Wednesday, January 28, 2004


Mad Cow Disease Raises Safety Issues Beyond the Kitchen Cows are everywhere, and they are not just for dinner anymore. Their carcasses provide the glues that hold the human universe together, like the gelatin in Gummy Bears, the lipids in lipsticks, the foam in fire extinguishers and the rubber in tires. With a few exceptions, public health experts say, there is little chance that these products will cause harm as a result of mad cow disease. Nonetheless, the rare exceptions are startling, like diet supplements containing raw cow brain. Calculating the risk in rendered products is far more complicated than assessing it in meat. A steak is simply grilled and eaten, while animal gelatin (it can be made from vegetables, too) involves treating bones, hides and hooves with acid, lime and heat, after which it may be dried, powdered, then become part of things like Jell-o shots and ibuprofen capsules. Cosmetics and shampoos can contain fatty oils or rendered placentas. Collagens are injected to fill wrinkles. Prions can theoretically survive all processing steps, experts say, just as they can survive boiling, radiation or the high-pressure steam used on surgical instruments....Bison burgers attracting fans A bison mini-boom is under way as Americans look for an Atkins diet-friendly and mad cow-proof alternative to beef. Although the bison industry is just a baby when it comes to U.S. meat production, there are signs of heightened interest as producers recover from a mid-1990s slump brought on by overproduction....Column: A Friendly Stab in the Back (Germany) In order to make sure that he is re-elected, Bush has engaged in a policy of economic terrorism against his friends and allies. The mindset of the Bush administration is quite clear: it's America first, even if this means tearing up old agreements, riding roughshod over international law, and even the occasional friendly stab in the back. All this has been quite apparent on the political stage. But in order to cover the weakness of his economic policy, it has also been put into force on the business stage as well. The latest moves in this economic "first strike" policy has been in the meat industry. After suffering its first case of mad cow disease late last year, many countries had closed their borders to American beef, much in the same way that had been done against both Canada and the EU previously. Yet through tough diplomatic talk, not as many countries banned American beef as in other cases of BSE. This was mostly due to the strong-arm diplomacy attacks of the Bush administration....Oddly, Japan keeps tariffs intact as it gropes for beef Japan's suspension of U.S. beef imports has created a strange contradiction: As the government searches for alternate sources of beef, it imposes tariffs that help keep overseas beef out. The government sent two agriculture officials to Australia and New Zealand this month to see if the countries could cover a gap in beef supply and keep prices down. Officials meanwhile said emergency tariffs, which raise the price of beef 5 percent to 8 percent, would remain in place at least until the end of March....Mad cow threatens baby reindeer Canadian zoos may have to curb breeding programs for some rare animals, because a U.S. ban on imports of giraffe, deer and other ruminants means there is no market south of the border for the babies. The ban on imports of ruminants -- animals with hooves and multiple stomachs -- was imposed last May after a single case of mad cow disease was found on a Canadian farm. Canada responded with similar curbs after a case of the brain-wasting disease showed up on a farm in Washington state in December. But while Canada allows exceptions to its import ban for rare animals, the United States is keeping its border closed....Japan Looks To Australia To Boost Beef Supply Australia is trying to fill the void left by a Japanese ban on U.S. beef imports amid fears of mad cow disease. Australia courted Japanese meat-eaters at a beef-tasting party in Tokyo Wednesday and offered to hike exports to Japan by 80 percent to replace the American supply. Australia's ambassador told assembled television cameras that Australian beef is suited to Japanese palates, displaying a long table lined with sukiyaki, beef stew, and lightly grilled meat with citrus and soy-based dipping sauce.... Transfusion case led to ban on blood feed A Food and Drug Administration policy banning the feeding of cattle blood to calves was based partly on a new human case of mad cow disease in which a British resident may have been infected through a blood transfusion, an agency official has said. At a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Senator Charles Grassley, Republican of Iowa, asked why the Food and Drug Administration had instituted the ban when, he said, scientific evidence indicated that the infectious particles that are believed to cause mad cow disease, misfolded proteins called prions, had never been found in blood. The agency official, Lester Crawford, told the committee that a new case of the human form of the disease, called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, came to light in late December in Britain. The ill person had received a blood transfusion from an infected donor, prompting concern among the authorities who were trying to determine whether the disease had been transmitted through the blood, said Crawford, a deputy commissioner with the agency....USDA narrows focus of BSE investigation to 25 cattle USDA is turning the focus of its inquiry to 25 cattle, out of 81 initially being tracked, in the ongoing investigation of a single case of mad cow disease found in Washington state just over one month ago. After examining USDA's investigation of the case, an international review team said enough resources have been expended on tracking the cattle in question and the current effort should move toward precautions to protect the public health, according to Ron DeHaven, Chief Veterinary Officer with USDA's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). DeHaven says he hopes the team will present USDA with a report of its findings within the next two weeks....Democrats Seeks Animal ID Plan For Mad Cow Democrats unhappy with the time it took to trace America's one known case of mad cow disease are pressing Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman to hurry and produce a plan to identify individually each of America's 96 million cattle. "After five weeks of intensive investigation, we have located only 28 of the 81 cows that entered the United States from Canada with the infected cow," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. "If we had an animal ID system, USDA could have located those cattle in a matter of hours, or, at the longest, days." Veneman said the Agriculture Department is trying to develop "a verifiable system of national animal identification." An international committee of experts reviewing the government's handling of the case is looking at animal identification among other issues and is to start preparing a report in a couple of weeks, she said....Cattle auction resurrected as mad-cow scare fades "Let’s sell some (cattle). This is going to be fun," said Jim Warren just before tuning his voice to the fast trill that is the familiar call of the auctioneer. After a six-week hiatus, the 101 Livestock Market off Highway 101 near Aromas was up and running again Tuesday. And neither ranchers nor buyers shied away from the sales barn as prices for most cattle rallied to near where they had been before the mad-cow scare.... Mexico exports beef to South Korea Mexico has exported its first shipment of beef to South Korea, following the Asian country’s ban on imports of US beef. Mexico’s export bank said a firm in south-eastern Mexico exported a shipment of beef to South Korea in what it hoped would be the start of a long-term business deal, reported Agence France Presse....Mad cow, some diet aids linked When congressmen were wondering what windows and doors to close to keep mad cow disease out of the country three years ago, Peter Lurie of Public Citizen had a warning for them: Crack down on dietary supplements. "There's just no regulation," Lurie, deputy director for health research for the government-watchdog group, said yesterday. "It really is the Wild West out there." Several supplements contain bovine products that could pass along the disease - Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy - from an infected cow, and no one was screening them. If people who are worried about mad cow think it's enough to order chicken instead of steak, they need to think again. Professional athletes and weekend warriors who use certain supplements might not know it, but they've been swallowing beef brains, pituitary glands and testes for years as they try to get an edge.... U.S. working to keep beef imports flowing The United States is working with other countries to avoid shutting down trade when a single cow is found with mad cow disease, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said Tuesday. Veneman testified before the Senate Agriculture Committee. ''Trade regulations, actions one country would take against another in the event of a single find, should be relooked at,'' Veneman said. ''We are working with a number of other countries through the international organizations . . . to make sure this doesn't become a major trade problem'' when only one cow is diagnosed with the disease, she said....

No comments: