Mad Cow Disease Plan

By George Grow

This is the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

European officials are struggling to stop the spread of Mad Cow Disease. Earlier this month, agriculture ministers of European Union nations approved measures to limit the spread of the disease. They hope the measures will help to re-build public trust in European cattle and beef products.

The cattle disease is Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or B-S-E. It causes holes in the brain. Cows act strangely before they die. So it is known as Mad Cow Disease. Scientists believe eating infected beef may cause a similar incurable brain disease in humans. This deadly disease is called Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. More than eighty people in Britain and two in France have died from the human form of the disease in recent years.

The European Union agriculture ministers agreed not to permit cattle over thirty months old to be sold as food unless the animals are tested for B-S-E. The ministers also approved a temporary ban on the use of meat and bone meal in animal feed products. Feed containing animal remains is suspected of causing the disease.

The ban will take effect January first and last six months. It is expected to cost as much as one-thousand-million dollars.

Diplomats say most E-U members voted for the ban. Finland and Germany reportedly voted against the ban. Finnish officials consider it wasteful and costly. No animals infected with B-S-E have been found in Finland. German officials do not believe the measures are strong enough. The German Agriculture Minister said E-U officials will have to extend the ban.

The push for new measures follows the discovery of Mad Cow Disease in Germany and Spain for the first time. In France, the number of reported cases of the disease has increased this year. Two months ago, beef sales dropped sharply in France after the discovery of B-S-E infected meat from French cows. Many E-U nations have blocked French cattle and beef imports.

The disease also has been reported in Belgium, Italy and The Netherlands.

In Britain, thousands of cows were destroyed after B-S-E was discovered in Nineteen-Ninety-Six. British beef products were then removed from most European markets. Most E-U members now permit sales of British beef.

This VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by George Grow.

Voice of America Special English