- FRANKFURT, Germany (Reuters
Health) - The latest "mad cow disease" scare here got a boost
over the weekend after reports that the McDonald's fast food restaurant
chain in Germany had pulled beef from circulation.
- Matthias Baumgarten, spokesman for McDonald's Germany,
told Reuters Health that the company pulled the beef after learning that
the shipment had not been properly tested for bovine spongiform
(BSE), commonly known as mad cow disease.
- The beef shipment had been tested in the state of
at a private laboratory, which later was found to have conducted tests
improperly. Baumgarten said that McDonald's pulled the beef from its
system immediately upon learning it had been tested by the suspect
- None of the beef had been sold to customers. But until
company officials had determined that the suspect beef was still contained
safely in storage, at least a dozen of McDonald's 1,200 restaurants in
Germany on Friday quit selling Big Macs and other hamburger products for
- Eating meat contaminated with BSE is believed to cause
a human form of the brain wasting illness, which is known as variant
- The latest mad cow scare in Germany started in January
when the German Agriculture Ministry acknowledged some 40,000 beef
may have been improperly tested by an unauthorised laboratory in Bavaria.
Early in February BSE testing started to turn into a scandal when news
broke that a private lab in Rhineland-Palatinate also was not conducting
- That was followed a few days later by news of the
- In the German federal system, states are responsible
for carrying out the BSE tests. But the Federal Agriculture Ministry last
week issued strict guidelines on testing procedures.
- Richard Hilmer, head of polling firm Infratest dimap,
told Reuters Health that an NFO-Infratest poll taken last week before the
McDonald's news broke indicated that 20% of Germans were either worried
or very worried about the chances of eating BSE-tainted beef. The poll,
taken for the German news magazine Der Spiegel, indicated that 36% of
were "not so worried" about BSE-tainted beef and 42% were not
worried at all.
- Hilmer said that concern in Germany about BSE had almost
disappeared in January compared with early 2001. At that time, a poll that
asked people what they considered the two biggest problems facing the
government found that 33% of Germans considered BSE a major problem, second
only to unemployment.
- In January of this year, before the improper BSE-testing
was known, less than 1% of those polled mentioned BSE, he said.
- While a fourth person in France last week is believed
to have died of vCJD, Hilmer said that Germany has not yet had a human
case. He believes this is one reason for the relatively low levels of
- "But if we get a human case in Germany, the
will change quite severely," he said.
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