- ROME (Reuters) - The United
Nations warned the international community on Friday to act now to reduce
the risk of mad cow disease, already widespread in European Union states.
- "The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
has urged countries around the world, not just those in Western Europe,
to be concerned about the risk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)
and its human form, the new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD),"
the Rome-based FAO said in a statement.
- "All countries which have imported cattle or meat
and bone meal (MBM) from Western Europe, especially Britain, during and
since the 1980s can be considered at risk from the disease," the U.N.'s
Rome-based food body said
- So far Switzerland is the only nation outside the 15-nation
bloc to report the appearance of BSE, FAO officials said. Several EU member
states have reported cases.
- Many scientists believe humans may contract an equivalent
form of the brain-wasting disease, vCJD, through eating infected beef.
More than 80 people in Britain and three in France have so far died of
- The FAO, best known for its drive to reduce world hunger,
wants states with big dairy industries, and which imported large quantities
of MBM from countries hit by BSE, to consider banning the use of MBM in
- PRECAUTIONARY APPROACH
- "As an immediate measure, countries which have imported
animals and MBM from BSE-infected trading partners should consider a precautionary
ban on the feeding of MBM to ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats) or, to reduce
the risk of infection even further, to all animals," the statement
- The EU has banned the use of MBM in animal feed for six
months until June 30. Many scientists believe the use of MBM in cattle
feed spreads BSE.
- The Middle East, eastern Europe, North Africa and India
have the highest risk among countries outside Western Europe of harbouring
mad cow disease, the FAO experts said.
- Foreign experts said the risk of mad cow disease in the
Asia-Pacific region was remote despite data showing some countries bought
potentially infected animal feed from Britain at the height of the UK epidemic.
- "I'd call it a highly remote possibility as the
amounts we are talking about are small and they were more likely to have
been fed to chickens or hogs rather than cattle," one foreign beef
expert, who preferred not to be identified, told Reuters in Singapore.
- Ahmed Sidahmed, technical adviser with the U.N. International
Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in Rome, said he doubted many
BSE cases would emerge in developing states as farmers tended to feed cattle
on grass rather than MBM.
- "If animals are grazing, I don't think the BSE risk
is that high," he told Reuters.
- However, he said that FAO's warning would encourage countries
outside the EU to pursue farming practices in tune with nature to reduce
and prevent the risk of BSE.
- Interviewed on Thursday, FAO experts encouraged countries
to consider testing older cattle for BSE and banning the use of Specified
Risk Materials (SRMs), such as cattle's eyes, spinal cords and brain tissue,
if they identified BSE risks.
- Under tough new EU rules, all cattle aged over 30 months
must be tested for BSE. The practice has already proved effective in uncovering
cases of the disease.
- Germany said on Friday it planned to reduce the age limit
for BSE tests in cattle to 24 months from 30.
- Germany registered 20 cases of mad cow disease since
November, with the latest one found in the state of Schleswig-Holstein
late on Thursday.
- The FAO said it was working with the U.N. World Health
Organisation to draw up guidelines for safe feeding of livestock.
- "FAO, together with the World Health Organisation
... will hold an expert consultation in the near future to draw up advice
for countries, particularly developing countries, to protect their people
from vCJD, their livestock from BSE, and their industries from trade restrictions,"
the statement said.
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