Denmark: Mad Cow : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread


Tue Jan 9, 12:44 pm

Denmark - Mad Cow

Mad cow disease is becoming an all-too-familiar phrase around the globe again. Another case of the deadly brain wasting disorder has been detected -- this time in Denmark. This marks the third such case in the country in a decade, and adds to the growing concern over beef products. Many European countries have banned beef imports altogether due to fears of human consumption of contaminated meat. More than 80 people in England have died from the human variant of the disease and there have been at least two deaths linked to it in France. Many countries, including the U.S. and Canada, have banned blood donations from anyone who lived in England during the height of the epidemic there in the 1980s.

-- Rachel Gibson (, January 09, 2001


This worry's me greatly! I hope it won't spread to outside Europe, but considering how the Britians obscufacted the issues for so long no one is sure of what is the real cause and preventions. I'm sure we have it on this side of the pond, we sadly just don't know it yet. Welcome to the next epidemic.

-- (, January 09, 2001.

The scary part about this CKJ desease in humans is that it may take decades for an infected individual to show symptoms. Imagine the effect that this could have on the blood supply and organ donation. An infected person who is showing no symptoms would be able to donated blood, etc. This could spread this desease to many more people who never ate tainted beef. The effects could be devastating all over the world.

-- K (, January 10, 2001.

perry and K,

Look at the discussion of the use of bonemeal in the following article. While I was growing up on a farm, we never fed animal products to other farm animals! What worries me, though, is that for the past three years I've been putting bonemeal on the tulips, both as a fertilizer and as a rabbit repellant. The tulips are not located all that far away from the garden vegetables I grow for human consumption. Yikes!

Ottawa Citizen

Keeping mad cow disease at bay

Government, critics at odds whether risk is growing

Mark Kennedy The Ottawa Citizen

Canada might not be immune to the frightening spread of mad cow disease engulfing Europe, say scientists and health experts.

And while federal government officials insist consumers have no reason to fear that Canadian cattle are infected with the brain-wasting disease, which can skip the species barrier and also infect humans, critics say those regulators aren't taking the safety threat seriously enough.

Food-safety regulators say Canada hasn't imported a British cow since 1990 and has never imported from the United Kingdom or Europe the meat and bone meal supplements that are believed to have originally caused the disease when they were mixed with cattle feed. But critics aren't satisfied with those assurances.

The developments come as European governments find themselves in a full-blown political and public-health crisis. It has become clear that mad cow disease, the common name for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), was not confined to the UK, where it was first detected in 1986.

Agricultural officials in other European countries have found the disease in their herds, most recently in Spain and Germany. Both countries were, at one time, declared BSE-free zones.

The spread of the disease has experts worried there could be increased numbers of humans who, after having eaten the infected beef, contract the human form of the fatal ailment, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD). So far, 87 cases of vCJD have been confirmed in the United Kingdom, three others in France and one in Ireland.

The World Health Organization is so concerned that it is planning a major international conference for late spring to discuss the potential extent of the problem -- some experts say the worst may be over, while others believe it could mushroom into a worldwide epidemic -- and how to contain its consequences.

Among those organizing the conference is Dr. Maura Ricketts, a Canadian who is on a leave of absence from the federal government at the UN agency in Geneva.

"What the WHO wants is for countries themselves to look very carefully at what they imported and ask themselves if there's any chance that they imported contaminated materials," she said in a telephone interview from Geneva.

"This is a question that every country in the world should be asking themselves because these are the countries that could create a situation where BSE could be introduced into the country and then recycled with any bovine population in a country.

"I think this is a disaster if it happens. I don't have to think it. It's clearly a disaster if it happens. You just have to ask the German government these days what it feels like to find your first case of BSE."

Experts believe that mad cow disease spread to other European countries -- despite a 1996 ban on British beef -- because those nations continued to import certain contaminated byproducts of the beef.

Known as meat and bone meal, the protein-rich tissues of cows were ground into sawdust-like products that were added to animal feed. It was not supposed to be fed to cows but was permitted for use in feed destined for animals such as poultry and pigs. However, it's now obvious that cattle feeds in some European nations were "cross-contaminated" with the meat and bone meal. (Last week, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration report cited hundreds of instances where companies that produce feed in the U.S. failed to follow rules designed to prevent similar cross-contamination.)

Dr. Ricketts said the WHO is concerned that an unknown quantity of British meat and bone meal was exported throughout the world in the 1990s. In some cases, it was apparently repackaged in Europe before being exported, meaning the countries of destination would not be aware of the type of material they were receiving.

"I would love to know where all these tissues went," said Dr. Ricketts. "I would love to know how they were repackaged and redistributed." But she described the task as a "very large challenge" because it's difficult to track the shipments.

She said she did not know whether Canada received the meat and bone meal and declined to comment on the potential risks that BSE-infected beef already exists here. (It can take four to seven years for a cow, once infected, to show symptoms).

However, last summer the European Commission released a report prepared by a panel of scientists saying that while it's unlikely the disease has reached Canada, the possibility cannot be ruled out.

The report notes that before 1992, "the Canadian system was extremely unstable." Among the risks: The surveillance for BSE-infected cows was "inappropriate" and meat and bone meal was fed to cattle. It wasn't until 1997 that a ban was placed on the feeding of bovine meat and bone meal to other cattle.

"As a result of the importation and subsequent (time-delayed) processing of some UK-cattle, BSE infectivity could have entered the Canadian system. Imports of MBM (meat and bone meal) could have added to this challenge and remain a certain (low-level) external challenge."

The report concludes that "a low-level domestic prevalence (of BSE-infected cattle) cannot therefore be fully excluded to exist since the early '90s."

In Ottawa, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency believes the report is flawed and has filed a formal complaint with the EC.

Dr. Claude Lavigne, an expert in mad cow disease at CFIA, says it unfairly depicts the true nature of the risk in Canada.

"We feel that this report is wrong, that we are completely free. The risk of transmission in a country where the disease doesn't exist is zero. And that's our situation."

Dr. Lavigne says the real picture is this:

British beef imports have been banned in Canada since 1990. Three years later, it was discovered that one British cow imported before the ban was sick with BSE. It was destroyed, as was its herd.

In 1997, a ban was placed on feeding bone meal to Canadian cows, although it was allowed for other animals such as poultry and pigs.

Ever since, he says, officials have kept a close watch for the emergence of BSE-infected cows. Every time one has shown symptoms of possible infection, its brains have been examined for telltale signs.

"We've done thousands of these animals, and we haven't found one. I mean, I'm not saying we're not going to find one next year. There's no guarantees that we won't have it one day, but right now we're confident that we don't have it."

Moreover, Dr. Lavigne says Canada has never imported meat and bone meal from outside Canada and the U.S. -- even before the 1997 ban. He says Canada either used domestic products or bought products from manufacturers in the U.S., which also had a policy of not importing from outside North America.

When asked how Canada can be so sure that none of those U.S. imports had their origins in the UK or Europe, he said: "What we have is the word of the U.S. government. There's no reason to doubt that."

But Mike McBane of the Canadian Health Coalition says he has little confidence in Dr. Lavigne's assurances.

"Show me the paperwork," said Mr. McBane. His Ottawa-based public-interest lobby group has long maintained the food inspection agency is far too protective of the food industry. He says he fears that Canada is repeating the same errors as Britain.

"One of the important lessons that citizens learned from the mad cow disaster in Europe is that government and industry scientists lied to the public consistently for years about the human health risks. They learned in Europe that you have to work hard to find the trouble. Our food regulator is working hard to cover up trouble."

Mr. McBane said Canada isn't taking the threat of mad cow disease seriously enough and should, for example, immediately follow the lead of European countries, which in December banned meat and bone meal for all animals, not just cows. Until that happens, he says, Canada will be immersed in a dangerous "risk management" procedure in which "Canadian consumers are treated as guinea pigs."

"Until they fall over and die, there's no demonstrated risk. That's the current operational policy."

But Dr. Lavigne strongly denies his agency is too close to the industry. "Our first responsibility ... is to protect the public. Certainly, if in doing so it helps industry be able to market their products, so be it. But our primary concern is the consumer."

Dr. Lavigne says Canada has no plans to ban meat and bone meal in feeds for animals such as poultry. And he denied suggestions that current Canadian regulations -- which allow the use of cow-based blood, milk and gelatin -- create a dangerous safety loophole.

"Our policies are based on science. ... Science can evolve and change. But we're trying here not to be ridiculous in overkilling when the scientists are telling us that these products are not dangerous."

-- Rachel Gibson (, January 14, 2001.

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