Imported Italian bone meal possible cause of Japan's mad cow disease

February 14, 2002 Channel NewsAsia
Imported Italian bone meal emerged as the possible route of mad cow disease into Japan.

Tokyo's farm ministry said it was not properly sterilised despite being certified that it had been. It said they were informed that meat and bone meal (MBM) made before June 1, 1998 had not been submitted to the equivalent of three times atmospheric pressure under the required standards.

About 606 tonnes of MBM was imported from Italy between 1995 and June 1998.

Although the Japanese government has so far found no link to that feed and the three confirmed mad cow cases in Japan, it feared contaminated MBM was the source of the infection.

A European Union expert in agricultural affairs said that EU standards for sterilising MBM stipulate the temperature, pressure and time needed to eliminate prions - the suspected cause of mad cow disease.

The standards - introduced in April 1997 - require the ingredients to be heated to 133 C for at least 20 minutes under three times atmospheric pressure.

But such treatment makes the feed more expensive to produce and also destroys proteins making the animal feed less nutritious, the EU expert explained.

Mad cow disease is believed to be transferred from infected bone meal to cows and then possibly to humans.

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