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Mad cow scare spreads across Europe as consumer taste for beef wanes BRUSSELS, Nov 22 (AFP) - A mad cow disease scare seeped relentlessly across Europe Wednesday as Spain became the latest country hit, more cases were reported in France, Italy called for country-of-origin labeling and distraught retailers watched beef sales plummet.

The Spanish cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, were reported in the northwestern region of Galicia, Agriculture Minister Miguel Arias Canete said.

The 46 cows making up the herds with which the infected animals had been in contact were slaughtered as a precaution, he said.

Six new cases of BSE were also found in France, the country's agriculture ministry said, bringing the total number of cases identified there this year to 108.

France is in the throes of a growing scare over mad cow disease, which has prompted Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal to ban some imports of French beef and live cattle.

In Spain, beef consumption has dropped 15 percent in a week and prices have dropped 30 percent, according the Spanish Association of Beef Producers.

In Portugal, the press reported a 50 percent fall in beef sales, mostly to the detriment of small retail butchers, and 30-40 percent reductions in supermarket sales.

After Britain, France is now the centre of fears over BSE, particularly after it was revealed last month that a batch of contaminated meat found its way onto supermarket shelves.

Since then, French authorities have implemented a series of measures to improve consumer confidence and compensate farmers hit financially by the epidemic.

In Brussels, the European Union's Standing Veterinary Committee (SVC) was meeting late Wednesday night on an extension of a mad cow detection program voted by EU agriculture ministers after an all-night session Monday.

The agriculture council agreed a testing program beginning next January 1 of high-risk cattle over the age of 30 months.

Depending on initial results, the tests could be extended to all cattle over 30 months destined for the human food chain.

But the ministerial vote must be approved by the SVC, composed of the top veterinary officers of the 15 EU countries.

In France, three people are known to have contracted the human form of BSE, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), of whom two have died, but there is a rising incidence of BSE itself.

In Britain, where BSE broke out in 1986 but was not officially recognised until 1996, more than 80 people have been infected with CJD, while 4.5 million head of cattle have been destroyed since the epidemic broke out with 177,000 cases of BSE reported through the end of October.

Italy has asked the European Union to approve its plans to have the origin of beef sold over the counter clearly stated on labels, Agriculture Minister Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio said.

Italian cattle abattoirs have lost 70 percent of their work since the scare broke, a representative for the country's meat industry said Wednesday, as cattle farmers continued border blockades at Frejus and Ventimiglia and threatened Wendesday to extend their action to other border points to guarantee Italy's food safety.

German Agriculture Minister Karl-Heinz Funke meanwhile called for stricter madcow tests than those agreed by his EU European Union ministers, in order to detect early infection.

He told the Bild newspaper: "The rapid screening tests only give reliable positive results when the animal shows BSE symptoms or the disease is on the point of breaking out.

"That's not good enough," he said. "This testing process therefore has to be urgently refined. We must get to where we can already prove BSE infection."

France, too, feels the ministerial decree was inaequate, and wants testing extended to all cattle over 30 months.

That view was supported on Wednesday by Spanish farmers who criticised the measures as not going far enough.

The main farmers' union, COAG, said: "They are not entirely appropriate as they do not take a firm enough stand on the crucial issues, which ought to guarantee the openness and safety for farmers and consumers."

The EU "should have defined the criteria to be taken into account in considering an animal 'at risk' and the scientific criteria used to define the age an animal should undergo the test".

-- Martin Thompson (, November 24, 2000


Good time to "go veggie," - IF y'haven't already! - Jesse.

-- Jesse (, November 24, 2000.

BSE crisis worsens as mad cow disease identified in German cattle

Europe's BSE crisis has worsened as the first two cases of mad cow disease have been identified in German-reared cattle.

The disclosure came as Germany backed French calls for a total ban on meat and bone meal which has been blamed for outbreaks elsewhere. It also follows a growing number of claims that infected French beef has found its way into Britain.

Britain, meanwhile, remained in the minority after Food Standards Agency chief Sir John Krebs insisted there was still insufficient evidence to support an unlawful ban on imports of French beef.

That decision, however, is now likely to continue to be the subject of more scrutiny from many quarters as Spain, Austria, Greece, Italy and Holland all imposed partial bans on French beef.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said a full-scale ban was likely to take effect in Germany on Monday after it emerged that a cow born and slaughtered in Germany had tested positive for BSE for the first time.

It was also announced that mad cow disease had spread to Portugal's mid-Atlantic Azores Islands through an animal imported from Germany. Both disclosures are crushing blows to long-standing German claims that its home-grown cattle were BSE free.

The German-slaughtered cow was tested in the town of Itzehoe on Wednesday, authorities in Schleswig-Holstein state said.

The Portuguese Agriculture Ministry said it had informed the German government and the European Commission about its infected cow, which is the first case of mad cow disease in the islands. The five-year- old cow was born in 1995 in the Hanover region of Germany and imported to the Azores in 1998, according to the ministry statement.

Sir John, meanwhile, defended his organisation's handling of the latest BSE crisis despite growing fears that infected beef may have been imported to Britain from France. Guidelines on beef more than 30 months old "are being properly applied", he said, referring to regulations banning the import of older meat from countries with instances of BSE.

The Agency is also stepping up its work with local authorities to check with retail depots, wholesalers and others that no such meat was entering Britain's food chain, he said, adding that he would also be seeking assurances from the French government over the safety of future imports when a team from the FSA travels to France next week.

Last updated: 18:35 Friday 24th November 2000. nav_src=newsIndexHeadline

-- Martin Thompson (, November 24, 2000.

World: Mad cow disease spreads again, to Azores

By BARRY HATTON, Associated Press

LISBON, Portugal (November 24, 2000 10:12 p.m. EST - New cases of mad cow disease were recorded Friday in Germany and Portugal's Azores Islands, highlighting the disease's rapid spread across Europe amid growing consumer alarm and fears of health risks for humans.

The infected cow in Germany, born in 1996, was tested Wednesday, after its slaughter in the town of Itzehoe, authorities in Schleswig- Holstein state said. Previously, German testing had detected mad cow disease only in animals imported from Britain and Switzerland.

The infected cow in the Azores marked the first time the disease has popped up there. The cow was a five-year-old animal imported from Germany's Hanover region in 1998, according to the regional agriculture authority.

"The European Union's open borders ... and the lack of proper controls ... are worsening this crisis," said Joao Dinis of Portugal's National Agricultural Federation, a group of private farmers.

Sales of beef have dropped throughout Europe as fear spreads about mad cow disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Scientists believe eating infected meat could cause a similar ailment in humans, the usually fatal Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

In Spain, which recorded its first case of mad cow disease earlier this week, the cabinet approved a decree Friday creating a committee to monitor the disease. In Switzerland, the Federal Veterinary Office on Friday proposed a national control body to speed up the eradication of the disease. Swiss authorities decided Thursday to halt the import of all breeding cattle at least temporarily.

Scientists believe mad cow disease originated in Britain, when cattle were given feed containing the ground remains of sheep infected with a brain ailment. That practice is now banned throughout the European Union.

This week, agriculture ministers from the 15-nation EU agreed in principle to a massive upgrade in testing for the disease.

Mainland Portugal has been one of the worst-affected countries: 467 cases of mad cow disease have been reported there since 1990. The EU banned Portuguese beef exports in 1998. But before Friday, no cases of mad cow disease had been reported on the Azores, and the islands were excluded from the Portuguese ban because cows can graze there all year long and do not require special feed supplements.

After Friday's discovery, the Azores regional agriculture authority announced a plan to slaughter more than 2,600 cows imported in recent years, about half of them from Germany, to assuage consumer fears.

German officials have said they don't have any plans to ban the importation of beef from other countries, but they have demanded clearer labeling on beef from Britain, where more than 80 people have died of the human form of the disease. Germany also has proposed a ban on the use of meat and bone meal in all animal feed.

French President Jacques Chirac Friday urged European Union leaders to impose common measures against mad cow disease and renewed calls for a tighter ban on animal products in livestock feed.

"There is a pressing need to impose safety measures in a harmonized way, at least within the European Union," said Chirac during a visit to Athens. "We must move toward the general ban of animal (based) feed ... This must happen as quickly as possible,4382,500283279- 500445893-502893585-0,00.html

-- Martin Thompson (, November 24, 2000.

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