THE German Government yesterday demanded an investigation into how British beef is being infiltrated into other European Union states in defiance of the export ban.
Bonn was alerted by a cable from the German Ambassador in Rome, who reported that beef from herds that should have been slaughtered under the British culling programme was moving from Scotland and Ireland into France and then to Italy with forged health certificates.
According to the diplomatic cable, which has sent Germans into a new spiral of panic, live British cattle are also ending up in Italy and being reclassified as Italian. Behind it all, there is a "meat mafia". The ambassador's report says, in part: "Last Friday Italian police discovered a shipment of meat falsely described as potatoes."
A spokesman for the German Health Ministry said yesterday Bonn was demanding an immediate examination and explanation from the European Commission. The government of Hesse, one of Germany's 16 provincial states, has already announced an alert and is stepping up its controls on all animal and meat imports.
"If our suspicions are borne out, it will be another heavy blow against the confidence and the health protection of the consumer," said Dietmar Glasser, a State Secretary (junior minister) in the Hesse government. Herr Glasser and other provincial politicians are putting pressure on Bonn to reconsider its policy on lifting the ban on British tallow, gelatine and bull semen.
The German Federal Government is allowed to uphold its national ban on British beef derivatives until September but must then, as part of the Florence compromise, allow these products to be imported. The governments of Germany's provincial states are against any such lifting, and the whole issue is likely to create a major constitutional row.
FRENCH cattle with BSE have been exported to Britain, according to official information that has been withheld by the British government because of fears that it might offend a European partner.
Scientists believe they have proof that at least one French-born cow has been imported into Britain while it was incubating BSE. They say it is significant because it contradicts assertions by the French government that it can guarantee the safety of all French beef exports.
The disclosure will raise questions about the export ban on beef from Britain alone, given that it shows other coun tries have a potentially significant BSE problem with their own exports that has been played down.
The animal was born in 1991, a year after the French government imposed its own ban on contaminated animal feed, and therefore constitutes the country's first known case of a cow that has developed BSE despite the restrictions on feed.
It was imported into Britain from the north of France in April 1993 and was diagnosed with BSE in June 1994, 14 months after arriving in the UK. Scientists say there has never been a case of BSE where the incubation period has been less than 22 months, so the French animal must have contracted the disease in France.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Maff) has known about the case but has not made it public because "we were anxious not to embarrass the French too much", according to one official. The discovery came at a critical time, before the imposition of the present export ban, when Britain needed allies in Europe over BSE.
In 1991, when the BSE cow from France was born, the UK imported only 116 French cattle. However, in 1992, this rose to 2,625 and a further 5,387 French cattle were imported in 1993 in order to bolster the breeding stock of the British dairy herd.
Officially, France has had only 20 cases of BSE in 19 herds, all of which were destroyed when the disease was diagnosed. Farmers who have bought foreign cattle have been concerned about whether their imported animals can be guaranteed to be free of BSE, but they have been unable to prove their suspicions.
Robert Robinson, a beef farmer in Alnwick, Northum berland, said he had had only two confirmed cases of BSE in his 1,000-herd of Irish-born cattle. He said that he had never fed any of his animals meat and bone meal feed, the source of BSE.
"When France and Ireland came out with the policy of slaughtering whole herds, even with compensation, it was the surest way of ensuring that they didn't get proper reporting of BSE," Robinson said.
Suspicions of a cover-up over BSE in Europe have been raised by a comparison of how many cases should have appeared, based on what is known in Britain and how many have actually been reported.
Further concern was raised last week when it emerged that a senior bureaucrat within the European commission wrote a memo in 1990 reporting that European veterinary officials should "minimise the BSE affair by using disinformation".
The note quotes representatives on the commission's veterinary committee as saying that people should "show a cool attitude so as not to provoke unfavourable reactions by the market".
Revelations of the memo's existence, published in the French Journal du Dimanche, provoked embarrassed denials from commission officials. Jacques Delors, the then president of the commission, said he had never seen it.
Beef from many EU countries is now more likely to be contaminated with BSE than British beef, European vets have concluded from evidence that thousands of cases in Europe have not been reported.
The Federation of Veterinarians in Europe will call on Franz Fischler, Agriculture Commissioner, this week to impose a British-style ban on specified beef offals throughout the EU. It will also seek tighter monitoring of farms, abattoirs and butchers. This follows evidence from Swiss experts of gross under-reporting of BSE by many EU countries.
Prof Marc Vandervelde, head of the Institute of Animal Neurology at the University of Berne, believes that France ought to be declaring around 200 BSE cases a year - instead of the 22 it has so far declared - given the amount of contaminated feed it has imported. It was "astonishing", he said, that France had not had more cases. He is also openly incredulous of Holland, Luxembourg and Belgium which also imported thousands of tons of contaminated feed from Britain in the 1980s but had declared no cases of BSE. Prof Vandervelde joked: "In some countries BSE is banned."
His colleagues have calculated that the whole Swiss dairy herd, some 800,000 cows out of a total herd of 1.7 million, was at risk of exposure to contaminated feed imported from Britain, through France. Of these, 200,000 dairy cows, mostly the older ones, are estimated to have been exposed to around 10,000 tons of contaminated feed. Experts believe that all the Swiss cases of BSE arose from these animals. Swiss cases of BSE are no longer increasing, thanks to the same controls used in Britain.
There was a danger that the French could be recycling their own BSE in other animal food.
The magazine Nature recently reported that contaminated feed from Britain, could have been fed to cattle in France until this year. Prof Vandervelde said: "We would expect to see a couple of hundred cattle a year with BSE. It wouldn't be wrong to say that at least a couple of hundred thousand cattle had been exposed. Most of our imported feed came from France. It would be difficult not to find a similar incidence of the disease as in Switzerland."
Greater certainty may come from tracing the 57,900 pure-bred breeding cattle exported from 1985 to 1991. A report by European scientists last week said that around 1,668 of these might be expected statistically to have contracted BSE. One of the authors, Prof Otto Christian Straub, said that a list of countries most at risk could be compiled, based on those who had imported the most dairy cattle.
The figures are still being analysed by the Central Veterinary Laboratory in Weybridge, Surrey. British vets believe that the "at risk" list will be topped by Portugal (which imported 12,000 head of cattle and has so far declared only seven cases of BSE), followed by Spain (which has declared none) and the Netherlands (none).
* THE government organization charged with promoting British meat will be lambasted this week for misleading the public over the safety of beef in the wake of the BSE crisis, writes Paul Nuki. The Advertising Standards Authority will announce that five out of eight "facts" claimed in full-page newspaper adverts by the Meat and Livestock Commission in defense of British beef were fiction. Among its alleged crimes was to claim that non-beef eaters faced the same risk of contracting CJD (human BSE) as beef eaters.
Proof of a Commission cover-up of mad cow disease six years ago has been obtained by Luxembourg Socialist Euro MP Ben Fayot. Now he is tabling a question to the Commission on behalf of the Socialist Group for the July session of Parliament.
Mr Fayot wants to know if officials responsible for the cover-up are still working for the Commission. He asks: 'Does the Commission today share the view that a major catastrophe with serious consequences for the health of EU citizens as well as for the EU economy could have been avoided if the Commission had reacted in an appropriate way when this disease appeared?'
The cover-up took place under controversial farm commissioner Ray MacSharry of Ireland. A confidential summary in French of a permanent veterinary committee meeting of 8 and 10 October 1990 obtained by Mr Fayot spells out the extent of the Commission cover-up. It also reveals Irish fears of 'bankruptcy' over a decision on removing the nervous system from carcasses.
The note quotes a Commission representative as telling the committee: 'We must have a cold attitude so as not to provoke unfavourable reactions on the market. Do not speak any more about BSE. This point should not be on the agenda.'
The summary notes: 'We are going to ask the United Kingdom officially to stop publishing the results of its research.' It concludes: 'We must play down this BSE affair by engaging in disinformation. It would be better to say that the Press has a tendency to exaggerate.'
Mr Fayot wants to know if Commissioner MacSharry was informed of the cover-up. He says: 'We have to react vigorously.'
THE European Commission yesterday launched an investigation into reports that British beef is being sold on the Continent in defiance of the export ban and officials gave a warning that London could be held responsible.
At the same time, the French daily Libération traced the author of a six-year-old memorandum which alleged that European Union farm officials had tried to stifle news of "mad cow" disease to protect the market. The newspaper said Gérard Castille, a former civil servant with the Commission's consumer affairs division, had tried to sound the alarm.
Franz Fischler, the Agriculture Commissioner, said he had written to Douglas Hogg and the other EU agriculture ministers after claims by the German Ambassador in Rome that British beef was being shipped to Italy via Ireland with fraudulent certificates. Herr Fischler said: "I am taking this very seriously, but there is no proof yet."
The Commission farm directorate said the onus was on Britain to prevent exports. The Ministry of Agriculture said last night: "No export certificates for beef are being issued, so any that is being exported would have to be illegally disguised."
UP TO 120,000 cattle, mainly from dairy herds, are to be culled to speed the eradication of "mad cow" disease, the Government said last night. The cull is likely to cost a minimum of £100 million and the final bill could be more than twice that amount. Last night the Agriculture Ministry refused to put its own estimate on the cost, which the Treasury is understood to be contesting fiercely.
The number of animals to be killed is considerably higher than the "low tens of thousands" envisaged by Douglas Hogg, the Agriculture Minister, last April, but slightly lower than the 147,000 mentioned after last month's European Union summit in Florence.
The slaughter is one of the key conditions that have to be met by Britain under the summit deal before a stage-by-stage lifting of the EU ban on British beef exports can begin. The National Farmers' Union gave a cautious welcome to the slaughter proposal, which was announced by Anthony Baldry, the Junior Agriculture Minister, but said crucial questions about compensation to be paid to farmers remained unanswered.
Sir David Naish, the union president, said: "The NFU still firmly believes a selective cull is unjustified. Farmers are still extremely worried about the impact it will have on their individual farm businesses, and there are many issues that have to be resolved in detail.
"It is critically important that compensation is based on the replacement cost of any culled animals, and not just on their market value."
Mr Baldry said he recognised that there was a case for using replacement cost as the basis for compensation, but the Government was still "re flecting on the correct approach". He added: "It is right that the farmers should be fairly compensated, but they must not be over-compensated."
Farming organisations have until July 9 to comment on the plan. It must then be laid before the Commons before MPs go on their summer holidays at the end of this month, and could still run into difficulties there.
The cull would affect about 5 per cent of the 2.4 million dairy cattle in Britain and an estimated 2,500 individual herds. The worst affected herds could lose up to 40 per cent or more of their cattle.
Mr Baldry said the slaughter would probably start in September and last for six to nine months. During August, ministry veterinary surgeons would visit the farms concerned to identify the animals to be culled.
THE TIMES: FOREIGN NEWS ... July 2 1996
BY CHARLES BREMNER IN BRUSSELS AND ANDREW PIERCE THE European Commission issued embarrassed denials yesterday after the emergence of a six-year-old memorandum which reports an alleged decision by European veterinary officials to play down the BSE epidemic through a campaign of "disinformation".
In the document, reproduced by the French Journal du Dimanche , an unidentified Commission official summarises a meeting at which the EU Standing Veterinary Committee is alleged to have concluded that "it is necessary to minimise the BSE affair by using disinformation".
The note also claims that the Commission's representative on the committee had called for BSE to be taken off future agendas "in order not to provoke unfavourable reactions by the market". A call was also said to have been made to Britain to stop publishing the results of its BSE research. The committee, made up of the veterinary chiefs of the member states, is the body which voted in the beef ban and must approve its eventual lifting.
Tory MPs reacted with anger and amazement and some said they planned to table questions in the Commons. Bill Cash, the Tory MP whose Referendum Bill was supported by 78 colleagues last month, said: "This demonstrates the irresponsible hypocrisy of the very people who have now caused so much trouble to the British farmer. It is important that the memorandum is thoroughly investigated and a full report laid before Parliament."
Sir Paul Marland, chairman of the Tory backbench agriculture committee, said: "The French ... have done exactly what this report rec ommended. While we have been the honest broker throughout ... the French have covered it up. The Agriculture Commissioner, instead of pointing his finger at us, should start examining what is going on in his own backyard."
The Commission said it had been unable to trace the document, but it said that the published version conveyed a false account of EU policy on BSE in 1990 and now. A spokesman for Jacques Santer, the Commission President, promised an investigation into the note. "Everything in this note is contradicted by events," said Gerry Kiely, spokesman for Franz Fischler, the Agriculture Commissioner.
He suggested that it may have been drafted by a junior official.
Steve Connor Science Correspondent
EUROPE'S HIDDEN 'MAD COW' SCANDAL
SUNDAY TIMES ... June 30 1996
The great unwritten assumption about the export ban on British beef is that beef produced in other European countries is completely free of "mad cow" disease. A closer look fails to deliver this reassurance. Consumers in Europe are less protected against BSE than beef-eaters in Britain.
There is no denying that BSE is primarily a British problem. We have nearly 170,000 confirmed cases compared with just over 400 in the rest of the world. Many cases overseas can be linked directly to either the export of British cattle or British-made meat and bone meal. However, there is now a growing acceptance that there is a hidden epidemic of indigenous BSE in many European countries that, unlike Britain, have failed to institute the most basic measures for protecting public health.
One of the strongest pieces of evidence to suggest that the rest of Europe has significantly under-rated its BSE problem comes from an international team of scientists who are shortly to publish their report on the unacknowledged problem. As The Sunday Times revealed two weeks ago, this report concludes that EU countries failed to report more than 1,600 cases of BSE in the 57,900 British breeding cattle they imported between 1985 and 1990. Only 29 cases of BSE were reported in this group of animals.
A second piece of evidence to show that some European countries have been economical with the BSE truth comes from an analysis of the meat and bone meal exported from Britain at the end of the 1980s. This was a legal trade because the UK allowed it to be fed to pigs and poultry even after it was banned in 1988 as a feed for British cattle and sheep. Thousand of tons were exported through brokers in Holland. France bought 15,000 tons in 1989 alone and sold some to Switzerland: which has the highest incidence of BSE outside Britain, with 220 confirmed cases.
All the BSE cattle in Switzerland were born in that country and they undoubtedly developed the disease through eating this imported feed. The question Swiss scientists are asking is why France and other countries that imported the same feed do not have as big a problem. "We are an island of BSE in Europe," says Marc Vandevelde, Switzerland's BSE expert at Bern University. "The disease stops at our border."
Vandevelde says that "if" the dairy practices in France and the Benelux countries were similar to those in Switzerland, there should be several hundred cases instead of the mere 20 in France and none in Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg.
Meat and bone meal exported from Britain was almost certainly mixed with meat and bone meal made in other countries. Even if the British feed was intended for French poultry and pigs, it would have contaminated feed destined for French cattle in the French mills where both products were processed. British scientists accept that this kind of contamination caused thousands of BSE cases in cattle born after the feed ban in 1988. If it happened here, why not in France and other European countries?
What happened to the many hundreds, and possibly thousands, of cattle with BSE that "disappeared" in mainland Europe? Many, if not all, would have been rendered into meat and bone meal and fed to other animals. We know the British ban on feeding cattle protein to cattle and sheep (ruminants) was not totally effective. We also know that some European countries continued the practice until very recently.
Few scientists believe that countries in Europe have been able to escape the deadly cycle of ruminant contamination. Truly indigenous BSE (created by the feeding of home-made feed to home-bred cattle) is very likely, according to Bram Schreuder of Holland's Institute for Animal Science and Health: "There is a risk that if a local rendering plant is not fully effective, countries that were continuing to feed meat and bone meal to cattle were creating their own indigenous BSE. I think there are countries in Europe that have had such cases."
Scientists at the Institute for Animal Health here have shown that many rendering processes used in Europe fail to destroy the agent that causes scrapie, the brain disease in sheep. This finding should be particularly worrying for the French because even though the EU asked them in 1993 to set up an official system for notifying cases of scrapie, they failed to do so until this year.
Many sheep with scrapie must therefore have been rendered in a system that failed to eliminate the scrapie agent, which is how BSE in Britain is thought to have developed.
All this could, perhaps, be overlooked if France and other European countries had set up an effective barrier against BSE to protect public health. Central to this strategy would be a well-policed ban on bovine offal in the human food chain, particularly brain and spinal cord matter where the BSE agent thrives. However it was only in this year, for instance, that the French introduced such a ban. The moral of the tale is that if British consumers ever faced a risk from BSE, consumers elsewhere now face a bigger risk from their own beef industries.
The Times: Britain:July 2 1996
Beef business may never recover
BY MICHAEL HORNSBY, AGRICULTURE CORRESPONDENT
DEMAND for beef may never recover fully from the crisis over "mad cow" disease, Franz Fischler, the European Union's Agriculture Commissioner, told British farmers yesterday.
Risking the wrath of dairy and beef producers, Herr Fischler honoured a long-standing invitation to open the annual Royal Show at Stoneleigh, Warwickshire. In the event, no protests marred the occasion and Herr Fischler, who has a farm in the Austrian Tyrol, was spared having to eat British beef for lunch. Later, however, he sampled beef satay at the stand of the Meat and Livestock Commission.
The organisers were careful to steer their visitor away from the cattle lines and took him to a flower show, the organic farming stand and a British food exhibition. At a packed meeting with farmers, Herr Fischler was chal lenged about alleged under-reporting of BSE in cattle herds elsewhere in Europe. Robert Robinson, from Alnwick, Northumberland, said the only two cases of the disease in his herd had been imported from Ireland, where he estimated there might have been 7,000 unreported cases. He asked why the export ban applied only to British beef.
Herr Fischler said he had heard rumours of under-reporting and he would raise the matter with the new EU scientific group set up to investigate the disease. He believed that 99 per cent of all cases of BSE had occurred in Britain.
In his opening address, Herr Fischler hinted that beef farmers might have to face production curbs to reflect permanently lower demand, although Britain could be less badly affected than some continental coun tries. "There is no doubt in my mind that we have seriously to look at the beef production of the future and how the system has to be adapted both to satisfy consumer demands and to allow farmers to earn an acceptable living."
Later, at a press conference, Herr Fischler said: "It will not be easy to get back to the level of consumption that existed before the crisis." Production subsidies to help beef farmers could provide only a short-term solution.
He refused to endorse the Prime Minister's forecast after the EU summit in Florence that the worldwide ban on British beef exports would be largely lifted by November. That would depend on how quickly Britain could satisfy the conditions set for each stage in the removal of the ban.
Douglas Hogg, the Agriculture Minister, said Britain had "turned the corner" in the beef crisis, although he admitted he did not expect to see the export ban being significantly eased before "the back end of the year".
At a private meeting with Herr Fischler, Sir David Naish, president of the National Farmers' Union, said that he did not regard the cull ordered by the EU as scientifically justified but said he and other farmers would support it if it led to the removal of the ban.
Beef consumption down 20%Consumption of beef fell by 20 per cent in the first three months of this year compared with the same period last year, according to the National Food Survey. The total household consumption of all meat and meat products declined by 1.5 per cent in 12 months.
BY MICHAEL HORNSBY ...London Times ...4.17.96
BSE deaths 'could be two million'
A LEADING scientist alarmed and bewildered MPs yesterday with a barrage of statistics suggesting that the number of deaths from eating meat infected with "mad cow" disease could be as few as ten or more than two million.
Dr Stephen Dealler, a consultant medical microbiologist, described the upper figure as "a worst-case scenario". He also said that the risk from eating beef now, with new safeguards in place, was "absolutely minimal".
Dr Dealler offered the estimate at a joint session of the Commons Agriculture and Health Select Committees, called to consider the latest evidence on BSE and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the counterpart condition in human beings. Others giving evidence included Sir Kenneth Calman, the Government's Chief Medical Officer, Keith Meldrum, the Chief Veterinary Officer, and Professor John Pattison, head of the Government's advisory committee on BSE.
When Edward Leigh, Conservative MP for Gainsborough and Horncastle, and a professed beef-eater, pressed Dr Dealler to say what his own chances of contracting CJD from BSE-infected meat were, Dr Dealler replied, to laughter: "Between zero and 100 per cent."
Professor Pattison told the MPs that Dr Dealler's figures represented the "possible range of what might happen", but added: "The longer we go on without a significant rise in the number of CJD cases, the greater the chance that [the number of deaths caused by BSE] will be at the low end of the range. It would be very surprising if there is no species barrier between cows and human beings. It would also be very surprising if [BSE] infection is ever found in muscle meat [as opposed to offal]."
Dr Dealler said he had arrived at his estimates by looking at the potential times when people might have become infected and the number of infected cattle likely to have entered the food chain each year. He assumed that no one would have been infected after November 1989, when the offal ban took effect.
The committee also heard evidence from Dr Harash Narang, a clinical virologist who formerly worked for the Public Health Laboratory Service in Newcaste upon Tyne, who claims to have made a breakthrough in developing a test to detect BSE in the urine of live cattle. Dr Narang, who repeatedly clashed with Sir Kenneth and Mr Meldrum over his claims that the Government had obstructed his research, said: "The urine test, used on farms, could eradicate any remaining BSE by identifying cattle with the disease so that they could be removed."
The value of such a test is that it would avoid the need to destroy thousands of healthy animals merely to eliminate those with BSE. At present the disease can be confirmed definitely in cattle only by analysis of brain tissue after death.
Mr Meldrum said Dr Narang had failed to produce any evidence that his test worked. Sir Kenneth said Dr Narang's research had been taken seriously, but other scientists who had looked at earlier work of his on detecting tell-tale prion proteins in brain tissue had been unable to repeat his experiments.
Government Claims Challenged From The Manchester Guardian Weekly, November 26, 1995
Renewed fears that "mad cow disease" -- bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) -- could lead to an epidemic of the Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (CJD) in humans were raised by a medical microbiologist, who questioned the government's assertion that the public were not at risk.
Dr Stephen Dealler, writing in the British Food Journal, claimed that most adult British meat-eaters will, by 2001, have ingested a potentially fatal dose of meat infected with BSE. The disease was thought to have been caused by feeding cattle with infected foodstuffs. That practice was ended in 1988, but 18,000 cases of BSE have been reported since, and even the Ministry of Agriculture suspects that cases are under-reported.
Dr Dealler said that the medical and dietary professions should question the present policy of "waiting passively" to see if the incidence of CJD rises in the UK. Present methods of diagnosing CJD were inadequate, he said, and "aggressive" and long-term research was needed.
Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies Adapted from the special coverage in April's Public Health News.
MAFF Food Safety Information Bulletin, 1996, no70, February, pp1-2
Dr Stephen Dealler, consultant medical microbiologist at Burnley General Hospital, who has studied epidemiological aspects of BSE and CJD since 1988 and warned in a paper in the British Food Journal in November 1995 that the ethics of waiting to see if there is an epidemic of CJD must be questioned, said that children should not be fed beef but that it was too late for adults. In his paper he estimated the most adults in Britain who eat meat would have ingested meat infected with BSE by the year 2001. Dr Dealler believes that any epidemic in humans would start about 15 years after that in cattle and about 250,000 BSE-infected cows were eaten in 1990. There could be an epidemic of this new form in the year 2005. These 10 cases were probably infected some time before the BSE epidemic started. Professor John Pattison of SEAC warned that the next 12 months would be crucial in determining if the UK is likely to see an epidemic of CJD. He called for all cases of CJD to be reported to the CJD Surveillance Unit as early as possible. Professor John Bourne of the Medical Research Council neuropathogenesis unit were investigating cases of CJD in farmers but results could not be expected until later this year. He said that he was not aware of any evidence that pointed to beef being anything other than safe. Dr Richard Lacey, a microbiologist, claimed that a worst-case scenario would be 500,000 people affected.
The Chairman of the Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Support Network of the Alzheimerís Disease Society, writing to the Editor of the Independent, expressed his horror at the prospect of an epidemic of infected people and said that "the government owes it to the people who have become infected to prepare sufficiently and commit enough funding to care services to make their last months as dignified as possible".
Independent 22.3.96, p12
The Department of Health set up a helpline number (0800 344355). The World Health Organization recommended that national health authorities be notified if any unusual occurrence of CJD is recognized in any other country.
Cover-up Gossip from Britain
Reports from private individuals. What seems the best for the farmer may not seem the best for the consumer and what is best for the politician to keep the populus calm may not be the whole of the information that the populus feels itshould have been given.
- It is claimed that MAFF [= Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Fish = British USDA] knew about BSE in 1983 but decided not to let the public (and possibly the politicians) know. This agrees with Helen Grant other heresay and with Dealler and Kent's calculated statistics.
- First numerous cases of BSE not going to be announced.
- They were found by a farmer in Surrey and reported to the local vet and hence to MAFF. They were slaughtered and the farmer was going to publish the data (in 1986). He was told not to do this and the information reached the Veterinary Record from the histopathologists in a small collumn in 1987. The reason why MAFF told him not to publish it is not clear.
- No BSE available for research.
- Apparently, the experts all over the world were asking MAFF for samples for BSE (after all they had a lot of it) but MAFF refused to play ball for the first few years fo the epidemic. A researcher from the US actually came over to the UK and got hold of the head of a cow with the disease, put it in his fridge and then took it back to california in his baggage. He was stopped by the guards at the airport and the head taken away. This may have shown the MAFF just what researchers will do to get a sample and may have pushed them to allow others some BSE.
- Wilesmith's suggestion that BSE may not be from scrapie.
- Everything that is published from the Central Veterinary Laboratory has to go to higher authorities to get permission. This one, in 1990 (?), did not get the permission and still stays with them. It is not clear why MAFF would prefer that information suggesting that they were wrong about scrapie being the immediate cause of BSE should be kept from the public and possibly politicians too.
- The beefburger fed by John Gummer
- , Then the Minister for Agriculture Fisheries and Food, he fed it to his daughter in front of all the cameras at the Houses of Parliament was actually largely turned down by her and he had to eat it himself. How he could have known that it did not contain infective material is not clear. The question arises as to whether the ministers have been told by MAFF what is actually going on.
- Denials of BSE risk.
- Bradley gave specific direct denials to the media in 1989-1994 that bovine brain tissue never reached British food and had not until then. Specific machines were available for the removal of brain tissue from the cranium. One of them seemed to be like a sort of claw and the other was a band saw that cut the head in half. It was well known that brain was used for the manufacture of human food and this was present in text books. Brain had a specific value as offal and as such was removed from the head for sale. It was said that the EC rules stated that brain was meat and hence could be used in various products that were claimed to be beef. Bradley denied this and said that brain could not be used in specific products.
- Is BSE new at all?
- Calculations show the first case of BSE to have been born before the change in the way in which bovine food was manufactured (1980/81). Originally it seemed that BSE infected the cattle when they were very young but this would be difficult if there was not BSE in the food! What might have happened is that the older cattle dying with BSE in 1990 might well have not become infected when young but rather when they were being fed large amounts of infective food to get them to produce milk. One group thought that BSE was not a new disease at all and was probably present in 1 of every 20,000 to 1 in 30,000 cattle. ANyway, both of the hypotheses would not fit well with scrapie being transmitted to cows to cause BSE.
- Plum Island
- When BSE was first announced the exported cattle that were moved to the USA were actually rounded up and taken to Plum Island when they were kept to see if they developed BSE and exports of live cattle to USA were stopped. At this time MAFF were stating that there was no problems with BSE and that nobody was worried.
- Transmision of BSE by a bull?
- A herd of cattle in Northern Ireland became had no cases of BSE. A bull brought in from England died of BSE but so did some of its offspring on the farm. It was as if the bull had infected its calves in some way.
- Tissue from cattle was tested for BSE by inoculation into mice.
- Only the brain and spinal cord tissue caused a disease in mice and this was used as an indication that there was no infectivity in the other tissues. This was clearly misleading but was shown to the press as proof that there was no risk to humans from eating bovine tissue. (1993 onwards)
- Southwood not accepted
- The 'Southwood' report (from the Working party on BSE, organised by the MAFF in 1987) was produced by spring of 1988, and was presented to MAFF. Apparently they were horrified by the report, which made heavy statements about how we did not know enough to be certain of the risk. It is said that MAFF put pressure on him to change the text in such a way at to make it clear that eating bovine tissue would not be a risk. This, it is said is the reason for the two revisions of the report, which not become reach Parliament for several months later, the reason for which is unclear.
- Southwood sources
- It seems that Southwood did not actually take information from the right sources to decide what to do about BSE anyway. Several experts were almost pulling their hair out when they saw the report, which said that no restrictions should be put on the consumation of brain, spinal cord, etc and that BSE would not go on to infect further animals. These are clearly ignorant statements and could not have been advised by anyone involved in the science.
- Farmers have been much more worried about BSE than has been reported.
- They feel that they have been treated badly and that, as there is no risk to humans whatever (as MAFF keeps telling them) why should they have to work hard and pay up to report the cattle? There is a great feeling that BSE actually came into the UK from elsewhere and that BSE is in fact prevalent in France but the french are not reporting them (apparently they are calling them cases of rabies).
- Are BSE cases getting to MAFF statistics
- After 1991 farmers that reported cases born after the feed ban of what they were certain were BSE (by this time many farmers had seen half a dozen cases) to the veterinary officer found themselves in a problem. The problem was that initially the VO would say that he wasn't sure that it had BSE and that it had to wait on the farm for a month when he would return. Then the VO came back to find that the animal was sick but could not be said to have certain BSE and so the VO turned it down. There the farmer was left with a sick cow, that could not be sold to anyone except for animal meat and would be worth less than ú100, whereas when the VO was first called the farmer could have taken it to the market just looking a little low and got ú800. The reason was twofold. Partly it was because the farmers were getting much better at spotting the initial changes in personality of the cow that preceded the clinical disease and the second was that the VOs had been told to be tighter in their selection of cattle. They were also told that there would be few cows born after the ban that showed BSE. Eventually, a particularly honest farmer called Lacey, saying that the VO had turned down a 'barn door' case and that he wasn't having it. Lacey had it slaughtered, the brain examined and it was clearly BSE.
- Vets at markets
- Initially vets were hired to be at the market for quite long hours inspecting cattle to make sure that clinically infected animals did not get sold. In about 1992/3 the time of the vet was dropped from 12 hrs to week to 2 hrs per week (one local vet that is known). Few infected cattle were picked up and it was not thought to be worthwhile. No farmer has been taken to court as if any infected animal was pointed out the farmer just apologised and took it home.
- EC regulations were not enforced fully
- The Germans and eventually the whole EC, in 1990 demanded that UK meat not be exported if it came from an infected herd. This was to be carried out by: 1 the farmer selling the cow at market would announce that he had a case of BSE on his herd within the previous 2 years and the price of the cow would drop accordingly. 2. The market would announce this to the buyer. 3. The buyer would not export the meat 4. The abattoir would supply certificates for any meat being exported, signed by a vet to say that the meat was not from an infected herd. In 1992 the workers at Smithfield and the meat groups marched on the MAFF and told them that this simply would not do. The reason was that such a high proportion of the cattle were from an infected herd (by this time it was probably 65%) that it was ruining the export and making such difficulty that things had to change. In around 1992 things seemed to change. The markets seemed to stop asking the farmers presenting cattle if they had had a case of BSE previously, they stopped putting ribbons around the cow when sold, the abattoirs happily exported them as if they were from a non-infected herd. Vets were put under pressure to sign the certificates even though there was no evidence that what they were saying was true. This all changed with Maria Hovi, (0734 667090) who was sacked after she refused to sign the certificates because they were not true. She made it plain that this was unacceptable.
- Misleading data
- The impression is that 55% of the dairy herds in the UK are affected at one time or another by BSE. It is a misleading impression, however, as the larger the herd, the greater the likelihood of BSE. In fact >90% of the dairy cattle in the UK are now from an affected herd.
- Vertical transmission means that large numbers were infected
- The number of cattle infected with BSE that are being eaten has been claimed to reach 1.8 million by 2001 but it is not realised that the figure is four times as great if the cattle become infected from their mother.
- The USDA was determined to carry out as much as possible of the research into BSE in the USA and researchers there outside the USDA had trouble at times getting funding or samples to carry out experiments.
- USDA research
- Workers at the USDA have been under pressure not to find out what is actually going on with BSE. For instance they were told to feed the mink some amounts of bovine brain to fid out how much was needed to transmit the disease. In their publications they say that they tried out down to 1g (which still worked). This is extremely unlikely. Anyone carrying out this sort of experiment will use doses much lower than this, probably 1000 times lower. Perhaps the USDA does not want the results to be published??
- Experiments not done
- Numerous experiments into the risk of BSE to humans have not been done and some have been done that have turned out to be useless. For instance: No measurement of the amount of infectivity in tissues was done properly until 1992 (far too late). No measurement of the amount of specific tissues needed to infect specific animals (sometimes done with grossly too high amounts, officially). No range of animals tested with BSE to work out the chance of transmission to humans. No transgenic mice made to look for methods of tissue testing. Cattle have not actually been fed specific amounts of bovine meal as a test to see if this is the way they become infected. No infectivity has in fact been found in the meal at all.
- No replies from officialdom
- Various groups have written to the Minister of Agriculture and not received replies. Dr. Dealler wrote to Wilesmith at his parliamentary address, at his constituency address and at the MAFF and got no reply.
- Attempts made to get in touch with Tyrrell have been difficult and it has been worrying that he seems to have been believing everything told to him by MAFF. At a meeting he stated that the mouse assay for infectivity in tissue of cattle tissue should be thought to be 100% sensitive, a clear mistake but one put over by MAFF regularly to the press. Tyrrell used to run the common cold unit associated with Porton Down. Although a lot of work was done, it is not clear if we have less common colds.
- A meeting between Wilesmith, Bradley, Tyrrell, Lacey and Dealler at the MAFF centre of the Royal Showground in 1993.
- It was made clear that by Wilesmith that the cases of BSE born after the feed ban were simply due to bags of meal being kept for longer than expected. When asked, farmers said, however that they never kept bags for longer than 6 weeks because they generally rotted. Lacey made it clear that the Aspergillus fungus that would grow was unacceptable and the economics would make sure that the bags were not kept for any length of time. "do they think we're idiots?" Lacey growled to Dealler and pulled Wilesmith's arguments to pieces. Tyrrell claimed that he would not let ten thousand infective units of BSE into a human diet as this was shown to be an oral dose in some TSEs. Lacey explained that if 10,000 IU was not in a meal of 100g of food then they would have to use a test that would find 100 IU in a single gram and that was not possible by inoculating tissue into mice.
- Cases in France?
- They say they've had about 6. Farmers in the UK think they've had more. The Portuguese say they've had 12 but they are generally the offspring of imported UK cattle...and one that is the offspring of a Dutch cow. It is not clear how the infectivity could have reached them as other Portuguese cattle do not seem to be affected.
- The case of BSE in a bull exported to Canada
- In 1994 it was a shock. The response from the Canadian meat groups was severe.
- The original cat with FSE
- It was claimed that the cat that originally died of FSE did not eat any infective food at all. It was supposedly only given proper steak. Similarly, the puma and the cheetah that died in the zoo were not knowingly given the offal of infected animals. Could cats be particularly open to infection.
- Before BSE got going there were only a few, specific groups in the world working on TSEs
- . Meetings were of an eye scratching type, with one group trying to be one up on the other group. At one meeting one of the lecturers was picked up by his lapels and pushed off the stage. Now there are too many people involved to be the king of the castle and hopefully things will be less personally messy.
- Daisy leaves in Bradford.
- Dealler found a specific chemical in the leaves of the daisy with Nash. It was found to be active against HIV but he wanted it to be active against BSE. The children of Bradford collected hundreds of bags of leaves on the 'daisy day' in 1993 and the chemicals still lie in wait. Dealler could find no funding to go further.
- MAFF knew the numbers of cases were not going away.
- In order to find out if the case numbers is changing is actually much more difficult than it seems but MAFF had about 6 people (e.g. Linda Hoinville, Judy Ryan) at one time working on it at the Central Veterinary Laboratory. They must have known that things were not a good as seemed. It does not seem obvious, however that they told the politicians.
- The computer was useless.
- Originally it was a good idea that instead of all the information being given from one person to another about each cow, the farmer would put a tag on its ear and keep a record of what happens to it. A computer would keep all the records of deaths and farms etc. This was probably going to be used for the abattoirs to check if it came from an infected herd but it turned out that the information could not actually be released by the computer to anyone outside MAFF. The machine became a statistics machine and little else until the law was changed in late 1995.
- Offal has a price.
- Offal of various sorts is removed at slaughter in the abattoir. What happens to it then? It is very difficult to be sure and it is said that the offal may well end up in animal food. The fact that they have now demanded that offal is stained black by the abattoir may be an indication that MAFF can realise that they might not all be being destroyed as they should be.
- Meat and bone meal.
- MBM could no longer be used for bovine feed in the UK as of July 1988. So what happened to the meal? Well, it was just exported. Bradley put it over to the EC that it was sent to foreign parts to be used in soil fertiliser but the evidence for this is poor. The worry is that it got sent to Europe and that they will follow us with an outbreak of BSE.
- Mechanically recovered meat.
- MRM is the meat that is removed from the surfaces of bone after the abattoir workers have taken as much as they can. The effect is really quite large but contains fragments of bone and hence has a lot of calcium. Human food is always worth more than animal food and it is expected that MRM still ends up in human food. The worry is that MRM is likely to contain many tissues.
- The use of bull's eye balls in school was recommended to stop (1995). But it was OK to eat.
- Various schools refused to continue to give beef to the children (1994).
- This was put down as rediculous by Meldrum and pressure was put on schools to change their ways. Various schools refused to do this (try some in the Hull area).
- What is in your sausage? It is not exactly clear but it is expected to contain a fraction of many of the tissues that you did not otherwise eat (e.g. lungs). Some of these tissues are known in other species to be infective for TSE.
- For some reason Lacey is no longer lambasted at lectures that he gives.
- The media pulled him to pieces for saying that the cattle born after the ban would continue to be infected and for saying that we may find the ground to be infected (as with scrapie perhaps). It now seems that various groups are happy with what he is saying.
- Dealler's argument with McLean.
- McLean (then the junior minister for agriculture in 1991) had given a lecture to the abattoir workers and the butchers in Bradford and stated that no infection had ever been found in meat. He had said that there was no possible risk to the workers and not to worry. Afterwards Dealler approached him and offered to make some kind of agreement; (?if McLean tells the truth then perhaps Lacey will stop spreading the fear. ??). Apparently McLean was determined that all the information concerning infectivity in meat was simply wrong and invalid. It ended up with Dealler shouting out of the door of the hall at McLean and his entourage heading for their car. Meantime, the workers were all talking to Lacey and were clearly unimpressed by McLean's denials.
- Wilesmith claimed that there would be no cases of BSE born in 1992 and put his job on the line.
- When a case appeared, and the EC demanded to know how, MAFF could not say but promised that there would be no more in 1993. There has now been one born in 1993 (and this is only around 2 years old so there will be plenty more. One neurological case has been reported to a VO in the west that was born in 1994. The farmer thought it was BSE but the VO didn't and told that he couldnt get any compensation. The farmer told Granada Television.
- Hugh Frazer.
- HF the expert in scrapie and other TSEs has now left the BBSRC Unit in Edinburgh. He has retired. This is a great loss as he was an excellent researcher. When BSE was first being investigated MAFF ordered him how to do the experiments (wrongly) but he had to do them that way. This is not the sort of man to lie down when retired and it would be a pity if he left. What a loss.
- Ray Bradley, who has been in charge of the BSE Unit at the Central Veterinary Laboratory since the beginning of the epidemic has been given the CBE...and now retired. Keith Meldrum has also (but not retired) and Rob Will has been made a Professor. Narang has been sacked, Dealler has had attempts made to destroy his career, and Lacey has been demoted. I hope that the winners are right.
- Keep official sources quiet.
- The Communcable Disease Report (CDR), which is produced by the Public Health Laboratory Service was determined to produce regular information on the BSE epidemic. They were told not to. A meeting there was a serious argument as to whether they should put up with the directions from above. This was obviously a public health matter and should be spread as information to doctors. It turns out that the whole of the PHLS were told to provide no information about BSE to anyone. No information could be obtained on BSE from the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Pathologists, the British Medical Association, the Royal Society, Environmental Health and many more. This was probably because of the effect the salmonella and listeria news outbreaks had. Originally when it was anounced that listeria was in cook-chill food, everyone rang up the PHLS and asked what it was. PHLS told them that it was a pathogen that causes a severe disease and is sometimes associated with outbreaks from food. This caused a press calamity. With BSE the way to handle it was to make sure that there was only one source of information and that was to be MAFF.
- Consumers Assn.
- The main group that kept needling the MAFF was the consumers association.
- Richard Kimberlin.
- He is more in charge than you think. An excellent scientist from the era of TSEs when interpersonal vengeance was known, is determined that the risk to humans from BSE is minimal. He left the research unit in Edinburgh in 1987 and set up his own company as advisor to other food groups, Governments, research groups, drug companies, committees etc. Unfortuneately this means that they have all heard the Kimberlin side of the story more than others.
- Various BSE researchers in the UK have made it plain that they would not let their children eat sausages, meat pies, etc.
- Infection in meat?
- McLean stated that Dr. Pattisson, a veterinary researcher into scrapie, now deceased, was misleading when he stated that there was infectivity in goat meat with scrapie. Pattisson wrote back to the Veterinary Record making it plain that the meat taken from the goat was nothing but meat and it was injected into another goat. The second goat died of scrapie so there was infection in the meat. He told me that the real problem was that he carried out the experiment with a small herd of goats and was told to slaughter them when only a few years old. If only I had let them live on, he said, possibly all of them would have died of scrapie.
- Various GPs have made it clear that they will not eat bovine material and certainly not recommend it to their patients. One near Cambridge and one near York are determined.
- Narang is now backed.
- To MAFF's annoyance he is backed by a food manufacturer.
- The information source for the media from MAFF is very poor.
- Numbers can be got but information about diseases is difficult. There is a special telephone line at MAFF but this is limited in its value. Various researchers have needed some information from a vet locally and been referred to the Central Veterinary Laboratory. Here the researcher says they must speak to the manager, the manager refers them to MAFF, the MAFF demand that they speak to Kieth Meldrum. Its felt to be a tight ship.
- Farmers want nobody to realise that their cattle are sick.
- Although such a high proportion of herds are affected by BSE the farmers are still embarrassed. If they could, a farmer would sell his cow, with symptoms of BSE to an intermediate farmer (there was one near Ilkley and one in Cheshire) who would then announce the case to the veterinary officer and claim the compensation. Mean time the original farm did not have anything wrong with his farm. Originally MAFF took some trouble to prevent this but little has been heard since.
- Vicky Rimmer.
- She was with an incurable presenile dementing illness and now in a coma was first seen by the expert from the CJD Unit in Edinburgh when she was 16. He came and asked her grandmother questions about what was wrong and then told them not to tell anyone about the case. What he did not seem to realise was that Alan Watkins, the Today expert on BSE was actually in the room with them. Was this a cover-up?
- An expert at MAFF applied to the Spongiform Encephalopathy Research Campaign for the post as the manager.
- He/she made it clear that what MAFF was doing concerning BSE was quite unacceptable and that some of the things said were almost unbelievable. SERC wondered whether the appointment was genuine but the person seemed good.
- London Zoo and its Kudu.
- Dealler went to London Zoo to look at the Greater Kudu. Unfortunately the vet was out but one of the zoo keepers was there and showed him around. Apparently they were expecting to discard the top food of soil from the kudu pen because of infection remaining in the soil, all droppings from the animals had to be collected and incinerated, the man had to get changed before he entered and left, and anything that was dropped into the pen by a viewer would be incinerated too. This was at the time that MAFF was telling farmers that BSE would not remain endemic in their farms.
- Tyrrell Committee.
- For some reason there does not seem to have been specific groups invited to the Tyrrell Committee for advice concerning BSE. The most important one would be one of Medical Ethics (the people that decide what is morally acceptable), then the Medical Microbiology group, then the Infectious Disease, and especially Public Health. What is being discussed is a matter of public health. The reason why PH is not fully involved is not clear.
- Death certificates.
- Various relatives of people that have died of CJD have reported that the doctors refused to write CJD as the cause of death on the certificate. Some (for instance Mr. and Mrs. Churchill) were determined and demanded the change. Exactly why this is cannot be sure. We are told that recently the CJD people have been asking histologists not to report cases but I cant believe that this can this be true. It is also said that various cases of CJD have not reached the CJD unit records.
- Two diseases??
- Initially it was found that around 10% of the cases of BSE reported to MAFF in 1988 were not histologically true. This represented a few hundred. By 1993 it had risen to 15% of the cases but this was several thousand. So what was wrong with the other ones? How could the number of other fatal neurological diseases have increased remarkably at the same rate as the number of cases of BSE? Are we having two epidemics in parallel? Could it be that we are just getting the histology wrong?
- Urine test.
- A technique may have been found to look for the diagnosis of BSE by looking at urine. The experiment work has been stopped and the funding removed at MAFF.
- In charge of the Department of Health he announced in 1995 that there would be no research into methods of diagnosis or treatment of BSE as this would simply be used to indicate that there was a risk to humans. He made no notice of the fact that we do not yet know if there is or is not a risk.
- Germans are not so easily misled.
- It was expected that the Germans scientists would not be misled by MAFF but when speaking to them. Dealler found that they too had believed many of the pieces of data that Bradley had put out (which were all essentially true) and took them to show that BSE was going away and there was little risk.
- Questions not answered.
- Meetings involving Linda Hoinville and John Wilesmith with the vets from the south of England were strained as they refused to answer some questions. For some reason the 'vertical transmission study', which will not now be able to show if there is any because both the control mothers and the test mothers are from the same herd, has finished but the results not arrived for publication.
- Hogg the new minister
- Hogg got in as the Minister of MAFF and must have wondered why. His wife has been disposed of by Major as an advisor and there had been a mild fracas. When arriving in the post he asked to see all the information about BSE. It is assumed that some of it was not as he liked and a press conference was announced saying that there was more infection in bovine tissue than they thought. No further data was given. Bradley said later that this was due to the oral transmission of BSE by 1g of brain tissue to another cow. Clearly this did not incidate more infectivity in the tissue, so there must have been some more information. Is the information fully reaching the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee? It is worried that the SEAC is being used to blame when things go wrong and their advice is more manipulated than wanted. One thing is clear from the way things happened is that Hogg might have wondered if anything was wrong when he got the job.
- SEAC decisions.
- The decisions made by MAFF and by SEAC early in the epidemic had to be on best guesses because there was simply not enough information to be sure of the risks that were being taken. It is not at all clear, however, how those best guesses were calculated. Dealler's calculations of the number of infected cattle that were being eaten was given to MAFF and SEAC 4 months in advance of the following SEAC meeting. Bradley was to send copies to all the members. They reached the members a week before the meeting and were little looked at. A letter was sent back to him saying that they could not accept his findings of human risk because they were calculated assuming cumulative doses of BSE and there was not proof of this. The problem with SEAC is that it has had to make decisions where there is inadequate proof. Anyone in Public Health would have accepted the findings as you must always assume the worst. Instead Dealler offered to calculate risks with non-cumulative doseas of disease. He received no reply. Could SEAC be looking on the bright side when the dark side is the PH line it should take? Are they going to be the fall-guys?
- New test for CJD.
- Narang claims that by looking at the urine of a patient under the microscope he identified the objects that were associated with infection. He says that he used simple local urine as controls and was happy. He felt that the test should be tried by many other groups and that he should be allowed to carry it out without the fight of trying to use a laboratory. "Why dont you use your garage?" said a local hospital manager.
- Foreign cows.
- A farmer with a number of cases of what he thought were BSE reported them to the VO. The VO ignored a few of them and when asked why, he said that they were foreign cows and therefore couldn't have BSE. Apparently MAFF has had pressure put on it to cut any budgets that it can and the compensation for BSE is one of them.
- MAFF chases away experts.
- Some researchers appeared from Edinburgh to a farm in the South of England to carry out electronic recordings of the brain waves of the cows suffering from BSE and those that were apparently normal. The reason was that this particular herd had had a large number of cases of BSE and nobody was sure why. Initially the vet reported to the Veterinary Record that there had been 12 cases and it was published. There was at least 60 by a few years later however. By this time it seemed that there was something special about the farm and they may be able to tell which cattle were incubating the disease and which were not so an agreement was made with the farmer. MAFF arrived to chase them away. The vet in charge of this farm described the tale in awful terms and actually moved house partly to get away from the problem.
- The worry among the people outside MAFF/DoH has always been that they are at risk in some way. Letters have gone missing, computer discs, files, publications, and crackles on the line, but nobody is sure of any espionage. The publisher of Lacey's latest popular book about BSE seemed to vanish after spending a year of organising and few books were sold. A bit strange but not surely a spy. Dealler's manuscript was turned down for the Lancet but none returned. He found that the computer disc and the hard copy of the manuscript had gone from his office. Not exactly serious; he just rewrote it.