- PARIS (Reuters) - Two herds
totalling 83 heads of cattle were destroyed in France after the discovery
of a new case of mad cow disease, the farm ministry said on Monday.
- The new case brought to 18 the number of cases of the
fatal brain-wasting illness, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy
(BSE), reported in France this year.
- The ministry said in a statement the infected animal
was a dairy cow born in the Loire Atlantique region of northwest France
in May 1995. The animal was destroyed, in accordance with French laws,
as were 43 cattle from the herd into which it was born and 40 cattle from
a second herd that the animal had contact with.
- Experts fear that France is on track this year to exceed
the 30 cases of BSE reported in 1999. A total of 98 cases of the disease
have been reported in France since the epidemic was first detected in 1991.
The French government is locked in a legal battle with the European Commission
over its refusal to lift a ban on imports of British beef because of fears
it is not entirely free from BSE.
- Britain has reported more than 176,000 cases of BSE,
making the French epidemic look small by comparison. But while the number
of BSE cases in Britain is falling, the French outbreak is still growing
despite measures introduced almost a decade ago to combat the spread of
BSE through contaminated animal feed.
- France introduced tougher controls on cattle feed in
1996 and had originally predicted that BSE cases would taper off in 2001,
given that the disease has a five-year incubation period. But it has recently
stopped forecasting when it expects the epidemic to die out.
- The farm ministry reiterated that it was exploring all
avenues of contamination, including ways other than those already recognised--transmission
from mother to calf or via contaminated animal feed. France is slated to
begin testing as many as 50,000 cattle this year for BSE, and experts caution
that the testing programme may turn up many more cases of the disease.
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