Tuesday, August 30, 2005

New Test for Mad Cow in the Works

Canada.com is reporting that there's a new test for human Mad Cow Disease (vCJD) in the pipeline that will allow medical professionals to test a blood sample rather than a brain sample. Currently, the only real way to confirm a diagnosis of vCJD is to do an autopsy and take a brain sample under carefully controlled conditions. Current procedures require the destruction of all medical instruments used in the autopsy, since vCJD prions can survive normal decontamination procedures.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Americans more aware of mad cow disease, but not very concerned

Nation's Restaurant News reported that The NPD Group's Food Safety Monitor survey found that after the USDA on June 24 confirmed a second, but first home-grown, U.S. case of mad cow disease, consumer awareness of the lethal disorder rose 7 percentage points. Concern levels increased only 2 points.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Idaho officials investigate sixth possible case of CJD

This AP article reports that five elderly Southern Idaho women died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease this year, and authorities are investigating a possible sixth case. The suspected case is a man in his 60s. State officials are working with federal experts to determine if the Idaho victims had the sporadic, naturally occurring form of CJD or the variant form of CJD that people can contract when they eat meat from a cow infected with BSE. The five women victims were between 60 and 83 years old. Autopsies were performed on three of them. The other two victims died before their disease was reported by a physician and autopsies were not performed. This is the first year that physicians are required to report CJD cases in Idaho. Normally, the naturally occurring variant of the disease infects just one person per 1 million worldwide annually. Idaho averages three cases a year. [Don't move to Idaho. -eds.]

Friday, August 19, 2005

1,036 notices given over mad-cow rules

This Aug. 16 AP article by Libby Quaid states that USDA inspectors gave 1,036 violations to slaughterhouses or processing plants for failing to comply with rules created to prevent the spread of mad cow disease. The preventative rules require that brains, spinal cords and other nerve parts be removed when older cows are slaughtered. The at-risk tissues are removed from cows older than 30 months because infection levels are believed to rise with age. The department released the information in response to requests made by several groups under the federal Freedom of Information Act. The records were from January 2004, when the rules went into effect, through May of this year. One of the groups, Public Citizen, said the records showed serious problems in enforcing the rules. For example, there were mistakes in identifying animals' ages, which affected whether at-risk tissues were removed. Interesting "bright line" comment: Removal of nerve tissues is important but doesn't guarantee the safety of the food supply, said Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at Consumers Union. "We've always had a dispute with the bright line USDA seems to draw between dangerous parts of the animal and safe parts of the animal," Halloran said. "There's a lot we don't know. There's nothing absolute about 30 months. It's not a magic number." The USDA assures that no contaminated meat reached consumers.

Friday, August 05, 2005

U.S. Cow Tests Negative for BSE

The 12-year-old cow recently suspected of having BSE did in fact not have it, reports this Reuters article.