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Scientists Say "Millions" of Europeans
May Eventually Die from CJD--Human Mad Cow Disease

Date: Sat, Jan 8, 2000, 11:35 PM

http://www.newsunlimited.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,120023,00.html
THE GUARDIAN (UK newspaper), Saturday January 8, 2000

Millions at risk from CJD, say EU scientists

James Meikle

Millions of European consumers may be at risk of catching Creutzfeldt-Jacob
disease (CJD), the fatal human version of BSE - despite their governments'
assertions that their countries are free of the cattle disease, the
European Union's most senior scientists warned in a report yesterday.

Up to 400,000 people in some member states could be exposed to infected
material from a single cow if it were allowed to enter the food chain
because it had displayed no clinical signs of bovine spongiform
encephalopathy (BSE).

The EU's scientific steering committee believes that Austria, Denmark,
Finland, Germany, Greece and Sweden should introduce bans on the most
infective parts of cattle, including brain, spinal material and intestines,
while Italy and Spain should extend their measures to cover beef from all
countries, not only from those known to have BSE.

Only seven countries, including Britain and France, at present operate such
anti-BSE measures. In Britain all meat from cattle more than 30 months old
is banned from being used in food. Even so, a handful of infected animals
not showing "mad cow" symptoms are still thought to slip into food
production.

The European commission has failed to introduce precautionary measures
throughout the EU because some countries claim they have no BSE or that it
has been evident only in imported cattle.

The new advice is likely to undermine European confidence in beef as the
legal wrangle between the commission and Paris over the safety of British
beef continues.

But the committee, which cleared British beef for export after a 40-month
ban, is worried by cross-border trade in live animals, organs, offal and
processed foods. It says the risk of exposure to BSE "is not necessarily
linked" to geographic incidence of the disease.

"Recent evidence suggests that in countries with a reported low incidence,
the actual rate of BSE-infected animals entering the food chain is not
nil,"
the report says.

It says many people within the EU are eating potentially dangerous material
contained in common meat products such as pt=E9s and sausages.

Tests to identify BSE in cattle carcasses in its early stages do not offer
reliable screening. But the removal of risky parts of animals
significantly
reduces the potential for infecting humans. The scientists conclude:
"Failure to do this is likely to expose a large number of consumers to an
unnecessary risk."

Their bleak warnings give added significance to the reluctance of British
scientists to predict the eventual size of the CJD outbreak, which has
killed 48 people in Britain, two in France and one in Ireland so far.
Those
victims are believed to have become infected before most controls were
introduced in 1989, though the first death did not occur until 1995.

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