CHICAGO, April 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Government statistics just published in Great Britain reveal that there was an unusual increase in the number of deaths from new variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (nvCJD) during the last five months of calendar year 1998. This always fatal, new type of dementia is now believed to be the form Mad Cow Disease takes when it infects humans. In recent years Mad Cow Disease is estimated to have infected some one million beef cattle in Britain, and nvCJD is believed to occur among consumers who once ate beef from these cattle. Since many infected cattle went into the British food supply and since nvCJD has an extended incubation period of many years, it is feared that a widespread public health crisis could result. So far, however, the incidence of nvCJD has been rare. Three deaths in Britain were reported for 1995, ten deaths were reported in 1996 and in 1997, and 15 deaths were reported on March 1, 1999 for the year 1998. According to Robert Brown, President of Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT), an analysis of these government statistics reveals that there were eleven deaths from nvCJD in the last five months of 1998. "For these five months," said Brown, "this represents an annual death rate of 26.4 individuals. For the month of January 1999, just one new death was reported, but reports in coming months will deserve careful scrutiny." On August 4, 1997, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the use of protein derived from mammalian tissues in U.S. cattle feed. According to Richard Wood, Executive Director of FACT, this step was take because the Mad Cow epidemic in Britain was caused by feeding protein products made from infected cattle to healthy cattle. "The problem now for American consumers," said Wood, "is that FDA surveys reveal that not all feed mills are following required procedures for keeping the banned protein products out of cattle feed." Mad Cow Disease and nvCJD have occurred in a number of European countries, but, so far, no cases have been identified in the U.S. FACT is urging the FDA to rigorously enforce its ban on mammalian protein products in cattle feed so that this potential public health crisis does not spread to this country. Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT) is a non-profit organization that conducts research on foodborne human diseases, such as salmonellosis, that originate in farm animals. It advocates regulation of animal agriculture to improve food safety through Executive Director Wood's membership on the FDA's Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee and through other government and industry forums. For further information please contact Robert Brown, 860-535-4999, or Richard Wood and Meryl Camin Sosa, 773-525-4952.
SOURCE Food Animal Concerns Trust