Germany Finds Another
Suspected Mad Cow
By Erik Kirschbaum
BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany says it has found another case of suspected mad cow disease -- raising the total number of suspected or confirmed cases to nine.
The Agriculture Ministry in the northern state of Lower Saxony said on Sunday that a cow slaughtered near Osnabrueck the previous day had been acting bizarrely and was believed to be infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
Germany had until last month insisted it was immune to BSE, so the arrival of the disease has sent shock waves across the meat- and sausage-loving country, decimating sales of beef and other meat products and rattling consumer confidence.
Meat infected with the brain-wasting BSE can trigger the fatal new variant Creutzfeldt- Jakob Disease (vCJD) in humans.
Police sealed off the farm near Osnabrueck, which has about 300 cows. Five BSE cases have been confirmed so far and four are now suspected, pending tests -- still a pale shadow of the crisis in Britain, where 180,000 cattle have contracted BSE since 1986, and 87 cases of vCJD have been reported in humans.
Facing growing public resentment over their handling of the crisis, German leaders have criticised the European Commission in Brussels. But the Commission has pointed out that Germany long thwarted more aggressive anti-BSE measures because it believed its livestock was free of the disease.
EU Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler said on Saturday that Berlin had hampered efforts to address the spread of mad cow disease with lame excuses and confusion over responsibilities.
He said Germany had not made the EU's work any easier "by trying, as usual, to assign the blame elsewhere".
The Commission told Germany three months ago that its inspectors had found traces of animal-based feeds -- banned since 1994 on suspicion of transmitting BSE -- in three- quarters of the feed samples taken, according to a confidential EU report obtained by the daily Die Welt.
However, no action was taken until after BSE was detected in Germany last month.
Deputy farm minister Martin Wille dismissed Fischler's charges and said German government officials had co-operated quickly and efficiently with the Commission -- which he accused of delaying follow-up information that Germany had requested.
"It is odd that the European Commission, despite repeated queries, delayed releasing the report for many weeks and thus left German authorities in the dark," Wille said.

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