Food Animal Concerns Trust: Deaths Linked to British Beef Increase

Apr 08, 1999, 01:00 ET from Food Animal Concerns Trust

    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
     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