300,000 Mad Cow Cases
Undetected In France
By Kim Willsher
The Telegraph - UK
PARIS -- A mad cow disease epidemic in France went completely undetected and led to almost 50,000 severely infected animals entering the food chain, according to a shocking report by French government researchers.
More than 300,000 cows contracted BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) in the past 13 years, 300 times more than the number of officially recorded cases, say researchers at France's official Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm).
Their report reveals that while blustering French politicians blamed Britain for the emergence of the disease - and attempted to create a cordon sanitaire by banning imports of British beef - they failed to adopt measures to prevent a hidden epidemic at home.
Only in June 1996 was potentially dangerous bovine offal banned in France, almost seven years after Britain. Just four years ago, as France ignored a European Union ruling that British beef was safe again, infected cattle were still entering the food chain, the researchers say.
Their disturbing findings are contained in a report, The Unrecognised French BSE Epidemic, published in the international scientific review Veterinary Research.
Their report came as Paris officials revealed the death of a 55-year-old Frenchman believed to have suffered from variant Creutzfeld-Jakob disease (vCJD), the human form of BSE. If confirmed, the death would bring to seven the number of confirmed French victims of the disease.
"We estimate that 301,200 cows in France were infected by BSE between 1980 and June 2000," conclude the authors of the report, Virginie Supervie and Dominique Costagliola. "There is uncertainty about estimates of the number of cases in the early 1980s, but the level of animals infected climbed between 1987 and 1990 and dropped from then until 1992.
"Furthermore, 47,300 animals at an advanced stage of the disease entered into the food chain before 1996, and 1,500 between July 1996 and June 2000." According to previous official figures there were just 103 confirmed cases of the disease between 1991 and 2000, during which period the government relied on farmers and veterinarians to report animals with BSE.
Since 2000, when controls were tightened, a further 820 cases have been confirmed, according to figures published last month, bringing the total to 923 over the past 13 years - a tiny fraction of the total estimated in the new report.
The report's authors drew on data about BSE cases in cattle and facts about the spread of the disease to calculate the likely true extent of the BSE epidemic in France. Dominique Costagliola said: "The French authorities have known for some time that the official statistics were not a true reflection of the epidemic." British cattle feed containing the rendered carcasses of other animals - alleged to have caused the disease - was sold in France until 1989. That was three years after the first case of BSE was discovered in Britain, where farmers were required to report all cattle showing symptoms. In 1989 Britain banned the use of animal protein in cattle food, outlawed bovine offal in human food and introduced a mass slaughter plan under which entire herds of an animal showing symptoms of BSE were destroyed.
France banned the suspect cattle feed the following year and required farmers and vets to report animals suspected of having the disease. Its first reported case was in 1991. The discovery of an apparent link between BSE and its human equivalent, vCJD, was made in 1996 and led to a worldwide ban on British beef. The ban was lifted by the EU 1999 but illegally maintained by France until 2002. Yet it was not until 2001 that France introduced compulsory tests for BSE in cows, older than 24 months, sent for slaughter.
The report's authors conclude that the disease was prevalent in French herds during the 1980s, but that the epidemic went completely unnoticed. "Only the second wave, after 1990, was observed," they write.
The editors of Veterinary Research were so disturbed when they received the report that they asked three independent scientists to evaluate its findings. All three concurred that the basis for the calculations was correct.
Joelle Charley-Poulain, a joint editor of the magazine, said: "I was very perturbed when I first read the article. I was worried that these figures would alarm the public, which is why we had them checked out by three specialists."
In Britain, where there are estimated to have been four million BSE infected cows compared with 200,000 officially reported cases, researchers have long claimed that France underestimated the number of contaminated cattle.
© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2004
From Dr. Patricia Doyle, PhD
Hello Jeff: They are now admitting to only about 1/3rd of the actual cases in their food supply. It's worse. My guess is it is only the tip of the iceberg and that is why the admit to it now. Mad cows have gone out of control. No one can say we both didn't warn them years ago.
And now we have bovine polio, a condition that went unreported for 10 years. This condition also effects the brain and my guess is can be passed onto human consumers. The experts are not really sure what the process is causing it. Some cattle have genetic material consistant with "bits" of a polio like enterovirus, yet others have genetic material found in Plum Island Rinderpest vaccine and measles vaccine.
Eating meat now is worse than Russian roulette.



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