Mad Cow Cases Soar
In France - New Means Of
Transmission Feared
By Jon Sopel
The French Government has admitted it is baffled by the continuing spread of BSE in France.
The number of cases is rising and France's agriculture minister has suggested there may be a mysterious 'third way' of transmitting the disease.
Jean Glavany's comments, published in a newspaper last Saturday, have caused an angry reaction from farmers and consumers who demanded he clarify his remarks.
"I said things which French scientists have been saying for several years" Mr Glavany told LCI television afterwards.
"I said that basically the scientists are in a phase of uncertainty".
He said they had identified the two most probably ways of passing BSE, but that because cases of the disease were not tapering off as expected a third method of contamination could not be ruled out.
Another decade
Until recently, French officials were confidently predicting that BSE would be eradicated by 2001.
Surprisingly however the number of cases in the first 14 weeks of 2000 is higher than expected - 14 compared to a total of 30 for 1999.
No one has been able to explain the trend.
BSE in France
1990: Ban on carcass animal feed 1996: Tougher culling and feed measures 1998: 18 cases of BSE 1999: 30 cases of BSE2000: 2000: 14 cases of BSE in 14 weeks 2001: Predicted turning point in spread 2010: Revised eradication date
Now one of France's senior food safety advisers has predicted that mad cow disease will continue to be a problem for another decade.
"Every country that has BSE now will still have it in 2010", Marc Savey, the head of animal health at the French food safety agency, told the BBC.
Rogue proteins
The two known methods of spreading BSE are contaminated feed and mother-to-calf infection.
Bruno Oesch, a BSE specialist at the University of Zurich, told the French news agency AFP that several other theories are being explored.
One is that the rogue proteins which cause the disease, called prions, do not biodegrade. 'Third way' theoriesPrions remain in soilPrions attach to insects in hayGround-up animal feed ban abusedSpread through cattle vaccinations
Like tetanus, they could remain in the soil and infect grazing animals.
The prions could also attach themselves to tiny insects such as mites in hay, which are then eaten.
Dominique Dormont, who chairs a French committee on prion diseases, suggested that the disease could be spread by injections to cattle.
"Two major outbreaks of the disease scrapie in Britain and Italy occurred as a result of vaccinations using nerve tissue," said Mr Dormont.
The most common theory is that France has been lax in applying the tougher controls on using meat in bone meal in cattle feed, introduced in 1996.
Meanwhile, in the UK, Conservative agriculture spokesman Tim Yeo demanded Britain respond vigorously to news of the cases.
Mr Yeo said: "At last the truth about BSE is being dragged out of a reluctant French government.
"This is not the first, nor will it be the last report to admit that BSE is much more widespread in France, and in contrast to Britain, the number of cases are still rising."
Liberal Democrat spokesman Colin Breed called on France to drop its ban on British beef.
"France cannot continue to ban British beef when cases are rising in France and falling in Britain."
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Agriculture dismissed calls for a ban, saying the UK could not "act unilaterally" in contravention of EU law. _____
Mad Cow Cases Soar In France 4-21-00
Cases of mad cow disease are soaring in France - yet its government still refuses to lift its illegal ban on safe British beef.
There have been 14 cases of BSE in the first 14 weeks of this year, compared with 18 in the whole of 1998 and 30 throughout 1999.
Arrogant French ministers had boasted the disease would be eradictated in their country within 18 months.
But now agriculture supremo Jean Glavany has admitted:
"Contrary to forecasts predicting a reduction of the disease in France, it appears it could be increasing instead."
Amazingly, he added:
"Just because BSE is increasing here, it does not make British beef any safer."
Tories immediately called on the British Government to ban imports of French beef.
And they claimed many more infected cattle were going unrecorded in France.
The Sun exposed the hypocrisy at the heart of the French ban last October when burning barricades halted British trucks carrying perfectly healthy beef.
Yesterday shadow agriculture minister Tim Yeo said:
"At last the truth about BSE is being dragged out of a reluctant French government.
"This is not the first, nor will it be the last, report to admit that BSE is much more widespread in France. And - in contrast to Britain - the number of cases is still rising.
Britain must now ask the EC to impose a precautionary ban on the import of French cattle products until their safety can be guaranteed."
Mr Yeo urged Agriculture Secretary Nick Brown to stand up for our farmers.
He said: "Failure to do so will expose his eagerness to protect French farmers, while putting British consumers at risk."
Mr Glavany claimed the disease - known to be transmitted through feed and from cow to calf - was now being passed in a "mysterious third way".
But BSE expert Professor Bruno Oesch said most cases were down to French farmers IGNORING animal-feed rules.
France fears new tests on its cattle could prove BSE is rampant there. Its government is being prosecuted for flouting an EU order to let in British beef.


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