. CJD is blamed on prion proteins which have proved very resilient. "We know that spermatazoa can absorb viruses. We know that some viruses get into eggs at fertilisation although they appear to be dealt with by the egg. We know nothing about prions."


Scientists debate mad cow implications

Aug 2, 1996

LONDON - A British scientist said Friday that the news that cows can pass mad cow disease onto their calves meant it was possible pregnant women with the human form of the fatal brain disease could infect their babies.

But another expert said chances of human transmission from mother to baby were still remote, adding that Britain might not have to expand a mass cull of cattle aimed at eradicating the disease.

The agriculture ministry re-opened the furor over bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or mad cow disease) with the announcement that experiments had shown infected cows were passing on the disease to their calves.

An immediate debate flared over whether Britain would be able to eradicate the disease from its herds and thus get a global ban on exports on its beef products lifted.

Government scientists said the experiments did not show how the disease was transmitted, but it seemed to be happening in the womb. One immediately warned of the implications for women with Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), the human version.

Scientists have already identified a new strain of CJD, which has affected about a dozen people, that they say could have been contracted through eating infected beef "We need to know how many children there are born to women who later contract this variant of CJD," Dr Sheila Gore of the Medical Research Council told the Times newspaper.

She said the government should step up monitoring of the one in a million people per year who come down with the rare illness. "If it is in the womb rather than during birth or after birth, it may just as easily occur in human beings."

But a member of Britain's government Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC), microbiologist Jeffrey Almond, said that even though the phenomenon could be detected in sheep and cattle, it had not yet been observed in humans.

Children born to CJD victims had about a 50 percent chance of developing CJD themselves, he said, noting that the disease usually occurs because of a genetic mutation which can be passed on.


Union flag burnt by protesting Germans

FROM MICHAEL KALLENBACH
The Times: Britain: August 3 1996

THOUSANDS of angry German farmers, who took to the streets to protest at the European Union's handling of the BSE crisis, burnt the Union Jack yesterday as they shouted "England out of the EU!" The flag-burning took place in Husum, near the Danish border, when the protesters, part of a group of farmers in Schleswig-Holstein and Bavaria, joined forces to support the continuing ban on British beef and other related products. But they criticised Brussels for mishandling the crisis. The continuation of the German ban was approved recently by the Bundesrat, the Upper House. Jochen Borchert, the Agriculture Minister, attempted to assure consumers yesterday that Germany remained free of BSE.

The demonstration in Husum coincided with the arrival of a high-level delegation from the agricultural departments in Bonn and Kiel who had hoped to appease the farmers. But the farmers delayed them, surrounding their buses for more than an hour. The president of the Bavarian Farmers Association, Gerd Sonnleitner, told 2,000 farmers in Nürnberg that for years Brussels had "covered up and lied" about the BSE crisis. Farmers were suffering from "a catastrophic drop in the price of beef", which had cost them billions of marks. In Bavaria, three out of every four farmers have been affected by the BSE crisis. Herr Borchert has asked German health experts to meet Horst Seehofer, the Health Minister, on Monday to discuss the latest developments.


Farmers complain of worst days since the Depression

BY KATE ALDERSON
The Times: Britain: August 3 1996

THE value of dairy and beef calves plummeted at Beeston market in Cheshire yesterday. The strain of the latest "mad-cow" setback was evident on farmers' faces. Last year, the auctioneers Wright-Manley recorded an average sale price for calves of £133. Yesterday it was down to £86.50. Only 450 were sold, compared with 577 on the same day last year.

Susan Lunt, a dairy farmer on the Cheshire-North Wales border, was relieved to have sold a calf for £178 when last year it would have gone for £300. Edward Bickerton, an elderly dairy farmer from Cheshire, said he had never known such a bad time since the depression of the 1930s. "Business is terrible. Farmers just can't go on any more. We're all so worried about the future." David Tomlinson, a calf rearer, bought between 20 and 30 calves for almost half the price he would have paid last year. "Every livestock farmer is losing at the moment. I'm confident things will get better, but in the short term it's very, very depressing. Just when we were getting back on our feet, we were delivered another blow."

Other farmers were less philosophical; angry and frustrated by the shrinking of the export market and the uncertainty over whether their busi nesses would recover. Brian Coleclough, from Holywell, North Wales, said: "I'm going to lose about £150 on each cow I sell, and as far as I'm concerned they should shoot the scientists, not cull the calves, because no one seems to know what's going on." He said it was a wonder farmers weren't hanging themselves. "People are losing money hand over fist and they don't know where to turn." At the other side of the auction site a huge newly built cull market hall stood empty. John Broomhall, a partner in Wright-Manley, said wistfully: "We used to be the biggest cull market in the UK, dealing in about 600 cows a week. We're down to a couple of hundred."


Mad cows can pass disease to their calves

The Times: Britain: August 2 1996
BY PHILIP WEBSTER, POLITICAL EDITOR, AND MICHAEL DYNES IN BRUSSELS

THE Government's efforts to restore faith in the beef industry suffered a new setback yesterday after it revealed evidence for the first time that "mad cow" disease can be passed from mother to calf. The demolition of previous claims that the disease could only be passed through food threw its strategy for eradicating bovine spongiform encephalopathy into confusion.

Ministers immediately acknowledged that plans for the selective slaughter of 147,000 cows from previously infected herds would be rethought. Thousands more may have to be killed and the new findings are likely to delay any partial lifting of the export ban which, after the Florence summit, John Major predicted could happen within months. Last night, in a surprise move signalling a potential new confrontation between London and Brussels, Franz Fischler, the EU Agriculture Commissioner, told the Government that the European Commission would now have to review its approval of Britain's previously agreed plans for eradicating the disease.

Herr Fischler has written to Douglas Hogg, the Agriculture Minister, asking for further details of the findings. The EU's Standing Veterinary Committee also said that if Britain's selective cull had to be extended, the progressive lifting of the European ban on exports of British beef would have to be delayed.

Earlier, a hastily arranged announcement by the Ministry of Agriculture suggested that the risk of so called "maternal transmission" was about 10 per cent in BSE-infected cattle and as low as 1 per cent across the national herd. Government officials emphasised that there was no extra risk to human health.

But Mr Hogg conceded that the existing slaughter scheme might have to be widened to include a limited number of the "last-borns" from infected cows. This was because government scientists had found during a study of 600 cattle born in 1989 ­ half of them to confirmed BSE cases ­ that transmission of the disease was more likely to occur in the latter stages of the incubation period. In virtually all the cases the mothers died within six months of giving birth.

However, the Government's advisers appeared to be at odds with Mr Hogg. Professor John Pattison, who chairs the BSE advisory committee, said that all calves of infected cattle might have to be slaughtered. "It is one option that has to be considered," he said. Mr Hogg insisted that it was "logical" to consider killing only the last-born calf of infected cows.

The new findings may help to clarify why some 30,000 cattle, born after the suspect feed blamed for causing BSE was banned, went on to contract the disease.

There are no conclusions on precisely how BSE was passed from mothers to calves, whether genetically, through the womb, or at birth. The Government said that while the route of maternal transmission was still a mystery, BSE could not be passed through milk. Calves did not drink the milk produced by their mothers; that was saved for human consumption. Opposition parties criticised the way officials and not ministers had dropped the new bombshell and critics of the Government's BSE policy went on the warpath.

Richard Lacey, a microbiologist at Leeds University who issued a warning long before the Government did that BSE could be transmitted to humans, said the findings implied that the disease was passed in the blood. "If it's in the blood it means that all beef products are dangerous," he said. "This means there should be a total ban on beef products in this country and we should slaughter all infected herds. It is going to be devastating."

In Brussels Keith Meldrum, the Government's chief veterinary officer, told his EU colleagues of the result of the study and said Britain would now consider whether it was necessary to extend the planned selective slaughter of 147,000 cattle. Around a million cattle aged 30 months and over are also being slaughtered and Brussels could even insist that the 30-month ceiling be lowered. Mr Meldrum faced a barrage of questions at an emergency meeting of the EU's standing veterinary committee. Mr Hogg said: "We shall need to take stock of the practical implications, in particular for the proposed selective cull of cattle, and what basis of selection stands to produce the most effective acceleration in the decline of BSE."

Meanwhile, the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee, which advises the Government on BSE and its human equivalent, CJD, insisted that no new action was needed to protect public health. It said: "There is no case for changing its recommendations in relation to milk, meat, blood or any other product which is currently permitted".


SEAC Statement on Maternal Transmission of BSE

Distributed to Brussels press corps 8.2.96 by
Vicky Bowman,
UK Permanent Rep. to the EU Information officer

1. The Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) considered at its meeting on the 19 July 1966 an interim report on a study conducted by the Epidemiology Department, Central Veterinary Laboratory, Weybridge to investigate the possibility of cow to calf transmission of BSE. The study involved assembling two groups of animals with over 300 cattle in each. One group consisted of offspring of confirmed cases of BSE whilst the other group comprised animals born in the same herd and in the same calving season whose dam had reached at least 6 years of age without developing clinical signs of BSE. The animals in the two groups were kept until the age of 7 or until BSE or another disease intervened. BSE occurred in both groups as the cattle were born around the time of the ruminant feed ban in 1988 and the cattle, or at least some of them, in both groups would have been exposed to infected feed.

2. As at the 14 July 1996, 273 animals in each group had reached the age of 7 and had been slaughtered or had developed disease. 55 animals are still alive and histological results are pending for 8 animals. Of the 273 animals born to dams with BSE, 42 have developed histologically confirmed BSE. In the 273 animals born to mothers who had not developed BSE 13 were histologically confirmed as having BSE. This provides evidence that the risk of maternal transmission is approximately 10% for the BSE infected cows whose calves were studied. The statistical confidence limits for that figure are 5-15%, this range being a reflection of the numbers of animals in the study and of the numbers developing BSE. It is highly unlikely that the results from the histological examination of the brains of the 63 remaining animals will materially alter these findings.

3. An analysis has been made of the inteval between the birth of the animals in the study and the onset of clinical BSE in their mothers. All of the calves in the study were born within 13 months of the clinical onset of BSE in their dams, and the great majority were born within 5 months of clinical onset. Thus the study does not provide a good estimate of the risk to animals born more than 6 months before the onset of BSE in the dam. However, the findings provide some, albeit limited, evidence that there is an enhanced risk of maternal transmission in the last 6 months of the BSE incubation period. It is plausible that the risk of maternal transmission reduces markedly as the interval between the birth of the calf and the onset of BSE in the dam increases. Therefore, the risk of maternal transmission observed under the study conditions is likely to be greater tha nwould be expected for the entire population of cows. Under field conditions, only a fraction of the BSE-infected cows giving birth would be within 6 months of demonstrating clinical signs of BSE because of the long incubation period of the disease. The average incubation period is 60 months and, if the rate of cow to calf transmission over the last 6 months of the incubation is 10% and it is insignificant before that time, then the average transmission from cow to calf over the 60 months duration of infection in an animal prior to developing clinical disease will be 1%. this would be the rate of maternal transmission that would be observed under field conditions.

4. Maternal transmission at the rates observed in husbandry conditions of the UK dairy herd will not lead to the permanent establishment of BSE even at a low incidence in the UK herd. It will die out, as it already clearly is doing, as a consequence of the restrictions on the primary mode of transmission through infected feed. The study itself provides no new evidence in relation to horizontal transmission. Since the meeting of SEAC on 19 July the Epidemiology Department at CVL has examined the data from this study and that pertaining to the herds from which study animals were taken and has found no evidence of horizontal transmission.

5. The study tells us nothing about the route of matenal transmission, which could be 'in utero', at birth or soon after birth. In sheep scrapie where there is also evidence of maternal transmission, infectivity can be detected in the placenta. Furthermore in sheep scrapie there is evidence of 'in utero' transmission from an experiment where the embryo from a scrapie infected sheep was transplanted into a healthy ewe and when that ewe gave birth the lamb eventually went on to develop scrapie. Similar embryo transfer experiments are underway in cattle but results are not yet available. Infectivity has however not been detected in the bovine placenta or in milk, or in blood*.

* Data from standard transmission experiments following parenteral inoculation into mice. Details are given in Table 7 of the MAFF Progress Report on BSE, published in June 1996.

6. the Committee considered whether evidence of maternal transmission calls into question the existing recommendations to protect public health. These were drawn up on the assumption that BSE could be a risk to man, which is still not proven, and on the assumption that maternal transmission could occur. The Committee have concluded that there is no case for changing its recommendations* in relation to milk, meat, blood or any other product which is currently permitted.

* In its statement of 20 March about the new variant of CJD the SEAC said: "The Committee does not consider that these findings lead it to revise its advice on the safety of milk. "If the recommendations set out above [i.e. for the proper inforcement of SBO controls and the deboning of cattle over 30 months] are carried out the Committee concluded that the risk from eating beef is now likely to be extremely small."

7. There is no evidence from any of the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies that infectivity can be transmitted through milk. In commercial dairy herds where the bulk of BSE cases arise calves do not receive their mothers milk except for the first few days of life when they receive the special milk produced at the time called colostrum. Colostrum is different in nature from ordinary milk and is not sold for human consumption. In the beef suckler herds it is common practice for calves to be suckled by their mothers for up to six months. Existing data do not provide evidence to suggest that the rate of maternal transmission in beef suckler calves who have prolonged exposure to their mother's milk is any different to that in dairy herds where the only exposure would be to colostrum int he first few days of life. The Committee was pleased to note that the Epidemiology Department at CVL is undertaking further detailed studies on this point, and that the results of these studies will be available very soon.

8. The Committee recognise the role of the ACDP and the HSE in relation to the occupational risks. The Committee draws the attention of those bodies to these new findings but does not make any recommendations for further action other than that the two bodies should consider the evidence and any implications for occupational health.

9. The Committee considered the position in relation to the measures to eradicate BSE? particularly in relation to any selective cull implemented by Government. It is clear from the new information that maternal transmission will not perpetuate the disease and that BSE will therefore die out even in the absence of any form of selective cull. The Committee were made aware that preliminary analyses of the effect of these new results on a culling policy had been undertaken but that these were as yet incomplete. Nevertheless the Committee recommends that the results of the completed analyses be taken into account before final decisions are made about the policy for a selective cull. Finally, the Committee considered what further research might be of high priority in the light of the results of this study and the matter will be the subject of a separate report.


Direct Quotes from EU Commission in Brussels

Brussels Correspondent
August 1st, 1996

The news about cow-to-calf transmission came while the EU Commission's Standing Veterinary Committee met in Brussels at the Agriculture Directorate.

* Erik Stougaard, Denmark's Chief Veterinary Officer from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries :

"We have had honest and open information from the United Kingdom. They have given us advance information on an experiment which is not yet completed. (completion is scheduled for Spring 1997). No full conclusion will be possible before early next year." "The UK will have to examine selective culling to take care of this problem."
Sir Keith Meldrum, Chief Veterinary Office, UK :

Results of the experiments require "In depth analysis to eradicate Mad Cow Disease". ".....re-evaluate eradication programme and see whether any changes are necessary and propose these in September for approval by the Commission and the Member States."
Lars Christian Hoelgaard, Commission Agriculture Director for health and quality chaired the Standing Veterinary Committee :

responding to the question "following the SEAC's latest announcements does this mean more cows will have to be slaughtered" said : "That is what I would assume." Regarding Britian's desire for setting of a cut-off date after which British beef would be declared BSE free and safe for export, in the light of the new findings Hoelgaard responded : "we are less certain that we can apply a cut-off date now" ..... ".....change the entire definition of the cut-off date".
Hoelgaard evoked Austrian Commissioner Franz Fischler's wish to set stricter sanitary practices throughout the 15 European member states in an effort to harmonise standards, this includes removing brain and spinal cord sheep. Sharp divisions appeared between countries on this point he said (assumed to be referring to Germany and others BSE-free status members.....):
"certain member states showed strong opposition to going down that road...... in relation to their situation with BSE and Scrapie (such countries felt) it was not warranted".
If Fischler's harmonization initiatives are to be workable within internal market legislation they would have to be accepted by all 15 states. Referring to the eventuality of BSE transmission through sheep, and the possibility of such occurence in natural conditions, Hoelgaard said "We would like to get rid of these conditions, we would like at least to take an active stance to get rid of it" Hoelgaard suggested that there might be delay in implementing the eradication programme in Britain because new intelligence had to be appraised. Repercussions on the eradication plan might be necessary. He said the next meeting of the SVC was scheduled for September.
The BBC late night news account of events ...
"Britain and Mad Cow crisis on a collision course with the European Commission after the announcement of vertical tranmission." ..... "The Framework plan for lifting the UK export ban has been called into question by vertical transmissibility" "Only 1% of veal offspring concerned" "no new risks to humans" "Fischler has asked Britain to review its culling programme" "Agriculture Commissioner calls into question the entire basis of controlling the disease" "The Commission needs to consider what other implications the SEAC revelations may have" "more time needed to look into the implications"
Agriculture Minister Douglas Hogg :
"This is merely a confirmation of what we already knew about vertical transmissibility" "The eradication document we published about a month ago includes the necessary protection measures" : i.e. 30 months culling rule, removal of offal from the food chain...
UK consumer representative David Dickinson accepts :
"I don't think this changes advice on what people can eat or not. It gives a clearer picture about why so many animals are getting the disease"

Tens of thousands of cows to die as EU beef ban stays

CHARLES REISS in London and JOHN MILLAR in Brussels
... London Evening Standard ... Friday, 2 August, 1996

Huge new cull in calves scare

TENS OF thousands of extra cattle face slaughter as a result of the latest crisis over BSE, it was revealed today. At the same time, the EU in Brussels confirmed that the framework for lifting the ban on British beef sales, painfully won by John Major, has now effectively collapsed.

The estimated cull increase - the most authoritative yet - came from the head of the Meat and Livestock Commission, Colin Maclean. He said that the number of calves that would have to be killed as a result of the evidence that mad cow disease could be transferred from mother to young would probably be "in the low tens of thousands." Mr Maclean made clear, however, that with guesswork still involved the numbers could go higher. Other estimates put the figure as high as 50,000. In Brussels, aides to the EU's Farm Commissioner, Franz Fischler, said they expected Britain now to offer changes to the planned cull of 147,000 older cattle.

More seriously, the most senior EU expert Lars Hoelgaard, chairman of the vet's committee, said that a brand new slaughter programme would now have to be devised and put into operation and that was bound to prolong the ban on beef sales. "Any changes to the selective slaughter programme will inevitably lead to further delays in meeting the requirements for the ban to be lifted," said Mr Hoelgaard.

That news was a severe political blow for John Major, threatening him with fresh trouble from worried Tory MPs. At the end of June, the Prime Minister told the Commons he expected a substantial easing of the export ban in two stages, the first in October, the next a month later - by which time only limited curbs would remain. He hailed the progress won at the EU summit in Florence as the direct result of his blocking tactics, refusing to give assent to EU decisions. Those targets now look unattainable.

A spokeswoman for Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany, where concern over the hazard to human health has been strongest, said today that she expected it would take "years" before British beef was back on sale there. The few Ministers and Tory MPs still around Westminster were privately voicing relief that the Commons was dispersed for the long summer break. That meant Agriculture Minister Douglas Hogg escaped the wave of criticism which would otherwise have engulfed him over the handling of yesterday's announcement that BSE could pass from mother to calf, reversing the Government's earlier stance.


EU threatens to extend ban on British beef

Hogg: "slaughter will have to be extended"

THE Government's efforts to restore faith in the beef industry suffered a new setback yesterday after it revealed evidence for the first time that "mad cow" disease can be passed from mother to calf.

The demolition of previous claims that the disease could only be passed through food threw its strategy for eradicating bovine spongiform encephalopathy into confusion.

Ministers immediately acknowledged that plans for the selective slaughter of 147,000 cows from previously infected herds would be rethought. Thousands more may have to be killed and the new findings are likely to delay any partial lifting of the export ban which, after the Florence summit, John Major predicted could happen within months.

Last night, in a surprise move signalling a potential new confrontation between London and Brussels, Franz Fischler, the EU Agriculture Commissioner, told the Government that the European Commission would now have to review its approval of Britain's previously agreed plans for eradicating the disease.

Herr Fischler has written to Douglas Hogg, the Agriculture Minister, asking for further details of the findings. The EU's Standing Veterinary Committee also said that if Britain's selective cull had to be extended, the progressive lifting of the European ban on exports of British beef would have to be delayed.

Earlier, a hastily arranged announcement by the Ministry of Agriculture suggested that the risk of so called "maternal transmission" was about 10 per cent in BSE-infected cattle and as low as 1 per cent across the national herd. Government officials emphasised that there was no extra risk to human health.

But Mr Hogg conceded that the existing slaughter scheme might have to be widened to include a limited number of the "last-borns" from infected cows. This was because government scientists had found during a study of 600 cattle born in 1989, half of them to confirmed BSE cases, that transmission of the disease was more likely to occur in the latter stages of the incubation period. In virtually all the cases the mothers died within six months of giving birth.

However, the Government's advisers appeared to be at odds with Mr Hogg. Professor John Pattison, who chairs the BSE advisory committee, said that all calves of infected cattle might have to be slaughtered. "It is one option that has to be considered," he said. Mr Hogg insisted that it was "logical" to consider killing only the last-born calf of infected cows.

The new findings may help to clarify why some 30,000 cattle, born after the suspect feed blamed for causing BSE was banned, went on to contract the disease.

There are no conclusions on precisely how BSE was passed from mothers to calves, whether genetically, through the womb, or at birth. The Government said that while the route of maternal transmission was still a mystery, BSE could not be passed through milk. Calves did not drink the milk produced by their mothers; that was saved for human consumption.

Opposition parties criticised the way officials and not ministers had dropped the new bombshell and critics of the Government's BSE policy went on the warpath.

Richard Lacey, a microbiologist at Leeds University who issued a warning long before the Government did that BSE could be transmitted to humans, said the findings implied that the disease was passed in the blood.

"If it's in the blood it means that all beef products are dangerous," he said. "This means there should be a total ban on beef products in this country and we should slaughter all infected herds. It is going to be devastating."

In Brussels Keith Meldrum, the Government's chief veterinary officer, told his EU colleagues of the result of the study and said Britain would now consider whether it was necessary to extend the planned selective slaughter of 147,000 cattle.

Around a million cattle aged 30 months and over are also being slaughtered and Brussels could even insist that the 30-month ceiling be lowered. Mr Meldrum faced a barrage of questions at an emergency meeting of the EU's standing veterinary committee.

Mr Hogg said: "We shall need to take stock of the practical implications, in particular for the proposed selective cull of cattle, and what basis of selection stands to produce the most effective acceleration in the decline of BSE."

Meanwhile, the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee, which advises the Government on BSE and its human equivalent, CJD, insisted that no new action was needed to protect public health. It said: "There is no case for changing its recommendations in relation to milk, meat, blood or any other product which is currently permitted".


Ministry of madness strikes again

Editor, Country Life
The Times: Opinion: August 2 1996

Yesterday, as Britain's beef and dairy farmers sat down to the evening news, they heard one of their worst fears realised. Until then, it seemed possible that cattle could only contract the brain disease BSE by eating feed containing the ground up remains of sheep and other cattle. This idea was supported by the dramatic fall in the incidence of BSE after the feed was banned. But the ban should, in theory, have eliminated BSE completely from British herds. In fact, cases continue to occur at a rate of almost 200 a week.

Officials tried hard to find explanations which supported the original hypothesis, though they never sounded very convincing. One heard that tests at government research stations, to be completed at the end of this year, were expected to indicate that BSE could not be transmitted vertically, from mother cow to calf. Farmers now know that this hope was unfounded. In a very small number of cases, vertical transmission does seem to be taking place.

The findings are provisional, but they could have devastating consequences. They make nonsense of the Government's policyof culling older cattle as a means of exterminating BSE. If BSE is to be stamped out, the cull will have to extend to the progeny of all diseased cattle. Already, before yesterday's announcement, the Government had accepted that its slaughter policy would kill 50 healthy animals for every one that was infected. This was an appalling and tragic waste. Now it is possible that far greater numbers of cattle will have to be sacrificed.

Some farmers have already gone to the wall over BSE. Very few if any new cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in young people ­ with which there may conceivably be a link with BSE ­ have appeared since the spring. So it may yet be that more deaths will result from farmers committing suicide than from children eating hamburgers. On the other hand, some farmers have already taken such a battering that they will barely notice the latest burden. Alan Bartletts, the chairman of the Somerset branch of the National Farmers Union, consoles himself with the thought that only 1 per cent of calves born to BSE-infected cows will have contracted BSE from their mothers. This, he points out, is a very small number ­ not to be confused with 1 per cent of the national herd.

The ghastly prospect that it may be possible for BSE to be transmitted through milk is quashed by the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee's report. While the scientists do not believe that BSE is passed from cow to calf through blood, they equally assure us that milk is safe. "In commercial dairy herds where the bulk of BSE cases arise, calves do not receive their mothers' milk except for the first few days of life, when they receive the special milk produced at that time called colostrum. Colostrum is different in nature from ordinary milk and is not sold for human consumption." These words will be cherished not just by farmers, but cheesemakers, chocolate makers and the makers of a host of processed foods. They should avert the Government's ultimate nightmare of the slaughter of the whole of the British dairy herd.

Even so, the ministry's stock has never been so low among the farmers who are part of its supposed constituency. Last week, the Agriculture Minister, Douglas Hogg, led his entire team of ministers to the Game Fair, in Lincolnshire, his object clearly being to demonstrate the ministry's presence in the countryside. Mr Hogg made a vigorous defence of country sports. Anyone who saw him ­ looking, as someone said, "as grey as a corpse and lolling like a rag doll" ­ cannot doubt the strain he has been under. Most country people think someone must pay the price of a decade of incompetence in the ministry. That someone is Mr Hogg.

The manner of yesterday's announcement was unfortunate. Parliament was not sitting, and it happened that the Chief Veterinary Officer was scheduled to attend a meeting of the European vets. Consequently the news was made by press release. Why did Mr Hogg and others not make themselves immediately available to answer questions? The episode recalled the disastrous announcement of the original findings about a possible link between BSE and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. Then the scientists had not troubled to warn ministers of the likely outcome of their deliberations. No contingency plans were in place.

The impression of incompetence ­ by officials if not by ministers ­ was confirmed by the manner of introducing the slaughter policy. Endless mistakes showed that the ministry, despite being dedicated to a single industry, did not understand how beef and dairy farming operate. Rationalisation has deprived the ministry of its farm advisory service, where practical experience was concentrated. It is the chaos of the slaughter policy, only partially mitigated since April, that really distresses farmers such as Mr Bartletts.

The largest measure of blame may lie not with Douglas Hogg, but even higher in the Government. The Prime Minister identified his objective in typically political terms. This is to get the European Union's worldwide ban on British exports lifted as soon as possible. He ignores the uncomfortable reality, which is that even if the EU were to relax the ban, most other countries would maintain their own bans, which have also been imposed. There would be no one to take the meat, even if we were allowed to export it.

In Florence, the Prime Minister pledged to sacrifice an even greater number of cattle to achieve the "framework" by which the ban might be lifted. In supplication to the Euro-sceptics within his party, he even expressed the hope that the conditions for recommencing exports of British beef would be met by October. There was never any possibility of reaching that target, and he must have known it.

Before yesterday's announcement, Jacques Santer, the President of the European Commission, said that he believed it would be five years before the ban was lifted. Now that period could be doubled. What farmers need to see is leadership to restructure their industry. Rather than squandering billions of pounds on the slaughtering of cattle to fulfil political objectives, it would be better to set in train policies that would, in five or ten years' time, restore the prestige of Britain's beef and dairy industries, making them the best in the world.

At present, Britain's farmers are in limbo. Parliament's summer recess means that they must wait until October before they find out about the new rules for tracing the "cohorts" of BSE-infected cattle. They need to know the worst now. They need to plan. Then they must be given the confidence to rebuild their shattered businesses.


Reassuring statements fail to win confidence

The Times: Britain: August 2 1996
BY PHILIP WEBSTER, POLITICAL EDITOR

ONCE again the Government has contradicted its own past advice on "mad cow" disease. Years of reassurances from ministers and scientists that there is no evidence that cows can pass BSE on to calves were overturned yesterday by the Ministry of Agriculture's statement that "there may be very low levels of maternal transmission of BSE in cattle".

Like all previous BSE "thunderbolts", yesterday's came out of the blue. Conveniently for the Government it came after the Commons rose for the long summer recess. Although the Government received the results of the seven-year study by the epidemiology department at the Central Veterinary Laboratory, Weybridge, in the middle of last month, officials insisted yesterday that it had not been in a position to release them at that time. Instead, as usual, the findings were sent to the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (Seac) for assessment and its conclusions landed on the desks of ministers early this week.

However, the manner of yesterday's announcement was not ex actly designed to raise public confidence in the Government's handling of an issue on which previous soothing words have proved to be worthless. It was driven by the fact that Keith Meldrum, the Chief Veterinary Officer, was to have appeared at yesterday's meeting in Brussels of European Union vets.

In the past Britain has been berated for keeping them in the dark; it was decided therefore that Mr Meldrum would tell all at this meeting, and that the press would also be told at home. Specialist correspondents were invited along to a ministry talk from experts.

The BBC sent several reporters and what was intended to be a tight briefing developed into something close to a press conference. No minister was present and it only after the news broke during the morning did Douglas Hogg, the Agriculture Minister, go into action with a series of broadcasts.

The Government was swift to assure the public that the latest findings had no implications for human health. The public may be forgiven for treating those words with some caution.

BSE came to public attention in 1985 at a cattle show near Ashford, Kent, where cows were showing unusual symptoms, identified the following year as BSE. In 1988 scientists said that it affected only older cattle fed on scrapie-infected sheep offal, and the ministry said there was no evidence to suggest that it could cross the species barrier to affect others. The next year the Government's specialist committee said the disease could not be passed from cow to calf. In 1993 independent scientists began warning of a link between BSE and a disease that affected humans, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). However, the Government continued to deny that it could cross the species barrier, with ministers stating that there was no evidence that BSE could be transmitted to humans.

It was in March this year that Stephen Dorrell, the Health Secretary, said for the first time that government scientists believed there was a possible link between "mad cow" disease and CJD in humans. Its claim that beef could be eaten with confidence was met with a worldwide ban imposed by the EU and steeply falling sales in Britain. However, the Government again insisted that the disease could not be transmitted from cows to calves.

Only two weeks ago came another "thunderbolt". There was now a strong possibility that BSE could affect sheep and there was risk inherent in the consumption of the brain, spinal chord or intestines. Yesterday's admission that the disease could pass from generation to generation punched the latest hole in the Government's campaign to allay public concern. Its record so far suggests it may not be the last.


Precautions sufficient, say French farmers

The Times: Britain: August 2 1996
FROM BEN MACINTYRE IN PARIS

CONSUMER groups in France reacted with shock yesterday to the British statement but farm unions said that safety precautions already in place were sufficient to prevent further public panic in France. Vincent Perot, scientific director of the Confederation of Living Environment, said: "If the disease can be handed down through the generations, that could massively increase the problem ... simply slaughtering cows over a certain age may not be sufficient."

The French Ministry of Agriculture declined to comment but the French Young Farmers' Union said that the possibility of passing on the disease from cow to calf would not affect cattle breeders, given the government's policy of slaughtering entire herds when a single cow was found to be infected. Consumption of beef in France has dropped by almost a third since March.


CJD fear for babies of women victims

The Times: Britain: August 2 1996
BY NIGEL HAWKES ...SCIENCE EDITOR

WOMEN who develop the human form of "mad cow" disease may pass it on to their children, a leading British expert warned yesterday. Dr Sheila Gore, of the Medical Research Council's biostatistics unit in Cambridge, said monitoring was vital, in the light of new evidence that mad cow disease can be passed from mother to calf. Dr Gore, who is among those who have been pressing the Ministry of Agriculture to publish results from its experiments ­ because of the implications its results may have for human disease ­ yesterday welcomed its decision to do so.

The original plan had been to keep the experiment going until 1997, with the scientists "blinded" ­ unaware of which animals came from infected mothers and which did not. Pressure has forced the Ministry to abandon this experiment early.

"We need to know how many children there are born to women who later contract this variant of CJD [Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease]," Dr Gore said. "We also need to know dates of birth, so that the children can be flagged with the Registrar-General, and kept track of."

The Health Department said that such monitoring was already being done, as part of the work of the CJD Surveilance Unit in Edinburgh. "They look at the family history of all cases of CJD, and that would go forward as well as backwards" a spokeswoman said.

So far, the CJD unit has identified 11 patients with the form of CJD which has been tentatively linked with BSE. All but one have already died, and none has been named by the unit, so it is impossible to say whether any were mothers with children at risk.

Dr Gore points out that human births take place in far more controlled conditions than calving, which may reduce the risk of transmission. But it is not clear how maternal transmission in cows occurs. If it is in the womb rather than during birth or after birth, it may just as easily occur in human beings.

"I am not trying to cause alarm but I think it is important that the question of maternal transmission is raised for all species that are subject to these diseases" she said. "For the first time we are seeing cases of CJD in women still in their child-bearing years. All I am saying is let us not make the mistake of not getting the data." At least three mothers died of CJD last year. Although it is unclear whether they had the new strain ­ which could be linked with BSE ­ it is known to afflict the under-45s. Old-style CJD usually strikes after the age of 63.

Jean Wake, 38, a divorcée with a 15-year-old daughter from Washington, Tyne and Wear, died last November after a long illness. She had spent four months in hospital, the last three unable to recognise her family. Michelle Bowen, 29, of Harpurhey, Manchester, also died last November, weeks after her baby was delivered by Caesarian section while she was in a coma. She had worked in a butcher's shop when she was a teenager. Margaret Garland, 52, a mother of two, died in June last year. Her husband, John, a microbiologist, accused the Government at the time of treating consumers like dirt.


Seven-year study shows difficulty of disease eradication

BY NIGEL HAWKES, SCIENCE EDITOR The Times: Britain: August 2 1996

THE discovery by government scientists that cows can pass on BSE to their calves means that eradicating the disease from British herds is likely to prove more difficult than thought. The results of the seven-year study suggest that sporadic cases of BSE are likely to occur for many years. However, the Ministry of Agriculture said that the transmission from cow to calf was rare enough to ensure that BSE levels, which are falling at present by 40 per cent a year, should continue to decline rapidly.

The findings stem from an experiment in which 315 calves from cows which developed BSE were compared with a similar number of calves from cows of the same herd which had not shown signs of the disease by the age of six. The experiment, conducted by the Central Veterinary Laboratory on a farm in Yorkshire, involved monitoring the calves as they grew to see whether the offspring of BSE cows were more likely to contract the disease than those whose mothers were free of it.

By July 14, 273 animals in each group had reached the age of seven and had been slaughtered, or had developed disease. Of those with BSE-infected mothers, 42 have been confirmed as having BSE. In the other group, 13 have developed BSE. This means that there is an excess risk in the group with BSE-infected mothers of 29, or roughly 10 per cent of the calves. It follows that about one in ten of the calves born to BSE-infected cows is likely to get the disease from its mother.

The experiment proves that maternal transmission takes place, but does not give a very accurate estimate of how great it is. All the calves in the study were born in the 13 months before their mothers showed clinical evidence of BSE, and the great majority within five months of clinical onset.

Putting the best possible complexion on the figures, the ministry suggests that the risk is concentrated in the last six months or so before clinical symptoms appear. Since cows on average produce calves over five years, or 60 months, this means ­ the ministry asserts ­ that the 10 per cent risk is in reality only 1 per cent in farm conditions.

If true, this means that only the last calf born to a cow before she develops BSE stands a real risk of getting the disease. So a slaughter policy that concentrated on the final calf born to an infected mother might be justified, and is one option being considered by the ministry.

Typically, cows have their first calf when they are a year or two old. After that, a farmer would ideally aim for a further calf every year for as long as the cow is productive, typically seven or eight years, but sometimes longer. That means that in total a dairy cow might have six or more calves.

The Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (Seac), in a statement issued yesterday, concedes that the experiment "does not provide a good estimate of the risk to animals born more than six months before the onset of BSE in the dam". Only if the risk of transmission is insignificant before that time is the 1 per cent figure quoted by the ministry appropriate.

Kevin Taylor, Assistant Chief Veterinary Officer, said it was still a mystery how the disease was transmitted from cow to calf. It could not be passed through milk, because the calves of dairy cows do not drink their mother's milk. It was possible infection could occur through the embryo, placenta or uterine discharge.

He also said that it was difficult to quantify how many calves had acquired BSE from their mothers. Of a total of 28,402 cases of BSE in animals born after infected feed was banned, 1,203 were the offspring of diseased animals. "That rate is 4.2 per cent, but that's misleading because many of them will also have been exposed to the risk of feed" he said. The figure was broadly consistent with the research findings.

Douglas Hogg, the Agriculture Minister, said of the findings: "It is important to keep this information in perspective. The Chief Veterinary Officer endorses Seac's conclusions that there is no case for changing recommendations in relation to milk, meat or any other product which is currently permitted."

But Helen Grant, a retired neuropathologist from Charing Cross Hospital in London, who has been a constant critic of the Government over BSE, said that the ministry should now follow advice to ban calves' brains from human consumption.

In its report Seac says that an analysis was made of the interval between the birth of the animals in the study and the onset of clinical BSE in their mothers. All of the calves in the study were born within 13 months of the clinical onset of BSE in their dams, and the great majority were born within five months of clinical onset.

Thus the study does not provide a good estimate of the risk to animals born more than six months before the onset of BSE in the dam. However, the findings provide some, albeit limited, evidence that there is an enhanced risk of maternal transmission in the last six months of the incubation period.

Seac says it is plausible that the risk of maternal transmission reduces markedly as the interval between the birth of the calf and the onset of BSE in the dam increases. So the risk of maternal transmission ob served under the study conditions is likely to be greater than would be expected for the entire population of cows. Under field conditions, only a fraction of the BSE-infected cows giving birth would be within six months of demonstrating clinical signs of BSE because of the long incubation period of the disease.

Maternal transmission at the rates observed will not lead to the permanent establishment of BSE even at a low incidence in the British herd, the study says. It will die out, as it already clearly is doing, as a consequence of the restrictions on the primary mode of transmission through infected feed.

Seac says that the study tells us nothing about the route of maternal transmission, which could be in utero, at birth or soon after birth. In sheep scrapie, where there is also evidence of maternal transmission, infectivity can be detected in the placenta. There is also evidence of in utero transmission from an experiment where the embryo from a scrapie-infected sheep was transplanted into a healthy ewe. When that ewe gave birth the lamb eventually went on to develop scrapie. Similar embryo-transfer experiments are under way in cattle but results are not yet available. Infectivity. however, has not been detected in the bovine placenta or in milk, or in blood.

Seac considered whether evidence of maternal transmission calls into question the recommendations to protect public health. These were drawn up on the assumption that BSE could be a risk to man, which is still not proven, and on the assumption that maternal transmission could occur. The committee concluded that there was no case for changing its recommendations in relation to milk, meat, blood or any other product which is presently permitted.

There is no evidence from any of the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies that infectivity can be transmitted through milk. In commercial dairy herds, where the bulk of BSE cases arise calves do not receive their mothers milk except for the first few days of life when they receive the special milk produced at that time called colostrum. Colostrum is different in nature from ordinary milk and is not sold for human consumption.


Ministers are increasingly incredible over BSE

The Times: Opinion: August 2 1996

The announcement that BSE can, after all, be passed from cow to calf indicates that this Government still has not learnt how to handle the delicate matter of restoring confidence in British beef. Over four months ago Steven Dorrell, the Health Secretary, alarmed the public and distressed farmers with his maladroit presentation of new evidence which pointed to a link between BSE in cows and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Mr Dorrell's clumsy announcement provoked a public health panic whose consequences still haunt our countryside. Now Douglas Hogg, the Agriculture Minister, has again released complex and worrying scientific information in a manner bound to maximise concern. The credibility of this Administration has suffered another blow and it is a mercy for ministers that the Commons is not in session to give them the roasting they deserve.

The Ministry of Agriculture maintains that settled scientific opinion insists there is no new health risk as a result of this announcement. But the Government's BSE record suggests that today's settled scientific opinion can become tomorrow's discredited bromide. In 1988 the Government maintained that BSE could not be passed from cattle to humans. In 1989 the Government's scientists said the disease could not be passed from cow to calf. Both confident assertions have now been contradicted.

Mr Hogg's admission yesterday came only two weeks after public confidence in farming was further shaken when it was revealed that BSE could affect sheep. Before then ministers had doubted that the disease could spread in this fashion. The history of ministerial management of BSE is of complacency and casualness. No wonder the public's capacity to take them seriously has taken a battering.

The manner of yesterday's announcement by the Ministry of Agriculture certainly does not suggest a department confident in its conclusions. A private briefing and a bald press release with ministers fugitive for much of the day does not inspire faith. Neither does the content of the ministry's statement. Experiments suggest that BSE is passed from infected cows to calves in 10 per cent of cases. The Ministry argue the risk of transmission is, after adjustment, only 1 per cent. The Ministry may be right, but playing down risks and hoping for the best is not the way to restore confidence.

Consumer confidence, in this country and especially across Europe, has shown itself a fragile thing. Although the evidence may suggest that there is no new risk to human health the damage has already been done to hopes of an early lift to the ban on British beef exports. The political capital expended during the beef war bought little. Those gains are set at even less after yesterday.

Political reputations may fall further but ministers, by their mishandling of matters, are the authors of their own misfortune. The largely innocent victims of yesterday's debacle will be the farmers. The slaughter plan which compelled them to cull so many of their livestock looks certain to be extended. It is hard for farmers to face the early death of animals in whom they have invested so much, financially and emotionally. Even if the cull is extended there is little prospect of guaranteeing the eradication of the disease if it can pass from cow to calf. Farmers could face the prospect of the disease lingering in the cow population for years to come, and with it doubts, however unjustified, about British beef. Quality produce has been undermined by ill-qualified ministers. A price will have to be paid.


Advice that failed to stand test of time

by Victor Sebestyen ... London Evening Standard ... Thursday, 1 August, 1996

TODAY'S announcement that BSE-infected cows might be able to pass the disease on to their calves flies in the face of past reassurances from ministers and Government scientists.

BSE was first identified in 1985 at a cattle show near Ashford in Kent. The Ministry of Agriculture said that because the disease was so new no cause for it was known but they would set up a team of scientists to look into it. In 1988 Government scientists said BSE affected only older cattle who had been fed on scrapie-infected sheep offal. The Ministry of Agriculture said there was no evidence mad cow disease could cross the species barrier to infect any other animal. In 1989 the Government's special BSE committee of scientists said the disease could not be passed on from a cow to its calf. In 1993 a cat and a monkey died of a brain disease that appeared very similar to BSE and independent scientists began warning of a link between BSE and disease that affected humans, CJD. The Government denied BSE could cross the species barrier. Reported BSE cases, which Government scientists had said would begin dying out, had risen to 800 a week.

In 1995 Prime Minister John Major said: "There is no evidence that BSE can be transmitted to humans." In March this year Health Secretary Stephen Dorrell said, for the first time, that scientists from the BSE committee had found that there was "probably" a link between mad cow disease and CJD in humans, but beef could be eaten with confidence. Scientists again said that there was no evidence that cows could pass BSE on to calves. Two weeks ago Government scientists said there was the "strong possibility" that BSE can infect sheep. Today official scientists admitted for the first time that the disease might pass from generation to generation in cattle.


Missing ministers

Associated Newspapers ... London Evening Standard ... Thursday, 1 August, 1996

IT WAS a momentous development in the BSE crisis - yet no Government minister attended the journalists' briefing. Agriculture Minister Douglas Hogg was "in the office" today, according to a department spokesman, but the briefing was left to Kevin Taylor, the assistant chief veterinary officer. The Government planned to release the new information today at the EU vets' meeting in Brussels and simultaneously in London. However, it was unprepared for the intensity of the reaction, with Mr Hogg not even arriving at the Ministry until late morning. Of the department's other ministers, Tony Baldry and Tim Boswell were both on holiday, while Angela Browning was on a regional visit to Devon.


BSE strategy flung into confusion

by Charles Reiss, Nick Pryer and Sandra Laville
London Evening Standard ... Thursday, 1 August, 1996

THE ENTIRE strategy for tackling mad cow disease was flung into confusion today as the Government revealed evidence, for the first time, that the illness is being passed from mother to calf. The announcement demolished the Agriculture Ministry's long-maintained stance that the disease can only be passed through food. Agriculture Minister Douglas Hogg conceded that the cull might now have to be widened to include a limited number of "last-borns" - the youngest offspring of infected cattle. He insisted the Government had "assumed" for some time that the disease could pass from mother to calf and he acknowledged that ministers would have to re-examine the policy of slaughtering older cattle at risk of having picked up the disease through contaminated feed.

The announcement brought immediate confusion between the Government and its advisers about the necessary changes in the slaughter plan, and stinging condemnation from opposition politicians. Mr Hogg was himself in the firing line, once again, over the way the news was slipped out by officials with all ministers initially said to be "out of town".

The most prominent of the Government's critics, microbiologist Richard Lacey, said: "Obviously the Government has been lying by blaming BSE on feed, the implications are very serious. "They are going to have to slaughter whole herds where an animal has been affected, the calf included.

What it means is that BSE is being passed in blood, which the Government has always denied." Whitehall at first denied the charge again. Officials said that the cases found where the disease had been passed from mother to calf only happened in about one in a hundred cases and that investigations had "categorically" ruled out the possibility that blood was the link. But later, the Evening Standard was told by a senior official that there were a number of possible routes of infection from mother to calf, of which "blood could be one".

The news was disclosed simultaneously in Brussels by the chief vet Keith Meldrum, where it sparked a crisis debate in the committee of EU vets. Liberal Democrat agriculture spokesman Paul Tyler said he was "completely baffled" by the announcement. "It calls in question the whole scientific basis for the slaughter programme that they've set in place now, and it means that hundreds of thousands of cattle may be unnecessarily culled. The Labour party attacked the way the news had been announced by officials with no minister present.

The confusion deepened when Mr Hogg publicly disagreed with Professor John Pattison, who chairs the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee which advises the Government on BSE, over the widening of the cull. Professor Pattison said all calves of infected cattle might have to be slaughtered. "It's one option that must be considered now," he told BBC Radio 4's The World At One. Mr Hogg, however, denied that it would be necessary to kill all calves of infected cattle.


BSE scare takes toll of profits

Business News ... The Times ... Thursday 1 August

THE BSE scare crippled trading at Sims, the meat products group, which recorded a loss of 49.3 pounds million in the year to March 31 after making a pre-tax profit of 4.18 million pounds last year. The group sold its loss-making refrigeration and catering divisions during the winter, for a loss of 30.6 million pounds. It had also arranged the disposal of its core retail division, but this was halted by the BSE warning on March 20.

The remaining businesses made an underlying profit of 2.2 million pounds on sales of 240 million pounds. Although the BSE warning came just 11 days before Sims's year end, the group wrote off 11.3 million pounds against goodwill and ran up redundancy costs of 3.2 million pounds on closing three plants as a result. Losses per share were 141.8p (earnings of 5.2p), precluding a final dividend.


England Gets Some Bad News on Mad-Cow Disease

By JOHN DARNTON
New York Times, International Section ... August 2, 1996

LONDON -- The government said on Thursday that scientific experimentation had shown that so-called mad-cow disease, which had been thought to be transmitted through contaminated feed, could also be passed directly from a cow to her calf.

The findings from a seven-year study did not pinpoint the means of direct transmission, but they could complicate efforts to eradicate the disease, called bovine spongiform encephalopathy, which has crippled the $6.5-billion British beef industry after being linked four months ago to a similar fatal brain disease in humans. They explain why cows in Britain have continued to develop the disease despite a ban on potential contaminants in cattle feed that went into effect in July 1988. The Ministry of Agriculture says that 28,402 cows born since then have come down with the disease. Up to now, the government has explained new outbreaks of the disease by suggesting that farmers may have ignored the regulations by continuing to use old stocks of feed.

The new data indicates that even more stringent culling of Britain's 11.8 million cattle herd may be needed to wipe out mad-cow disease. Until now, the government's strategy has been based on the idea of killing off older cows, which had been deemed to be more at risk of developing the disease. Seeking to alleviate fears from the study, the government emphasized on Thursday that the rate of direct transmission was low and that measures now in place should be sufficient to contain it. Agriculture Ministry officials insisted that there was no evidence that humans are at a greater risk of contracting the human equivalent -- Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, also a fatal brain disorder -- by drinking milk from an infected cow.

"It is important to keep this information in perspective," Douglas Hogg, the agriculture minister, said in a statement. "There is no case for changing recommendations in relation to milk, meat, blood, or any other product which is currently permitted."

On March 27, the European Union reacted to an admission by the British government of a probable link between mad-cow disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease by imposing a worldwide ban on exports of British beef and beef products. Since then, Britain has been at odds with its main trading partners, arguing that the ban is not justified by scientific evidence and resisting demands for strict measures to curtail the epidemic.

The latest news is bound to be another blow to the British beef industry, which is still reeling from a consumer scare from the earlier disclosures. In an effort to curb the disease, the government has been killing off cattle over the age of 30 months. Since the program began March 20, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, 257,000 cows have been killed. The government has not yet begun a secondary program to cull herds most afflicted with mad-cow disease. That program is scheduled to start in the autumn and is scheduled to include 120,000 to 140,000 animals.

The number of cows to be killed has been the subject of a lively debate between Britain and the rest of the European Union, which has been pushing for stronger measures to restore consumer confidence in European beef. The issue has been among the most divisive the alliance has faced in recent years.

Some critics of the government's handling of the crisis disagreed with its assertion that the new findings meant little new danger. The evidence suggested that the disease could be transmitted through the blood, said Richard Lacey, a microbiologist at Leeds University who years ago warned that the disease might affect humans.

"If it's in the blood, it means that all beef products are dangerous," he told Reuters. "This means there should be a total ban on beef products in this country and we should slaughter all infected herds. It is going to be devastating."


UK findings on BSE may delay lifting of beef ban

By Deborah Hargreaves in London and Neil Buckley in Brussels ... The Financial Times ... Friday August 2 1996

British scientists have discovered that BSE, or mad cow disease, can be transmitted from cows to their calves. The announcement raised fears that the UK government may have to increase its selective slaughter programme of cows and that the phased lifting of the world ban on UK beef exports may be delayed.

Mr Keith Meldrum, the UK's chief veterinary officer, told scientific veterinary experts from European Union states in Brussels yesterday that experiments by the UK Ministry of Agriculture over the past six years pointed to the disease being passed from mothers to calves at the rate of 1 per cent.

The research may raise questions about extending the cull of British cattle, due to start in October, beyond the 147,000 considered most at risk of contracting BSE.

"We will have to re.evaluate our eradication programme and see if any changes have to be made," said Mr Meldrum. If so, he added, changes would be put to the European Commission and member states next month.

Mr Lars Hoelgaard, Danish chairman of the veterinary committee, warned that an increase in the cull could postpone the start of the phased lifting of the world ban on UK beef exports.

Researchers do not know how the disease is passed to calves, it could occur in the uterus, at birth or soon after. The ministry said there was no evidence it was passed through milk, as calves born to dairy cows do not drink their mothers' milk.

The ministry has always said there was a slight possibility of such a finding and sought to play it down. "It is important to keep this information in perspective . . . there is no case for changing recommendations in relation to milk, meat, blood or any other product which is currently permitted," said Mr Douglas Hogg, UK agriculture minister.

But Britain's Consumers' Association reiterated its advice to shoppers that the only way to be absolutely safe was to eat no beef at all. "Calves born to cows in the pre.clinical stages of BSE could have got into the human food chain," said Mr David Dickinson from the association.

The evidence that cows can pass on the disease helps explain the incidence of BSE among cattle born after the ban on contaminated feed, which is believed to have caused BSE, in 1988.

Government figures show that 28,402 cattle born after the feed ban have since contracted BSE. Some 1,200 calves born to those cattle have also contracted the disease, but the ministry stressed this was not proof that all such cattle caught the disease from their mothers.

The UK National Farmers' Union said the research showed the likelihood of maternal transmission to be far too low to sustain the BSE epidemic.

The number of new BSE cases has dropped below 200 a week, compared with 1,000 at the height of the crisis in 1993 and the government expects the disease to be virtually eradicated by 2000.

Mr Richard Carden, head of the ministry's food and safety directorate, said maternal transmission would not prevent the eradication of BSE.


Germany: "Our worst fears realized"

By Charles Clover, Toby Helm and Robert Shrimsley
The Daily Telegraph
Friday August 2 1996

EFFORTS to solve the BSE crisis were thrown into confusion yesterday when new evidence showed that the disease could spread from cow to calf. Douglas Hogg, the Agriculture Minister, admitted that this could force the extension of the selective slaughter scheme beyond the 120,000 to 140,000 cattle planned. Germany immediately called for a total restoration of the British beef exports ban.

Franz Fischler, the EU agriculture commissioner, wrote to Mr Hogg last night, saying that the news was a "disappointing setback, which risks complicating the whole discussion". He said it would be necessary to review the eradication plan and the timetable for lifting the exports ban. So far the European Commission has authorised only the export of bull semen.

Barbel Hohn, the agriculture minister in North.Rhine/Westphalia, said: "Our worst fears have been confirmed. New findings about the ways BSE can be transmitted are continually being admitted."

While ministers and scientists stressed that there were no new implications for human health, officials were unable to say how many calves might be affected. The BSE eradication programme is already costing 2.4 billion pounds.

The new evidence, the result of a small study started in 1989, was published by the Ministry of Agriculture's central veterinary laboratory at Weybridge, Surrey. It showed that one calf in 10 was at risk from an infected cow. Scientists and ministers emphasised that the new evidence would not prevent the eradication of BSE and that the study was simply a confirmation of a widely held view. [???] Government scientists said that the risk was closer to one per cent if the realities of cattle breeding were taken into account. The news brought immediate criticism of the Government for failing to act on warnings by the Commons agriculture select committee six years ago that farmers should not breed from the offspring of cows with BSE.

However, Keith Meldrum, the Government's chief veterinary officer, told fellow EU vets in Brussels that Britain would have to consider extending the selective slaughter of cattle. The cull, due to begin in the autumn, aims to remove animals likely to have been exposed to infected feed between 1989 and 1993. It will also remove meat from animals over 30 months from the food chain.

When Mr Hogg was asked about a wider cull, he said: "It is logical to look at that solution and we will do that." His ministry played down fears of thousands of extra culled animals, saying that the gestation period of the disease meant that only the last.born calf would be affected.

The Government's spongiform encephalopathy advisory committee said that there was no need for further action to protect public health, beyond the ban on specified offals already in force. There was no evidence from any variety of spongiform encephalopathy that infection could be transmitted through milk, the committee added

It said that with a transmission rate of one per cent, BSE would continue to die out, as it has been doing as a result of the ban on animal matter in cattle feed. There was no danger of cow.to.calf transmission leading to the permanent establishment of BSE in the national herd.

The committee said there was some evidence of maternal transmission of sheep scrapie and that infectivity could be detected in the placenta of sheep. However, there was no evidence of infectivity of the placenta in cattle, so this was not thought to be the route. There was no evidence from any variety of spongiform encephalopathy that infection could be transmitted through milk, the committee added.

Paul Tyler, the Liberal Democrats' agriculture spokesman, said: "This calls into question the whole of the Government's slaughter policy. If we now cannot believe the scientific advice that ministers have been dishing out for 12 months and more, why should we believe this latest theory."

Francis Anthony, adviser on BSE to the British Veterinary Association, said: "I don't want to put another nail in the chief veterinary officer's coffin, but I pleaded with him in 1990 not to allow farmers to breed from the offspring of cattle which had contracted BSE. "The Commons select committee also said that advice to farmers not to breed from these cattle would have been sensible. The Government ignored it."

Yesterday's meeting of EU vets did provide one piece of good news for Britain by rejecting the European Commission's plan to ban the spleen of sheep and goats over six months and the central nervous systems of cattle, sheep and goats from the food chain. A majority of member states said the plan was unnecessary.


Fighting spirit goes out of Europe's flabby bulls

THE TIMES: FOREIGN NEWS
FROM BEN MACINTYRE IN PARIS ... August 2 1996

HARD on the heels of "mad cow" disease, another bovine affliction has sent a shiver of panic through aficionados of the bullring: weedy bull syndrome. Many European bulls bred for the ring have become enfeebled, making them poor foes for even the meekest matador. Their frailty is due to a combination of wet weather, inbreeding and over-feeding, according to a report published in France yesterday. From Arles in southern France to Seville in Spain, bulls are showing a tendency to collapse under their own weight before the first olé has sounded. Bullfight organisers say the weakness appears to be linked to genetic problems and obesity.

Bullfight fans have come to expect ever larger bulls, with many weighing more than half a tonne. In the weeks before a fight, breeders tended to fatten up their animals, but many bulls lack the strength to carry the sudden extra poundage and often keel over without much of a fight.

"They are artificially fed with fattening food, when they usually eat only wild grass," Hubert Yonnet, a bull-breeder from the Carmargue, told the French magazine, Evénement du Jeudi. Some breeders also send bulls to the ring before they have reached full five-year maturity. Inbreeding is also a problem; at least 70 per cent of Spanish fighting bulls are descended from the champion Andalusian bull, Domecq.

This year's crop of bulls is particu larly doddery, with the wet, cold weather leaving many stiff in the joints, bronchial and oddly pacific. The magazine said enthusiasts are increasingly turning to South America, where the bulls are leaner and meaner. Often raised on large farms where they must travel great distances for food and water, the South American bulls apparently grow smaller horns but bigger muscles.

Once bulls from across the Atlantic were sneered at as lesser creatures, but now French and Spanish bullfighters are having to import South American breeding bulls in order, as one commentator put it, "to put the bravery back in our bulls".


Listserve Commentary

8.2.96

From Milk to Mouse

The relevant research paper is Taylor D M et al (1995) "Absence of disease in mice receiving milk from cows with BSE", Veterinary Record, 136, 592. The milk tested was from a pool of six pregnant cows showing clinical signs of BSE, subsequently confirmed by histopathological examination.

Groups of mice were injected with the milk by the combined intracerebral and intraperitoneal routes. Other groups were permitted to drink the milk (instead of water) at 10 ml a day for 40 days, actual average uptake per mouse, 353 ml. None of the mice developed clinical or subsequent histopathological signs of neurological disease, spongiform encephalopathy or other specific pathology.


Emperor with no clothes

Now that vertical transmission of BSE has  been confirmed. Our
Government is the epitomy of the 'king with no clothes' as every one of
its BSE shibboleths has been demolished, BSE:
-       is not scrapie
-       can cross to human beings
-       can cross to most other mammals
-       transmits vertically within a species

All of which has been vehemently denied by the government at various
times over the last decade.

Calf-to Calf horizontal transmission

There is the as yet unexplained observation, in a case control study, of a tendency to subsequent infection in calves from uninfected dams born on the same day as, or within a few days after, calves from BSE-infected dams in the same herd:

Hoinville L J et al (1995) "An investigation of risk factors for cases of BSE born after the introduction of the feed ban", Veterinary Record, Vol 136, 312-318

In this connection, the following is the relevant extract from the statement by SEAC, issued yesterday:- "The study itself provides no new evidence in relation to horizontal transmission. Since the meeting of SEAC on 19 July the Epidemiology Department at CVL has examined the data from this study and that pertaining to the herds from which study animals were taken and has found no evidence of horizontal transmission."

Colostrum infected but milk ok?

As regards colostrum, the relevant part of the SEAC statement is:

" There is no evidence from any of the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies that infectivity can be transmitted through milk. In commercial dairy herds where the bulk of BSE cases arise calves do not receive their mothers milk except for the first few days of life when they receive the special milk produced at that time called colostrum. Colostrum is different in nature from ordinary milk and is not sold for human consumption. In the beef suckler herds it is common practice for calves to be suckled by their mothers for up to six months. Existing data do not provide evidence to suggest that the rate of maternal transmission in beef suckler calves who have prolonged exposure to their mother's milk is any different to that in dairy herds where the only exposure would be to colostrum in the first few days of life. The Committee was pleased to note that the Epidemiology Department at CVL is undertaking further detailed studies on this point, and that the results of these studies will be available very soon."

The belief that milk is safe is based on the fact that if you inject undigested milk into the brain of mice then they do not succumb to BSE. I would be happier about this conclusion if they had used digested milk as well. Colostrum from infected individuals has been shown to contain infectious prions and researchers have suggested that colostrum (the first milk that a calf receives) may be responsible for some aspects of horizon tal transmission, in particular cases of BSE in calves born at the same time as the offsping of BSE infected cows. Colostrum is particularly rich in lymphocytes which is interesting because the lymphatic system may be responsible for prion uptake and distribution around the body.

Calves born at the same time as the offspring of BSE infected cows are possibly fed on pooled colostrum. Another possibility: infection by placenta in the meadow.


As far as human colostrum of an CJD woman is concerned, infectious prions are reported by Tamai, Y. et al. (New Engl. Journ. Med. 1992, 327, p. 649). The infection of lambs with scrapie by milk is reported by Straub (Dt. Tier rzteblatt, 199, 5, S. 328).