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BSE victims' families welcome compensation reports

BSE victims' families welcome compensation reports

LONDON, England -- Britain is set to pay a multi-million pound compensation package to the families of the victims of the human form of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as mad cow disease.

The deal, which is expected to be announced on Thursday, coincides with the publication of the long-awaited report on the BSE crisis in Britain.

Britain has recorded 84 known cases of new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), the human form of mad cow disease. So far 73 victims have died.

The crisis led to the slaughter of large parts of Britain's cattle herd and bans of export of its meat abroad.

The Department of Health has refused to confirm or deny reports of a compensation package.

But Lord Phillips' report, which will criticise former Conservative government ministers for their handling of the crisis, is believed to have agreed a no-fault scheme that would see victims' families paid hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Phillips took evidence over two-and-a-half years from almost 1,000 witnesses, with 630 giving written evidence and 333 giving oral evidence. The inquiry has cost an estimated 27 million.

Families of the victims have given a cautious welcome to the reports.

David Body, the lawyer representing the families, said: "It would be very good news indeed if the rumours of a care package are true. If they are true, the government is doing the right thing.

Beef
Carrefour supermarket chain has removed French beef from some stores  

"A care package is what our clients and ourselves have lobbied for during the past two years so that families of future victims receive better care than experienced by victims and families in the past.

"Previously, families whose loved ones have contracted variant CJD have received often poor and inconsistent standards of care.

"Care has often been something of a 'postcode lottery' because of a lack of central funds. A centrally funded and managed care package may prevent this in the future.

"The issue of compensation has never been as great a priority for the families, but obviously there is a need to address the economic impact on families of the death of a loved one."

Europe's beef scare began in 1996, when the European Union imposed a ban on British beef after a link was established between the ailment and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Experts believe people with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease picked it up from eating meat from cattle infected with mad cow disease.

Trader held

The ban on British beef continues in France after five years although the meat was due to be on display on the British Meat and Livestock Commission stand at an international food show in Paris on Monday.

Publication of British inquiry into BSE comes as a French trader was held by police accused of intentionally selling a cow infected with mad cow disease to a slaughterhouse.

The trader, Claude Demeulenaere, 65, was detained, along with his 35-year-old son, Gilles, and his wife, Huguette, 66.

Following the arrests, a major supermarket chain cleared its shelves of a ton of beef from animals in the same herd as the infected cow.

Carrefour supermarket chain removed the meat on Saturday from 39 of its stores primarily in northern France and in the Paris region, the Agriculture Ministry said.

Prosecutor Philippe Stelmach, of the Haute Normandie region where Demeulenaere operated, said that a legal investigation was opened on Sunday and the trader and two of his family members face up to four years in jail if found guilty of knowingly selling tainted meat.

The Agriculture Ministry said Demeulenaere had sold an infected cow to a slaughterhouse in the Normandy town of Calvados on October 10.

Veterinary inspectors at the slaughterhouse spotted the cow showing signs of mad cow disease and the animal tested positive for the disease 10 days later.

Eleven other cows from the same herd had already been sent for slaughter six days earlier. Meat from that herd ended up on supermarket shelves while two more tons were blocked at the slaughterhouse.

And in Belgium two more cases of mad cow disease have been discovered bringing the country's total to 18.

The Belgian Agriculture Ministry said the two infected cows, and 105 other animals from two herds, had been slaughtered.

Reuters contributed to this report.



RELATED STORIES:
Polio vaccine withdrawn over BSE fear
October 20, 2000
New 'mad cow' link to humans and livestock
August 29, 2000
Human form of mad cow disease on the increase
August 4, 2000

RELATED SITES:
UK Ministry of Agriculture
French Government
Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
The BSE Inquiry
Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathies

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