GENTECH archive 8.96-97


BSE-PSE in the USA (NYTimes story)

March 28, 1997

U.S. Asked to Take New Steps to Prevent Mad-Cow Disease


  WASHINGTON -- A coalition of consumer groups, veterinarians, and federal
meat inspectors asked the federal government on Thursday to improve its meat
inspection system and to take other measures to help prevent the spread of
mad cow disease. 

  Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration proposed a ban on using
tissue from animals that chew their cud -- cows, sheep, goats, deer, and elk
-- in animal feed. The coalition asked on Thursday that hogs be added to that
list. There is strong evidence that mad-cow disease, bovine spongiform
encephalopathy, spreads through contaminated animal protein. Mink are
included in the ban because they have carried a similar ailment. 

  Hogs have been excluded because the government says it has no evidence that
the animals have ever had the disease. But the coalition says there is
evidence that hogs can develop a form of the disease. The Consumer Policy
Institute of Consumers Union, part of the coalition, has asked the government
to institute the same kind of ban that is in effect in England: one that
prohibits the use of protein from all mammals in the feed of any food animal.

  No case of mad-cow disease has ever been detected in the United States, but
it has afflicted more than 165,000 cattle in Britain since it was discovered
in 1986. 

  Thomas Billy, administrator of the Agriculture Department's Food Safety and
Inspection Service, said that further measures were not necessary. He said
that the agency was concerned about the possible risk in hogs used in feed
but that there was "no evidence that argues for broadening what we are

  Dr. Stephen Sundlof, director of the center for veterinary medicine at the
FDA, said that the agency "would take the evidence presented today into
consideration." The problem with a wider ban, he said, is that officials
would have to find some way to dispose of the animal renderings that are now
used in feed. 

  In asking for a wider ban, Consumers Union and the Government
Accountability Project, a Washington-based whistleblower support
organization, cited evidence from 1979 suggesting unusual symptoms in the
central nervous systems of young hogs. At the time, scientists were not aware
of mad-cow disease. But after the announcement by the British government last
year that there may be a link between mad-cow disease and the human ailment
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which is always fatal, some government scientists
recommended a re-examination of the 1979 slides from the hogs. 

  Although more recent readings of the slides have been inconclusive, experts
in the field say that the evidence suggests transmissible spongiform
encephalopathy. The coalition also noted that mad-cow disease had been
experimentally induced in pigs. 

  It is asking the Agriculture Department to conduct further research and to
step up inspections at hog slaughterhouses. 

Copyright 1997 The New York Times