Foot and Mouth spreads to Middle East : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Wednesday March 14 5:11 PM ET Foot-And-Mouth Spreads to Middle East

By David Evans and Mike Miller

BRUSSELS/CHICAGO (Reuters) - The outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease that has rocked Europe spread to the Middle East Wednesday, as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates reported finding 10 cases.

The cases were the first found in the Gulf states, which import most of their meat. UAE Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Saeed al-Ragabani said eight imported cows were found to have the disease, and the official Saudi Press Agency said two calves had been diagnosed with the highly contagious disease in neighboring Saudi Arabia. It was not yet clear where the imported cows had originated.

Countries around the world stepped up efforts to stay free of the disease Wednesday, banning meat and grain imports from the European Union and increasing checks on travelers from Europe.

U.S. Vows To Take Every Precaution

The United States was one of a string of countries from Canada to Australia to halt imports of EU meat, and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said her government would take every precaution to keep the disease out of the United States, which has not had a case since 1929.

Britain is the epicenter of the latest outbreak of the disease, which attacks livestock including cattle, sheep, pigs and goats. France announced its first case since 1981 on Tuesday.

Within the EU, German police began guarding normally unmanned border crossings with France. Police checked everything from British soccer fans to frozen veal schnitzels. In Britain, tens of thousands of carcasses are being burned on giant pyres and much of the countryside is effectively a no-go zone.

Eu Criticizes ``Excessive'' Measures

World governments' response to the foot-and-mouth outbreak took on aspects of a trade war Wednesday, as EU Food Safety Commissioner David Byrne criticized countries that had taken ''unnecessary and excessive'' measures.

``If necessary we will make full use of our bilateral contacts and our WTO (World Trade Organization) trade arrangements to have these restrictions lifted,'' Byrne told the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The European Commission Wednesday urged four countries -- Morocco, Hungary, Slovakia and Tunisia -- to end what it called unjustified bans on imports of EU grain imposed over fears of the spread of foot-and-mouth.

Foot-and-mouth is a virulent disease in which fever is followed by the development of blisters, chiefly in the mouth or on the feet. It is not believed to readily affect humans.

Argentina, the world's No. 5 beef exporter, said Tuesday it had confirmed the existence of a foot-and-mouth outbreak, its first case since 1994.

Chicago commodity markets gyrated Wednesday in response to the outbreak. Pork prices surged to eight-month highs one day after the United States and other countries banned meat imports from the European Union. Prices of livestock feed ingredients, chiefly soybeans and soybean meal, tumbled on expectations of reduced demand as producers slaughter their herds.

McDonald's Corp., the world's largest restaurant company, warned Wednesday that its first-quarter earnings would be hurt by the growing consumer beef scare in Europe, where foot-and-mouth is starting to add to mad cow troubles, which have caused consumers to avoid hamburgers.

U.S. To Disinfect Travelers

The U.S. government took steps Wednesday to prevent foot-and-mouth from entering the United States. The government adopted strict new measures, including disinfecting some European travelers' shoes, to protect American livestock from the disease.

Extra U.S. health inspectors, foot-sniffing dogs and close questioning of airline passengers returning from the European countryside were among the tools being used by the U.S. Agriculture Department to prevent the spread of the highly contagious disease that has thrown Europe into a panic.

``If this were to spread to the United States ... the losses would reach into billions of dollars quickly,'' said Alfonso Torres, deputy administrator of USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

The Agriculture Department staged a demonstration at Dulles International Airport outside Washington Wednesday to show how arriving passengers from Europe will be questioned and inspected.

British visitors flying into Florida's tourist mecca of Orlando had their shoes sprayed with disinfectant as airport inspectors joined the campaign to keep foot-and-mouth at bay.

Canada Appeals To Farmers

Canada's agriculture minister Wednesday appealed to livestock farmers to stop people who have visited countries hit by foot-and-mouth from visiting their farms. Canada Tuesday banned meat imports from the EU and from Argentina, where the disease was also found. Canada has been free of the disease since 1952.

The U.S. Agriculture Department Wednesday released a list of prohibited animal products from the European Union. Banned EU items include fresh, frozen or chilled raw meat such as pork and lamb. A department spokesman said it was unclear how long the ban on EU products would last.

Sweden's agriculture minister said outbreaks of foot-and-mouth and mad cow disease could turn into budget-wrecking national catastrophes, while the director-general of the World Health Organization said the costs involved in combating food scares were rising sharply.

A United Nations commodities expert said foot-and-mouth could push up world meat prices unless outbreaks are contained quickly.

-- Swissrose (, March 14, 2001


I was wondering when the spread to the Middle East would be announced--it seemed inevitable.

Canada's ban on European imports includes farm machinery and unpasteurized cheezes such as brie and camembert.

With Argentina's outbreak, another seeming inevitability is that it will spread to Brazil. That country is going to be so annoyed with us (Canada) when we ban their meat yet again!

-- Rachel Gibson (, March 14, 2001.

It's not at all certain that FMD has spread "to" as opposed to "from" these other countries, nor that the FMD in any particular place is due to the identical virus as in the UK/Europe. This disease has been in *many* countries around the world for a long time, but it's only now reaching a media crescendo because of its (apparently new) appearance in Europe. Even in Argentina, there are rumors that ranchers have been aware of problems for several months but the possibility of FMD there was suppressed by gov't officials.

For example, from the most recent PROMED digest which appeared in my email inbox this morning:

"British farmers have blamed the importation of foreign meat products for the outbreak of FMD in the UK. According to the Grain and Feed Trade Association, there have been outbreaks of the disease in some 30 countries during the last 2 years, including Argentina, Brazil and South Africa.

Other countries having had recent outbreaks are Bhutan, Colombia, Egypt, Georgia, Greece, Iran, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Kuwait, Malawi, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mongolia, Namibia, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Swaziland, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uruguay, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

[Obviously until the necessary viral fingerprinting has been carried out and published, claims against this or that country are meaningless. - Mods.MHJ/TG]"

On the whole, my experience is that the more complex a medical or scientific topic, the less one can trust news reporters to adequately cover the whole story. In the case of FMD, I recommend to everyone the comments made on PROMED which help to explicate the mainstream news reports.

-- Andre Weltman (, March 15, 2001.

Thank you Andre- your knowledge of and comments on this topic are very helpful in putting things in perspective! Swissrose.

-- Swissrose (, March 15, 2001.

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