Mad Cow Home or Best Links

Eat veggies and avoid cancer, experts say
UK gov't report links red meat and cancer
Brain grafts could pass on disease - U.S. panel
Physicians want chicken manure out of cattle feed
Iowa students striken by E. coli outbreak
Go-ahead likely for full BSE inquiry
Another plant recalls tainted hamburger
Coming soon, the cow with low cholesterol

Eat veggies and avoid cancer, experts say

October 2, 1997 --By MAGGIE FOX, U.S. Health and Science Correspondent
WASHINGTON- As many as 4 million cases of cancer could be prevented worldwide every year if people just ate less meat and more vegetables, cancer researchers said Wednesday. They said reviews of already published research confirmed what many nutritionists have been saying -- that diet is strongly linked to patterns of cancer. Simply eating five servings of fruit and vegetables a day -- which the U.S. government already recommends -- could reduce U.S. incidences of cancer by 20 percent or more, they said. But most people in developed countries do not do that and nutritionists said it would be an uphill battle to get them to.
"This is the first international report to take a comprehensive look at the role of diet in explaining the patterns of cancer around the world," said Marilyn Gentry, president of the the American Institute for Cancer research and the World Cancer Research Fund.
The researchers, who issued some of their findings in London last week, reviewed more than 4,500 studies looking at the link between diet and cancer. They said the studies all clearly point to the same thing -- human beings should eat a plant-based diet, with at the most a very small single serving of meat a day.

Weight gain was also an important factor, and they said people should try not to gain more than 11 pounds between youth and middle age. Exercise was the best way to keep weight off, they said. Fat, salt and alcohol should also be limited, they said.

"It's clear from the report that limiting cancer is a complex process," said John Potter of the University of Seattle, who headed the study team. "The good news is that we do have control over many things that both increase and decrease our risk of cancer." He said meat should be at most "a garnish."
They said government policy was an important factor and said politics played a role in getting people to change habits.
"Governments, nations and departments of health throughout the world have a major contribution to make because the nature of our diet is affected by issues such as agriculture, food policy, tax issues and other special arrangements," said Philip James of the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland.
Marion Nestle, chairwoman of the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies and New York University, said most governments were unwilling to tell people to eat less meat.
"Any time the U.S. government has ever even suggested that people eat less meat the political outcry has been so great that they have to back off that statement," she said. "The trick is to get people to eat that," she said. "And I think there is an enormous backlash in the United States against eating that."
But she said study after study showed people should eat very little meat. Many nutritionists say there is no reason to eat meat at all, with studies showing that meat can be linked with colon cancer. A high-fat intake is also linked with heart disease -- the biggest killer in the Western world.

Reports spark controversy over red meat and cancer

Times 3 Oct 97  Jane Dawson 
On Sept 26, newspapers were full of articles on an as yet unpublished report. According to a press release, the report on cancer and food from the UK Committee on the Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy (COMA) recommends an upper limit of red meat consumption of 90 g per day.

But the media coverage must have disconcerted those people who 10 days before had been briefed by their trade organisation, the Meat and Livestock Commission, to expect COMA to "suggest a link between red meat and colon cancer" but to recommend "that people should eat no more than an average of 140 g (cooked weight) per day", about twice the current UK intake.

On Sept 25, when the report was due to be published, it was being pulped, after an extraordinary wrangle to reach a final figure for inclusion in the Department of Health and Ministry of Agriculture press release. An expert subcommittee of COMA had recommended 100 g as the upper limit, but, according to the UK broadsheet The Guardian, the amount appeared to have been "changed [to 140 g] by civil servants" before the report went to the printers. Ministers were said to be infuriated by the change, which was spotted just in time by a member of the subcommittee. On Sept 24, the "differences were ironed out" and the upper limit agreed. The report should now appear in 2 weeks.

Also on Sept 25, Food, Nutrition and the Prevention of Cancer: a global perspective, a report by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research was published. This report also includes advice to limit daily red-meat intake to 80 g (panel). Tony McMichael (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK), a panel member on the WCRF report, views the parochial equivocation about the red-meat limits and the ministerial tensions as a "damn nuisance because they distract attention from the central issue of global cancer prevention--that of reorienting diet back to food of vegetable origin. Red meat is associated with increased risk at two or three sites, whereas consumption of vegetables is associated with reduced risks of cancer at all sites studied".

McMichael describes the COMA and WCRF recommendations as "essentially identical figures to epidemiologists", who are "confident that people in Britain eating more than 140 g cooked red meat per day are at discernably greater risk of cancer".

Go-ahead likely for full BSE inquiry

A FULL inquiry into the origins and handling of the BSE crisis is expected to be launched by the Government shortly as fears grow that the magnitude of the disaster has yet to be disclosed. Jack Cunningham, the Agriculture Minister, and Frank Dobson, the Health Secretary, are proposing an investigation that will rival the Scott inquiry into the arms-to-Iraq affair in its significance and scope. It would have access to the papers of the last Government and former Tory ministers and officials who served them would probably be called. While the number of cases of BSE is falling rapidly the economic, medical and legal ramifications will follow the Government into the next century, ministers believe. And with the parents of children who died from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) expected to begin legal proceedings against the Government over events that occurred under its predecessors, ministers believe that an inquiry must now establish the facts. It would be expected to recommend a policy for compensating families of victims. Dr Cunningham has written to the Prime Minister and Mr Dobson proposing an inquiry: Mr Dobson and other health ministers fully back the idea and they hope Mr Blair will give the go-ahead soon. The issue has yet to be considered by the Cabinet. There will be urgent discussions over the next few weeks over the form of the inquiry. At least five options will be considered, including a full judicial inquiry, a royal commission, and a tribunal of inquiry. A senior ministerial source said last night: "We owe it to the children who have died as a result of this tragedy to come up with the full facts." Hitherto, the priority of both the previous and the present Government has been to get the beef ban in Europe lifted. There were fears that a long drawn-out inquiry that would highlight disturbing facts about how the crisis unfolded over a decade might have prompted new fears among Britain's partners. However, ministers now believe that it should not be delayed much further. They want the inquiry to be authoritative and public, but to take place over a relatively short period. Relatives of victims have been pressing for an independent inquiry. The parents of Stephen Churchill, the 19-year-old who in 1995 was the first to die of a new strain of CJD are heading a families' association which is pushing for an investigation and compensation. Mrs Dorothy Churchill has said of an inquiry: "The relatives of the victims deserve that if nothing else. Everybody has the right to know the truth. We are all at risk, everybody who ate beef in the 1980s." Meanwhile, Dr Cunningham has submitted new proposals to Brussels for the lifting of the ban. He told the Labour Party conference in Brighton that he was asking that meat from all cattle born after August 1, 1996, should be exempt.
"Since that date the UK has enforced very strict controls to make sure that feed does not contain meat and bone meal, through which infection can be carried," he said.

Physicians want chicken manure out of cattle feed

AP 5 Oct 97
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine also urged the U.S. Agriculture Department to investigate the health risks of the practice, which is most common in large poultry-producing states.
"Chicken manure is filled with the disease-causing organisms, heavy metals and veterinary drugs the chicken managed to expel," said PCRM president Dr. Neal Barnard. "Unless the manure is carefully treated, using it in cattle feed supercharges a cow's intestinal tract with disease-causing bacteria that can be passed along to humans," he said.
The PCRM is a non-profit group that promotes preventive medicine, including vegetarianism, as the way to good health. The group also has raised concerns about the potential for "mad cow disease" to become a problem in U.S. cattle herds, as it has been in Europe. However, bovine spongiform encephalopathy - the scientific name for mad cow disease - has not been found so far in the United States.

About half of those surveyed planned to take more kitchen precautions, while nine percent planned to buy less poultry, 12 percent planned to cut back on beef and 18 percent planned more vegetarian meals, Barnard said. Chicken manure is used as a protein supplement for cattle, especially during winter when grass resources are scarce, said Chuck Lambert, chief economist for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

"Outside the yuck factor, it's a sound management practice or at least it has been," Lambert said, noting that the cattle industry has relied on previous research indicating the practice is safe.

Iowa students striken by E. coli outbreak

Associated Press October 6, 1997
PARKERSBURG, Iowa ( 12:58 p.m. EDT -- Food contaminated by E. coli bacteria made at least nine students ill at Aplington-Parkersburg High School. Health officials were trying to determine if cafeteria meals were involved.
"It does not seem to be anything in the community, like a restaurant or a grocery store in the community. It does seem
to be school-based," Kevin Teale, spokesman for the Iowa Department of Public Health, said Monday.
Students began falling ill on Sept. 28. At least nine students were ill with symptoms consistent with E. coli contamination, and three were hospitalized for dehydration caused by diarrhea. All three have subsequently been released. Results of tests done on the initial cases confirmed Monday that E. coli was present, Teale said. About 30 students were asked to fill out questionnaires listing what they ate from Sept. 22 to Sept. 26.
"There are literally dozens of items that could have caused that problem," Teale said. "Right now we're still looking at the surveys, still trying to get an accurate count of how many kids got sick." He said the contamination did not necessarily come from the school cafeteria, and authorities were "checking to see if there was a pep rally or a party or something that the students attended."
E. coli bacteria, found in the digestive tract of animals, can be transmitted in meat or in other foods that have come in contact with it. Its most virulent strain causes diarrhea, cramps and dehydration and can be fatal to the very young, elderly and those with weak immune systems. In recent weeks two Nebraska meatpackers have recalled some of their ground beef because of suspected E. coli contamination. The latest recall was Friday, when nearly 444,000 pounds of ground beef from a BeefAmerica plant was pulled after investigators discovered E. coli in a random sample taken at a grocery store in Virginia.
"It's generally associated with ground beef, but in recent years there have been cases of it in fruit juices when fruit that went into the juice was picked up off the ground," Teale said.
The high school cafeteria served meals Monday, but some items that might have been served Sept. 22-26 have been pulled from the menu, said Virgil Goodrich, the superintendent of the school district.

Another plant recalls tainted hamburger

October 3, 1997
WASHINGTON - For the second time in less than two months, a beef processing plant in Nebraska agreed to a federal request that it recall hamburger because of bacteria contamination, the U.S. Agriculture Department said Friday.

Beef America Co. of Norfolk, Nebraska issued the recall for 443,656 pounds. However, it is not expected to grow to the size of the recent massive Hudson Foods Inc. recall that eventually ballooned to 25 million pounds, a USDA spokeswoman said.

Officials with USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, after reviewing records at Beef America plant, believe the current recall encompasses all the possibly contaminated meat, the USDA spokeswoman said. There have been no reported illnesses from the suspicious beef.

In the Hudson case in August, the recall became so large because the firm had a practice of reworking beef left over at the end of a shift into the next day's production. That made possible a continuous chain of contamination of the potentially deadly strain of E.coli known as 0157:H7.

Beef America does not appear to have followed the same procedure, thus limiting the size of the recall, the spokeswoman said. At the USDA's request, Beef America one month ago ordered a recall of about 200 pounds of ground beef shipped from the plant to a Virginia grocery store.

Coming soon, the cow with low cholesterol

October 4 1997  BY MICHAEL HORNSBY, Agriculture correspondent 
THE low-cholesterol cow, a creature that will produce milk and beef rich in "good" fats that help to fight heart disease, is only a matter of years away, according to research.

Plant breeders at the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research at Aberystwyth have identified a variety of rye grass which is unusually high in linolenic acid, a fat that reduces cholesterol in the blood.

The discovery could mean that milk and beef, once promoted as an essential part of a good diet but now increasingly avoided because of their high fat content, could again become favoured fare for the health-conscious.

The work, commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture, is part of a growing body of research aimed at modifying the food of both livestock and human beings to promote greater public health without drastic changes in diet.

Scientists at research centres in Norwich are breeding a new type of "super-broccoli" and a new variety of water cress that are high in anti-cancer properties. The new broccoli could be on supermarket shelves in three years.

Broccoli contains relatively high levels of glucosinolates, compounds which are found in a variety of plants. Many are toxic and appear to form part of the plants' natural defence against herbivores, but scientists now believe they can be beneficial for people.

In broccoli, glucosinolate breaks down into a substance called sulphorophane, which has been found to have a powerful anti-cancer effect. By crossing broccoli with a species of wild cabbage, researchers have achieved a tenfold increase in the amount of sulphorophane. Richard Mithen, a geneticist at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, said: "Sulphorophanes reinforce our natural defences by switching on detoxification enzymes, which mop up carcinogens, excreting them in urine before they have time to damage our cells.

"We are also breeding a new variety of watercress that is hotter to taste and high in chemicals which work in a different way by switching off other compounds in our bodies that cause cancer. The combination of the two could be very powerful.
" Researchers at the centre are also using cross-breeding techniques to produce a variety of mustard plant with high levels of sulphorophanes. "This could be a good way of encouraging a regular intake of such chemicals, and help to combat the alleged cancer-causing properties of beef," he said. USDA: S Korea Importing Neb. Beef WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. agriculture officials said Friday that South Korea has not suspended imports of beef from Nebraska or any other state because of fears of E. coli contamination. Agriculture Department spokeswoman Johna Pierce said the agency's trade officials have determined there is no ban, even though a minister of the Seoul government said a day earlier it was blocking Nebraska beef from customs clearance until it could be tested and found safe. The South Koreans began testing beef from Nebraska after a shipment of frozen and sliced beef from meatpacker IBP Inc. was apparently found to have E. coli contamination on the surface. The Agriculture Department is planning to send ``a small team of experts'' to South Korea next week to assess the situation and hold talks with Seoul officials, Pierce said. In Iowa on Friday, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said the South Koreans have given no specifics about where they found E. coli or how they measured it. ``We have yet to see the proof,'' Glickman said. In this country, E. coli is permitted on the outside of beef because the microbes would be killed in cooking. If the bacteria are in ground beef, however, they can get inside the product and possibly escape the high heat necessary to destroy them. (PROFILE (CO:IBP Inc; TS:IBP; IG:FOD;) (CAT:Business;) (CAT:Agriculture;) (CAT:Consumer;) )

Brain grafts could pass on disease - U.S. panel

Reuters World Report Mon, Oct 6, 1997 By Alicia Ault
BETHESDA, Md., Oct 6 (Reuter) - Strict steps must be taken to ensure that people given brain tissue transplants during brain surgery do not get fatal, brain-wasting Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a U.S. panel said on Monday. The advisory panel of the Food and Drug Administration included Stanley Prusiner, the University of California neurology professor who won the Nobel Prize in medicine on Monday for discovering prion proteins, which are thought to cause CJD and its cousins mad cow disease and scrapie in sheep. Prusiner learned of the prize while in Bethesda for a meeting of the group.

The advisers said human brain transplant tissue -- specifically, the tough outer covering known as the dura mater -- could carry the infective prions. "No dura should be used in this country without these criteria being fulfilled," said panel chairman Paul Brown, medical director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, referring to the controls it recommended.

Half the panel said there were no surgical procedures in which there was an absolute need for human grafts and synthetic alternatives should be considered.

"I don't think I've learned anything today that minimizes my concerns," panelist Sidney Wolfe, director of the Public Citizen Health Research Group, said.
Brain tissue from cadavers has been used for decades to replace tissue damaged by trauma or tumor removal. But mounting evidence suggests that some cases of "sporadic" CJD, which usually affects one in a million people, are transmitted from infected animal or human tissue. The FDA asked advisers if there was a need for stricter safeguards or even an outright ban on human brain tissue grafts to minimize CJD risk. The panel recommended that donors be interviewed in depth about family history of CJD and that all donor tissue be biopsied and tested for prion proteins.

But it did not recommend a ban. Human grafts "have to be made available," Richard Roos of the University of Chicago said. There has only been one confirmed U.S. case of CJD linked to a brain graft, in 1987. It led the FDA to order manufacturers to decontaminate grafts. The best-known method is bathing the tissue in sodium hydroxide, but it is not known to be foolproof. Scientists believe the infectious material is highly concentrated in brain and spinal tissue.

"In my opinion, if there is a failure (to follow strict guidelines), then use of this material would result in disease," Robert Will of the National CJD Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh said. He said Britain had urged neurosurgeons to use synthetic brain grafts, believing human grafts to be too risky.
Japan banned the use of human brain tissue implants in March after long-term data indicated that one manufacturer's brain graft, called Lyodura, probably caused 46 cases of CJD. Also in March, the World Health Organization recommended that use of human brain grafts be prohibited. Synthetic substitutes made of Gore-Tex, polyester and other materials are available, but not much is known about their longevity or reactions in the body.

The FDA has already banned the use of animal tissue in animal feed, and on Tuesday it will propose requiring gelatin manufacturers to take more precautions. Gelatin is used in cosmetics, food and pharmaceuticals. The European Union has banned imports of foods, feeds, cosmetics and drugs that contain neurological tissue from sheep, cattle and goats.

FDA advisers will also consider on Tuesday whether human blood and plasma pose a risk of CJD transmission. CJD has been shown to be infectious. Children who received injections of human growth hormone from the brains of cadavers, some of them infected with CJD, developed the deadly disease themselves. Synthetic hormones are now used instead.

Mad Cow Home or Best Links