from USA TODAY 1/7/99 page 1 LIFE section
"MORE SAFETY SOUGHT AGAINST 'MAD COW' CAUSE"
By Steve Sternberg, USA TODAY
A coalition of activists petitioned the government Wednesday to tighten
safeguards against the deadly agent that causes "mad cow disease" and a
related human ailment called Creutzfeldt-Jakob syndrome (CJD).
The agent is a type of protein known as a prion, transmitted to cattle
through feed containing animal byproducts, and to a small number of people
In a pair of petitions, the Center for Food Safety, the Humane Farming
Association and families of CJD victims, among others, demand that the Food
and Drug Administration extend existing protections to bar the use of
blood, blood products, gelatin and pig byproducts in animal feed.
They also ask that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expand
its already sweeping surveillance system to track such diseases in humans.
"Given what we know now, it is unconscionable that the CDC is not strictly
monitoring these diseases, and that the FDA is still allowing the feeding
of blood and other animal byproducts to animals," says Andrew Kimbrell,
director of the Center for Food Safety.
Driving the activists' effort in part is the strange case of R. Douglas
McEwen, 30, a Utah man who was exposed to deer and elk and is now suffering
from CJD decades before the disease usually strikes. McEwen and his wife,
Tracie, are petitioners in Wednesday's legal action, a necessary
preliminary to the filing of a lawsuit in federal court.
Lawrence Schonberger of the CDC counters that the agency's surveillance
system now captures 86% of CJD cases in the USA, a record that he calls
"superb." He also notes that the Utah case was promptly reported and
investigated -- revealing that the case apparently had nothing to do with
exposure to deer, elk, or beef.
The mad-cow scare began in the mid-1980s, when British cattle were
diagnosed with the fatal, brain-destroying illness. The bovine disease is
now spreading slowly through France, Portugal, Switzerland and other
In 1994, doctors in the United Kingdom reported that mad-cow disease had
apparently jumped into humans. Three years later, doctors demonstrated
that the link was infected beef. So far, doctors in the U.K. have
diagnosed 33 cases of the always fatal human disease. None have been
The eruption of human disease prompted the same coalition of activists to
demand government protections. In 1997, safeguards recommended by the
World Health Organization went into effect. Those rules ban the use of
sheep and cattle offal in animal feed.
Campaign for Food Safety/Organic Consumers Action
860 Hwy 61
Little Marais, Mn. 55614
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