ANDREW KIMBRELL, D'ARCY KEMNITZ, ATTORNEYS AT CENTER FOR FOOD SAFETY
LEGAL ACTIONS FILED TO FORCE FDA, CDC, TO COMBAT 'MAD COW' TYPE DISEASES IN
PEOPLE, WILDLIFE AND LIVESTOCK IN THE UNITED STATES.
TERMINALLY ILL UTAH HUNTER, AGE 30, COULD BE THE FIRST VICTIM OF U.S. 'MAD
'MAD COW' TYPE DISEASES ARE ALREADY KILLING PEOPLE, DEER, ELK AND SHEEP IN
Washington, DC -- Today, Thursday, January 7, 1999, two formal legal
petitions were filed demanding that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) act immediately to monitor,
regulate and prevent 'mad cow' type diseases in the United States. These
diseases, known as Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies, or TSEs, are
killing people, deer, elk and sheep in the United States. Petitioners
include the Humane Farming Association, the Center for Food Safety, a group
of United States CJD victims and their families and consumer, farm and
The demand for immediate government action is given added urgency by the
extremely unusual case of a thirty-year old Utah man, R. Douglas McEwen,
who is now terminally ill with CJD, a 'mad cow' type disease in humans.
Mr. McEwen hunted deer and elk; it is feared he may have contracted CJD by
eating or handling deer or elk infected with 'mad deer' disease.
Additionally, there is industry and governmental concern that as a frequent
donor Mr. McEwen may have contaminated blood products internationally.
Mr. McEwen and his wife Tracie are petitioners in today's legal actions.
His fatal disease underscores concerns that current federal regulations are
grossly inadequate to prevent and monitor potential animal and human
epidemics in the United States.
The family of 'mad cow' type disease, TSEs, include numerous strains and
have different names in different species. The best known strain is
British Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), dubbed 'mad cow disease,'
which has now spread into the British human population as 'new variant
Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease' or nvCJD. So far 33 teenagers or young adults
are confirmed dead or dying of nvCJD. Since the disease has a virtually
invisible incubation period that might last decades, it won't be known for
many years whether the final toll will be in the dozens, hundreds or
thousands of human lives.
In the United States efforts to identify, monitor and prevent human and
animal deaths from TSE diseases have been grossly inadequate, despite the
fact that people, deer, elk and sheep in the U.S. are dying from these
diseases, known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) in people, Chronic
Wasting Disease (CWD) in deer and elk, and scrapie in sheep.
CJD in humans in the U.S. appears to be often misdiagnosed as Alzheimer's
or other types of fatal dementia, and seems much more prevalent than
admitted by government agencies. Given the very long invisible incubation
period of this 100% fatal disease, and that fact that it can be spread by
infected medical instruments and is almost impossible to kill by heat and
disinfection, and the consequences of failing to identify the disease are
The first legal petition demands that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control
(CDC) aggressively look for CJD in humans and make CJD a reportable and
monitored disease. This petition is also being filed in all fifty states
with the appropriate state health officials.
The second legal petition demands that the Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) close serious loopholes in U.S. animal feed regulations which
currently allow types of cannibalistic feeding practices known to cause and
spread 'mad cow' type diseases in animals and humans. For instance,
current U.S. regulations allow calves to be fed milk replacer containing
cattle blood protein, and pigs to be fed back to pigs and cattle. U.S.
sheep infected with scrapie, a 'mad cow' type disease, can be used for pet
and pig feed in the U.S.
Commenting on today's legal actions Bradley Miller, National Director of
the Humane Farming Association stated, "TSEs represent a potentially
devastating threat to both human and animal health. Our government's
response to date has been shamefully inadequate. These legal actions
provide a blueprint by which federal and state agencies can act decisively
to prevent a TSE epidemic in this country."
Dr. Michael Hansen, Research Associate of Consumer's Union commented, "The
current increase of TSEs in wildlife and humans shows that the time for
effective prevention may be running out. The federal agencies must
immediately take action to avert what could become a very significant
public health problem."
Andrew Kimbrell, public interest attorney and Director of the Center for
Food Safety stated, "Given what we know now, it is unconscionable that the
CDC is not strictly monitoring this disease, and that the FDA is still
allowing the feeding of blood and other animal by-products to animals. The
federal agencies are obviously putting the interests of agribusiness
companies ahead of their duty to protect the public from this terrible and
fatal group of diseases. We will go to court if necessary to ensure that
the agencies do their job in protecting human health and animal welfare."
Center for Food Safety is a project of the
International Center for Technology Assessment
310 D Street, NorthEast
Washington, D.C. 20002
(202) 547-9359 telephone
(202) 547-9429 facsimile
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