Ministry: Over 2,000 cattle fed MBM

September 24, 2001 The Daily Yomiuri (Tokyo)
The number of cattle found to have been given meat and bonemeal (MBM), which is suspected of causing mad cow disease, increased to more than 2,000 head at 38 dairy farmers in six prefectures as an additional 13 dairy farmers in Gunma and Tochigi prefectures were found Sunday to have fed their cattle MBM.

According to investigations by the two prefectures, 12 dairy farmers in Tochigi Prefecture had fed a total of 569 milk cows domestically produced MBM and one dairy farmer in Gunma Prefecture had given 21 head of cattle the feed.

The governments of both prefectures instructed the farmers to stop marketing products from the cattle, although they have not tested positive for the disease. The Gunma farmer said he had been feeding MBM to his cattle up to Sept. 18.

MBM is a protein feed made from the crushed internal organs, skin and bones of cows.

Although the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry instructed farmers not to use MBM in 1996, the latest investigations showed that noncompliance with the directive means the disease could spread.

The ministry is inspecting cattle suspected of having been feed MBM as long ago as eight years because mad cow disease has a long incubation period--two to eight years.

The ministry has confirmed that dairy farmers in Hokkaido, Yamagata, Nagano and Saitama prefectures used MBM. The ministry instructed Hokkaido farmers to stop using feed suspected of containing MBM while conducting on-site investigation of feed manufacturers and wholesalers in Hokkaido.

On Tuesday, the ministry banned manufacturers of cattle feed from using materials suspected of containing a pathogen that causes mad cow disease. Violators face fines of up to 300,000 yen or prison sentences of up to three years.

The nation's first suspected case of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, was made public on Sept. 10 after a Holstein diary cow that had been sold to a farmer in Shiroi, Chiba Prefecture, tested positive. The body of the cow was later found to have been processed into meat and MBM at processing plants in Ibaraki and Tokushima prefectures.

Following the discovery of the case, the ministry started emergency testing of all beef cattle aged 30 months or more by sampling hindbrain tissue. The ministry also is conducting more rigorous examinations of cattle aged 24 months or more that have developed neurological problems since May.

Mad cow disease was first detected in Britain in 1986. It is thought to cause the variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which is fatal to humans.

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