- ROME (Reuters) - Italy's
government and the beef industry were at pains Wednesday to keep consumers
from panicking over the discovery of the country's first suspected case
of vCJD, the human form of mad cow disease.
- Health and agriculture officials confirmed that the
victim of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) was a 25-year old woman
in hospital in Sicily, but they assured the public there was nothing to
fear from beef today.
- "Consumers can have confidence and buy beef,"
Health Minister Girolamo Sirchia told reporters. "Now meat is safe.
Today's case is scary but it is a fear that refers to the past and that
we don't need to have anymore."
- The patient is a student who fell ill 10 months ago.
She may be flown to London for specialist treatment, newspapers
- Italy has identified 53 cases of mad cow disease --
spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) -- since it discovered its first native
case in January 2001. The disease vCJD is the human variant of mad cow
- The discovery of a possible case of vCJD had
across Europe. In Strasbourg, the European Parliament demanded new powers
for the European Union to help protect consumers from contaminated
- "I think we should take warning from the new case
in Italy and try to convince member countries to implement EU legislation
as soon as possible," Swedish liberal Karl Erik Olsson, author of
the non-binding resolution, told Reuters.
- Olsson said the long-planned vote was not prompted by
the suspected Italian case but the news had highlighted the problem.
- In Italy, the Association of Meat Producers tried to
assure consumers that regulations had been adopted. Luigi Scordamalia,
the group's secretary general, said: "Our meat has never been as safe
as it is today."
- "There may be some initial concern, but consumers
will realize that all of the norms that have been adopted guarantee the
safety of our meat," he said.
- News of Italy's first reported case of vCJD dominated
headlines, giving the beef industry unwelcome bad publicity just as it
was getting over the shock of the discovery of BSE in Italian herds last
- "There could be a drop in sales today, tomorrow,
the day after tomorrow, but there shouldn't be any structural impact
consumers will realize it's safe," Scordamalia said.
- British scientists discovered BSE in 1986 and linked
the disease a decade later to vCJD.
- In Europe, vCJD has killed about 100 people, almost all
in Britain. It is thought that the disease is contracted by eating meat
tainted by BSE and has an incubation period of six to eight years.
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