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Questionable farm feeding practices
Feedback loop could amplify rare TSE
Egypt in mad cow uproar
U.S. to get Argentine beef; Japan, Korea refuse hoof-and-mouth disease risk
Burger King pulls Hudson burgers
Germany indiganant about report it not reporting BSE cases
EU clampdown sought as British beef scare flares

The Next Bad Beef Scandal?
Cattle Feed Now Contains Manure And Dead Cats

August 25, 1997
U.S. News & World Report
Michael Satchell and Stephen J. Hedges
According to this story, the true extent of the Hudson hamburger contamination will remain a mystery until inspectors know exactly which plants supplied the beef. From there, they will have to investigate further to determine if Hudsons suppliers also sent bad meat to other food companies. The story then says that what is indisputable, however, is that the problems at Hudson represent only one of many threats to the nations meat supply.

The story cites agriculture experts as saying a slew of new and questionable methods of fattening cattle are being employed by farmers. To trim costs, the story says, many farmers add a variety of waste substances to their livestock and poultry feed -- and no one is making sure they are doing so safely. Chicken manure in particular, which costs from $15 to $45 a ton in comparison with up to $125 a ton for alfalfa, is increasingly used as feed by cattle farmers despite possible health risks to consumers. In regions with large poultry operations, such as California, the South, and the mid-Atlantic, more and more farmers are turning to chicken manure as a cheaper alternative to grains and hay.

Lamar Carter, a cattle farmer near Dardanelle, Ark., is cited as saying that he recently purchased 745 tons of litter scooped from the floors of local chicken houses, stacking it 12 feet high on his farm. After allowing the protein-rich excrement to heat up for seven to 10 days, Carter mixes it with smaller amounts of soybean bran, and feeds this fecal slumgullion to his 800 head of cattle. Carter is quoted as saying, "My cows are fat as butterballs. If I didn't have chicken litter, I'd have to sell half my herd. Other feeds too expensive."

The story then says that chicken manure often contains Campylobacter and Salmonella bacteria, which can cause disease in humans, as well as intestinal parasites, veterinary drug residues, and toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury. The story then says that Dr. Neal Barnard, head of the Washington, D.C.-based health lobby Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, has a paper due to be published this fall in the journal Preventive Medicine that points to the potential dangers of recycling chicken waste to cattle.

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The story cites the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta as saying there may be as many as 80 million incidences of food-borne illness each year in the United States, and about 9,000 deaths. Salmonella accounts for 4 million cases, of which 500 to 1,000 are fatal. Campylobacter, which causes acute gastroenteritis, afflicts between 4 million and 6 million people annually, killing about 100. E. coli, the bacteria that was found in the tainted Hudson Foods beef, causes up to 250 fatalities and triggers serious illness in up to 20,000 people annually. At least 17 people have fallen ill from eating contaminated Hudson beef.

The story says that agricultural refuse such as corncobs, rice hulls, fruit and vegetable peelings, along with grain byproducts from retail production of baked goods, cereals, and beer, have long been used to fatten cattle. In addition, some 40 billion pounds a year of slaughterhouse wastes like blood, bone, and viscera, as well as the remains of millions of euthanized cats and dogs passed along by veterinarians and animal shelters, are rendered annually into livestock feed -- in the process turning cattle and hogs, which are natural herbivores, into unwitting carnivores.

Daniel McChesney, head of animal-feed safety for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is cited as saying that new feed additives are being introduced so fast that the government cannot keep pace with new regulations to cover them.

The story says that chicken and turkey droppings can be fed safely if handled properly. This involves correctly stacking the manure for four to eight weeks while the naturally generated heat raises temperatures to 160 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit, high enough to destroy bacteria and toxins.

The authors of the Preventive Medicine report are cited as saying that studies of manure-feed safety have been conducted largely in controlled environments, not in the casual, unregulated conditions on most farms. Few studies address public health aspects, they argue, and there is an overall dearth of published information. The story also notes that the contents of animal feed are attracting more attention as a result of the BSE outbreak in Great Britain and concern that similar problems could occur here.

Listserve Opinion 25 Aug 97

Since meat and bone meal from cattle is fed back to poultry, this poultry manure issue illustrates an indirect but complete feedback loop for some types of problems. In the UK, any farm animal to farm animal feedback is now forbidden, due to BSE.

The implications of the 24-year old vegetarian case are really scary. While there are many possibilities, my take on it is there was a fairly high infectious titre in common foods, at least around Kent, with adolescents at special risk, in the early '80's if not the late '70's. I don't see this as from small titre in milk or gelatin or cheese during the clinical phase.

Incubation period, as a single number, doesn't compute. Time-to-illness is a function of dose and strains, weighted by time elapsed and enormous individual variability. Incubation period is an intrinsic property that only makes sense to me when these variables are specified and held fixed. In short, a slice of a function of several variables. So it is generally hard to learn much from individual cases but in this instance, whatever the dose and whatever the susceptibility, the time-to-illness from cessation of exposure was at least 12 years.

I can't imagine why the epidemic wouldn't be spread out over 60-70 years, assuming there is a cap on secondary transmission from blood etc. and it doesn't go on indefinitely. The effect of a middling species barrier is to spread the cases out over time. The doses and time received and susceptibility are all over the landscape. Once it gets rolling within the brain, what is going to stop it? Basically it is just a race to see if they die of something else first -- they are all infected in the UK to one extent or another.

Rendering methods of the day and their variants may have had nothing particular to do with the UK epidemic; maybe with the sodium hydroxide treatment we might now get a couple logs of reduction of titre. The whole issue for me is that an intensified feedback amplification loop was an accident waiting to happen. Sooner or later a cow with subclinical BSE was bound to go into the hopper. The notion that the US will be spared because it used other (equally ineffectual?) rendering methods while have the same feedback loop or worse -- it's just a public relations gimmick, not a bona fide risk-managment policy.

So this idea in the US of taking (sometimes) known TSE-positive animals, running them through pigs and chickens, then running the manure etc back through the cows has a predictable future. Half-measures will keep the issue alive. It's a huge loophole -- the all-too familiar intensive feedback amplification loop.

What else can be done with the 40 billion pounds of rendering waste? -- it's a lot of protein just to put on a field or in a landfill. A minimum solution might be a designated one-stage dead-end animal no part of which is ever fed back to any other livestock. So cow and pig might go direct to chicken and chicken goes direct to the field or landfill (to join the sheep, which are too dangerous to mess with). That gives some use but breaks the feedback loop. There is always going to be TSE out there, just like we are never going to run out of carbon-14. Mutations create more TSE, cosmic rays create more C-14. No recycling loop for TSE, no concentrating the C-14 into a breeder reactor.

These calculated numbers represent only the tip of an iceberg of unknown size. They represent only those expected to result from the number of UK cattle imported for breeding purposes into other EU countries in 1985-89. Not only do they not take account of cattle imported for breeding purposes before 1985 but they also take no account of the consequences of thousands of tonnes of UK meat and bonemeal imported into other EU countries and fed to indigenous cattle.

Egypt in mad cow uproar

Arabic News Economics 20 August 1997
Egypt --The food control agency in Alexandria has sent five letters to the Cairo-based imports and exports control agency asking them to decide about 800 tons of imported meat held at the port. The meat containers were imported from Belgium on June 23, but prevented from entry because of mad cow disease fears, Al Ahram daily said yesterday August, 19.

Dr. Ahmed Goweili, Egyptian Minister of Trade and Supply, was cool in facing recent questioning over the uproar that erupted after reports that British mad cow beef was being imported by Egyptian businessmen through Belgium. Dr. Goweili was quoted as saying his ministry had no intentions of punishing the importers because the meat was confiscated in the Alexandria port before entering Egypt.

U.S. to get Argentine beef; Japan and Korea refuse hoof-and-mouth disease risk

By Ian Phillips The Associated Press Aug. 23 
Pedro Salaberry, a ruddy-faced cowboy, has nothing but sympathy for those who have not tasted a fine Argentine steak, preferably washed down with a full-bodied red wine.
İİİİ "Call me arrogant, but nothing compares to Argentine meat," the gaucho said as he eyed a champion Aberdeen Angus at an exhibition. "Everybody should try it at least once in their life."
İİİİ In recent years, that pleasure has been mostly found within Argentina, due to a partial export ban stemming from outbreaks of hoof-and-mouth disease. In May, the country was declared free of the disease. İİİİ Now the red meat Argentines are so fiercely proud of will be put to a crucial test: For the first time in 67 years, fresh and chilled beef will be exported this week to the United States.

Exports to the United States will be limited initially to a 20,000-ton annual quotaãa figure that Argentine officials hope to increase over the years. İİİİ "This is more of symbolic than economic value," Agriculture Secretary Felipe Sola said in an interview. "By exporting to the United States, our profile will be a lot higher and that will open up new markets worldwide." İİİİ Lucrative markets such as Japan and South Korea won't be accessible until Argentina no longer needs to vaccinate cattle to avoid foot-and-mouth disease, but that could be just a few years away, Sola said.

Most of the beef shipped north will be used as hamburger meat. In addition, a small amount of fine cuts are aimed at top New York restaurants. İİİİ For many Argentines, the idea that their grass-fed cattle will end up in American fast-food restaurants is ridiculous. İİİİ "A waste," Marcelo Celis proclaimed as he lined up for a table at a Buenos Aires steakhouse. "Argentine beef is unique in flavor. Eventually they'll get the idea." İİİİ The arrival of Argentine beef has caused some concern among U.S. producers, said Dale Moore of the U.S. National Cattlemen's Beef Association. But most worries are of a sanitary nature.

"There's bound to be concern about economic impact, but with just 20,000 tons of imports, I suspect it's going to be a little hard for the Argentines to take over the market," he said. İİİİ Americans consume about 7.7 million tons of beef a year, the association says.

İİİİ Moore is unfazed by accounts of the quality of Argentine beef and speculation that the country might soon become a major exporter, like Australia and New Zealand. İİİİ "In the U.S., most good cuts are from grain-fed animals. Meat from grass-fed cows is different: Less tender, less tasty," he declared.

Burger King pulls Hudson burgers

August 25, 1997 The Associated Press OMAHA, Neb. -- Embroiled in a bad-beef nightmare, Hudson Foods Inc. thought the worst was over. Then the company was hit with a wallop the size of a Whopper. In a bid to restore public confidence in its burgers, Burger King yanked Hudson's beef out of its restaurants permanently, said David Nixon, a spokesman at Burger King headquarters in Miami. Hudson's had announced a recall of 25 million pounds of possibly tainted beef last week, the largest such recall ever.

Burger King also began advertising in newspapers around the country Monday in an attempt to assure customers that its beef is safe. The fast-food giant was Hudson's largest beef client. It was unknown what would happen to the company's idled plant in Columbus following the recall and Burger King's reaction to it.

Burger King competitors McDonald's and Wendy's don't use Hudson meat and weren't affected by the scare. Other Hudson customers, including Boston Market restaurants and Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores, pulled the meat last week.

Some consumers are cutting back on beef regardless of the source. Ann Vogelson, a New York bank employee and mother of two, said she was serving her family less meat.

"We only eat beef once, maybe twice a week anyway," Vogelson said today. "But yesterday, I was making sauce, and just decided I should make it without the ground beef. "I can't say I'm really worried, but it's in the back of my mind."
Others were not bothered. Charlie Hurwitz, 85, ate two plain hamburgers for lunch Monday at a McDonald's in midtown New York, as he does three or four times a week.
"I've been around a long time, and people have banned everything at some point. When I want a hamburger, I'm going to order it. I just don't let it bother me," said the retired banker.
The recall was prompted by possible contamination by E. coli contamination. Hudson Foods has said the contamination likely came from a supplier. The company said it will try to keep the Columbus plant open, but the decision will be made only if the Department of Agriculture approves.

The recall forced restaurants and supermarket chains to scramble for replacement beef Thursday night and Friday. Burger King, the nation's second-largest fast-food chain, took a huge hit by the recall. Some 1,650 restaurants in 28 states -- or one of every four Burger Kings in the United States -- was reduced to serving chicken, ham and fish, even BLT's, for a day or two.

Tests on samples of Burger King's recalled meat showed no problem, said Michael Simmonds, president of Simmonds Restaurant Management in Omaha, which owns 64 Burger Kings in Nebraska and Iowa.

"I think Burger King is doing the right thing in dropping Hudson Foods to make sure any meat supplier we use is flawless," he said.

EU clampdown sought as British beef scare flares

Saturday August 23 11:28 AM EDT 
By Nieck Ammerlaan (Reuter)
BRUSSELS - Reports that British beef, banned because of fears of mad cow disease, has been smuggled to mainland Europe, fanned calls on Saturday for London to impose tougher export controls. But Britain's agriculture minister hit back by saying he might question European countries over a study suggesting they were failing to report most of their own cases of the disease while taking punitive action against Britain because of its epidemic.

Belgium said on Saturday it had closed a fourth company on suspicion of importing British meat and Bonn urged the European Union to get tough on Britain after a fresh scare in Germany over mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). German authorities said several tonnes of sausages and corned beef products, made from meat from Britain and possibly infected with the brain-wasting disease, had already been eaten. Thousands of such sausages had been served in restaurants in Frankfurt in June and July, local health authorities said. A scare was touched off when Hamburg customs officials impounded 60 tonnes of beef carrying British export stamps.

Trying to calm a jittery public, Maria Voelker-Albert of the Health Ministry said Bonn would press for tighter controls of a 17-month-old EU ban on British beef exports.

``We are demanding the EU Commission ensure the monitoring of the export ban be done more effectively,'' Voelker-Albert said. ``The commission has so far failed to set up efficient controls.''
The European Commission said in July it had traced 1,600 tonnes of British beef illegally exported to the Netherlands, Egypt and Russia, either via Belgium or using Belgian certificates of origin. Britain was banned from exporting beef after London said there was a possible link between mad cow disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), a dementing fatal illness in humans.

Germany's tabloid daily Bild screamed on Saturday: ``BSE Alarm! Madcow fear is back again. Illegal meat from England is in our markets again. The meat mafia is smuggling beef here.'' German weekly magazine Der Spiegel said it would report in Monday's issue that EU inspectors had found British controls on the export ban ``lacking and incomplete.'' Belgium said on Saturday meat company Belgameat had been closed for alleged fraud, the fourth such closure in recent months, after authorities found and confiscated 130 tonnes of what they suspected to be beef from Britain.

``What apparently happened is that a Dutch company or a Dutchman is involved, that a Belgian company is involved in exporting British meat to eastern European countries,'' Belgian health minister Marcel Colla said. He said Belgameat had falsified documents to conceal the origin of the meat.
The ministry was investigating other cases of suspected meat fraud, possibly involving an international network with links to France and the Netherlands, Colla said. He gave no details.

After years of fears over the British outbreak of BSE, a study in the official journal of the British Veterinary Association said far more cases of the cattle disease should have been reported on mainland Europe. It said that in Germany, the number of cases expected was 48 times higher than the actual number reported -- five. Britain's agriculture minister Jack Cunningham said, referring to the study:

``There's a wide variation in practice in the European Union. ``Some countries actually appear to have a financial incentive for their farmers not to report suspected cases of BSE, which does seem bizarre, if it is true.'' ``I want to consider whether it would be appropriate for me to pursue the whole issue in the (European Union) Council of Ministers.''
The British media reported this week that a British vegetarian had been diagnosed with CJD 12 years after giving up meat. Nobody knows the exact incubation period for CJD but this case suggests it might be longer than previously believed. More news for related categories: international.

Germany rejects report it not reporting BSE cases

Monday August 25  (Reuter)
BONN - Germany on Monday rejected a report published in Britain accusing European Union countries -- and Germany in particular -- of reporting only a small percentage of their cases of mad cow disease.

Farm Minister Jochen Borchert was ``indignant,'' his ministry said in a statement, following the release of a report by the British Veterinary Association which said far more cases should have been reported than have actually been admitted to.

The report singled Germany out for criticism and said the number of cases which scientific evidence suggested was expectable here was 48 times the actual number reported -- five. ``The rumours spread out of London are without foundation and are not conducive to the joint duty of systematically fighting this dreadful BSE mad cow disease and finally eradicating it,'' Borchert said in a statement. Borchert said there was no reason to mistrust the work of Germany's federal states, who are responsible for implementing laws to combat the deadly brain disease here.

Germany was at the forefront of a campaign to push Europe to ban British beef last year after London admitted BSE could be transmitted to humans in the form of Creuzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD). Public nerves were set on edge again at the weekend after authorities admitted illegal exports of beef that may have been infected by mad cow disease had reached German consumers and demanded that the EU clamp down on Britain again. Britain insists other European states must follow the same stringent public health safeguards it has been forced to meet and Agriculture Minister Jack Cunningham has said he may raise the Veterinary Association report with his EU partners.

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