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Cheating meat companies named and closed
July 7 Official nvCJD statistics
Still no trend discernible in new-variant CJD incidence, say experts.
Power plant incineration `carries negligible CJD risk'
BSE may spread horizontally
Beef mafia feeds off EU subsidies
Syndicate of British army troops involved in the beef scam?
Outrage over beef fraudsters
Fraudsters in mad cow export scandal
UK probes smuggling claim
Mad cows and smugglers
Egypt bans import of beef from Belgium

Meat plants closed for 'breaching export ban'

15 July 1997 Electronic Telegraph. By David Brown, Agriculture Editor
Two meat plants suspected of breaking the EU's worldwide ban on exports of British beef were closed by the Government yesterday after it received threats of legal action from Europe. The EU Commission had also said that the alleged breaches were thwarting efforts to lift the restrictions even though the Government, farmers and the meat industry are currently fighting in the European Court to have the ban declared illegal.

Jack Cunningham, Minister of Agriculture, said he had ordered the "immediate" closure of the plants after inquiries by the ministry's special investigations team and the commission's anti-fraud unit in Brussels.

He refused to name the businesses but it is understood that one is a meat cutting plant in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire Heine and the other a cold-store in Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire Safex

Dr Cunningham said: "We have uncovered very poor hygiene standards, meat which isn't properly labelled, meat which has apparently been labelled with documents from other countries and a whole number of other completely unsatisfactory activities. Operations of this kind involve risks to the public. I am determined to crack down hard on anyone who runs risks with public safety. I am serving notices on two companies requiring them to stop the relevant business immediately."

The ban was imposed 16 months ago following fears of a link between BSE and a new form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in young people. The commission said its veterinary inspectors had uncovered evidence which "confirmed suspicions" of an export fraud and accused Britain of failing to police the ban effectively.

It claimed that about 1,600 tonnes has recently been exported to Holland, some of it seized by Dutch officials, and the rest exported to Russia and Egypt after being re-labelled as Belgian meat. This enabled traders to fraudulently claim EU export subsidies. There have also been claims that British soldiers were involved in smuggling beef from Ulster to the Continent. Britain claims to have made 14,000 spot-checks on lorries leaving British ports to prevent beef shipments.

Dr Cunningham flies to Strasbourg today to give evidence to the European Parliament's committee of inquiry into the beef crisis. Sources in Brussels and Strasbourg said last night that he had been "bounced" into closing the plants after warnings from Franz Fischler, EU agriculture commissioner, and Emma Bonino, EU commissioner for consumer affairs, that they would expose them first if he didn't.

Mr Fischler told a meeting of farmers in Wales on Friday that the "illegal" exports were undermining efforts to reassure consumers about the safety of beef. He said: "It is essential that member states redouble their efforts to ensure proper control. Clearly, the United Kingdom has a key role to play in this respect. Indeed, there is a vital interest at stake since a breach of the export ban does not bring any closer the day when consumer confidence is fully restored."

The suspect beef was apparently seized in May, but details of the discovery were suppressed during a police investigation in Britain, Holland and Belgium.

Behind the scenes, Britain is furious with the way the commission has appeared to hijack the investigation to answer severe criticism from the European Parliament that it wasn't doing enough to tighten safeguards for consumers.

Senior Whitehall officials say a series of leaks about the inquiry jeopardised a joint operation involving Britain, the commission, Holland and other EU countries and put at risk chances of bringing prosecutions for a range of alleged offences.

The ministry said: "We have given our full cooperation to the commission throughout. We have been working on this for a number of weeks and action has been taken as soon as possible to prevent further activities. Inquiries are continuing."

Monthly CJD figures

Department of Health   Monday 7th July 1997
The Department of Health is today issuing the latest monthly table, giving the numbers of deaths of definite and probable cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in the UK. The next table will be published on 4 August 1997.

ReferalsSporadicIatrogenicFamilialGSSnvCJDTotal
1985 - 26 1 1 0 - 28
1986 - 26 0 0 0 - 26
1987 - 23 0 0 1 - 24
1988 - 21 1 1 0 - 23
1989 - 28 2 2 0 - 32
1990 53 27 5 0 0 - 32
1991 75 32 1 3 0 - 36
1992 96 44 2 4 1 - 51
1993 78 38 4 2 2 - 46
1994 116 52 1 3 3 - 59
1995 86 34 4 2 3 3 46
1996 129 38 4 2 3 10 57
1997 54 5 1 1 0 5 12

(To 31 May 1997. Plus one case of definite nvCJD still alive. Total number of definite and probable cases of nvCJD = 19 [Plus one confirmed case in France.]

Research into link between nvCJD AND BSE - Publication of latest scientific advice

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH press release of Tuesday 1st July 1997
Further advice from the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee on the scientific evidence on the possibility of a link between Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy and new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, was published today. In answer to a Parliamentary Question from Terry Rooney MP, Frank Dobson, Secretary of State for Health, said:
"SEAC considered this issue at their meeting on 23 May 1997 and have since produced a statement entitled `Research Into The Link Between BSE and nvCJD' (SEAC, June 1997).

"The statement summarises the key research results on the question of whether there is a causal link between BSE and nvCJD which have emerged since March 1996 when SEAC first concluded that the most likely explanation for the cases of the new variant CJD was exposure to BSE before the introduction of the Spongiform Bovine Offals (SBO) ban in 1989.

"The statement concludes that the evidence that has accumulated since the March 1996 announcement is consistent with the hypothesis that nvCJD is caused by exposure to the BSE agent, and that no evidence refuting the hypothesis has yet come to light. However, SEAC regard the evidence to date as insufficient to constitute formal scientific proof of a causative link, and that further data are required before a firm conclusion can be reached. "

Still no trend discernible in new-variant CJD incidence, say experts.

July 5, 1997  Lancet  John McConnell 
The latest information on nvCJD (new-variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease)--the fatal condition tentatively linked to eating beef infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)--was revealed at the 20th International Congress of Chemotherapy in Sydney, Australia (June 29‚July 3). Robert Will (National CJD Surveillance Unit, Edinburgh, UK) said there are 18 confirmed cases and one probable case of nvCJD in the UK plus one confirmed case in France. There is no discernable trend in the rate of occurrence of nvCJD cases and "it is impossible to say whether there will be a handful more cases or thousands". If cases continue to occur at the current rate, it may be 4 years before the likely total number of cases can be estimated.

John Collinge (St Mary's Hospital Medical School, London, UK) described how abnormal prion protein PrPres from patients with nvCJD has a distinct glycoform pattern very similar to PrPres from BSE-infected animals. But, for BSE PrPres to infect human beings it must cross a species barrier and Collinge reported that studies in a humanised mouse model show that there is an effective species barrier between the BSE agent and human beings. This finding may mean the nvCJD epidemic will be small.

Paul Brown (National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA) said that many drugs, from antineoplastics to vitamin C, have been unsuccessfully tried as therapies for CJD. Since CJD is an infectious amyloidosis, attempts are being made to direct therapy against amyloid accumulation. Sulphonated glycosaminoglycans have such an action in vitro but only work in a mouse scrapie model if given close to the time of infection. Doxorubicin, another amyloid-binding drug, also delays experimental disease onset. Brown pointed out that for any therapy to be useful, a test for early infection with the CJD agent is needed--there is no point in stabilising patients with advanced disease.

Pattison on nvCJD epidemic

3 Jul 1997  Charles Arthur, The Independent  
The following story is apparently bogus:

British scientists says they were wrong about v-cjd "epidemic"

 June 16, 1997
 NMA/LEAN TRIMMINGS
 Erica Smith
Reported in Britain's Sunday Telegraph on June 8, 1997, Professor John Pattison, who heads the Spongiform Encephalopathies Advisory Committee (SEAC) whose report linking BSE with the variant CJD last year instigated a beef crisis in Europe, conceded before a conference in London that the nvCJD epidemic that was once strongly predicted will now not occur.
--------------

Charles Arthur: I wonder which conference? I was at a press conference last Wednesday, 25th June, about the possible burning of MBM in cattle stations. John Pattison was there for SEAC so afterwards Tim Radford (science editor, The Guardian) and I tackled him about the CJD figures. Just to keep up to date.

He said:

"About the link [between BSE and v-CJD], I think that the information over the past 12-15 months has increased the probability [that it exists].. nothing has come out against it."

"The rate of increase is reassuringly low. But I still think - well, I was the guy who said there might be - note, might be - no more cases, or there might be a large number, in the hundreds of thousands. I now think that the number of new cases seen in 1996 are such that the probability of an epidemic affecting hundreds of thousands is so implausible that I have discounted it.

"But it's still too early to go any further down. The top end of the prediction has disappeared."

He clarified that this still meant you could have tens of thousands of cases, because you don't know what's going to happen with the valine homozygotes at c129 and the c129 heterozygotes. He said that so far all but 2 or 3 cases have been genotyped and are methionine homozygotes at c129.

John Pattison is far too careful with his words; I simply can't understand the report claiming he said it would be hundreds. I don't think he would go for such a reversal - that is, allowing now that you could have tens of thousands in the long term.

BSE may spread cow-to-cow `in small number of cases'

July 9, 1997
PA News
Shenai Raif
An analysis of the latest figures for BSE has led scientists to speculate that in some cases cows may catch the disease from one another - so-called horizontal transmission. This is one explanation for an anomaly in the figures for the epidemic which shows cows from larger herds seem to be more at risk of the disease. Another possibility is that they may have been fed more contaminated feed.

Professor Roy Anderson of Oxford University's Department of Zoology, was quoted as saying: "We're not able to discriminate between the two at the moment but we can say via analysis that the level of this extra transmission is at such a low level that it will have no material influence on the future of the epidemic."

The article states that this is the first time there has been any suggestion that horizontal transmission may be taking place. The article goes on to say that the analysis also shows that the BSE epidemic is declining faster than had been forecast, according to the report.

Last year, BSE declined exactly as predicted: scientists had forecast that in 1996 there would be 7,386 new cases. In fact there were 7,300. [actually 8,000 -- webmaster] This year scientists had forecast 4,100 new cases but there should be fewer than 3,000 cases. That is because the cattle cull is removing cows which would otherwise have developed the disease.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture said:

"We have known from the early days that larger herds were more exposed to BSE. But the overwhelming evidence is that spread of the disease was through contaminated feed. In all instances of the contaminated feed being destroyed the number of cows contracting BSE has dropped accordingly. But there may be subsidiary forms of BSE transmission, such as horizontal or maternal transmission which Professor Anderson talks of, which cannot be ruled out."
He added such hypotheses had little scientific evidence to back them up at the moment, but they were reasonable speculations. The number of infected cattle in 1996 was 8,000, not 7,300, he added.

The article goes on to say that horizontal transmission has been effectively proven in sheep with scrapie. Microbiologist Professor Richard Lacey comments that it was assumed this would happen with other species. He also said he believed farmers were being discouraged from reporting new outbreaks of BSE because the Government had reduced compensation payments and he called for a full independent inquiry into the issue.

The article then quotes, Ben Gill, deputy president of the National Farmers' Union, who said that he understood that the finding that horizontal transmission was possible was "purely hypothetical" and that he understood that Prof Anderson had been aiming to show that horizontal transmission was highly unlikely.

He also said: "There does seem to be more incidence of BSE in larger herds. By far the most likely reason for this is that larger herds are more intensive and were more likely to have been given `straight' feed, when it was contaminated in the 1980s."

"Horizontal transmission cannot be ruled out, but it also has not been proved. No one can disprove it but we certainly don't believe it exists." He added: "Even if there is any form of horizontal transmission, it is at such an extremely low level as to be almost negligible in effect and will have no significance in the decline of the disease."

Power plant incineration `carries negligible CJD risk'

June 25, 1997
PA News Excerpted from FSNET
Amanda Brown
The Environment Agency said today that the risk of human infection resulting from burning cattle cull waste in power stations would be negligible following trial burnings of meat, bonemeal and tallow from slaughtered cattle which were carried out under test conditions for coal-fired power stations last year at Ratcliffe in Nottinghamshire and Didcot in Oxfordshire. The results show the chances of a person contracting CJD - the human equivalent of Mad Cow Disease - would be as low as one in 30,000 million. This is 3,000 times less than the risk of death by lightning.

The article reports that risk assessments on the other disposal options for the waste including cattle carcass and meat and bonemeal incinerators were also conducted. In all cases, results showed that in one year no individual would be likely to consume more than a minute fraction - significantly less than one millionth part - of the dose of BSE infectivity needed to cause infection in humans. Dr David Slater, Director of Environmental Protection is quoted as saying, "Our studies show that the risk to both the public and the environment from the waste disposal options related to the cattle cull is negligible. However, this certainly does not mean that the Agency is giving blanket approval to applications." The article goes on to say that approval would only be given if the Agency was satisfied all the legal requirements were met.

Every application will be rigorously assessed and there will be widespread public consultation before a decision is taken. Professor John Pattison, chairman of the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) told journalists at a London news conference that his committee fully endorsed the agency's conclusions.

Dr Stuart Stearn, coordinator of the Environment Agency's technical studies is quoted as saying, "The chief medical officer in common with other authorities has suggested a one-in-a-million risk might be considered negligible. But we are well below that in all the paths we have considered." The story concludes by saying seven applications have been received to build incinerators but that they will be subject to very tough planning controls and inquiries before any approval is given.

The article seems to imply that some infectivity IS transmitted to the air. Or the calculation may be based on an older microwave incineration experiment at NIH --webmaser

Beef mafia feeds off EU subsidies

European Parliament
3 July 1997
A beef mafia is feeding off EU subsidies paid for farm exports, said a leading Euro MP in Brussels today. German social democrat Dagmar Roth-Behrendt -- who chairs a special European Parliament committee set up to monitor follow-up to an inquiry into the mad cow crisis -- called for sweeping reform of the subsidy system.

She was speaking after details emerged of a beef fraud involving illegal exports of at least 700 tonnes of British beef to Russia, Bosnia and Egypt. Ms Roth-Behrendt said a Belgian company that carried out the fraud had been created last year. 'A lot points to the fact that the Belgian company which took the lead in the fraud was set up in 1996 with the aim of getting round the ban on British beef exports,' she said. 'The EU farm export subsidies system in place today is an incentive to criminals who want to pocket millions of ECU. The latest fraud by a beef mafia that may well be internationally organised is once more proof that the system of export subsidies has to be changed immediately.'

Ms Roth-Behrendt repeated her call for tougher controls to enforce the law. 'What is the point of passing new laws if we cannot enforce them,' she said. 'The interests of consumers must be given greater priority. It must be made clear that if the confidence, the safety and the health of consumers is in danger we must be strict.' Referring to the latest scandal, Ms Roth-Behrendt said: 'We are still in the area of speculation but we are confident that we will soon have more information on the amount of beef involved and the countries that the beef went to.'

Outrage over beef fraudsters

2 July 1997 European Parliament
Fraudsters involved in a mad cow beef racket must be caught and punished speedily, said a leading member of the European Parliament in Brussels today. Labour Euro MP Phillip Whitehead -- spokesman of the European Parliament's Socialist Group on a special committee set up to monitor follow-up to an inquiry report completed earlier this year -- spoke out as details emerged in Brussels of a 700-tonne export racket.

He said: 'The United Kingdom is absolutely committed to stamping out beef smuggling just as it is to the general campaign against EU fraud. 'Wherever this racket originated, those involved in Britain should be caught and punished speedily -- nor morally as law breakers but for the disgraceful way in which they could have impaired the UK's rebuilding of confidence in the production, inspection and surveillance of our beef products.'

Fraudsters in mad cow export scandal

2 July 1997 European Commission An astonishing fraud involving the illegal export 700 tonnes of British beef during the height of the mad cow crisis was exposed in Brussels today.

The European Commission won praise for its speedy action in uncovering the scandal from the leading campaigner on mad cow disease, German social democrat Euro MP Dagmar Roth-Behrendt. The fraudsters operating at a firm in Belgium obtained beef slaughtered in Britain, cut off its British stamps, re-stamped it as Belgian and gave it false papers identifying it as Belgian, according to European Union sources.

The beef was then exported to Russia, Egypt and Bosnia. Some beef may also have gone to Spain and France, the sources revealed.

Ms Roth-Behrendt said: 'I welcome the speedy action of the Commission and their announcement that they will investigate the lack of control on the export ban. 'Those who tried to get round the ban and deliberately endanger the health of consumers are guilty of a despicable criminal act. 'We have to fight such criminals with all the means at our disposal. I welcome the fact that the new British farm minister has the same view.

'The difficult task of the Commission and the BSE follow-up committee in the European Parliament in trying to regain consumer confidence after the mad cow crisis is jeopardised by these criminal acts. 'Controls on beef exports must be stepped up in all countries, not just in the UK. All member countries have to review their control measures to see if they are adequate. 'Controls must not only be in place on paper but must be carried out on the ground.'

Egypt bans import of beef from Belgium

July 4, 1997
Reuter
CAIRO -- Following the disclosure that British beef had been exported to the Netherlands, Russia and Egypt with Belgian help despite an imposed ban (FSnet passim), Egypt banned any imports of beef from Belgium. The article reports that a Ministry of Supply and Trade statement published on Friday said the ban was effective immediately in response to the European Commission announcement. The article also reports that there were no figures for exports of Belgian beef to Egypt and that the Belgian embassy was closed on Friday.

Supply and Trade Minister Ahmed Gueily also ordered steps intended to ensure that beef in Egyptian markets was free from disease. Egypt has aimed in the past to prevent the incidence of so-called mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy. It banned imports in January of Irish cattle ready for slaughter although in June, Ireland's agriculture ministry said Egypt had agreed to resume imports.

UK probes export claim

Meat Trades Journal, Issue No. 5635 (9 July 1997), page 1
by Andrew Dent
The Government is investigating claims by the European Commission that quantities of British beef have been illegally exported to other member states and into Egypt and Russia.

The allegations, which came last Wednesday, the day the NFU and the Government launched legal action against the EU for imposing the beef export ban, has seriously damaged the reputation of the British beef industry at a time when the trade was at last beginning to regain some confidence.

The Commission said it was examining whether legal action should be taken against the UK for failing to properly enforce the export restrictions.

The Commission says around 1,600 tonnes of British beef was exported from the UK to Holland where Belgian companies fraudulently declared it to be of Belgian origin. Seven hundred tonnes were seized by the Dutch authorities and around 200 tonnes were confiscated after Egyptian authorities rejected it. The remaining 700 tonnes may have been exported to Russia. The Commission believes the beef was being exported to Russia and Egypt by French operators.

A spokesman said the Commission was satisfied with member states' immediate response in terms of reinforcing their import controls and said it intended to do all it could to end the fraudulent practice. A spokesman for the Government confirmed the claim was being investigated but declined to comment further.

EU expert comes to Germany to check beef shipment

July 8, 1997
Reuter
SCHWERIN, Germany -- A European Union expert arrived on the northern German island of Ruegen on Tuesday to examine 170 tonnes of beef which officials suspect is British meat exported in defiance of a worldwide ban. The shipment will be examined to establish its country of origin in response to the disclosure by the European Commission that 1,600 tonnes of British beef had been exported illegally, with Belgian help, to the Netherlands, Russia and Egypt.The ministry said it suspected the beef discovered on the island had been relabelled in Belgium and was to be transported to Russia.

BONN -- The suspect cargo of illegally exported British beef, found by German officials on Monday, was seized at the port of Mukran on the island of Ruegen according to the agriculture ministry in the northern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern The relabeled and falsely declared cargo would have passed through Germany en route to Russia. A ministry statement was issued saying "There was no danger at any stage of this meat reaching the German market."

EU warns belgium on meat companies

July 4, 1997
AP
BRUSSELS, Belgium -- European Commission spokesman Klaus van der Pas said the EU may seek to pull the licenses of two Belgian firms unless Belgium prosecutes them vigilantly. This following the disclosure on Thursday that 1,600 tons of British beef was exported to the Netherlands, Egypt and Russia in recent weeks (FSnet passim). Two Belgian exporters have been implicated in the exports, making use of what the EU has called Britain's "manifestly inadequate" export controls.

The article reports that on Thursday, the EU said it was up to individual governments to pursue importers of British beef but it took a tougher stance Friday saying it would take legal action if violators of the beef ban get away with it at home. Sources said that was a signal to EU capitals that the European Commission wants them to implement EU law in a serious manner for the sake of retaining consumer confidence in beef.

EU says 1,600 tonnes uk beef exported illegally

July 3, 1997
Reuter
Peter Blackburn
BRUSSELS -- In a follow-up to the smuggling stories from yesterday, the European Commission said that 1,600 tonnes of British beef had illegally been exported to the Netherlands, Russia and Egypt. 700 tonnes had been seized by Dutch authorities after being exported via Belgium and the remaining 900 tonnes had probably been exported to Russia and Egypt, said Nikolaus van der Pas, spokesman for the Commission.

Van der Pas denied press reports that British beef had been fraudulently marketed in France and Spain and could not confirm reports of exports to other third countries such as Bosnia. The article reports that when the Commission would not disclose how much meat was suspected to have been smuggled and to where, the rest of the EU was outraged.

The Commission then decided to release the information. Van der Pas said the British beef sold in the Netherlands had been marketed as being from Belgium. He also said that the Commission was pleased that concern over the illegal exports had prompted a tightening up of inspections by EU authorities. The article also stated that Van der Pas had no information on press reports suggesting a syndicate of British army troops were involved in the beef scam.

Portugal has not received illegal uk beef

July 3, 1997
Reuter
LISBON -- Diario Economico, a Lisbon newspaper, has reported that Portugal imported 673.3 tonnes of beef from Britain after the ban on British beef exports was imposed by the EU. They also reported that the imports, however, were legal. The beef was imported from Britain between April 1996 and March of 1997. The newspaper quoted Pedro Ribeiro, a senior Agriculture Ministry official, as saying that beef imported by Portugal had been re-exported by British companies after arriving mainly from the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Argentina. He was also quoted as saying that the European Commission had told Portugal that it was not on the list of nations that had broken the embargo and that the imports were conducted by companies "authorized by the European Commission and subject to special controls."

Paris probes suspected banned british beef exports

July 2, 1997
Reuter
PARIS -- In a related story, the French Agriculture Ministry is investigating whether 60 tonnes of British beef had been shipped to France in violation of a European ban intended to guard against the spread of the disease to humans. The European Commission said earlier in the day that it was considering legal action against Britain for illegal exports of unspecified quantities of British beef to countries in the European Union and elsewhere.

The article reports that EU Food Safety Commissioner Emma Bonino told Italian television that British beef had been exported to four EU countries: Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands and France. The French farm ministry said falsified health stamps had alerted it to the possibility that the meat might be banned British beef. The meat has been seized and will remain under lock and key while the investigation continues. The article goes on to say that the ministry tried to reassure French consumers by stressing that its system of inspections of meat coming into France prevented the banned beef getting onto the market and that customs, veterinary and anti-fraud officials would remain on alert to assure the embargo on British beef was respected.

Smugglers defying british beef ban, says Brussels

July 2, 1997
PA News
In yet another article on the smuggling of British beef onto the European market, the European Commissions condemned Britain's policing of the ban as "obviously inadequate" and said it was considering whether to take this country to court. The article states the the commission would not say where the smuggling was taking place, how much beef was involved and how long it had been going on.

A Ministry of Agriculture spokesman is quoted as saying, "We take all allegations seriously and of course we will be looking into the matter." and a spokeswoman for the National Farmers Union stated, "We condemn any lawbreaking which could undermine consumer and producer confidence." However, she also stated that, "We find it quite astonishing that the commission is prepared to make such allegations, but isn't currently providing detailed evidence. The public needs to know."

The article goes on to say that the smuggling does not appear to be widespread but appeared to come from one source. Also, the smuggling involved meat, not live animals. The story goes on to cite Philip Whitehead, a member of the European Parliament's BSE committe and a Labour Euro-MP, who says that 700 tonnes of British beef had been seized recently but that he did not know how much had been smuggled in total. He is also quoted as saying, "I believe that any British nationals involved in this should be apprehended and dealt with according to the full rigour of the law.

Everyone involved in our beef industry, which is now regaining its strength and confidence, will know perfectly well that if stupid and selfish individuals have tried to cooperate with some international scam they have done themselves and their industry down."

Russia imports 730 tonnes of british beef-minister

July 10, 1997
Reuter
MOSCOW --Viktor Khlystun, Russia's agriculture minister was quoted as saying Russia has imported 730 tonnes of British beef subject to a worldwide ban because of mad cow disease. He did not give a precise date for the import of the beef, which he said came via Belgium, nor did he say to where in Russia it was delivered. According to the articles source, he also declined to say whether the meat had already gone on sale. The announcement marked the first time the Russian government has recognised the imports of large quantities of banned beef. Officially, Russia has not imported British beef since 1990.

A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry was quoted Thursday saying, it was "practially impossible" to import poor quality meat into Russia legally but the agriculture ministry said it could not block all illegal channels.

Khlystun said: "Preventing the import of contaminated meat is in principle impossible, although we have mobilised frontier guards and veterinary services. There is no legal or moral ground for banning beef imports from Belgium."

"There is no 100 percent guarantee that Russian importers will not import one or more cargo of British beef."

"Even if we checked every car crossing the border, it is not possible to prevent (such imports), insofar as there is no way to diagnose bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)."

This week, German authorities seized an unspecified quantity of beef imported from Belgium which they believed came illegally from Britain and was headed for Russia via Germany.

Farmers lobby EU chief over beef

July 11, 1997
PA News
Jo Butler
A delegation of more than 200 local farmers led by National Farmers' Union President Sir David Naish was meeting Mr Fischler at the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show in Builth Wells. They are angry over planned cuts in compensation to beef farmers.

Last month Europe agreed to Agriculture Minister Jack Cunningham's request for a 11% cut in compensation to farmers for cattle over 30 months old slaughtered in the BSE eradication programme. Angry farmers say the cut represents a drop in the price per kg for cattle from 64.9p to 57.7p. The changes are due to come into effect on August 4.

Mad cows and smugglers

11 July 1997 EP The EP committee on mad cow disease is to hold a series of high profile meetings in Strasbourg next week -- first with Commissioners, then with the British farm minister and finally with the President of the EU Farm Council.

Commissioners Emma Bonino and Franz Fischler are to appear before the committee from 18h00 to 21h30 on Monday 14 July in room 9 of the Palais de l'Europe. The commissioners are to make statements on a breach by smugglers of a ban on British beef exports.

British farm minister Jack Cunningham is to meet the committee from 17h30 to 19h00 on Tuesday 15 July in Palais 5 -- the first time a British farm minister has met an EP committee on the issue since the mad cow crisis began. Dr Cunningham's predecessor, Tory Douglas Hogg, persistently refused invitations to speak to a parliamentary committee of inquiry.

The committee is to meet Luxemburgish farm minister Fernand Boden, President of the Agriculture Council, for further talks on Thursday 17 July from 15h00 in Palais 5. German social democrat Dagmar Roth-Behrendt (tel 03-88175453) chairs the committee. The Socialist Group spokesman on the committee is Labour MEP Phillip Whitehead (tel 03-88175459).

The committee's task is to monitor follow-up to an EP inquiry committee report earlier this year drawn up by Spanish Socialist Manuel Medina (tel 03-88175882).

The Parliament is to decide in the autumn whether or not to sack the European Commission for its handling of the mad cow crisis. Dagmar Roth-Behrendt will give a press briefing at 11h30 on Wednesday 16 July in the Press Centre.

Questions Remaining

1) How much beef was smuggled, from where to where and when?
2) Who smuggled the beef and who else is involved in the smuggle?
3) How was the beef smuggled and how was it possible to get around the controls?
4) How was the smuggling discovered, who discovered it and what happened then?
5) Where is the beef now, what will happen next and what danger is there for the population?

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