Europe: Mad Cow Crisis Reaching "Alarming" Proportions

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CBC

Tue Jan 30, 7:05 am

Mad cow crisis reaches 'alarming' proportions in Europe

While the potential human cost of mad cow disease is well known, the European Union's top agricultural minister said on Monday the crisis has reached proportions that threaten the farming sector across the union.

With demand for beef falling 27 per cent across the continent since October, stockpiles of beef are growing into mountains. And all that surplus meat has to be stored at the expense of the bloc's $37 billion US annual budget.

"The crisis on the beef market goes further than one might think. The latest market indications are alarming," EU Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler told the meeting of farm ministers in Brussels.

"Within the budget, we have no room for manoeuvre."

The continent has been in the grip of fears over the disease and its devastating human variant since last fall, when contaminated meat was accidentally sold in a French supermarket.

About 80 people have died in Britain of new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Another two have died in France.

After seeing the devastating effects of the brain-wasting disorder Ė and after cows were diagnosed with mad cow disease in several continental countries Ė people stopped buying beef.

The cost of storing the meat could gouge the budget for $6 billion a year.

The European Commission has asked farmers to sell all their animals older than 30 months for immediate destruction. It had already ordered tests for bovine spongiform encephalopathy on all animals older than 30 months and banned feed made with animal parts.

The purchase for destruction scheme could cost $4 billion this year alone as up to two million cattle might be destroyed.

The ministers have also agreed to ban cuts of meat that contain parts of the spine, including t-bone and rib-eye steaks Ė over the objections of Spain and Italy.

The economic effects of the measures could be felt for years to come. They will likely force the EU to go far beyond its planned agricultural budget.

And they may cause the European agriculture sector to rethink its practices of intensive industrial farming.

Meetings were also held in Washington, London and Berlin on Monday, as governments around the world try to find new strategies to deal with rising consumer fears and a collapsing beef market.

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), January 30, 2001

Answers

Canoe

Monday, January 29, 2001

Mad cow candy scare

NEW YORK (AP) -- City health officials are investigating sales of a candy that was pulled from stores in Poland because one of its ingredients may have been made from beef in a country that has had an outbreak of mad cow disease.

The distributor of the Mamba fruit chew, made in Germany, insists it poses no health risks even though it contains a beef-based gelatin. The company, Storck U.S.A., said it had no plans to change the ingredients of the Mamba sold in the United States.

"The product is safe," Storck vice president Tony Nelson said from the company's Chicago office. The company said German health officials have certified its beef gelatin as properly prepared for human consumption.

There was no immediate indication whether Mamba is sold elsewhere in the United States.

The candy, which comes 18 pieces to a 75-cent pack in lemon, orange, raspberry and strawberry flavors, is sold throughout the city, the Daily News reported Tuesday.

"Obviously, we will look into it," city Health Department spokeswoman Sandra Mullin said. "People should not panic. We have not had animal or human cases of mad cow disease in New York or in the United States."

The candy is marketed in 80 countries by the Storck Co., of Werther, Germany.

Germany discovered its first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, late last year in a cow. At least 18 others have been infected.

Storck recalled the candy in Poland last week after health officials there banned beef products from countries with confirmed cases of mad cow disease.

The company said it would eliminate the gelatin only from Mamba distributed in Poland.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not received any alerts about the candy, the News said, quoting a spokeswoman as saying: "Just because it's a bovine source doesn't necessarily mean there's a problem."

BSE is believed to be spread through livestock feed made from infected animals.

As a precaution, the U.S. government has banned cows and sheep from being given feed made from animal parts.

The human version of the disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob, has killed some 80 Europeans since the mid-1990s, mostly in Britain. The disease first appeared in 1984 in a cow in Britain thought to have eaten feed that included offal from sheep that harbored scrapie, a similar illness.

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), January 30, 2001.


There are so many products made from the by-products of the slaughter industry that it is almost impossible to avoid them. For instance, many of the low-fat yogurts contain gelatin from the waste of cows, etc. You also have the rennet in cheese (cow's stomach and intestines). Many of the food fed to our pets and other food animals (such as rabbits, chickens, etc.) contain these products. Even wild bird seed contains suet.

This is an epidemic in the making of epic proportions.

-- K (infosurf@yahoo.com), January 30, 2001.


Yes, K, and don't forget vaccines....

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), January 30, 2001.

You know in reading the book of Revelation, one of the things I gleaned is that people were preoccupied with fear. To a country and generation who has grown accustomed to their comfort, It looks like we are now being conditioned to be fearful, I wonder what He is up to?

-- Phil Maley (maley@cnw.com), January 30, 2001.

I guess this is an opportunity for me to add my two cents on bovine spongiform encephalopathy, nvCJD (the human version), and related diseases.

This is a horribly complex topic, but I can offer some URLs for web documents that may offer more information for truly interested readers:

1. Overview of BSE and nvCJD: article in Emerging Infectious Diseases, Jan-Feb 2001 issue:

http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/eid/vol7no1/brown.htm

This excellent new review article lists other interesting technical articles hotlinked in the References section (I especially recommend the first reference, an historical look at scrapie and other prion diseases going back to the year 1755, available more directly at:

http://bmj.com/cgi/content/full/317/7174/1688? view=full&pmid=9857129 )

2. And for another dense overview of the risk of BSE specifically in the U.S., see the following October 2000 document:

http://www.cast-science.org/pdf/tse.pdf

(45 pages, *.PDF format)

-------------------- 3. For a less technical overview specifically concerning CWD of cervids (ďchronic wasting disease,Ē a disease very similar to BSE, in deer and elk) in certain parts of the western U.S., see this 1998 article from a Wyoming wildlife magazine:

http://gf.state.wy.us/HTML/hunting/chronicwast.htm

4. Also this 1999 article from High Country News:

http://www.hcn.org/1999/sep27/dir/Western_Disease_is.html

5. And this factsheet with other links from Colorado state govít wildlife division:

http://wildlife.state.co.us/hunt/HunterEducation/chronic.htm

Hope this helps.

I donít have many answers (and Iím sorry but I just canít get into an extended on-line discussion) but my basic take on the situation is this:

Donít each brains and spinal cord. If you are a meat eater, eat muscle tissue that hasnít been contaminated with brains. And I personally donít even eat organ meats (liver and kidney for example), for other reasons of my own.

Do your best to eat food that is produced in a genuinely healthy manner, whether it is of animal or vegetable origin. Not always possible to do, but try your best.

Donít completely freak out over BSE. The risk to any one individual is non-zero but still extraordinarily small: even in Europe. I worry about lots of things in this world, but BSE is not what keeps me up at night. Sadly, people are dying and more will die, but this is not "the bug that will wipe out mankind"! (There is some reason to believe that nvCJD primarily affects people with a particular genetic variation...and even then it seems clear the disease is not easy to acquire).

For U.S. readers: It is true that the risk in the U.S. canít be said to be zero--absence of evidence isnít automatically evidence of absence--but the negative data to date suggest that _if_ we are not recognizing specific cases of BSE or even of human nvCJD in the U.S., they nonetheless must be extraordinarily rare here. This could change in the future, stay tuned, but weíre not there yet.

On a personal note, as a physician specializing in public health, U.S. resident, and omnivore who has traveled to Europe on many occasions: no matter where I am I intend to reduce my consumption of beef on the bone, and of hamburger, but will still eat some from time to time. In fact, I plan to have a big juicy burger at a restaurant for lunch today (but not McDonalds, thank you!). On the whole, though, I have an advantage in that I have begun hunting deer and can (yes legally) add three deer a year to my freezer, more if my wife takes up hunting too. All shot, hung, butchered, and cooked ourselves on our own land--but then again we live in the woods of Pennsylvania. Another reason to leave the cities! (This hunting season just ended, as a new, inexperienced hunter, I got two whitetail deer, almost got a third but "almost" doesn't count in hunting; best meat I ever ate, and with deer populations as high as they are in this country I fully expect to repeat the experience every year.)

Salud,

--Andre in southcentral Pennsylvania

-- Andre Weltman, M.D., M.Sc. (aweltman@state.pa.us), January 31, 2001.



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