- LOUGHREA, Ireland - Noel
Garner, a farmer raising cattle in the verdant hills of western Ireland,
was stunned when BSE disease struck his small herd a couple months ago.
An even bigger shock came a few days later, when the carcass he had buried
at the edge of a pasture showed up back on his doorstep. Neighbors had
driven a mechanized digger to the grave, unearthed the cow and carted it
back to Garner's place in an old oil barrel. They were afraid that diseased
particles would seep into their water supply, said Gus Egan, who runs the
livestock mart in Loughrea, County Galway. "The people were right,"
he said. "I'd do the same thing."
- The case highlights the problem facing European countries
as they initiate mass slaughters to stop BSE and revive collapsed markets:
what to do with the bodies?
- The "purchase for destruction" program launched
by the 15-nation European Union this month foresees buying and incinerating
up to 2 million head of cattle by the end of June, at an estimated cost
to governments of $1 billion. But implementation has been stymied in places
by logistics as well as ethical concerns about sending so much prime beef
up in smoke. "It's an awful shame and a disgrace," Egan says,
echoing a sentiment heard across Europe. "With all the people starving
all over the world, to destroy perfectly good meat ..."
- New evidence that mad cow disease had spread from Britain
to continental herds prompted EU leaders last month to adopt mandatory
testing for cattle over 30 months. Any animal that isn't confirmed free
of BSE can't go to market.
- Germany, which started testing 3 weeks early, has found
only 16 cases out of more than 112 000 tests conducted. Belgium found
2 in 7550 tests. Ireland has had more cases -- almost 600 since 1987 --
than any country outside Britain. But of 17 500 tests so far this month,
not one revealed BSE, according to Irish Agriculture Minister Joe Walsh.
- Yet the wide-scale testing has led to isolated discoveries
of BSE in places that had considered themselves pristine, including an
Italian slaughterhouse that supplies McDonald's. Thus, a measure meant
to reassure Europeans has actually heightened fears of eating infected
meat and contracting the fatal, brain-wasting, new variant Creutzfeldt-
Jakob disease. Beef sales have tumbled by 27 percent across the EU --
and as much as 50 percent in some countries. Many non-EU countries have
suspended imports altogether. Because sales are down, vast numbers of
healthy cattle must be slaughtered just to prevent oversupply.
- Ireland, a country with twice as many cows as people,
usually exports 90 percent of the 550 000 tons of beef it produces annually
to countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states -- all
of which have enacted temporary bans.
- "Farmers have to regularly bring their old cows
that are ready for slaughter to the slaughterhouse, but right now no one
is buying them," Franz Fischler, the EU agriculture commissioner,
explained in an interview with the German weekly Die Zeit.
- Yet the sheer numbers are making even slaughter and disposal
difficult. Lacking enough abattoirs and incinerators, authorities in Portugal's
Azores Islands on Monday postponed the slaughter of some 5000 cattle.
They plan to send some of the doomed cattle to the Portuguese mainland.
- Ireland has only a handful of small, private incinerators
that handle hospital and pharmaceutical waste. Since 1997, Irish slaughterhouses
had been shipping the potentially infectious animal parts -- brain, spinal
cord and parts of the intestines -- to the only plant in the country licensed
to deal with it: Monery By-Products in County Cavan. The plant turns the
material into powdery meal and liquid tallow. Until last month these were
shipped to Germany for incineration. But now EU rules require the entire
intestine to be treated as "specified risk material," trebling
the weight of material Monery has to process. The plant, which is licensed
to handle 1000 tons a week, had to stop accepting shipments last week because
of backlogs. Officials made emergency arrangements to blast-freeze and
store the guts until Monery can catch up.
- Meanwhile, the thousands of carcasses slaughtered under
"purchase for destruction" are also waiting to be processed.
In the first week, Ireland slaughtered 4000 cattle under the scheme, and
expects to cull 300 000 of its national herd of 7.5 million. Currently
they are being frozen until they can be rendered into meal. That will then
have to be warehoused until an incinerator is built -- something that could
take years given traditional opposition from environmental groups and neighbors.
Walsh, the Irish agriculture minister, predicts the 50 000 tons of meal
in storage will swell to 200 000 tons in 6 months. And the cost to Irish
taxpayers -- not counting building an incinerator -- will likely approach
$170 million, he said. _____
- France Reports Four New Mad Cow Cases 1-25-01
- PARIS (Reuters) - France reported 4 new cases of mad
cow disease on Monday, including the first detected under a new testing
scheme for all cattle aged over 30 months that are destined for the food
- The first case unveiled by the testing programme, which
the government launched earlier this month to calm consumer fears about
the fatal, brain-wasting illness, involved an animal born in 1995 in the
Ain region of eastern France. Since the new system began on 2 Jan, laboratories
have conducted more than 71 000 tests. The new findings brought to 10 the
total number of cases of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy
(BSE), found this year in France. A total of 162 cases were found in 2000.
Concern over the disease, which scientists believe can be passed to humans
via infected meat products, sparked consumer panic last year in France.
The government then banned meat and bone meal in animal feed, took T-bone
steaks off menus and instituted health tests for cattle. _____
- Two New Cases Of Mad Cow In Spain 1-25-01
- MADRID - (Agencia EFE via COMTEX) In Northern Spain,
2 new suspected cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) -- commonly
known as Mad Cow Disease -- were detected, Navarra regional Agriculture
and Livestock advisor Ignacio Martinez Alfaro said Monday. Post-mortem
testing on 2 Pyrenean cows slaughtered in the town of Orcoyen "almost
certainly" proved that the animals were affected with BSE, he said.
The cattle -- two cows aged 6 and 7 [years] -- came from farms in northern
Navarra. The initial test results will have to be confirmed by the official
national regulating laboratory, he noted.
- Martinez Alvaro said the cases concern a native Navarra
cattle breed. He emphasized that if these cases, which if verified would
raise the number of confirmed BSE cases in Spain to 9, were detected, it
is because "the controls are working."
- The final results on the 2 [prior] suspected cases in
Castilla-Leon and Cantabria will be released Wednesday. The Cantabria
case has triggered controversy in the beef sector since the affected animal
was [only] just over 2 years old. National BSE laboratory director Juan
Jose Badiola said Monday that it was not "convenient" for the
time being to reduce the age of required testing for cattle in Spain from
30 months. Badiola noted that since the affected animal came from France
and arrived in Spain shortly before the ban on French cattle imports went
into effect, from the point of view of prevention the case "doesn't
belong to Spain: we presume she was infected when she was a calf."
- FDA Advisers Urge 'Mad Cow' Rules for Tissue Donors 1-25-01
- BETHESDA, MD (Reuters) - A slight majority of advisers
to the US Food and Drug Administration (news - web sites) (FDA) on Friday
urged the agency to come up with rules to describe whether, or when, people
exposed to "mad cow'' disease could donate bodily tissues. "Our
marginal, but definitive decision is that the FDA should have deferral
criteria," said Paul Brown, chairman of the Transmissible Spongiform
Encephalopathy Advisory Committee, and an expert on bovine spongiform encephalopathy
(BSE) disease from the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and
Strokes. But the committee did not make any more specific recommendations,
saying it did not have enough data.
- The concern is that someone who had eaten beef contaminated
with BSE might harbor the human form of mad cow disease, called variant
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and transmit it through donated tissues such
as skin or corneas. The panel was not asked to consider organ donation.
- It is possible that variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
(vCJD) can be passed through blood. But so far, there have been no documented
cases of a tissue recipient contracting vCJD. "Clearly, the committee
is at a loss because we simply don't know," said Brown, adding, "the
question is whether the FDA wants to get involved in anything with so little
- The agency usually follows its panels' recommendations.
Some physicians on the panel suggested that transplant surgeons could
discuss the tissue's origin with the patient. For instance, if it is known,
the surgeon could disclose that a cornea donor had lived in the United
Kingdom -- a high-risk area for exposure to BSE.
- The committee also discussed requiring testing of deceased
donors' brain tissue for evidence of vCJD when they are being considered
for tissue donation. But an FDA official pointed out that there is no
vCJD test approved by the agency. When that test, in development, is approved,
the agency would consider requiring it to be used, said Jay Epstein, director
of FDA's Office of Blood Research and Review.
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