Mad Cow Cases
Mounting In Portugal

The incidence of the cattle disease BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) in Portugal has continued to increase, the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Policy learned yesterday18 October.
The number of cases confirmed so far in 1999 is 128. The figure was 106 for the whole of 1998, rising from 30 (1997), 29 (1996), 14 (1995) and 12 (1994) when the problem first came to light.
The increase was revealed by the European Commission as the result of a question from the committee chairman Mrs Caroline JACKSON (EPP/ED, UK). The Commission representative also disclosed that Commission inspection missions had noted some shortcomings in measures adopted in Portugal for the eradication of BSE. In particular, up to now the removal and handling of specified risk materials had not been adequately implemented in all cases.
Mrs JACKSON was also alarmed that unusable Portuguese meat- and-bone meal intended for incineration at a specialist plant in Belgium could not be sent there because the plant in question had its hands full dealing with Belgium's dioxin-in-food crisis.
However, the Commission also pointed out that the Portuguese authorities had taken a wide range of national measures to cut effectively the circulation, through national food and feed chains, of the agent thought responsible for the BSE upswing. In response to other questions, the Commission said that Portugal was currently implementing properly the cooking pressure standards applicable to rendered animal waste.
Last November the EU adopted an embargo on the export of Portuguese cattle and beef - apart from fighting bulls - so as to prevent the entry of contaminated beef into the human food chain outside Portugal. The embargo is in force until next February. However, the Commission representative warned that the ban might be prolonged beyond that date should there be an unfavourable development in the incidence of BSE or continuing shortcomings in the implementation of risk management measures.
So far, the committee learned, 46 people in the Union - 45 at the epicentre of the crisis in the UK and one in France - have died from a variant of CJD (Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease) thought to be linked to eating BSE-infected meat.
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