Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Newly Mad Cow in Canada

Government officials in Canada have confirmed a fourth case of mad cow disease on Monday. A six-year-old Holstein-Hereford dairy cow has the unfortunate distinction of being the latest case of BSE to hit Canada. This comes hot on the heels of Japan's decision to halt all beef shipments form the US. It's thought that contamintated feed, left over from before Canada banned inclusion of ruminant protein from cow chow, is the culprit. Reuters has more:
Canada confirmed its fourth home-grown case of the brain-wasting disease just as the financial strain on its cattle industry from previous mad-cow-related trade bans had started to ease.

Government and industry officials played down odds that the case will prompt the United States to renew trade restrictions, but U.S. cattle prices initially rose on speculation that may happen.

The announcement also came as the U.S. beef industry tried to persuade Japan, a top export customer, to lift a new halt it slapped on U.S. shipments last week.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

...Aaaand We're Outa There

Yes, to no one's surprise, Japan has decided to halt further beef imports from the US. After thinking about it over the weekend, the Ministry of Agriculture decided that if they wanted beef spines they'd rather get them from home grown sources. And it's not like you can blame them. They asked for beef without spines and still, they got spines. I'd be pissed if I were them. CBS News has more information
Japan's top government spokesman will protest against the discovery of bone material in a shipment of U.S. beef when he meets soon with a U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, a news report said Saturday.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe will lodge the protest with Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick on Monday, Kyodo News agency reported, citing Abe.

Zoellick was scheduled to arrive in Japan Saturday for talks on a range of political and economic issues.

Japan's discovery was a jarring setback for the U.S. meat industry and the Bush administration, both of which had been optimistic about the prospects of selling more beef in Asia despite lingering restrictions on U.S. products.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Spines Found

If you've been reading thsi site as much as you should, then you know that Japan has started importing USian beef again. I'm not sure why, considering Kobe beef is some of most succulent flesh this side of baby seal cheeks, but who are we to criticize? So, anyway, Japan started importing good ol' American beef two months ago. It's gone fairly well, up until today, when but they put a temporary moratorium on future shipments since they found they found beef spines in three boxes of beef in a recent shipment.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said in a statement Friday morning that a thorough investigation was underway and that the plant that exported the tainted shipment would no longer be able to export beef to Japan.

"Our agreement with Japan is to export beef with no vertebral column and we have failed to meet the terms of that agreement," Johanns said in the statement.

Johanns also said he was dispatching USDA inspectors to Japan to review shipments and that unannounced inspections would take place at every U.S. plant approved for beef exports.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

South Korea Needs Their Beef

When the US reported the first case of BSE a couple of years ago most of the countries that import US beef decided to look elsewhere until some changes were made. South Korea was one, but they've now decided to open their doors to some US beef once again. The reports:
South Korea agreed early Friday to resume shipments of U.S. beef, which had been prohibited since the December 2003 discovery of mad cow disease in the United States.

But a prohibition will remain on ribs and other bone-in beef, which keeps closed about 45 percent of the potential market. South Korea was worth a total of $815 million to U.S. producers in the year before the ban. The country once was the third-biggest customer of American beef behind Japan and Mexico.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Are Prions A Defense Against Cannibalism?

An article in this week's Science throws doubt on a previous study that looked at whether modern humans retain a PRNP gene. It was thought that this genentic variation gave some protection against vCJD in cannibals.
n the first study, published in Science (25 April 2003, p. 640), a team led by John Collinge of University College London (UCL), looked at a human gene called PRNP which codes for prions (ScienceNOW, 10 April 2003). These misfolded proteins are thought to be responsible for several neurodegenerative diseases including Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (CJD) and kuru. Individuals with certain variations in this gene are more resistant to the diseases.

When the team looked at the chromosomes of more than 1000 people from populations around the world, they concluded that the prevalence of two of these variations was due to an evolutionary balancing act that had kept them in the gene pool for as long as 500,000 years. The researchers hypothesized that this "balancing selection" was due to widespread cannibalistic practices that had made early humans susceptible to prion diseases.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

T-Bones for Euroland

For the last four years it's been impossible to buy a T-Bone steak anywhere in the Eurozone. As a precaution against prion transmission from BSE-infected cows to humans there has been a ban on all cuts of beef that contain pieces of backbones from animals more than 12 months old. But today that's all changed.
EU veterinary experts agreed in Brussels last October to raise that limit to 24 months, following advice from the European Food Safety Authority.

A continuing fall in the number of positive BSE cases as well as an increase in the average age of infected animals and new scientific data led to the conclusion that it would be safe to ease measures in relation to the removal of certain specified risk material in animals.