Sunday, January 25, 2004


Montana scientists challenge mad cow theory He and his colleagues are part of one of the nation's oldest and most respected research programs into the bizarre family of brain-wasting diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies or TSEs. Here, in a mountainous corner of Montana, researchers at the National Institutes of Health's Rocky Mountain Labs have been quietly shedding light on TSEs since 1961, helping to explain the suite of always deadly ailments which includes chronic wasting in deer and elk, mad cow diseases in cattle and a similar disease in humans called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. But what Chesebro has to say may be unsettling: He thinks mainstream science may have been running down the wrong road for decades on TSE research. While conventional wisdom holds that TSEs are caused by an infectious protein, Chesebro thinks it is just as likely — maybe even more so — that these diseases are really caused by some hearty ‘‘ubiquitous virus'' science has yet to identify. A virus present in everyone's body, including yours. It's a suggestion that challenges the very foundations of most TSE research. And, if true, it means science knows even less about a family of diseases experts like Chesebro admit are still largely a mystery....Market prices bounce back from scare over mad cow Tom Mueller said that if mad cow disease had not been found in the United States, he would have gotten between $12,000 and $15,000 more for the 115 calves he sold earlier this month to a feed lot. But you will not hear him complaining. A month after the discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, the price that Mueller, who farms near Taylor Ridge, Ill., got for his calves was still better than what he received last year at this time. And it certainly was better than what he anticipated when he began weaning the calves in late December. “I’m surprised at the resiliency of the market,” said Mueller, president of the Rock Island County Farm Bureau. “It’s come back much quicker than I anticipated.”....'Firewall' cracks could raise U.S. mad cow risk A federal rule banning high-risk mammal parts from animal feed is the nation's main defense against mad cow disease -- what U.S. officials call a "firewall" built in 1997 to prevent an epidemic. But more than a month after the Dec. 23 discovery of the nation's first animal with mad cow, in Washington state, several cracks persist that may weaken that firewall: Farmers must not give meat and bone meal made from cows and sheep to cattle. But they can give it to chickens -- then process spilled feed bits and feathers from henhouse floors into "poultry litter" for cattle feed. Cattle must not eat beef. But leftover beef cooked for humans, called "plate waste," can be reprocessed and go into cattle feed. No government inspectors check farms to ensure feed rules are followed. Tissues at highest risk for spreading mad cow disease -- brains and spinal columns -- can be rendered into feed for most nonruminant animals, such as pigs, creating risk that feed will contaminate cattle feed....Mad cow case vindicates critic The central figure in Oprah Winfrey's legal fight with cattle ranchers outraged many in beef country six years ago with his prediction that sloppy meat production practices all but guaranteed the arrival of mad cow disease in the United States. With the first domestic occurrence of mad cow disease in December, Howard Lyman is again upsetting the beef industry. Lyman, a former Montana rancher-farmer turned vegetarian, said the discovery validates his concerns about how cattle are raised and slaughtered to produce tons of meat each year. His comments on Winfrey's show in 1996 prompted a lawsuit by Texas cattlemen, who lost....Chain chafes over Japan's beef import ban Japan's decision to ban the importation of U.S. beef following the discovery of mad cow disease in a Washington state Holstein may be squeezing U.S. cattlemen, but it's strangling one of Japan's biggest fast-food chains: Yoshinoya. Yoshinoya has more than 900 restaurants spread throughout Japan, and they are about to run out of the critical ingredient of their most popular dish: strips of choice beef from the United States. "It has to be American beef," said Shuji Abe, president of Yoshinoya.... Editorial: Congress doesn’t want you to know When a “downer” cow sent to slaughter last month turned out to have mad cow disease just weeks after lawmakers had voted against banning meat from crippled cows from store shelves, Congress looked foolish and the livestock industry took some lumps. But they didn’t learn much. On Thursday, the Senate approved legislation containing a provision barring the U.S. Department of Agriculture from requiring food labels indicating the country from which food originates. It’s a bad decision, the folly of which will be a whole lot more evident the next time, say, a Canadian cow turns out to have bovine spongiform encephalopathy, better known as mad cow disease. Given the great lengths Americans are going to persuade consumers here and abroad about the need to differentiate between U.S. beef and that originating elsewhere, the value of country-of-origin labeling should be obvious. America’s export partners want to know where the meat we send them came from. Americans deserve the same information....Feed manufacturers violate state, federal rules One-fourth of Colorado feed manufacturers have violated state and federal rules designed to prevent the spread of mad cow disease since 1998, according to the Colorado Department of Agriculture. Many of the violations at the 27 firms cited involved failure to properly label animal feed containing meat and bone meal, or MBM, rendered from the remains of slaughtered cattle. Without such a label, the risk is higher that someone could inadvertently feed the MBM back to cattle - the primary way mad cow disease is transmitted. Other violations include failing to keep proper records of who purchased MBM. Such information would be critical for regulators trying to track down where a cow might have contracted the disease should a case emerge in Colorado or elsewhere....Click here to see a more complete version of the previous story.... Mad Cow Probe Spreads to Seventh Facility The investigation into mad cow disease spread to a farm in central Washington state, the seventh facility linked to an infected Holstein, agriculture officials said. Investigators have been working to trace the whereabouts of 81 cattle following the announcement Dec. 23 that a cow at a Mabton dairy farm had tested positive for mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy. The 81 cattle entered the United States from Alberta, Canada, in 2001. Twenty-seven cows from that herd have been traced to six farms in Washington state, including the one in Moxee announced Friday, and one in Idaho. Another cow, traced to a Boardman, Ore., farm, was one of 17 heifers--or young female cows--from the same Canadian farm that were shipped to this country later than the original 81-cow group. Officials have traced three more of those 17 animals to the same dairy farm where one of the 81 animals was located.... Rule pinches many ranchers' profits A new slaughterhouse rule imposed in the wake of the mad cow scare has slashed prices for some cattle by $100 a head or more, angering Montana ranchers who say it's unfair and ineffective. Starting Jan. 12, the federal government required slaughterhouses to check cattle for permanent incisor teeth. Those with one or both of their second set of incisors are considered to be 30 months old. Because cattle over that age are at greater risk of developing mad cow disease, the animals must be specially slaughtered and are knocked into a lower price category. But cattle, like people, cut their permanent teeth at a range of ages based on genetics, diet and other conditions. "Mouthing is a poor way to determine the age of cattle," said Mark DeBruycker who's already taken price cuts on three heiferettes under 22 months old.... Senate backers of food-labels pledge to fight new delay Senators who want meat and produce labeled with its country of origin say the battle over those rules is not over, despite legislation passed Thursday that will delay them for two years. The labeling rules were to take effect in September this year. If not struck down, the delay “would kill country-of-origin labeling,” said Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, who supports the labels. Daschle said supporters will offer amendments to upcoming bills that would erase the delay. He said they also may offer a resolution that would veto the regulations that impose it. “We will take both tracks and apply them whenever and wherever we can,” he said.... Herds in three states quarantined amid mad cow probe Herds of cows are under quarantine in three states, and agriculture officials still lack full accounting of meat that was recalled after discovery of mad cow disease in the United States a month ago. Cows with links to the Holstein diagnosed with the brain-wasting disease have been found in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. More than 600 animals have been destroyed in the course of the investigation. The disease has not been detected from tests on roughly 150 of those animals. "It's not unusual for an investigation of this type to have multiple states involved," said Julie Quick, a spokeswoman for the Agriculture Department.... Worker says discovery of infected cow was 'a fluke' Louthan, who killed the Holstein at Vern's Moses Lake Meat Co. on Dec. 9, says he has no doubt he remembers the right cow. "Every cow that comes in there, I kill. That kind of puts us in a relationship," said Louthan, who killed cows at Vern's for four years before he was laid off earlier this month after his bosses told him business had slowed. The plant manager, Tom Ellestad, has also confirmed that the cow was walking. If he'd done what he should have, Louthan said, he would have taken the cow out of the truck and herded her around to a holding pen with other ambulatory animals. But, he said, it was late in the day, the cow looked balky, and "I was cutting corners." So he shot a bolt through her head, scooped out a bit of brain, put it in a bag, labeled it with her number, and hung it on the wall with samples from others in the truckload. Later, he checked records to confirm that the "mad cow" was the cow he remembered, the balky Holstein from the Sunny Dene Ranch in Mabton, Yakima County.... Japan-U.S. talks fail over measures for BSE Japan will continue its ban on U.S. beef after high-level talks Friday on mad cow disease in the United States failed to close differences between the two countries. Government officials of the two sides, who met at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in Tokyo, agreed to hold further talks next month. The main issue is the adoption of measures to ensure the safety of U.S. beef for export to Japan, officials said. Japan has demanded the United States test all cattle destined for Japan for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, before the import ban is lifted. Washington, however, has rejected that demand....

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