- PARIS (AFP) - There was growing
unease in France Monday about the risks of mad cow disease after the revelation
that a thousand tonnes of potentially contaminated meat had been put on
the market earlier his month.
- The news coincided with the announcement of more cases
of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in the French herd, confirming
a sharp upward trend detected since the start of the year.
- The latest case was discovered in a herd of cattle in
the Loire department and brought to 73 the number of affected animals found
since January -- almost the same figure as for the entire period since
the disease first appeared in 1991.
- The public was also sharply reminded of the continuing
dangers of the disease -- and its human version Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease
-- by a decision two weeks ago to ban the use of bovine intestines in sausage
production because of fears they could carry the infection.
- And last week it was reported that fraud inspectors were
continuing to tolerate very low levels of banned animal meal -- considered
the most probable vector for the disease -- within foodstuffs given to
- The supermarket chain Carrefour was operating a telephone
hotline Monday to reassure anxious customers who bought the high-risk beef
from 39 of its stores mainly in northern France.
- The company said it would be a civil plaintiff in the
criminal prosecution being launched against cattle-dealer Claude Demeulenaere
who is suspected of trying to hide a cow with BSE within a healthy herd
which he was sending to slaughter.
- Veterinary officials at the abattoir in Normandy, western
France, spotted the sick animal, which was separated from the rest of the
cattle, but it was then revealed that 13 other animals from the cow's original
herd had already been sold to Carrefour.
- In France, all cattle from a stricken cow's herd are
automatically slaughtered because of fears they could also be infected.
- Over the week-end Carrefour withdrew all meat recently
produced by the abattoir from supermarket shelves and issued an urgent
appeal for customers to return meat already bought.
- Veterinary officials sought to calm the public Monday,
pointing out that none of the other animals from the herd showed symptoms
of BSE, and that officials at the abattoir had shown their effectiveness
by spotting the sick cow.
- But Jeanne Brugere-Picoux, cattle specialist at the Alfort
Veterinary School in Paris, said that fraud and the difficulty of diagnosing
BSE meant that inevitably some infected cattle were entering the food-chain.
- "If a farmer is so minded, and he's quick enough,
then if he spots the very first signs of BSE, he can send it to the abattoir
without anyone noticing," she said.
- She called for spot checks at slaughter-houses to discourage
- No test yet exists for analysing live beasts for BSE,
but since June France has put into place a nationwide detection programme
on so-called "fallen stock" -- animals which die in accidents
or which are slaughtered after showing unusual symptoms.
- The test programme, which will eventually cover 48,000
animals, has so far detected 25 new cases, which partly explains the big
increase registered nationally this year.
- Brugere-Picoux said she was untroubled by the sharp rise.
"It was totally predictable. As soon as you put in place a pro-active
surveillance plan, you will find more cases.
- "France is discovering more infected animals because
it has had the courage to look. If other countries did the same, there
would be some surprises," she said.
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