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ecoglobe [yinyang] news (6 June 1999)
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US Food Crisis in the Making

America's "Mad Deer" Epidemic:
A Public Health Time Bomb Set to Explode?

[Center for Food Safety News #19 (formerly Food Bytes) June 4, 1999, by Ronnie Cummins (alliance@mr.net) distributed through pure-food-action@mr.net emailing listserve]

As we pointed out in an earlier issue (Food Bytes #2, September 24, 1997), there is increasing evidence that the US has a growing number of people coming down with the human equivalent of Mad Cow Disease, called CJD (Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease). Although the meat industry, the blood plasma cartel, and the Centers for Disease Control tell us there's no need to worry, that only 250 Americans a year are dying from this incurable brain-wasting disease, we remain skeptical.

The CDC and the USDA tell us that it's not necessary to make CJD an "officially reportable disease" (whereby doctors are bound by law to look for it and report all cases to the federal government), or to scientifically test farm animals and Alzheimer patients for the disease, but mounting evidence indicates that as many as 40,000 Americans (or 1% of the nation's 4-6 million people diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease or dementia) may actually be wasting away with CJD. See the book Mad Cow USA: Could the Nightmare Happen Here? by John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton <www.prwatch.org/> If you want to order Mad Cow USA, send us $10 at our office in Minnesota and we'll mail you a copy.

To call attention to this growing public health hazard and to force the government to take action (i.e. to stop the widespread practice in industrial agriculture of "animal cannibalism," the feeding of waste and diseased animal parts back to animals, and to make CJD an official "reportable disease") lawyers at the Center for Food Safety filed two legal petitions in Federal Court in Washington on January 7, 1999. For details on the CFS legal petitions see <www.icta.org>

In Britain and Europe the meat industry's former feeding practice of animal cannibalism has unleashed a fatal Alzheimers-like dementia that is killing a growing number of young victims who ate contaminated beef from mad cows. Some experts predict hundreds of thousands of Britons and other Europeans may die in the decades ahead due to the long and invisible incubation period of this brain-destroying illness, called "new-variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease" (nvCJD).

Europe has now banned the feeding practices that spread Mad Cow and nvCJD. However, in the U.S. the dangerous practice of "animal cannibalism" continues unabated-- with government approval. Although the FDA passed a so-called "mammal-to-mammal animal feed ban" in 1997, the regulation is filled with loopholes, and, according to farmers and ag experts, is not being enforced. As Dr. Michael Hansen of the Consumers Union stated in Genetic Engineering News in July 1997 [the FDA] "rule exempts swine, horses, blood, gelatin and milk from the feed ban... [and] still leaves the door open to spreading of a TSE...[Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy] "

Heretofore unpublished internal USDA and APHIS (Animal Plant Health Inspection Service) documents such as "Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy in the USA" (July 1993) recently obtained by the Center for Food Safety under the Freedom of Information Act and published on the internet <www.mad-cow.org> make it clear that the US government knows that a form of US Mad Cow Disease is already likely present in US cattle and in the food chain. According to government estimates it is likely that at least 36 animals per year are slaughtered in the US with Mad Cow Disease. The Clinton administration has prepared an elaborate contingency plan for "damage control" once the first US Mad Cow is confirmed.

As evidence grows that TSEs (Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies or Mad Cow-like diseases) are infecting sheep, deer, elk, and other mammals in the US (including humans) billions of pounds of rendered fat, offal, meat and bone meal continue to be fed back to cows, pigs, chickens, fish, household pets, and elk and deer. (On so-called deer and elk farms where hunters pay fees to shoot them, deer and elk are often fed rendered animal protein). Rather than invoking the "precautionary principle" to protect human health, the powerful U.S. beef and industrial agriculture lobby has convinced the government to issue a watered down feed ban while waging war against free speech by lobbying for "food disparagement laws" in more than a dozen states, criminalizing the actions of those such as Oprah Winfrey and Howard Lyman who have spoken out for food safety and warned of an impending Mad Cow-like crisis in the USA.

Although the apparent increase in CJD deaths in the US hasn't yet set off a major food safety or public health crisis, The New York Times, USA Today, and CNN television have recently reported on an emerging epidemic of Mad Deer Disease and Mad Elk Disease (technically called Chronic Wasting Disease or CWD) in the Rocky Mountain area of the US. Not only have up to 7% of mule tail deer and 1.5% of elk in areas of Colorado and Wyoming been diagnosed as having Mad Deer/Elk Disease (in comparison 1-2% of cattle had Mad Cow Disease in England at the height of the epidemic there), but the highly-publicized death in March of Doug McEwen, a 30 year-old deer hunter in Utah from CJD--and reports of several other young deer hunters with CJD across the country--has unnerved hunters and wildlife officials as well as the entire beef and blood plasma industry. (The World Health Organization warns that Mad Cow-like diseases can likely spread through blood transfusions).

Doug McEwen was an avid blood donor, and his blood plasma products--marketed by the Bayer corporation--ended up in more than 20 countries. In March the Canadian government temporarily quarantined all blood plasma from the US because of the McKuen case. Meanwhile US authorities are considering a ban on blood plasma products from the UK. and barring anyone who's been to the U.K. since 1980 from donating blood.On May 25, CBS News in New York ran a story on yet another young US deer hunter, 27 year-old Jay Whitlock, who is dying of CJD.

Over the past several years Colorado state wildlife officials have warned deer and elk hunters to send them the heads of animals that they've killed in order that they may be tested for CWD. But while the government delays and prevaricates several million Americans--especially hunters and their families--continue to eat venison and elk on a regular basis. Meanwhile thousands of sport hunting and "road kill" deer and elk are routinely rendered into animal and pet feed. Scientists warn that Mad Deer/Elk Disease is likely to spread into cattle and sheep because the prion proteins in these mammals are so similar. Captive elk have already infected wild deer, apparently from fence line contact.

Government officials have tried to play down the emerging CWD crisis, claiming there's no connection between the McKuen case (the Centers for Disease Control claim it's "normal" for several in a billion people to die from CJD while still in their twenties or thirties) and the CWD epidemic in deer and elk, and emphasize that most infected deer and elk are concentrated in a limited area in Colorado and Wyoming. But according to a February 23, 1999 story in the New York Times "Weighing 'Mad Cow' Risks in American Deer and Elk" by Sandra Blakeslee:

"Game farms are another story. The disease is found in captive deer and elk herds in three states -- South Dakota, Nebraska and Oklahoma-- and in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, said Dr. Beth Williams, the nation's leading expert on chronic wasting disease, at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. The disease was reported in the mid-1960's at the Wildlife Research Station in Fort Collins, Colorado, where it eventually wiped out 90 percent of the animals. But before people knew what was happening, many infected animals were sold to game farms or zoos elsewhere for breeding, thus spreading the infection. Ranchers made large profits selling antlers to Asia, where they are used in making herbal remedies and aphrodisiacs."

Stay tuned for further developments.

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ecoglobe [yinyang] news (6 June 1999)
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