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BSE: Moves to repel European disease

BSE: Moves to repel European disease

LONDON, England -- Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia are introducing tough livestock controls after a United Nations warning about the spread of mad cow disease beyond Western Europe.

So far Switzerland is the only nation outside the European Union to have reported a native case of mad cow disease.

But the U.N. said last week that Eastern Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and India had the highest risk among non-Western Europe of harbouring bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

Most at risk, because of its proximity to the European union -- where many member states have declared they have found BSE-infected cattle and where almost 90 people have died from the human form of the ailment, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease -- is Eastern Europe.

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Romania has already banned meat and bone meal imports from countries where BSE has been detected and is in the process of banning feeding meat and bone meal to cattle, sheep and goats.

In the Ukraine, beef imports from Britain, France, Switzerland, Holland, Portugal and Denmark were banned three years ago.

Last month the country banned beef and livestock from Germany.

Ukraine's veterinary inspectorate said it would enlist the country's SBU security service to help put an end to massive illegal imports of livestock and beef in order to try to stop mad cow disease from spreading to the country.

"We will ask our security service for help to defend the country from BSE," said Mykola Patsyuk, deputy head of the inspectorate.

In Croatia, the cattle industry is proud of its BSE-free record. But some Croatians wonder whether the country's ban on imports from BSE-hit states came too late.

Butchers complain that the sale of beef has halved in the last month, despite their efforts to make it more attractive by slashing prices.

Croatia prides itself on having two large meat farms still licensed to export beef to Western Europe.

Hungary, which has around 800,000 cattle, has reported no BSE cases so far, and the country hopes to stay free of the disease thanks to stringent restrictions imposed on imports of live cattle and beef, as well as meat and bone meal.

"Hungary's cattle, sheep and goat stock can be regarded as free of the disease," Attila Nagy, the ministerial commissioner in charge of animal health care, said.

Hungary has banned the import of live cattle, beef products and raw skin from countries affected by BSE.

It has also imposed a ban on meat and bone meal imports, except for 100 percent ground fish bone and milk-based feed.

The feeding of domestically produced meat and bone meal to pigs and poultry has also been prohibited for six months in line with a similar European Union move

Elsewhere, analysts in India say farmers do not feed cattle with meat and bone meal although they fear BSE could be spread via the import of live cattle.

"Consumers in India are largely unconcerned about the BSE controversy raging all over Europe," said one, who added that India must tighten quarantine procedures for the import of live animals and strengthen hygiene and sanitation conditions in slaughterhouses.

In the Middle East, the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) -- which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates -- has agreed to impose a ban on the import of beef from any country in the world hit by BSE.

Dr. Mohammad Wayel al-Mouhanna, chairman of the Animal Health Department at Kuwait's Public Authority for Agriculture and Fish, said Kuwait had banned the import of British beef and related products in the 1980s due to mad cow disease.

"Thank God, to date we do not have any reports of BSE symptoms in Kuwait," he said.

Reuters contributed to this report.



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RELATED SITES:
The BSE Inquiry in the UK
Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathies
Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
European Union
World Health Organisation

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