Prions
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Cattlemen's suit against Oprah to trial
Black market in T-bone steaks and oxtai to flourish
Pub defies bone police
U.K. Govt Consulting On Beef Ban
Beef ban terms spelled out
Hooray for meat irradiation
People infected by surgical instruments?
Medicine prize winner says his doubters are on wrong track
Chirac to lose favorite meal
Wisconsin researcher helped corral mad cow disease

Pub defies 'bone police'

 BY PAUL WILKINSON December 10 1997 Times
A PUBLICAN in a farming community is to defy what he calls the Government's "bone marrow police" by serving a beef-on-the-bone menu two days after the cuts are banned.

Lee Chadwick will offer marrowbone soup and a choice of roast ribs of beef on the bone, osso bucco, braised oxtail or T-bone steak. The cuts are being outlawed as a precaution against possible contamination from BSE-infected cattle.

Mr Chadwick said that locals at the Royal Oak in Dacre Banks, North Yorkshire, are already booking the £10 meal and that his 60-seat restaurant should be full a week on Friday. "People have had more than enough of self-seeking politicians and bureaucrats telling them what they can and cannot eat and drink, and in the process destroying livelihoods."

He knows he could face a fine of £5,000. "Of course it bothers me," he said, "but if I face a fine, I will simply give the meals away and customers can donate £10 to the National Farmers' Union. They will have to arrest everybody then."

Farm union leader quits

 December 10 1997 Times
s THE head of the main farmers' organisation in Scotland resigned last night, saying his position had become untenable because of growing criticism of his leadership.

Sandy Mole, president of the National Farmers' Union of Scotland, had been under heavy fire recently from grassroots members for allegedly failing to press the Government hard enough for aid for the ailing beef industry.

In his letter of resignation, Mr Mole said: "My reasons for this decision are that my presidency has become untenable and unsustainable over the past few weeks."

Butchers call on Cunningham to cancel beef ban

December 10 1997 Times
BUTCHERS launched a nationwide appeal to their customers yesterday to sign a petition urging the Government to abandon its proposed ban on beef on the bone. They also want any ban postponed until after Christmas.

At the same time, local authority officials predicted a flourishing black market in bone-in beef; they believe it will be virtually impossible to stop the most sought-after cuts being sold under the counter.

The ban, announced by Jack Cunningham, the Minister of Agriculture, on December 3, is to come into force next Tuesday. Unless amended, it will outlaw such cuts as rib of beef, T-bone steak and oxtail. Anyone caught selling such items will be guilty of an offence punishable in a magistrates' court by a fine of up to £5,000 and/or up to six months in jail; or up to two years' jail and/or an unlimited fine in a Crown Court.

Since Dr Cunningham's announcement, customers keen to fill their freezers before the ban takes effect have cleared butchers' shops of ribs of beef, always popular in the run-up to Christmas, and oxtails. Although beef on the bone accounts for no more than 5 per cent of total beef sales, independent butchers say that being able to supply such specialist cuts is one of the things that gives them an edge over supermarkets.

A letter detailing the terms of the ban has been sent to 400 organisations representing farmers, butchers, caterers, meat processors, consumers and other interested parties, who have until 4pm on Friday to comment.

John Fuller, director of the National Federation of Meat and Food Traders, which represents 3,000 of Britain's 10,000 independent butchers, said: "Our customers are strongly behind us. We are confident of being able to show massive opposition to the ban by the deadline."

All the federation's members were sent a poster yesterday for display in their shop windows. It reads "Wanted: Beef on the Bone. Protect Your Right To Choose" and invites shoppers to sign a petition objecting to the ban.

David Statham, food committee chairman of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, said:

"As we understand it, butchers will still be able to have beef hanging on the bone in their shops. An offence will only be committed if beef is actually sold to a customer on the bone. Unless an inspector is present to witness such a transaction, it is difficult to see how an offence could be proved."

Dr Cunningham took his decision after receiving the results of new research by the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee, the scientific body set up to advise the Government. This showed evidence of BSE ("mad cow" disease) infectivity in dorsal root ganglia, nervous tissue in the bones of the spinal column of cattle which is left with the bone when meat is cut off the spine.

Tests also found "provisional" evidence that bone marrow might harbour the BSE agent. The scientists estimated that no more than three out of the 2.2 million cattle slaughtered for consumption next year might carry infection in their dorsal root ganglia. They said there was a 5 per cent chance that one person in the entire population might be infected with BSE by eating beef from these animals.

So the chance that anyone eating beef on the bone would contract BSE is roughly one in a billion. Realistically, the risk is even smaller than that since BSE infectivity was found only in cattle over the age of 30 months, which have been banned from human consumption for more than a year.

* The Vegetarian Society has been censured by the Advertising Standards Authority over three "distressing" advertisements in which it suggested that eating red meat had a direct link to cancer.

Cattlemen's suit against Oprah to trial

Wire Service: UPce (UPI Central US) Date: Tue, Dec 9, 1997 AMARILLO, Texas, Dec. 9 (UPI) -- A January trial date has been scheduled for a lawsuit filed by several Texas cattlemen who say their industry was defamed on the Oprah Winfrey program.

The lawsuit filed by cattleman Paul Engler and several other producers claims the 1996 program on "mad cow" disease violated a Texas law that establishes liability if false information is put out about a perishable food product.

Engler's attorney Kevin Isern of Amarillo says attorneys have been advised to be ready for trial in U.S. District Court at Amarillo by Jan. 5. He says the notice advises the trial could begin Jan. 7.

A spokesman for Oprah Winfrey, David Margulies, says she plans to attend the trial, which attorneys say could last three to six weeks. In a statement, Winfrey says the lawsuit is a threat to the First Amendment right of free speech and press. She says,

"I maintain my right to ask questions and to hold a public debate on issues that impact the general public and my audience."
Engler claims that cattle prices dropped severely after the program addressing the question of whether "mad cow" disease was a threat in the United States. He alleges his company lost $7 million.

U.K. Govt Consulting On Beef Ban

Dow Jones Mon, Dec 8, 1997 
=LONDON -- A consultation letter outlining the ban on sales of beef on-the-bone has been sent to farmer groups and relevant parties in the beef trade, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said Monday. The letter informs the industry about the proposed legislation requiring the deboning of all beef coming from cattle over six months old.

Government measures making the sale of beef on-the-bone illegal will come into effect Dec. 16, MAFF said. The consultation period ends Dec. 12. Under the new measures, beef with the bones removed will still be available for sale. Agriculture Minister Jack Cunningham said "This measure has the support of consumers, who recognize that my priority is their protection. The Meat and Livestock Commission and National Farmers' Union have also welcomed it."

Imports of of beef on-the-bone, whether from European Union Member States or any third countries, will continue, but must be deboned before sale, MAFF said.

Recipients of the letter are invited to include an estimation of financial loss incurred as a result of the ban. Enforcement will be carried out by either the Meat Hygiene Service in licensed cutting plants or local authorities in all other food premises. Producers could face up two two years' imprisonment for operating in breach of the new laws, the Ministry warns.

Beef ban terms spelled out

By Jo Butler, Consumer Affairs Correspondent PA News Mon, Dec 8, 1997
Terms and conditions of the planned ban on sales of beef-on-the-bone were set out in a consultation letter to the industry today. More than 400 organisations are being invited to comment on the ban announced by the Government last week amid new evidence that bones could harbour the agent responsible for BSE. Opponents of the ban have until 4pm on Friday to make their views felt. Agriculture minister Jack Cunningham said it was intended that the ban would come into effect four days later, on December 16.

The letter has been sent out to farmers, the food industry, caterers, consumer groups and other interested parties. Members of the public are also being invited to comment. Dr Cunningham insisted the ban was essential to protect the public.

"This measure has the support of consumers, who recognise that my priority is their protection. "The Meat and Livestock Commission and the National Farmers Union have also welcomed it," he said.
The minister said the move would back-up new regulations to ensure beef imported from the EU was subject to the same BSE controls as home-produced meat, due to come into force on January 1. Traders breaking the new rules could face unlimited fines or two years in jail, the Government warned today. Under the new regulations, all beef from carcasses over six months old, whether from UK or imported animals, will have to be cut off the bone before being sold to shoppers. Beef can be imported on the bone, but must be cut off before being sold.

Butchers will not be allowed to sell or give away bones to members of the public or caterers and bones will be banned from the human food chain. This means they cannot be used to make stocks, soups, broths or to produce animal fats.

However, these products can be imported from abroad or made in the UK from imported bones. UK bones will also be allowed to be processed by the rendering industry and will be allowed for use in pet food.

The ban, to be enforced by Meat Hygiene Inspectors and local authority officials, does not affect current controls on gelatin production for food use which is already banned from cattle slaughtered in the UK. Beef cattle are usually slaughtered at between 18 and 24 months old.

Hooray for meat irradiation


Some quotes from the final rule:

1. Scientists have compilied an enormous body of data regarding the effects of ionozing radiation on different foods under various conditions of irradiation.

2. In general, the types of (radiolytic) products generated by irradiation are similar to those produced by other food processing methods.

3. The major components of all foods are water, carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids. The radiation chemistry of these components is well established.

4. Thus, the available information regarding the radiation chemistry of the major components of flesh foods supports the proposition that there is no reason to suspect a toxicological hazard due to consumption of an irradiated flesh food.

5. However, while chemical analyses have not identified the presence of any particular radiolytic products in amounts that would raise a toxicological concern, the agency notes that the large body of data from studies where irradiated flesh foods were fed to laboratory qanimals provides an independent way to assess toxicological safety. Thus, the agency has also examined all the available data from toxicological studies that are relevant to the safety of irradiated meat, namely, all of those with flesh foods.

6. All the available results of chemical analyses of irradiated flesh foods support the conclusion that a toxicological hazard due to consumption of irradiated flesh foods is highly unlikely, because no substance resulting from irradiation has been found at levels that would suggest any reason for toxicological concern. The results of the available toxicological studies of irradiated flesh foods also demonstrate that a toxicological hazard is highly unlikely because no toxicologiically significant adverse effects attributable to consumption of irradiated flesh foods were observed in any of these studies. Thus, the results of the chemical analyses and the toxicological studies are entirely consistent. The agency therefore concludes, based on all the evidence before it, that irradiation of meat under the conditions set forth in the regulation does not present a toxicological hazard.

7. The agency concludes, based on all the evidence before it, that irradiation of meat under the conditions set forth in the regulation will not result in a microbiological hazard.

"Not only will irradiation not result in a microbiological hazard, irradiation will result in a much safer product. The approved maximum levels of irradiation are 4.5 kGy for refrigerated products and 7.0 kGy for frozen products. Taken together, the available reports and published articles establish that the radiation dose necessary to reduce the initial population of any of the bacterial pathogens by 90 percent ranges from 0.1 kGy to just under 1 kGy. The approved maximum doses will reduce the initial population of pathogens by 99.99 percent."

Irradiation can be a significant public health tool that can be used in conjunction with sanitation to greatly reduce the burden of food borne disease and death.

Lyle P. Vogel, DVM, MPH
Director, Scientific Activities
American Veterinary Medical Association

People infected by surgical instruments?

Scottish Daily Record  & Sunday Mail Ltd.  December  7, 1997, Sunday   Andrew Gold
A huge hunt has been launched for the victims of a new Mad Cow Disease transplant scandal. At least SIX patients may have been infected by surgeons' instruments used on victim Marion Hamilton's eyes. But Scots health chiefs believe many more people could be at risk. The latest revelation has now sparked a major UK-wide health alert. Last week we revealed how three people were put at risk after being given potentially infected organs from mum- of-three Marion.

Bungling Scots hospital bosses failed to pass on vital information from Marion's post mortem to the UK Transplant Support Service. Following Marion's operation, surgeons used the SAME instruments to remove other donors' body parts - a move which carries a risk of infection. Now other transplant patients from all over Britain could face a similar death sentence. Medical chiefs believe the recipients could be infected with Creutzfeldt- Jakob Disease - the human form of Mad Cow Disease.

The operations, which were all carried out in the Forth Valley Health Care area, involved corneas and sclera - the white of the eye. It is believed they were performed over a nine-month period. It is understood two other dead Scots women - one from Falkirk and in her seventies - have already been identified as CJD "risks ".

Both underwent cornea removals by surgeons using the same equipment which was used on Marion. Their organs were transplanted to other UK patients. Last night a Scottish Office spokeswoman said:

"We are aware of a potential risk of transmission of CJD infection through contamination of the instruments used in the retrieval of Mrs Hamilton's eyes. " "We have been assessing the possible risk to the patients. "The consultants concerned are being contacted over the weekend. "Unless a patient hears from a consultant there is no need for individuals to worry. "
Current sterilising procedures for surgical equipment used in hospitals do not remove the threat of CJD infection. UK Health guidelines recommend the destruction of tools immediately after they are used on CJD sufferers.

Marion - who had inoperable lung cancer - died in February this year in Strathcarron Hospice, in Denny, Stirlingshire. Last night, Marion's stunned daughter Jane, 33, said she was shocked by the Mail's latest revelations. She said:

"It is terrible to think that others are at risk because of my mum's willingness to donate her organs. "We are devastated by this latest news. "
The Sunday Mail last week broke the news of tragic CJD mum Marion Hamilton. Our amazing story dominated the news agenda in the UK and overseas. Details of the scandal were forwarded directly to Prime Minister Tony Blair. And Government health chief Sam Galbraith immediately set up an enquiry team. We told how bungling health chiefs transplanted Marion's organs after her death.

But the surgeons who carried out the transplants were never told she died suffering from Mad Cow Disease. Yet health chiefs still allowed three patients to receive parts of 53- year-old Marion's eyes. The patients - who all face a potential death sentence - were unaware of the risk until the Sunday Mail broke the story. The family, from the Stirling area, were stunned when we told them the shock details of their loving mum's death.

Medicine prize winner says his doubters are on wrong track

December  07, 1997 JIM HEINTZ  AP Worldstream
İİİ Nobel Medicine Prize winner Stanley B. Prusiner on Sunday defended his work on mad cow disease and said he believes his discovery might be a key to understanding diseases such as schizophrenia and Alzheimer's. Prusiner, of the University of California-San Francisco, was named the winner of this year's prize for his discovery of prions, a form of protein that causes mad cow disease and other brain-wasting conditions.

Unlike other disease agents, prions contain no genetic material. Their importance has been doubted by some, including a Swedish doctor whose criticism made front-page headlines on Sunday. ''The prion concept (probably) in the not distant future will be place in science's wastebasket,'' Michael Koch wrote in an op-ed piece in the respected newspaper Dagens Nyheter.

Doubters ''will say that until they go to their graves,'' Prusiner told a news conference. ''There's nothing I can do to help them.''

Prions have been identified as causing bovine spongiform encephelopathy mad cow disease and a variant strain of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, the human equivalent. In both diseases, the brain turns spongy, leading to death. His critics say that the diseases must be caused by a virus.

''Many people have looked for this virus ... it doesn't exist,'' he said. ''The disease is much better explained by the prion.''
Although his research has not yet led to a cure for the diseases, Prusiner said he ''the blueprint is becoming quite clear. I don't think it's decades away, I think it's years away.'' Prusiner also said his research could help track down the causes of such widespread diseases as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, schizophrenia and bipolar depression. The disease may not be due to prions, but understanding how proteins can cause disease could point researchers in the right direction, he said.

Concern over whether humans can contract Creutzfeldt-Jakob from beef from infected cattle recently led the British government to ban sales of beef on the bone after Dec. 16. Prusiner declined to say whether he thought the move was wise or whether he would eat such beef, noting only that the research indicating the possibility of human infection may have been released too early.

The Nobel prizes, each worth 7.5 million kronor (dlrs 1 million), will be presented on Wednesday, the anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel, the Swedish industrialist whose will endowed the prizes. The medicine, physics, chemistry, literature and economics prizes will be presented in Stockholm. The Nobel Peace Prize will be given the same day in Oslo, Norway, to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and its American coordinator Jody Williams.

Chirac to lose favorite meal

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 20, 1997, Monday MICHAEL SMITH AND ANDREW JACK
Brains of veal calves and sheep, favorite delicacies of French President Jacques Chirac, could soon be removed from the tables and restaurants of Europe. The European Commission has already decreed that the cerebral matter of sheep, cows and goats over a year of age will be banned from the food chain from Jan. 1. Now European Union veterinary experts are investigating whether the ban should be extended to younger animals. They are under pressure to recommend a tightening of the rules as there is evidence that the BSE ''mad cow'' disease, linked to an equivalent human disease, can be passed from cow to calf.

A tougher ban would be strongly opposed in countries such as France, Greece and Spain, where brains are served in leading restaurants. Chirac's favorite meal is ''tete de veau,'' or veal's head.

If the ban were extended, it would include the eyes of cows and sheep under a year old. The ban on brains and eyes of animals more than a year old was part of a controversial package of measures agreed in July by the commission. Other ''specified risk material'' (SRMs) which will have to be removed from carcasses and destroyed beginning Jan. 1 include skulls, tonsils and spinal cords, the parts of the animals thought most likely to be carriers of BSE and its equivalent in sheep and goats. The ban has caused severe trade friction with the U.S., which exports billions of dollars' worth of products containing cattle derivatives and says its meat renderers are unable to separate the SRMs from the rest of the carcass.

Veterinary experts in the EU were told in a report from one scientist last week that because of the risk of maternal transmission of BSE, ''it can not be excluded that parts of an animal are infective as from birth.''

The report also noted it was difficult to recognize the different ages of animals in slaughterhouses after they had been killed. The committee called for further evidence and is expected to make a recommendation for or against an extension of the ban next month.

Wisconsin researcher helped corral mad cow disease

June  9, 1997 Monday  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel  MARK WARD
No one can be sure whether "mad cow disease, " the fatal brain illness in cattle that caused a panic in Great Britain last year, will ever pose a danger in the United States. The chances of that happening were reduced considerably last week when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it was banning the use of slaughtered animals in livestock feed.

Part of the credit should go to a Wisconsin scientist who died last March of cancer. He dedicated his career to understanding mad cow disease. In 1985, a year before British scientists identified the disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, Richard Marsh, a virologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was studying an outbreak of a related disease at a mink farm in Stetsonville, in Taylor County. Transmissable mink encephalopathy breaks out occasionally in mink farms, usually after the animals feed on the carcasses of sheep infected with a similar disease, called scrapie.

British scientists believe that cattle there infected with BSE contracted the disease from sheep carcasses. However, the mink weren't fed sheep, but the carcasses of "downer " dairy cows that could no longer walk. Marsh was able to confirm the connection by using brain tissue from the mink to infect cattle with a BSE-like disease, then take brain tissue from those cattle to infect other mink.

It was the first time anyone had identified cattle as potential carriers of a fatal brain disease that could be transmitted to other species. In recent years, researchers have linked cases of Creutzfeld-Jacob disease, a degenerative brain disease in humans, with consumption of beef from cattle infected with BSE.

Marsh couldn't be sure of how the cow that was fed to the mink got the disease, but in 1986 when the bovine disease was recognized in Great Britain, he called for an immediate ban on using materials from rendered ruminants in feed. The response of the rendering industry was not kind. Marsh was dubbed an alarmist and severely criticized. He and others, however, continued their research and their findings increased their concern. They discovered that there are different strains of the disease, some that cross easily to other species. Strains were found that could infect hamsters, mice, pigs, even monkeys.

Also, they found that different strains caused different symptoms. Some caused weird, seemingly drunken behavior in animals; some made them hyperactive, others drowsy; and often, the symptoms didn't appear until the disease was well advanced. That made it difficult to spot it simply by watching behavior.

Even today, no one is sure what transmits the disease. The suspected agent is a peculiar form of protein called a prion that appears to be able to replicate itself and to infect other proteins. In conventional biological theory, this makes no sense. Scientists long have assumed that infectious agents, such as bacteria or viruses, need genes coded in nucleic acids such as DNA or RNA to reproduce themselves.

Marsh's lab and others have focused on the way that prions are folded. Like all proteins, prions are long chains of amino acids folded into distinctive shapes. Studies suggest that prions are actually misfolded versions of proteins normally found in the brain. When prions enter the brain, they seem to to recruit other proteins to refold the wrong way, which makes them perform abnormally in the brain.

How this happens is not clear, nor are scientists certain that no other factors, such as tiny amounts of nucleic acid or even hidden viruses, play a role. One fact that researchers do know is that the infectious agents are difficult to eliminate. They can survive standard techniques used to sterilize surgical instruments. "It's not an easy disease to handle or monitor, " said Judd Aiken, a colleague of Marsh's at UW. All of these concerns, Aiken said, are why the FDA ban is "an absolutely essential step to ensure that cattle being fed these rations will not come down with mad cow disease or something similar. "

That's not to say we're out of the woods. Because mad cow disease tends to appear late in an animal's life, there is a chance that some cattle have been infected. With the FDA action, the odds of the disease cropping up are much reduced.

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