Ban urged on meat meal for cattle: Conference on mad cow disease calls for increased testing

Ban urged on meat meal for cattle:
Conference on mad cow disease calls for increased testing

June 15, 2001 The Ottawa Citizen by Mark Kennedy

Countries around the world should ban the practice of feeding dead cows to other cattle or they risk the deadly consequences of an epidemic of mad cow disease, an international conference concluded yesterday.

The meeting, organized by United Nations agencies and attended by more than 150 scientists and food-safety experts, also concluded every nation should "strongly consider" testing their cattle to look for evidence of mad cow disease among their herds.

Without those measures, scientists said they feared the killer disease, which may already be incubating from Asia to North America, could spread and inflict untold damage on cattle and on humans who contract the disease by eating contaminated meat.

So far, nearly 200,000 cows in Britain and Europe have been diagnosed with bovine-spongiform encephalopathy, while 105 people have been struck with the human form of the brain-wasting disorder, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Conference participants urged all governments to recognize that the global spread of mad cow disease has been hidden by complex and sometimes illegal trade in cows and meat byproducts.

"The original source and movement of animals and animal products ... can be masked by international trading patterns which often include the processing and re-export of products. Consequently, importing countries should be aware of risks generated by these existing trading patterns and illegal trade."

Indeed, experts say unsuspecting nations could be at greatest risk from the problem of "triangular trade"-- one country importing a potentially infectious product from Europe, repackaging and relabeling it, and then exporting it to a third country which does not know the product's origins.

Nations were urged to review their import statistics from the U.K. and Europe during the '80s and '90s to "evaluate their potential exposure."

"Countries should not become complacent about their risk from BSE," said the conference, organized by the World Health Organization, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and the Office Internationale des epizooties.

Dr. Samuel Jutzi of the FAO told a news conference that a year ago the disease was thought to be a crisis for Europe alone. But newly available trade data, which is incomplete and difficult to analyze, abruptly changed that diagnosis.

"There is a certain change in attitude or awareness internationally that this BSE crisis is no longer regarded as a European problem, but as a global problem," said Dr. Jutzi.

The FAO says Europe exported more than seven million tonnes of meat meal (remains of dead animals to be fed to other animals) to more than 100 countries between 1986 and 1996. As well, more than four million live cattle were exported to more than 100 countries during the same period. Most of the products went to eastern Europe and the Middle East, but there's evidence some was also shipped to Canada and the U.S.

The conference said countries can easily overlook the "severity" of the threat because of several factors: the disease has a long incubation period (about five years in cows and anywhere from 10 years to perhaps 40 years in humans); it claims relatively few victims when it first breaks out; and it is often hard to diagnose.

Other recommendations included:

- Countries should strongly consider "appropriate" tests which look for BSE among slaughtered cows. Europe already conducts widescale tests (1.75 million tests in the first three months of this year alone), while Canada and U.S. conduct tests on a much smaller scale. However, there are many nations that conduct no tests.

- Countries should also determine whether their indigenous sheep and goats are incubating BSE. There are fears that some may have been fed infected meat and bone meal. As a precaution, countries should not allow the parts of those animals most likely to have high BSE-infectivity -- the brain, spinal cord and spleen -- to enter the human food chain.

- Scientists studying mad cow disease should be "proactive" in publicizing new findings about BSE, "even though it may be unsettling to the public."

Home | News | Organics | GE Food | Health | Environment | Food Safety | Fair Trade | Peace | Farm Issues | Politics
Español | Campaigns | Buying Guide | Press | Search | Donate | About Us | Contact Us

Organic Consumers Association - 6771 South Silver Hill Drive, Finland MN 55603
E-mail: Staff · Activist or Media Inquiries: 218-226-4164 · Fax: 218-353-7652
Please support our work. Send a tax-deductible donation to the OCA

Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc. It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.