Interesting perspective on the movement of BSE in Europe for those
of you who watch food systems. Note the cow/pig/chicken portion.
I'm still waiting to hear whether the prion can transmit through
gelatin so I can start eating Altoids again.
BSE - FRANCE (13)
A ProMED-mail post
[In the last posting I had made a request for comment on the most
recent French cases being in Brittany and the France/Belgium border,
knowing full well that British exported feeds had gone into the
Brittany area as well as into Belgium & Holland. That sprat produced
this interesting mackerel. May we expect some informed French,
Belgian, or German comment? - Mod.MHJ]
Date: Thu, 13 Aug 1998 04:57:48 -0400
From: DEBORA MACKENZIE
You asked on ProMED-mail how the most recent cases of BSE in France
relate geographically to exports of British meat and bone meal (MBM)
as livestock feed. One might also ask how they relate in time, since
you note that these cases clearly had long incubation periods. They
may well have had, but we cannot conclude this based on the presumed
absence of British MBM during most of these cows' lives.
A French parliamentary enquiry into BSE published in January 1997
found that up to 16,000 tonnes a year of British MBM were imported
directly into France before France banned it unilaterally in 1989.
This gives an idea of the scale of the demand. But more also came in
via other EU countries. The amount could not be calculated, as no
customs records exist within the free-trade area. Other EU countries
imported British MBM until the EU as a whole banned it in 1994. The
enquiry found that British MBM entered France via other EU countries,
notably Belgium, between 1989 and 1994, generally re-labelled as
having originated elsewhere. British MBM continued to come in even
after 1994. In 1996, it was found entering France re-labelled as
having originated in Ireland. Interestingly, the two companies charged
with those imports were based in Brittany, home of one of the recent
Nor must we postulate that these two cases, born in 1989 and 1991,
must have originated from British MBM. The probable existence of
substantial unreported (or indeed, subclinical) infection on the
Continent, plus the parlous state of hygiene in MBM plants as detailed
in investigations by the European Commission, makes it likely that at
least some indigenous feed has been infected [ab initio]. It is legal
to feed MBM to pigs and chickens in the EU. French scientists suspect
that at least some French cases of BSE born after the feed ban were
caused by pig or chicken fodder fed to cows.
There is no reason to think that one geographical area of France has
received more infected MBM than others. It just happens that the
locales where the most recent two were found are big livestock areas.
It should also be noted that if British MBM has been getting
illegally into France, and causing infection, then it has been
getting into cows in other EU countries as well -- though as I
mentioned, it is probably not necessary to postulate a British origin
for contaminated MBM.
In view of all this, and of the continued discovery of BSE cases in
countries with good veterinary surveillance such as France, it remains
surprising that Germany continues to declare itself BSE free. Germany
succeeded in defeating the European Commission's bid last spring to
impose a British-style specified offal ban (in which nervous tissue
and other offal thought to be the chief repositories of BSE
infectivity are removed from cattle carcasses after slaughter) across
the EU, on the grounds that as Germany is BSE-free, it doesn't need
New Scientist magazine
Michele Gale-Sinex, communications manager
Center for Integrated Ag Systems
UW-Madison College of Ag and Life Sciences
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