EU knew on June 1 mad cow disease could infect sheep
Fischler on the rack over lamb and BSE
Scrapie-Resistant Sheep?
Britain plans new rules for meat houses

EU knew on June 1 mad cow disease could infect sheep

Brussels, July 24 (Reuter) - The European Commission has been aware since early June of research evidence that mad cow disease can infect sheep, European Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler said on Wednesday.

Fischler, under fire for causing alarm by drawing attention to the findings on Monday, said the researcyh had been carried out in Britain and was available in print on June 1. "This research is one project which was in fact carried out in the United Kingdom, and it was reported in the scientific literature on June 1," Fischler told a news conference after an EU accord on farm prices.

"It was made available to us a few days later and referred to our scientific and veterinary experts who discussed the conclusions to be drawn," he said.

Fischler said he hed received their recommendation that some tissues from sheep should be banned from the food chain four or five days ago and had then gone public as quickly as possible. "It depends what you want. If you want to take decisions on scientific evidence then first you have to ask the scientists what their opinion is," he said. Fischler said on Monday he would ask EU veterinary officials to consider banning nervous tissues and spleen from sheep and goats from the food chain in light of the research.

The announcement drew an angry reaction from Spanish farm minister Loyola de Palacio who accused fischler on Tuesday of sowing unjustified alarm through "dangerous generalisations". Other ministers including Irish Farm Minister Ivan Yates who chaired the EU farm price talks, stressed sheep meat was still safe to eat.

Fischler told Wednesday's news conference his proposals on sheep tissue should be seen as a precautionary step only. "It is important to take precautionary measures to deal with any risk that might occur," he said. Fischler said on Monday that mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), can infect sheep and announced plans for a Europe-wide ban on brains, spinal cords and spleens from sheep, goats and deer for human consumption.

European supermarkets attempted on Tuesday to calm fears that fresh scientific evidence linking sheep organs to Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease (CJD), the fatal human brain-wasting disorder, would spark a second meat crisis.


Hogg tightens up sheep slaughter to calm BSE fear

Hogg tightens up sheep slaughter to calm BSE fear BY MICHAEL HORNSBY AND ALICE THOMSON
The Times: Britain:July 25 1996

STRICTER controls on the slaughter of sheep were announced yesterday by the Government in an attempt to reassure consumers that British lamb is safe. Douglas Hogg, the Agriculture Minister, told MPs he was proposing that the heads of all sheep and goats should be removed at slaughter and destroyed, as is already the case with cattle.

The minister said that this was a precautionary measure to protect the public against a "theoretical risk" that BSE might have passed to sheep and goats and be present as a new form of scrapie, a brain disease previously regarded as no risk to human beings.

Mr Hogg later announced a new compensation package to help beef and dairy farmers affected by the BSE crisis.

He told the Commons that he did not intend to stop eating lamb cutlets because they were "a splendid product". The Prime Minister said he, too, would continue to eat lamb chops. Despite the reassurance, sheep prices were about 15 per cent down on last week's level at more than 40 livestock markets across the country.

Mr Hogg said that the Government was consulting European Union partners on whether other offal from sheep, goat and deer should be removed from the animal and human food chain. It was also commissioning more research into the possible transmission of BSE to sheep.

"These steps are being taken out of an abundance of caution. There is no direct threat to human health. This is intended to reassure people, not concern them," Mr Hogg said. "With the exception of the consumption of brains, there is absolutely no reason for anybody to change their eating habit."

More than 95 per cent of the 19 million sheep slaughtered each year already have their heads removed at the abattoir and sheep brain is not eaten in Britain except by some Muslim communities. Sheep's head soup is a traditional dish in the Outer Hebrides.

There are 84,000 goats in Britain, mainly reared for milk and hair, but a small market for goat meat has developed. Ruth Goodwin, of the British Goat Society, said: "Heads are not usually eaten. But we have just begun to get goat meat off the ground and this suggestion that BSE might get into goats is the last thing we need."

Tory backbenchers accused the Government of creating a "mad sheep" scare for no good reason. Euro-sceptic MPs blamed Brussels for "unnecessary meddling", saying that the French, as the main eaters of sheep brain, were the only ones with reason to worry. Mr Hogg was backed by Gavin Strang, his Labour shadow, who said it was right to "err on the side of caution".

Mr Hogg released a scientific paper by the Government's Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee. It said there was a possibility that BSE had got into the sheep flock, perhaps via contaminated meat and bone meal in feed, and that the "potential risk to human beings from sheep could no longer be regarded as being as low as in the past".

The committee said that if BSE had got into sheep, then brain and spinal cord could "pose a potential risk to human health if eaten". BSE could also be present in the lymph nodes, spleen and intestine. The warning was based on laboratory experiments in which one out of six sheep fed BSE tissue had developed the disease.

The new compensation package announced by Mr Hogg would include £29 million to beef farmers who were forced to sell cattle between March 20 and June 30 at a loss because of the slump in demand and prices. The minister also proposed reimbursing farmers for 90 per cent of the cost of replacing cattle they lose under the accelerated cull of dairy cattle, to start in the late autumn.

* Ian Lang, President of the Board of Trade, confirmed yesterday that the Government had asked National Power and PowerGen to experiment with using cattle remains as a fuel in electricity generating stations.



Scrapie Resistant Sheep?

Listserve DVM
25 July 96

"I have concerns when the terms resistance and susceptible are used without any real knowledge of the pathogenesis of scrapie. We know that there is an influence of genotype on incubation period, yet do we know how the disease really is transmitted? Are there subclinical infections? Are the sheep with long incubation periods or the "resistant" sheep able to become infected, spread the agent contaminating premises (if premises can be contaminated,...the Iceland question) and/or infecting other sheep, yet never showing sign of disease?

I have seen well cared for old ewes break with scrapie over the age of 7. In a normal range or farming program these ewes would have been long dead. Were they resistant? No. Were they long incubation period ewes? Yes. So the terms classifying which sheep are resistant and which sheep are susceptible are premature and maybe misleading, given our lack of facts concerning this disease."


Fischler on the rack over lamb and BSE

Daily Telegraph Wednesday July 24 1996
By Toby Helm, EU Correspondent, and Charles Clover

FRANZ Fischler, the European Unions agriculture commissioner, launched a damage limitation exercise yesterday with his officials in Brussels saying he had never meant to imply that farm sheep could get BSE. The confusion over his statements on Monday raised further questions about Mr Fischlers judgement as the BSE scare threatened to spread from beef to lamb products. Mr Fischler has been severely criticised by British farmers and government ministers since the BSE crisis broke in March.

First, he was accused of over-reacting by imposing a worldwide ban on UK exports of beef and beef products. He came under attack again after he said that he would happily eat British beef himself. Fearing that comments he made in Brussels on Monday could cause the lamb market to collapse, a spokesman for Mr Fischler said yesterday that there was "no evidence whatsoever" that normal farm sheep could contract BSE.

Mr Fischler had told agriculture ministers less than 24 hours earlier that "experimental evidence" had been found that sheep could contract BSE. Concerns spread when he said the findings raised "several questions". He asked: "In particular, can we be sure that a case of so-called scrapie is not in fact BSE in sheep?" But Gerry Kiely, the spokesman, said: "There is no evidence whatsoever that sheep can get BSE under farm conditions."

Mr Kiely said there was nothing to suggest that mad cow disease could be picked up by sheep through consumption of normal feed He pointed out that Mr Fischler had been referring to cases in which EU scientists had carried out controlled tests under laboratory conditions. During the tests, sheep had been fed highly-infected feed which caused them to contract BSE in their spleens and nervous tissues. Only one in six had contracted the disease.

Mr Kiely said there was nothing to suggest that mad cow disease could be picked up by sheep through consumption of normal feed, even if it was infected at normal levels. He said: "You cannot compare this with even the normally-infected meat and bone meal sheep may be fed on the farm." Neither was there any suggestion that eating lamb or mutton was unsafe. Mr Fischler regularly ate lamb and would continue to do so.

Mr Kiely added: "There is no evidence whatsoever that scrapie presents any risk to human health and no evidence that, under farm conditions, there is any connection between scrapie and BSE." On Monday, Mr Fischler said he would propose to a meeting of the EUs Standing Veterinary Committee on August 1 that sheep and goat offal be banned in consumer products and animal feed as a precaution.

Speaking in Brussels yesterday, Douglas Hogg, the Agriculture Minister also slapped down suggestions of a risk from lamb. He said: "I believe lamb throughout Europe is wholly safe." He said the possibility of transmitting BSE to sheep had been achieved "with fairly considerable difficulty". The confusion yesterday over sheep and BSE was reminiscent of the chaos that reigned when the worldwide ban on UK beef and beef products was first announced by Brussels at the end of March.

First, Mr Fischler announced that the ban had been agreed. Then, following protests from fellow Commissioners, including Sir Leon Brittan and Neil Kinnock that they had not been consulted, he claimed he had not announced it. The ban was confirmed the next day.


Britain plans new rules for meat houses

7.25.96 ... Associated Press

LONDON -- Seeking to head off another food scare, Britain has proposed new slaughterhouse rules to stop the heads of slaughtered sheep and goats from entering the food chain. But Agriculture Minister Douglas Hogg said the risk of mad cow disease, scientifically known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, being transmitted to sheep and goats was merely theoretical.

''These steps are being taken out of abundance of caution. There is no direct threat to human health,'' Hogg told Parliament on Wednesday. ''With the exception of the consumption of brains, there is absolutely no reason for anybody to change their eating habits.''

European Union Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler announced plans Monday to ban most sheep and goat offal, including spinal cords, from consumer products and animal feed as a precaution. The proposal will be debated Aug. 1 at a meeting of EU veterinarians.

In Britain, the ban on sheep's brains would affect mainly the Muslim community, London's Daily Telegraph reported. Butchers also said spinal cord may be contained in some generally popular cuts, such as saddle and neck, although typically it is removed before sale. Under the EU plan removal would be compulsory.