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Commission slams French gov't, Brussels and Britain in BSE epidemic

Commission slams French gov't, Brussels and Britain in BSE epidemic

May 17, 2001 Deutsche Presse-Agentur
Paris (dpa) - A commission of enquiry of the French Senate has fiercely criticised the French government, the European Union and Britain for the spread of "mad cow disease".

In a report issued in Paris on Thursday, the commission blamed the French Farms and Health ministries for making what it called "belated" decisions to combat the disease, which can lead to a fatal variant of Creutzfeld-Jakob disease (vCJD) in humans.

"In France, the situation was taken into account too late," the report declared. "There were inconsistencies and a lack of co- ordination between agencies and individuals in the cattle industry."

Since the outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in France in 1991, 317 diseased cows have been detected, 75 this year alone.

The commission's report also slammed Brussels for "inertia" and "a minimalist attitude for the entire duration of the mad cow crisis".

The report condemned the British government for exhibiting what it called "cynicism or indifference" by forbidding the use of animal- based feed at home yet "encouraging its export".

Experts believe that the use of feed made from animal offal was the prime cause of BSE.

The disease first appeared in Britain in the late 1980s. In 1988, the British government forbade the use of the feed for domestic use, but continued to export it.


Politicians blamed as BSE spreads in France

May 18, 2001  The Daily Telegraph (London) by Harry de Quetteville
A DAMNING report on the spread of mad cow disease in France has accused successive governments of deliberately blocking safety measures to prevent its transmission to other cows and to humans.

The report, released yesterday after a six-month inquiry by French senators, also described dangerous mismanagement and political infighting at France's Ministry of Agriculture.

It says that in the 1990s government ministers and officials chose to ignore mounting evidence of the dangers posed to humans by Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE).

"The Ministry of Agriculture constantly sought to obstruct or delay precautionary measures that have since been shown to be key matters of health and safety," the report said.

At the French National Assembly the chairman of a separate BSE inquiry, which is due to publish its own report next month, was equally damning.

"From testimony we have established that politicians at the highest level have played with public health in the name of economic interests," MP Franois Sauvadet told Le Figaro.

The senatorial report's highly critical assessment of French government action from July 1988 to 2001 could plunge France into a new health scandal only two years after three leading politicians were in the dock over official distribution of Aids-tainted blood.

"Its time that an account is made before public opinion and, if necessary, before the courts," said M Sauvadet.

"The contaminated blood scandal has shown us the way and we know we can see it through to the end."

So far there have been three deaths in France from new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob (nvCJD), the brain-wasting disease, but according to the report France must expect several hundred more.

It concluded that Ministry of Agriculture allegations that the spread of BSE in France was due to illegal imports of potentially infected feed from Britain were unfounded.

Instead, the report says, the spread of BSE in France was down to domestic delays in banning dangerous fodder and to the contamination of cattle feed with feed containing bone meal intended for other animals.

France has reported 317 cases of BSE since 1991, but reported numbers have increased steadily with wider testing in recent years.

Last year 162 cases were discovered, while 75 have already emerged this year.


French leaders criticised on BSE

May 18, 2001 Financial Times (London) by Victor Mallet
French governments ignored scientific evidence about the spread of "mad cow" disease and its risk to humans in the 1990s, an inquiry by the French Senate concluded yesterday.

The report also sharply criticised the French animal feed industry, the European Commission and Britain, where the disease originated. It said France could expect as many as 300 cases of new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD), the human form of the illness, over the next 60 years.

Government papers, said the Senate, "showed that the ministry of agriculture and fisheries tried to prevent or delay the enactment of precautionary measures on the grounds that they had no scientific foundation".

Among the findings of the six-month Senate investigation is that the agriculture ministry in 1994 rejected the theory that mad cow disease could jump the species barrier to humans, accepting the idea only in 1996 - six years after the UK.

The 362-page Senate report accused the European Commission of "inertia", and said there was a conspiracy of silence involving some members of the French animal feed industry.

Francois Sauvadet, a parliamentary deputy presiding over a parallel National Assembly inquiry due to announce its findings next month, told Le Figaro newspaper that French politicians had put people at risk of nvCJD for economic motives.

"Our hearings allowed us to establish that politicians at the highest level played with public health in the name of economic interests."

The Senate reserved particularly harsh criticism for Britain, which banned the use of animal waste in feed but allowed it to be exported to continental Europe at low prices and in large quantities.

Britain has been much worse hit than France by nvCJD. It has already reported 90 suspected deaths - compared with three in France - and could suffer as many as 130,000 fatalities in the long term.

Jean Glavany, the current French agriculture minister, said yesterday he suspected the inquiry of being "political", because it had not distinguished between the actions of the current Socialist-led government - which had banned risky animal feed - and previous, right-wing governments that had failed to act.


French Report Faults Response to Mad Cow Crisis

May 18, 2001 The New York Times by Suzanne Daley
A parliamentary committee issued a scathing report today on France's handling of the mad cow crisis during the last 10 years, accusing successive agricultural ministers of blocking precautionary steps because they were trying to appease a powerful agriculture sector.

The report found that agriculture officials had "repeatedly sought to prevent or delay the adoption of precautionary measures -- that later proved necessary for health safety -- on grounds that there was no scientific basis for them."

The report criticized governments from the right and the left -- under Prime Ministers Edouard Balladur, Alain Juppe and Lionel Jospin -- saying all of them had paid too much attention to the economic concerns of the cattle industry.

But the report, the result of a six-month inquiry by a Senate commission of inquiry, also harshly criticized Britain, saying the British had to accept "major responsibility" for exporting the disease to Europe by "shamelessly" authorizing exports of its meat and bone meal when it had already concluded that such feed components were an important element in transmitting the disease.

In addition, the commission lashed out at the European Union for "inertia" in the face of the growing problem.

"This inexplicable attitude on the part of one of our European partners, coupled with an E.U. commission more concerned about putting in place a single market than with food safety, is essentially the root of the current crisis," the commission said.

In July 1988, as Britain grappled with a rising number of cases of mad cow disease, it banned the use of meat-based feed for ruminants. But it continued to allow exports. It was not until 1990 that France took action to stop the import of British meat and bone meal.


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