Mad cow alarm spreads in Europe

mad cow disease

March 27, 1996
Web posted at: 6:45 p.m. EST (2345 GMT)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (CNN) -- "Mad cow" hysteria continued to spread across Europe Wednesday, prompting Dutch officials to slaughter cattle as a precautionary measure and the European Union to ban the import of all British beef.

French officials on Wednesday night scrambled to calm the public's concern over media reports that two people had died from Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), an incurable brain disorder linked to mad cow disease. French media reported the two deaths Wednesday afternoon.


A research director at the government medical agency INSERM, Dr. Annick Alperovitch, said the latest death tied to CJD was in January, and the other death was sometime in 1994, not recently, as the newspapers said.

Alperovitch denied there was any proof the deaths were linked to mad cow disease and called the instances a "sporadic form of the illness" that has turned up in France.

Britain said last week that 10 people could have contracted CJD from eating meat or meat products infected with bovine spongiform encephelopathy (BSE, or "mad cow disease").

Dutch authorities have announced that 64,000 calves imported from Britain into the Netherlands will be slaughtered as a precautionary measure, even though no cases of mad cow disease have been detected.

The Dutch announcement followed word from Brussels that the European Commission had ordered a global ban on British beef exports. The decision by the European Union, while provisional, left British beef shipments with virtually nowhere to go.

The ban pushed Britain closer toward ordering a selective slaughter of its cattle herd to help restore confidence in the $6 billion beef industry. The government has asked the EU to help defray the costs of such a slaughter, a request the EU said it will consider.

The British government, battling a political and public health crisis, insists the beef is safe to eat, and said it would make every effort to get the sanctions lifted.


"We have made clear from the outset we thought those conclusions were disproportionate and decisions contrary to the clear scientific advice," a government spokesman told the Reuters news service.

The government stepped back from making a widely expected announcement on the selective slaughter of cattle on Wednesday but is under heavy pressure from the powerful farming lobby.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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