Mad Cow Butter In Germany?

BERLIN (Reuters Health) - The German health ministry has admitted that butter allegedly bought cheap from Mafia-run sources in Italy and being sold in Germany could theoretically contain the proteins that are thought to cause the human form of "mad cow" disease.
The butter, which is contaminated with large amounts of beef fat, was imported on a large scale from southern Italian Mafia-run dairies, the German magazine "Focus Money" reports in its latest edition.
The magazine says that one German dairy imported nearly 200 tons of the butter from the Italian firm Italburro, which, it says, is linked to the Camorra organization from Naples.
The magazine claims it has seen investigation documents from the Italian authorities that show that the German dairy Bayernland imported 188 tons of butter from Italburro between 1998 and 1999.
"The Bavarians also brought in a further 171 tons of dubious goods via a dealer who, say investigators, was completely and knowingly involved in Mafia business," a spokesman for the magazine said in a statement.
He added that a laboratory analysis conducted on order of Bayernland, and seen by the magazine, showed in spring 1999 that the butter sample contained a foreign fat component of 35% to 40%. The contaminating fat was probably suet, a hard fatty tissue that surrounds the kidneys in cattle and sheep.
The Italian authorities say that the company accepted the shipment despite this, according to the magazine's research. Bayernland denies this.
The German authorities have admitted for the first time, the magazine states, that adulterated butter was brought into the country.
"German companies have obtained adulterated butter from Italy in various different time scales until spring 1999," the Federal Ministry for Consumer Protection, Nutrition and Agriculture told the magazine.
The ministry spokeswoman, Ursula Horzetzky, could not rule out "the risk of the transmission of BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as "mad cow" disease) pathogens via the unlawful use of fats from slaughter waste in foodstuffs."
She told Reuters Health that the German government had repeatedly asked the European Commission and EU member states, but had not received files about the composition of the butter.
She said, "We therefore have to rely only on what the Commission has said, which is that there is no immediate threat to health from the adulterated butter," adding that the case had again shown the need for steps to be taken against fraudulent wheeling and dealing of foodstuffs.

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