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Belgian meat tainted by dioxin
CJD worries prompt UK warning on contact lenses
French put red ox blood in red wine
FDA under pressure on GM foods
Sugar made with cow bone char
Phase II of BSE Inquiry kicks in
Genetically modified banned until 2002
EU scientific group validates 3 BSE tests
Irish case of nvCJD: further details
NIH allocates funding by burden of disease

Belgian meat tainted by dioxin

Belgium Cites Second Food Company

22 June 99 The Associated Press By RAF CASERT
BRUSSELS - Belgian authorities tried to reassure the European Union today that the dioxin food scandal is under control, despite the discovery that a new firm had a key role in the contamination of products and their export to Spain. The EU's executive Commission warned Spanish authorities to trace the exports of the Fogra animal feed fattener company and check the distribution of potentially contaminated feed for animals. Dioxin can cause cancer in humans.

``Spanish authorities will have to trace that fat, or feed made from that fat and test it and take any measures necessary if it turns out it is contaminated,'' EU Commission spokesman Gerry Kiely said. Belgium beef, poultry, pork, eggs and byproducts were banned by most nations last week after it was discovered that large quantities had been contaminated by dioxin. The contamination was caused by dioxin-laced animal feed.

The Belgian food scandal is the biggest health scare in Europe since the 1996 mad cow crisis over contaminated beef. Meanwhile, the head of the Fogra company remained behind bars today after being arrested Tuesday. The company's lawyer said Fogra has ``no obligation to check the quality'' of its product, adding that the company had followed similar practices for the past 30 years.

The government had been working on the assumption that the dioxin contamination originated from the Verkest company, 110 miles away from Fogra. On Tuesday, the two heads of Verkest were released and the head of Fogra was arrested. The Verkest suspects remained charged with fraud for tampering with the animal fat they delivered to feed companies, but accusations that they were responsible for the dioxin scandal faded.

Belgian Health Minister Luc Van den Bossche said the change in the focus of the investigation from one animal feed fat company to another would have no impact on the number of farms affected because both companies had the same customers.

``Last week we said we knew the origin but not the name, so now today we can name the source - Fogra,'' he said. Van den Bossche also told the EU that exports to Spain were after late January - when the dioxin entered the food chain.

The European Commission has started legal proceedings against Belgium for waiting a month before warning the EU about the contamination. The Commission, the executive agency of the 15-nation EU, said Belgium didn't take sufficient steps to ensure tainted food would not be distributed to consumers or exported. It also said the country failed to respect EU veterinary controls and did not comply with internal market rules about the transport of live animals and animal products.

Belgium: Food Scare Under Control

AP Online Wed, Jun 23, 1999 By RAF CASERT 
The Belgian government tried to convince a suspicious world Wednesday that its dioxin food scandal was under control, despite a surprise shift in suspicions over who was to blame. The government said Tuesday that a Spanish producer of fat used in animal feed was responsible for the dioxin contamination. Up until then, authorities had blamed a Belgian fat producer 110 miles away.

Despite the change, Belgian Health Minister Luc Van den Bossche insisted Wednesday the number of farms affected by the contamination is the same because both companies had the same customers. However, the new revelation also forced authorities to warn Spain it had imported products that might be tainted with the cancer-causing chemical. Many nations were unconvinced by the minister's reassurances and some sort of ban on Belgian, and some European Union foodstuffs remained in effect from the United States to Russia.

A Russian official said Brussels failed to provide assurances that new shipments of food were dioxin free. "We have sent several inquiries to Belgium, but none of them has produced a coherent answer," Russian's chief veterinary official Vyacheslav Avilov said. Belgium beef, poultry, pork, eggs and byproducts were banned by most nations last week after it was discovered that large quantities had been contaminated by dioxin. The contamination was caused by dioxin-laced animal feed.

The scandal represents the biggest health scare in Europe since Britain's 1996 mad cow crisis over contaminated beef. The Belgian government had been working on the assumption that the dioxin contamination originated from the Verkest animal feed fattener company. But on Tuesday the two heads of Verkest were released and the head of a different company, Fogra, was arrested.

Van den Bossche said the case was crystal clear. "Last week we said we knew the origin (of the contamination) but not the name, so now today we can name the source -- Fogra," he said. The head of Fogra remained behind bars after Tuesday's arrest and Belgium warned Spanish authorities the company had also exported fat to Spain. The EU's Executive Commission warned Spain to trace Fogra's exports and check the distribution of potentially contaminated feed for animals.

In Madrid, the Agriculture Ministry said 140 tons of frying oil from Fogra had been shipped to the northeast Spanish region of Tarragona in late April and early May, then transported to four provinces. It has now all been seized. [Of course it has mostly been used up already. -- webmaster]

The ministry accepts the Belgian authorities' certification that the oil is not contaminated with dioxin, although it is up to the provincial authorities to decide whether to release the oil, said Antonio Mizcoc, a ministry spokesman. The stunning lack of any controls on what goes into animal feed has angered many Belgians, especially after it became clear that reject frying oil and mechanical oil could easily be mixed to produce a dioxin-laced potion.

Fogra readily admitted quality control was not the company's responsibility. The company's lawyer said Fogra has "no obligation to check the quality" of its product, adding that the company had followed similar practices for 30 years.

Lingering suspicions -- despite the lifting of the ban on most domestic products in Belgian supermarkets -- has led to rushes on some unlikely gastronomic havens. In Canterbury, England, the Asda supermarket is now a popular place for Belgians. Store manager Peter Murray said that over the past two weeks the increase in sales was incredible. "The situation in Belgium is apparently still bad and shoppers are finding it hard to find groceries on the shelves after all the products were withdrawn," he said. Asda now has a welcome sign proclaiming "Welcome to our Belgian customers."

Swiss tests show no dioxin, import rules sharpened

Reuters World Report Thu, Jun 24, 1999 
BERNE - Initial results of Swiss tests on suspect Belgian food showed no excessive levels of the cancer-causing chemical dioxin but the health ministry said on Thursday import rules will be maintained and extended. The ministry said tests of Belgian food products by five laboratories in the first week of June showed that cooked eggs, raw eggs, egg powder, chicken meat and butter fat contained dioxin concentrations within legal limits.

But the ministry added the sophisticated tests were not representative for all products from Belgium and it could not yet decide to lift import restrictions it has imposed along lines agreed by the European Union. It added that Swiss companies buying Belgian food products would have to be able to present the results of analyses made to certify the products are safe.

List of tainted farms released

June 10, 1999  Associated Press By RAF CASERT 
BRUSSELS - The Belgian government on Thursday listed farms possibly affected by the cancer-causing chemical dioxin, a big step in putting local meat back in stores two weeks after the start of the biggest food scare since the 1996 mad cow crisis. The European Union kept its borders closed to most Belgian meat and byproducts, and many other nations followed suit, even extending such measures to other EU countries.

Following a night of crisis negotiations, the Belgian government completed a list of poultry farms that might have been contaminated, freeing other farms to market their safe chicken. Early Thursday, long lines of trucks carrying chickens lined up outside slaughterhouses. In addition to poultry, pork and beef certified as safe was to be brought onto the market as of Friday.

"The government decided that a large part of the beef and pork sector will be freed for domestic consumption and export," said Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene. He said 17 percent of beef farms, 40 percent of pork companies and almost half the poultry firms remained off limits.

Twelve days ago, the government ordered stores to take chickens and eggs off the shelves after the discovery that large amounts of animal feed had been tainted. The ban then grew to include pork and cattle products. Thursday, dozens of angry farmers blocked the border crossing with France, trying to keep out imports of French meat. On Wednesday, the government list of safe poultry firms turned out to be incomplete. Slaughterhouses, which had opened for the first time in days, were ordered closed again.

The EU's Executive Commission also wanted Belgium to get all dairy products off the shelves, a measure Belgium has steadfastly refused. "The Commission cannot give the green light (to exports) unless it is absolutely sure everything is safe," said EU Fair Trade Commissioner Karel Van Miert. He said the Commission insisted on a blanket ban "because there is uncertainty about dairy goods." Dehaene said the dairy sector will join the government in "trying to obtain a change in the EU position based on lab tests."

Belgium had said milk and most other dairy products could not be sufficiently tainted with dioxin to be a health hazard. The dairy industry secured a court injunction forcing the government to pay the sector $25 million a day to compensate for losses suffered because of the lack of a certified list of dioxin-free firms. Even if chicken and other Belgian products make it back into the market, it is unclear whether Belgians, or anyone else, will eat the food.

Belgium restocks store shelves with meat, world looks on disapprovingly

June 11, 1999  Associated Press By RAF CASERT 
BRUSSELS, Belgium (11:21 a.m. EDT http://www.nandotimes.com) - Belgium shrugged off international condemnation and started stocking shelves Friday with local meats and delicacies that many countries around the world have banned. The Belgian government insists it has lists of farms that offer safe poultry, eggs, pork and beef. More than a thousand other farms are still barred from selling products possibly affected by the cancer-causing chemical dioxin.

Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene said 17 percent of the country's cattle farms, 40 percent of pork companies and almost half the poultry farms were prohibited from selling. "I am convinced there is no more dioxin in food," Dehaene said Friday. "Belgian production is OK again. Now we have to convince the (European Union) that our tests prove there are no more problems."

However, the EU Executive Commission rejected Belgium's attempt Friday to obtain certificates that would allow the country to resume exports. EU officials said they still awaited a list of the farms and companies that may have been affected and insisted on a full explanation of the roots of the contamination. "Belgium is still unable to tell what was the origin (of the pollution)," EU Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler told reporters.

It remained unlikely all shops would be back to normal by Sunday, when Dehaene faces national elections suddenly dominated by the dioxin crisis. Belgium beef, poultry, pork, eggs, milk and byproducts were banned by most nations, including the United States, last week after it was discovered that large quantities had been contaminated by dioxin. The contamination apparently was caused by dioxin-laced animal feed.

The EU was considering legal action against the founding member state for the way the Belgian government had handled the biggest food scare since the 1996 mad cow crisis. The government knew of dioxin contamination in poultry a month before telling the public and the EU. It admitted it made a mistake but has insisted the world was overreacting to the scandal.

On Thursday, Jordan banned imports of meat and dairy products from Belgium, France and the Netherlands and insisted other EU nations provide certificates saying their food is free of dioxins. The Belgian food and farm sectors estimate losses from the crisis at more than $850 million. Citing the Belgium food scandal as a warning, a U.N. food agency urged governments to tighten regulations on the handling and storage of animal feed to prevent further cases of contamination.

CJD worries prompt UK warning on contact lenses

Reuters World Report Thu, Jun 24, 1999 
LONDON - Britain told optometrists on Thursday not to reuse trial contact lenses on customers because of fears of spreading the deadly Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). Health Secretary Frank Dobson issued the warning on the advice of a government advisory committee which said "single use trial lenses" would be the safest practice.

Scientists on the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) said data was limited and any potential risk of spreading the human equivalent of mad cow disease through contact lenses was very low. But they suggested trial contact lenses should be destroyed after being used once. Sir John Pattinson, the chairman of SEAC, said corneas can become inflamed and the eye could carry the CJD infection.

The decision surprised the British College of Optometrists, a professional organisation with 8,000 members, that had not been consulted about the move. "It's possibly a bit over the top," said a spokesman for the college. "It's hard to know at the moment but it is better to be cautious."

Most optometrists fitting contact lenses use disposable lenses. Trial lenses are used mainly to fit hard lenses. The trial lenses are routinely disinfected before they are reused but the college said the disinfection process may not be effective against CJD.

"We would like to reassure contact lens wearers that there is no risk whatsoever in using contact lenses which have been already supplied to them on prescription," the college said in a statement. So far 40 people have died from new variant CJD (nvCJD), which has been linked to eating beef from animals infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease. None of the cases has been associated with contact lenses. [Actually, no data whatsoever has been released on whether nvCJD victims wore contact lens or were ever fitted during their infectious period. -- webmaster]

'Cosmetic lenses pose greater risk' Richard Wilshin - director of the General Optical Council- said the main danger was not from opticians, but from cosmetic lenses. These were often exchanged among nightclubbers at discos. He said: "There's no regulation on their sale - they can be bought in hairdressers and beauty salons." This would make it very difficult to control their use unless the law was changed, he said. [Reuters dropped this paragraph from the BBC story. -- webmaster]

CJD fear prompts rule on contact lens fitting

The London Times by Valerie Elliott 24 June 99
OPTICIANS have been ordered to throw away test contact lenses after each use because of fears that customers might be at risk of contracting the fatal brain condition Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). Frank Dobson, the Health Secretary, has instructed the country's 14,000 opticians to dispose of all trial lenses after each fitting.

Ministers acted after advice this month giving warning of a risk from the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Comittee, which is chaired by Sir John Pattinson. Trial lenses are used in fitting hard lenses, gas permeable lenses and some soft lens brands. Re-used lenses are rarely used for people fitted with disposable ones.

Opticians last night appeared to be unaware of any danger. The Association of British Dispensing Opticians knew nothing about the development. The president, Eric Hall, said that he was seeking clarification from the Department of Health although the association complied with requests from the Department in the matter of public safety.

Opticians often test used lenses on a patient to ensure that they fitted properly on the eye. Sir John, who is to step down from the committee to take up a new post as director of public health and policy in the NHS, said: "There is not much data about the issue, but the re-use of trial lenses did not seem to us a good idea. "The risk is very low, but corneas do get abraded and eyes get inflamed, so the eye could carry the new variant CJD infection."

He emphasised that there was no evidence that anyone who had died of CJD had developed it from contact lenses. Sir John said that it was up to Health Ministers to decide how to advise opticians.

Confusion over CJD lenses order

Thu, Jun 24, 1999 By Maxine Frith, Health Correspondent, PA News
Opticians today criticised the Government's handling of advice from an expert committee that test contact lenses should be thrown away after each use, amid fears that they could transmit Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Worried patients have been contacting their opticians throughout the morning with concerns that they could be at risk from the human form of BSE, or mad cow disease.

Health Secretary Frank Dobson yesterday ordered an end to the multiple use of test contact lenses after receiving advice from experts on the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC). But opticians were not warned of the advice in advance and their trade body the Federation of Ophthalmic and Dispensing Opticians (FODO) said members were confused about what they should do.

A Health Department spokeswoman said: "Immediately acting on concerns about multiple-use trial contact lenses, Frank Dobson asked SEAC to consider the issue at their meeting on June 3. "In line with SEAC's advice, the Secretary of State has now asked officials to take whatever steps are necessary to end the multiple use of these trial contact lenses."

SEAC's chairman Sir John Pattinson indicated the measure was a precautionary step. "There is not much data about the issue but the re-use of trial lenses did not seem to us a good idea. "The risk is very low, but corneas do get abraded and eyes get inflamed, so the eye could carry the new variant CJD infection." There was no evidence that anyone had died of CJD after developing it from contact lenses, Sir John stressed.

Bob Hughes, general secretary of FODO, said: "We knew nothing about this until I saw a few lines from Frank Dobson in the middle of the night. "We are concerned about the way the advice has been published. We would have liked to have seen the scientific evidence and have been warned that this order was going to be made so we could have advised our members.

"We are now seeking a meeting with the Department of Health so we can see the scientific evidence and discuss the situation." He added: "Patients are very worried about whether they are at risk and have been phoning opticians all morning but opticians are equally confused about what they are meant to be doing.

"The Department of Health is meant to be issuing more advice later this morning but we have now issued our own interim guidance telling our members to stop using test lenses on more than one person with immediate effect." The Department of Health said later that it was not planning to publish any further guidance on the withdrawal of lenses.

New rules add ú50 to price of contact lenses

June 25 1999  by Valerie Elliott, Consumer Editor
CONTACT lens charges will rise between ú20 and ú50 to cover the costs of destroying used test lenses that could transmit the fatal brain condition Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, opticians said last night. The country's 14,000 opticians were incensed yesterday when they learnt that in future they should allow only one patient to try a test lens before disposing of it. They claimed to have been inundated with calls from worried patients who wanted more information about the possible danger. Mike Jaggs, chairman of the contact lens committee of the Association of British Dispensing Opticians, said that the new order from the Department of Health "make no logical sense". As disclosed in The Times yesterday, Frank Dobson, Health Secretary, took immediate action to ban the re-use of test lenses after advice from the expert committee on BSE and the human form of the disease, new-variant CJD. There had been no prior consultation with opticians and the move caught them by surprise. Dr Liam Fox, Shadow Health Secretary, accused Mr Dobson of "utter incompetence and insensitivity in dealing with such serious issues". Mr Jaggs said: "We have strict guidelines from the General Optical Council on the sterilisation of lenses and as far as I am aware there have been no reported incidents from cross-infection from lenses used by practitioners." He was concerned, however, for the 25 per cent of the four million contact lens wearers in the country who required specialist fittings. These were people whose sight was too bad to use disposable contact lenses, and applied included patients treated by eye hospitals. "The extra costs will have to be charged and it is bound to be more expensive for those people who require special lenses to be made up," Mr Jaggs said.

The Federation of Ophthalmic and Dispensing Opticians was also confused by the surprise announcement and asked for urgent meetings with health officials. A spokesman Moorfields eye hospital in London said that the ban on re-use of trial contact lenses would affect treatment. He said they kept only small stocks and if lenses were destroyed they would have to defer patients until new supplies had arrived.

French wine seized for oxblood checks

Reuters North America  Thu, Jun 24, 1999
PARIS - French health inspectors have seized 66,000 litres of Rhone Valley wine that may have been treated with oxblood powder, banned in the European Union since the 1997 mad cow disease scare, officials said on Thursday. [This apparently means that the French used this product throughout the BSE epidemic, 1984-1999 -- webmaster]

Gerard Bedos, head of the state regional consumer watchdog in Marseille, said inspectors seized the wine and 220 kg (480 lb) of powdered oxblood in the region around Avignon earlier this month. Bedos told the newspaper France-Soir the wine was being tested to determine whether it had been treated with oxblood.

He made it clear that the wine was labelled as lesser-quality VDQS table wine and not the renowned Cotes-du-Rhone wine which bears the high-quality AOC (Appellation d'Origine Controlee) label. Dried oxblood was routinely used to purify wine until the EU banned it two years ago in a health scare over the cattle disease.

Stores play down French wine alert

Thu, Jun 24, 1999 By Eileen Murphy, Consumer Affairs Correspondent, PA News 
Fears that bottles of French wine containing dried cow's blood could be on sale in the UK despite a ban on using the product following the BSE scare were today played down by major supermarket chains and off-licences. The latest European scare comes as French authorities seized 100,000 suspect bottles thought to contain the blood after a swoop on 14 vineyards in the Cotes du Rhone area.

But Britain's major retailers claim their tracing schemes and wine buying specifications would ensure that the most likely way British drinkers would get their hands on affected wine would be buying it on cross-Channel trips. The blood, traditionally dried bull's blood, has long been used as a fining agent to clear wine as it ferments but its use was banned two years ago as a precaution in the wake of the "mad cow disease" crisis.

Investigators found a tonne of the blood in the swoop on the area, which exports millions of bottles of table wine to Britain every year. Analysts are now examining samples from dozens more vineyards. Bottles marked VDQS, or vins de qualite superieur -- the French term for good quality table wines -- are the ones most at risk of containing the blood. French table wine exporter Jean Pistonier said: "It is probable that, if the ban had been flouted for the past two years, several million bottles of the vetoed product have crossed to Britain."

But one of Britain's most senior wine buyers said these low-grade wines, which do not specify which region they come from, are unlikely to find their way on to the nation's shop shelves. Julian Twaites, senior wine buyer for Britain's biggest off licence chain, First Quench, assured customers today that his company did not buy or stock any bottles of the affected wines. First Quench, owns around 3,000 stores nationwide under names such as Thresher, Victoria Wines, Bottoms Up and Wine Rack.

Mr Twaites said: "We can assure people that red wines marked VDQS are not stocked in our stores. "This red wine would be at the bottom end of the market and supplies in this country would be limited. It would be unlikely that it would be on sale in major retailers in the UK as our wine buyers would always buy from the quality end of the market."

He added that the real problem for consumers in the UK would be those travelling across the Channel on booze-cruises to stock up on cheap French wine. "Some people try to buy the cheapest wine they can and this is where it could be affected." "The French drink all the bad stuff themselves and export the good stuff. All of the wine we supply is traceable back to individual vineyards."

Tesco, Britain's biggest supermarket chain, said it had not stocked VDQS wines for around five years. A company spokesman said its stores stocked around 120 varieties of red wine but none was made using this method. He added: "This is a practice that has been banned from our own specifications from the first time the BSE crisis was identified and it hasn't been used on our wines since."

Asda said it was monitoring the situation to see if any other wines were affected but had checked its stocks and was sure it did not sell any affected wine. Sainsbury's added that cow's blood had been excluded from their specifications for wine suppliers since the ban two years ago.

Red wine seized by French in CJD alert

June 25 1999 L.Times Susan Bell in Paris
FRENCH health inspectors have seized more than 100,000 bottles of Rh┘ne Valley wine amid fears that it might have been treated with powdered cattle blood, which has been banned in the European Union since 1997 after concern over mad cow disease. As a government swoop on 14 vineyards in the Vaucluse and Bouches du Rh┘ne region revealed that blood could still be being added illegally to wine as a purifying substance, one French table-wine exporter, Jean Pistonier, said that millions of bottles of wine containing ox blood could have been exported to Britain in the years after the ban.

Blood is traditionally used after vinification to clarify the wine by eliminating resin and suspended particles.

The Rh┘ne Valley regional Wine and Spirits Inspection Office said that 480 lb of purifying products based on cow's blood had been seized, with more than 100,000 bottles of suspect wine between June 7 and 14 in the region around Avignon.

Although the vineyards and wine wholesalers involved were located in areas that carry the renowned C┘tes de Provence and C┘tes du Rh┘ne AOC or "appellation d'origine control╚e" - the French label guaranteeing quality wines - three quarters of the impounded wine carried the lower quality VDQS table-wine label. However, the equivalent of 27,000 bottles of an AOC "natural sweet wine" was seized by inspectors.

G╚rard Bedos, who heads the regional Consumer and Anti-Fraud Office in Marseilles, assured customers yesterday that the C┘tes du Rh┘ne and C┘tes de Provence AOC wines were not involved. The impounded wine is being tested to determine whether it has been treated with ox blood.

Dried cow's blood had been used for centuries to purify wine until the European Union banned it as a precautionary measure in November 1997 after scientists found links between bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and the human brain disorder Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease [first BSE case detected 1984, first 10 nvCJD cases announced 20 Mar 1996 -- webmaster]. Jamie Quiot, head of the National Institute of AOC wines, defended the use of such products. "They are not toxic at all. We only asked for their withdrawal to protect our image," he said.

The Rh┘ne Valley Wine Co-operative also played down the scare, saying that it was astounded by the fuss over "a practice as old as the world, part of ancestral wine-making". It denounced what it described as "a psychosis" by wine inspectors "threatening the local economy".

Emmanuel Lerat, of the National Confederation of AOC Wine and Spirits Producers, said that the vineyards found using the ox blood were small producers using outdated methods such as egg white to purify wine. Such practices are increasingly being abandoned for more modern and efficient methods, notably using clay-based purifying substances such as bentonite.

The affair comes as France has suffered a succession of food scares involving BSE, dioxin-contaminated poultry products from Belgium, and allegations of illness caused by contaminated Coca-Cola products and French unpasteurised cheese. Wine producers now fear that they will be next to suffer the economic consequences of customers' fears concerning the safety of their food.

MAJOR British wine retailers are contacting their suppliers to ensure the wines they sell do not come from vineyards where dried cow's blood has been used illegally as a fining agent (Tim Jones writes). Oddbins said it had none of the affected VDQS vins de qualit╚ sup╚rieur wines on its shelves. First Quench, whose outlets include Wine Rack, Bottoms Up, Threshers and Victoria Wine, said its VDQS wine was free of blood. Tesco said it had banned the use of cows' blood as soon as it was aware of the scare. Sainsbury said none of its wine came from the C┘tes du Rh┘ne area, and Marks & Spencer said all its wine was free of animal material as a fining agent.

FDA under pressure on GM foods

Financial Times, Friday June 18 1999  By Rebecca Christie in Washington
The US Food and Drug Administration is facing mounting pressure for stronger controls on genetically engineered foods and to require labelling of GM food. A lawyer for a coalition of scientists, consumer groups and religious leaders said there was new evidence that the FDA had ignored warnings from its own scientists when it designed its policies. The group filed a lawsuit against the FDA in 1998 asking for labelling and research on the long-term health effects of genetically modified foods such as corn, soyabeans and tomatoes.

Also yesterday, a non-profit organisation associated with the Natural Law party - a liberal, grassroots-oriented US political party - announced a petition to the FDA, Congress and President Clinton asking for the same measures. The group, Mothers for Natural Law, said it had gathered 500,000 signatures.

On Monday nine environmental and consumer organisations sent a letter to Mr Clinton demanding a ban on genetically modified maize. The letter cited a Cornell University study that the maize may harm butterflies. It was signed by groups such as Friends of the Earth, the Organic Consumers Association and the Green Choice party of New York.

Steven Druker, a lawyer for the Alliance for Bio-Integrity, said his group had obtained FDA records showing that some FDA scientists were concerned about the safety of genetically engineered foods. The Alliance for Bio-Integrity is an Iowa-based group that filed the lawsuit in the US District Court in Washington, along with the Washington-based International Centre for Technology Assessment.

Mr Druker said some FDA scientists agreed there were different risks associated with genetically altered plants than with traditional crops. He cited comments on the 1992 policy by Jim Maryanski, FDA biotechnology co-ordinator, and Linda S. Kahl of the FDA's Centre for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. These comments contradicted the official FDA position, he said.

The FDA declined to comment on the case because litigation is pending.

On its web site, the FDA said it "is not aware of information that would distinguish genetically engineered foods as a class from foods developed through other methods of plant breeding". Labels are required only when such food "differs significantly from its conventional counterpart" or includes an allergen not normally present in the food.

Sugar made with cow bone char

Vegetarian Journal March/April 1997 Volume XVI, Number 2 

Sugar and other sweeteners: Do they contain animal products?

By Caroline Pyevich
Refined Sugar
Refined sugar is avoided by some vegetarians because its processing may involve a bone char filter. An activated carbon filter, sometimes made of bone char, decolorises sugar to make it white through an absorption process. While the bone char filter is used by some major sugar companies, it is not used to produce all refined sugar.

The two major types of refined sugar produced in the United States are beet sugar and cane sugar. Cane sugar is mainly grown in Florida, California, Louisiana, Hawaii and Texas. Beet sugar is grown in states located in the middle part of the U.S. Much sugar cane is actually imported.

According to beet sugar producers, beet and cane sugar are nutritionally equivalent and one cannot usually taste any difference between them. They are both composed of sucrose. The production and sale of each type of sugar are approximately equal (1).

Beet sugar refineries never use a bone char filter in processing because this type of sugar does not require an extensive decolorising procedure. Beet sugar can be refined with a pressure lead filter and an ion exchange system. Beet sugar is popular in the Midwest because it is grown in this area. It is often labeled Granulated Sugar. Beet sugar is becoming more prevalent in the United States because the Federal government subsidises this industry.

Almost all cane sugar refineries require the use of a specific filter to decolorise the sugar and absorb inorganic material from it. This whitening process occurs towards the end of the sugar refining procedure. The filter may be either bone char, granulated carbon, or an ion exchange system. The granular carbon has a wood or coal base, and the ion exchange does not require the use of any animal products (2).

Bones from cows are the only type used to make bone char. According to the Sugar Association and several large sugar producers, all of the cows have died of "natural causes" and do not come from the U.S. meat industry. Bone char cannot be produced or bought in the United States (3).

Bone char is derived from the bones of cattle from Afghanistan, Argentina, India and Pakistan. The sun-bleached bones are bought by Scottish, Brazilian, and Egyptian marketers, who sell them to the U.S. sugar industry after the bones are first used by the gelatin industry (4).

Bone is heated to an extremely high temperature, which results in a physical change in the bones composition. The bone becomes pure carbon before it is used in a refinery.

Refined sugar does not contain any bone particles and is therefore kosher certified. The bone char simply removes impurities from the sugar, but does not become a part of the sugar.

Individual pieces of bone char, like granular carbon, can be used for several years. They must be continuously washed to remove the sugar deposits. Companies that use bone char claim that the char is more economically feasible and efficient than other types of filters (4).

Many cane refineries use bone char. Domino, the largest sugar manufacturer, uses bone char in the filtration process. The cane refineries of Savannah Foods, the second largest sugar manufacturer, also use bone char. California and Hawaiian Sugar employs bone char filters in addition to granular carbon and ion exchange filters. All these companies use the bone char in the refining process of brown sugar, powdered sugar (sugar mixed with corn starch) and white sugar.

Some cane refineries do not use bone char. Refined Sugar, producers of Jack Frost Sugar, claim to use a granular carbon instead of bone char for economic reasons. Florida Crystal sugar is a cane sugar which has not passed through the bone. Although Florida Crystals sugar has a straw color, the impurities still have been removed.

Some labels on sugar packages seem to indicate that the product is raw sugar, but all commercial sugar has undergone some refining. Genuine raw sugar cannot be bought and sold to the general consumer in the United States according to FDA regulations, as it is considered unfit for human consumption.

Turbinado sugar is a product which is made by separating raw cane sugar crystals in a centrifuge and washing them with steam. According to Domino Sugar, turbinado sugar does not pass through a bone char filter because its brown color is desirable.

Refining sugar involves a series of steps, including clarification and an initial step where sugar syrup is added. The clarifying agents are calcium hydroxide, phosphoric acid, and polyacrylomite. The sugar used in the initial syrup is an intermediate, raw sugar which has not yet gone through the bone char filter.

If your sole reason for not consuming refined sugar is because of the use of bone char, then you should consider buying sugar which has not passed through the char. Refined beet sugar, which never involves bone char, is often labeled fine granular sugar. C & H produces one sugar which has not gone through the bone char. It is labeled Washed Raw Sugar. Cane sugar, which sometimes uses bone char, is distinguished as cane sugar on the package.

Molasses
One of the by-products of sugar refining is molasses. Molasses that is consumed by humans is derived only from cane sugar. Some molasses is produced by directly boiling the sugar cane.

Many different grades of molasses correspond with the flavor and level of processing of molasses. Blackstrap molasses is the lowest grade of molasses available because of its dark bitter qualities. All the molasses in graded foods is unsulphured (6).

Beet sugar molasses is not fit for human consumption because it is too bitter. Beet sugar molasses is fed to dairy cows and cattle. The syrup is added to their food to make it taste sweeter. The beet molasses is also sold to yeast-making industries (1).

The molasses syrup which is consumed by humans has not gone through any bone char or carbon filter. About 95% of the molasses is removed before the sugar travels through the bone char or carbon filter. Any molasses which has gone through the char is used in animal feed or for fermentation purposes. Molasses companies often buy their initial product from sugar refineries and then further refine the syrup. They do not use any type of char filter because they do not desire to eliminate the brown color (5). Brown sugar is basically refined sugar with added molasses. The brown sugar produced by the beet industry uses cane molasses, but this molasses has not gone through the bone char. Cane sugar companies which use bone char will utilize bone char to refine brown sugar (6).

Maple syrup
Maple syrup is another sweetener which may sometimes be a concern to vegans. The process of making maple syrup requires an agent to reduce the foam on the syrup by adding a small amount of fat to the liquid.

The traditional process of reducing the foam in maple syrup has included the use of lard. Previously, local producers would hang pork fat over a tub of maple syrup and let drops of fat drip into the syrup. Others used milk, cream or butter. If animal products are used in the form of lard or milk, the amount is minute. For example, eight to ten gallons of syrup will involve a quarter of a teaspoon of cream or a pea-sized drop of butter.

Vegetable oil is a common defoaming agent. It can be applied to the end of a wooden stick and dipped into the foaming part of the maple syrup. Most manufacturers of maple syrup now use vegetable oil or synthetic defoamers instead of lard.

One commercial defoamer (called Atmos300K) is composed of monoglycerides and diglycerides. According to WITCO, the producer of this defoamer, these glycerides are derived from "edible meat and/or vegetable sources." Another leading brand of defoamer, Reynolds Magic Syrup Defoamer, also contains acetylated monoglycerides as an ingredient (7).

Well known brands of pancake maple syrups, such as Mrs. Butterworths or Log Cabin, usually contain only 2-5% maple syrup. Corn syrup is the main ingredient of most pancake syrups. Pure maple syrup will have a grade label and state "100% Pure Maple Syrup." (8)

It may be difficult to determine whether a particular brand of syrup has an animal or vegetable based defoamer. Most syrups do not use lard, with the exception of certain small-scale products. Brands which are kosher certified, such as Spring Tree or Maple Groves, are unlikely to contain animal products in their defoamers.

From a water quality association site:

Bone Char: A black pigmented substance, with a carbon content of about 10 percent, made by carbonizing animal bones. Bone char is used for decolorizing sugar and water treatment. It has been used as a selective anion exchanger for fluoride and arsenic reduction.

Fluoride level is reduced in two stages. First stage reduces fluorides to approximate 10 mg/l. No activated silica is needed. The second stage can reduce the fluoride level to than 1 ppm. The second stage utilizes a bone char seed to initiate the growth of the calcium fluoride-hydroxyapatite crystal complex. Sludge from the second stage is dewatered with sludge from the first stage:

-- achieves low levels of fluoride in effluent wastewater without creating large quantities of sludge

-- achieves low levels of fluoride in effluent wastewater without using large quantities of phosphoric acid.

-- contact clarifier is utilized for the slow formation of calcium fluoride hydroxyapatite.

-- small quantities of bone char are needed and can be added continuously for high volume processing.

Activated Carbon

Carbon Resources has the most diverse lines of activated carbon products and processes on the market place - products consist of petroleum ptich, coal, carbon fiber, coconut shell, bone char, and wood base carbons along with various impregnated materials such as ployester, polypropylene and cellulose.

Activated carbon is known as the universal adsorbent for good reason; due to its extremely high surface area (that can range from 500-2000 m2 per gram), activated carbon can adsorb or catalyze and remove most organic and many inorganic compounds from both liquids and gases. No other material can come close to matching activated carbon as anadsorbent based upon its effectiveness, economics, versatility and ability to be recycled in many cases.

Adsorption is a surface phenomena, therefore the total surface area with respect to pore size and volume are the criteria in determining its effectiveness in a particular application. Activated carbon can be manufactured from many carbonaceous starting materials such as wood, coal, coconut shell, peat, bone char, petroleum or rayon cloth. It is the base material that determines how a pore structure will exist and the distribution of these pores are the key to understanding which type of carbon is best suited for a specific applicaiton. (A sponge full of "pinholes" can not adsorb "marble sized" constituents).

Phase II of BSE Inquiry kicks in

BSE Inquiry 25 June 99
Phase 2 of the hearings has begun. The first transcript, from the meeting with Mr Lawrence, pivotted on matters pertaining to the ruminant feed ban of 1988, and to the specified bovine offal ban of 1989:
 3   MR WALKER:   Is it right to say that the two month period of
 4       grace involved an acceptance on the part of MAFF that
 5       disease could continue to spread for another two months?
 6   MR LAWRENCE:   I think it is correct to say that the period
 7       of grace does mean that, yes.  You are allowing a two
 8       month period where it is possible that infected material
 9       may be consumed by animals, yes.  I think that is right.
10   MR WALKER:   It would also be right to say that it does not
11       seem consistent with the idea of taking urgent action?
12   MR LAWRENCE:   Well, so far as I was concerned, the urgent
13       action was to agree with lawyers and to get the
14       legislation in place and implemented; and that is,
15       I think, what I did.  You know, the period of grace was
16       a separate issue which reflected the serious concerns
17       that the feed industry had about actually implementing
18       it in a very short space of time.
19   MR WALKER:   Yes.  Just before we leave this I would like
20       you to notice the last sentence:
21             "Our position would be very difficult to defend."
-----------------------------------------------------------------
16             What we find in paragraph 4 is Mrs Stagg
17       describing an assumption of the Minister:
18             "He assumes that we have a system for notifying
19       all affected people (renderers, compounders and perhaps
20       most importantly farmers et cetera) of the situation
21       which will apply from 18th July."
22             The assumption that is described there, that there
23       would be a system for notifying most importantly
24       farmers, was there such a system?
25   MR LAWRENCE:   I do not recall a system that naturally fell
 1       into place where, you know, letters went out to
 2       thousands of farmers all over the country.  My
 3       understanding of the system was the one that I think we
 4       applied, where we talked to the major organisations,
 5       including all the unions, and explained the position to
 6       them; and I think we then expected them to do whatever
 7       they felt was necessary to make sure farmers knew what
 8       was going on.
 
15   MR WALKER:   In paragraph 4 you have said this:
16             "On bovine offals it was made clear that the
17       Minister's action was simply to maintain public
18       confidence."
19             I think we see the words "maintain public
20       confidence" are underlined?
21   MR LAWRENCE:   They are indeed, yes.
22   MR WALKER:   Can you help us, do you recall this meeting?
23   MR LAWRENCE:   Yes, I think I probably do, yes.
24   MR WALKER:   Is paragraph 4 accurate?
25   MR LAWRENCE:   Yes.  Yes.

EU Seen Blocking New GMOs Until About 2002

Reuters Online Fri, Jun 25, 1999 By Michael Mann
LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) - The European Union is unlikely to authorize any new genetically modified crops before 2002, after environment ministers signed up to strict guidelines for licensing new GMOs, officials said Friday. Ministers avoided the word moratorium but their agreement will set in stone a de facto halt on new GMO approvals until a new law on licensing the products is up and running -- probably in 2002 -- according to German Environment Minister Juergen Trittin, who chaired the talks.

"There was a political consensus that everything should be done to avoid any authorizations under the existing rules," Trittin told reporters, adding that it was "rather unlikely" any more GMOs would be approved under the present system. Ministers also took a major step toward unblocking the logjam of applications by reaching initial agreement on the revised system for approving new GMOs, considerably tightening up a proposal originally made by the European Commission 18 months ago. The plan will now be sent to the European Parliament for further scrutiny, but is unlikely to be finalized for several months.

No GM crops have been approved in the EU since April 1998 because of shortcomings in the existing approvals system. After all-night talks, most ministers signed up to a declaration committing themselves to hurrying through the revised licensing rules and avoiding new authorizations under the existing set-up. A group of five countries led by France went further, saying they would suspend all further applications while the rules are revised.

Britain said it did not sign up to anything. The review of the GMO licensing process comes amid growing public concern about the safety of gene technology following a number of food scares. The EU is also under growing pressure from the United States to open its market to GM crops grown by American farmers and developed by U.S. biotechnology companies. Reaching an initial accord on the revised rules, ministers rejected proposals for a fast-track approval process for certain GMOs regarded as "low risk" and closed a loophole allowing products to be authorized automatically in the absence of a ruling by regulators.

All GMOs will be authorized for an initial ten-year period, after which they would have to be reviewed. The agreement also includes tighter regulations on labeling GMOs and tracing them through the food chain, and an enhanced role for an EU ethical committee in the decision-making process. The Commission, the EU's executive, proposed changes to the process by which new GMOs are authorized to tighten safety checks and ensure more transparency in the decision-making process. Officials said they were confident the EU would be able to defend itself from any legal challenges from countries unhappy with the EU's block on GMOs.

"Under the WTO, you can base yourself on new scientific evidence," said acting EU Environment Commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard. "I see no problem with what we're doing today in relation to GMOs." Environmental pressure group Greenpeace immediately welcomed the EU's decision. "GMOs are an environmental threat and an unjustified experiment with food," it said in a statement, adding it hoped the temporary halt to approvals was a step to a "consistent ban."

EU Scientific Group Finds 3 BSE Tests 100% Successful

Dow Jones Fri, Jun 25, 1999 by  Grainne Hehir

Comment (webmaster):
Here the EU has validated 3 lab tests for detecting BSE but they have made no effort to determine how well the tests work in preclinical cows and they have no intent of deploying them anytime soon in random testing even though the tests are inexpensive.

In other words, testing now might disrupt marketplaces by finding quite a few preclinical animals; better to wait a few years until these have been consumed, hold off on testing until the disease has (hopefully) played itself out.

BRUSSELS --The European Union Commission said Friday that an E.U. scientific committee has judged three types of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, tests to be 100% effective in distinguishing animals clinically affected with "mad cow disease."

However, a spokesman for the agriculture department of the E.U. Commission said it wasn't yet clear whether these tests for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, will identify animals which have small amounts of BSE prion in their system, prior to becoming clinically affected. The BSE prion is the agent generally accepted as causing the disease.

The spokesman said it is "too soon" to say when these tests may be approved for widespread use, but said that the tests are not expensive. BSE has been linked to a fatal brain ailment in humans and can go undetected in cattle for years.

25 Jun 99 Lancet Karen Birchard
The Republic of Ireland has become the third country to report a case of variant Creutzfeldt Jakob disease (vCJD). On June 11, St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin reported that a patient who had undergone a gastroscopy earlier this year was diagnosed with nvCJD on May 31. The scope used on the vCJD-infected patient was subsequently used on 49 patients who are being contacted to alleviate any concerns they may have over possible infection.

The hospital is adamant that the risk of contamination to other patients who were treated with the scope and biopsy forceps is "infinitesimal" because of sterilisation procedures. Although the patient was not identified by the hospital, it is understood she is a mother in her 30s who-- perhaps significantly--had been resident in England during the high-risk bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) period.

CJD has been shown to be transmitted from one infected patient to another via certain neurosurgical procedures. There is no evidence of nvCJD being passed through instruments used in non-brain procedures.

The announcement came just as the country's Blood Transfusion Service Board is planning a survey of its donors to find out if they spent time in the UK during the late 1980s and early 1990s when they were at risk of eating BSE-contaminated beef. Martin Hynes, the Board's chief executive, said that there may be so many people who have been to the UK that a ban of such donors would be too wide and therefore impractical. According to the 1996 census, 8% of Irish people have lived in the UK for a year or more at some time.

Irish Blood Transfusion Service Board stands alone: The BTSB is once again self-sufficient for its blood needs and is no longer using foreign blood according to its annual report, released on June 15. It says blood transfusions have never been safer: leukodepletion is being used as a guard against any theoretical risk of nvCJD being passed on; and the Board is introducing PCR screening for all donors in July. [Surely this is for AIDS and hepatitus, not familial CJD -- webmaster}

A platelet pheresis programme was introduced on a limited basis last year. This followed the discontinuation of the plasma programme in November 1997 owing to the introduction of the synthetic product, recombinant factor VII. 16% of blood donors had their donations deferred--most temporarily--because of stricter screening procedures.

NIH allocates funding by burden of disease

25 June 99 Lancet Julie Rovner 
As the US Congress increases the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding, more attention is being paid to how money is distributed. A report published on June 17 shows that the NIH does a relatively accurate job of dividing its funding according to the relative burden of disease.

Cary Gross (Johns Hopkins) did a cross-sectional study comparing estimates of disease-specific funding in 1996 for 29 conditions with six measures of the burden of disease. They found that when using disability-adjusted life years, the degree of disability, and the number of deaths they could roughly predict disease-specific spending by the NIH.

The prevalence, incidence, or the relative financial burden of a disease failed to produce a significant correlation (N Engl J Med 1999; 340: 1881-86 ).

By any measure the researchers found that some diseases, such as AIDS and breast cancer received more than their predicted funding, whereas chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and perinatal conditions received less than their predicted funding. Depending on the measure used, diseases such as ischaemic heart disease and schizophrenia could be considered either over or underfunded, according to their social costs.

The researchers cautioned that disease burden should not be considered the only important criterion for distributing funds. NIH also needs to consider potential scientific merit, the level of funding for diseases provided by the private sector, and the need to predict and control future burdens. These points help explain the relative over-funding of AIDS research.

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