Mad Cow Disease(MADCOW case)

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     CASE NUMBER:   291
     CASE NAME:     Mad Cow Disease

1.   The Issue

     The United Kingdom is currently under going a scare because of
what scientists see as the possible link between Bovine Spongiform
Encephalopathy (BSE) or 'Mad Cow' disease and the human brain
ailment Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD).  If the link, not yet
scientifically proven, is true, it could mean the possible
infection of thousand perhaps hundreds of thousands of humans with
a disease for which there is no known cure.  What is alarming, and
perhaps tragic about this crisis in Britain is that it is possible
that the entire thing could have been avoided had the British
government heeded the warnings of scientist over a decade ago when
BSE first become known in British cattle herds.  Unless conclusive
evidence to the contrary is found so that the people of Britain and
its beef export trade partners can relax and regain their
confidence in the quality of British beef, the British beef
industry may never recover. 

2.   Description

     Beginning in March of 1996, a scare spread across the United
Kingdom as well as the rest of Europe due to a recent study
released by a team of doctors in Edinburgh Scotland.  The report
cited a possible link between the human brain ailment Creutzfeldt-
Jakob disease (CJD) and a similar disease seen in cows, Bovine
Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or so called 'Mad Cow' disease.  It
is thought that the disease in humans may be caused by eating beef
infected with BSE.  While the evidence is inconclusive, the public
fear of the possible link has caused wide-spread decreases in beef
sales, a European wide ban on all British beef products, and has
forced the British government to take serious action.  The British
beef industry has come to an almost complete halt at this time
while the government looks into ways to instill new confidence in
British beef.  In addition to the loss of beef revenues, the
government has suffered its own loss in public confidence, as the
possibility of these diseases being connected was first discussed
more than five years ago, and what the public sees as an initial
government policy of inaction.

     Normally, the rare disease Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)
strikes people over 60 years of age, but the subjects of the study
released in Edinburgh in March of 1996 all showed initial symptoms
of the disease before age 45.  The disease strikes about one person
per million worldwide, which in the 1960's translated to about 5
cases per year in England and Wales, almost all of which were
victims over the age of 65.  What makes the Edinburgh study so
unusual and perhaps alarming, is the rate of incidence in younger
people.  The patients ranged from age 16 - 39 at the time of
diagnosis.  Six were women and four men and they have survived an
average of 12 months from the onset of the symptoms.  All ten
patients considered in the study were diagnosed in the course of
ten months, with nine appearing between October 1995 and January
1996.  This is in contrast to the 22 cases of CJD diagnosed in
Britons under the age of 45 in the last 24 years. (1)  The victims,
eight already having died by April 1996, shared no unusual habits
or exposures that the doctors have been able to find so far.  They
all had eaten beef in the last ten years.  One last unusual aspect
of the study was that all ten victims had abnormalities called "PrP
plaques" in their brain tissue.  This is important because similar
plaques are found in brains of sheep that have scrapie, but never
have they been discovered in other CJD cases. (2)

     Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) is the cow's
equivalent to CJD, although it appears much more frequently.  In
1985, farmers and veterinarians began reporting cases of cows that
were 'going mad'.  The cows would loose their bearings, stare
strangely, stagger about and eventually die.  Because of the
possible long gestation period of the disease, it was difficult to
determine what caused the spreading of the 'mad cows' disease,
although veterinarians immediately noticed that the spongy
consistency of the effected cow's brains was the exact same symptom
of the disease scrapie in sheep.  Scrapie has been a known and
understood disease for farmers since the 1800's, although there is
no cure.  When the initial outbreak of BSE began in the United
Kingdom, many countries, including the US, banned the importation
of all British beef and the British government banned the sale of
all known infected cattle as well as banning the sale and use of
certain cow part such as the brain or spinal cord, where the
disease is believed to be most concentrated.  It appears that these
initial steps may have help decrease the number of BSE cases
overall.  BSE reached its peak in Britain in 1992 when there were
about 37,000 reported cases in a national cattle population of
about 11 million.  It has remained troublesome in herds through
1995 and the beginning of 1996, although the rate of incidence has
declined 70% since 1986. (3)  While the highest concentrations of
BSE are certainly in Britain, 10 other countries have also had
cases reported in their herds.  The total figures are as follows

Table 1
 The United Kingdom:
           Great Britain            158,882
           Northern Ireland           1,680
           Isle of Man                  405
           Guernsey                     575
           Jersey                       119
           Alderney                       2
     Switzerland                        205
     Republic of Ireland                123
     Portugal                            31
     France                              13
     Germany                              4
     Italy                                2
     Oman                                 2
     Canada                               1
     Denmark                              1
     Falklands                            1

     Little is known about either CJD or BSE at this time.  The
agent that transmits these diseases was originally considered an
atypical type of virus, but Professor Prusiner at the University of
California discovered that the transmitting agent is a non-living
piece of protein that has the unique ability to cause
conformational change in other proteins that it comes in contact
with. (5)  Prion proteins exist in two forms: one capable of
producing disease and one harmless.  The disease producing prion is
a variation of a normal protein and may differ from its counterpart
only by having one different amino acid that is capable of turning
the prion protein into a disease producing agent.  These prions are
in all tissues, concentrating in the brain and spinal cord. They
can also be found in bone, kidneys, liver and lungs.

     It is important to note that bones go into making gelatin, a
common ingredient in all types of foods as well as many health and
beauty products.  The result of the diseases CJD and BSE is that it
changes the consistency of the brain into a spongy swiss-cheese
consistency when examined under a microscope.  This cerebral
deterioration creates disorientation, confusion, twitching,
cognitive and emotional changes and loss, and eventually death. 
These symptoms as well as the pattern of brain deterioration are
also found in sheep that suffer from scrapie and in the victims of
kuru.  Interestingly, kuru is a CJD-like disease whose victims also
have the PrP plaques found in the ten CJD cases in the study above.
Kuru disease is only found in New Guinean tribesmen who participate
in mourning rituals that involve the consumption of the human

     Another big problem with both CJD and BSE is that there is no
sure way to know whether a cow or person has the disease.  The best
method of determining the diseases' existence is to look for the
swiss-cheese like pattern in the brain tissues and by staining the
tissue with a particular dye.  Unfortunately, both of these tests
can only be performed once the victim is dead.  At an emergency
meeting of scientists and health officials held in Washington in
late March of 1996 to discuss BSE, a team of researchers from the
National Institutes of Health reported that they had developed a
test that appeared capable of detecting CJD in humans and BSE in
cattle before the victim has died. (6)  Because this test is
relatively new and untested in the field, it is hard to determine
how helpful it will be.  If it is successful, it may help
scientists understand how long a period exists between the exposure
to the disease and the onset of symptoms.  Currently, scientist say
that time periods could be anywhere from 10 to 30 years, thus
indicating that the ten recent cases in Scotland could have been
the result of exposure to the disease before initial measures were
taken by the government and farmers in the ate 1980's.  This would
also seem to be the case, as one of the victims had been a strictly
vegetarian for a number of years, although she had eaten beef
regularly before then.

     One of the most pressing questions currently facing scientist
relating to this scare is to determine how the disease began in
cattle, how it spread to other nations, and whether the disease can
make the transition from one species, such as cattle, to another,
like humans.  In the late 1970's there was a growing demand for
cheap beef and milk in  the United Kingdom which led to more
intensive production.  Cows had multiple pregnancies to stimulate
their milk production calves were weaned earlier and the cattle
were fed with protein enriched foods.  Unfortunately, these protein
rich foods did not use soya or fish proteins, but instead
concentrates were often made from the carcasses of dead animals,
including sheep which may have had the brain disease scrapie.  Feed
containing meat and bones has been used by farmers in other
European nations, but to a much lesser extent.  While other
countries processed batches of dead animals at very high
temperatures, Britain generally used lower temperatures, as well as
eliminated solvents to remove excess fat from the meat and bone
meal in order to save time and money.

     Dr. Francois-Xavier Meslin, the World Health Organization's
expert of diseases transmitted from animals to humans, says the
disparity between Britain and other countries can be contributed to
several factors having to do with British farming practice and
policy. "The low temperatures at which the feed was produced, the
high incorporation of bone and meat meal containing contaminated
bovine proteins into dairy herds, and an epidemic of scrapie in
British sheep all contributed." (7)  When the BSE - scrapie link
was first discussed in the mid-1980's, the British government
immediately banned production of the bone and meat meal and many
infected herds were destroyed.  This does not answer the question
of how the herds in other European nations were contaminated.  The
French agriculture ministry said that of the 600,000 tons of meat
and bone meal fed to French cattle before 1988-89 when it was
banned, 15,000 tons originated in Britain.  A Paris ministry
spokesperson said "Tests on the 16 cows which have suffered BSE -
the latest [in March 1996] -all showed that they had eaten
contaminated feed from Britain, not France." (8)  The Republic of
Ireland has also indicated that it believes its cases of BSE are
due to the British feed given their cattle before they too banned
such meat and bone meal in 1990.

        It was not until 1990's in Britain that the idea of the
disease being able to transfer from cattle to other animals came
forward.  In 1990 a cat named Max that had eaten beef products in
its food came down with what appeared to be 'mad caw' disease-like
symptoms, setting off an initial British panic and the first drop
in beef sales.  At about the same time, scientists noticed the
strong similarities between BSE and CJD, but there was still no
indication that a disease could transfer from animals to humans. 
In 1992, the British medical journal, the Lancet, reported the
first case of CJD in a farmer regularly exposed to cattle with BSE,
and then of course recently the panic was triggered by the study,
also published in the Lancet, conducted by the Edinburgh doctors
relating to the ten younger and seemingly inexplicable (except
possibly for beef consumption) victims of CJD. (9)  Laboratory test
have been performed on the spongiform encephalopathies and they
have shown that they can transfer from man to monkey to
experimental animals as well as from experimental animals to
monkeys and most other species.  In fact, it has also been shown
that surgical instruments that have been sterilized are capable of
transmitting the disease when used on other patients, as well as
the possible transmission from small amounts of tissue such as can
occur for a corneal transplant.  The disease prions are not killed
by steam or boiling, which could mean that it will not leave the
beef even if it is cooked to what most consider healthy standards.

      The indications, when one considers how little is known about
the BSE and the possible connection to CJD, are enormous.  The
British beef industry is a large one for that economy.  Britain
exports over 300,000 tons of beef products in a year to European
countries alone and generates annual sales of over $3 billion.  In
March of 1996, immediately following the release of the Edinburgh
study, the British government issued a 'temporary' ban on the sale
of cattle older than 30 months and announced an aide package to
those farmers hit by the ban.  At the same time the European Union
issued a total ban on all beef products from Great Britain and
urged the British to consider a program of wide-spread slaughter of
all older cattle that may be susceptible to the BSE disease.  The
British National Farmers Union also urged the government to issue
a policy of slaughtering all cattle that may be high risk for BSE
in order to instill confidence in beef on the market for the
consumers.  The government did not immediately go to the slaughter
policy as it felt that the scientific evidence necessary for such
a broad action was not present.  By the end of March the British
beef industry had essentially come to a complete halt.  Cattle
auctions and sales were canceled all over the country and thousands
of people connected to the beef industry found themselves without

        The general policy of inaction held until the first week in
April when the government announced it would institute a plan to
slaughter approximately 4.7 million head of cattle over the next
six years at a rate of about 15,000 cows each week.  With help from
their trade partners in the European Union, who have agreed to pay
70% of the total aide package the British government  will have to
give to those farmers whose cattle are to be slaughtered which will
end up costing over $600 million dollars each year for the next six
years.  While the EU has pledged to help financially, the British
government had hoped that they would lift the total ban on British
beef once the slaughter policy had been agreed to.  As of Mid-April
1996, the European Union had stated that while they could see the
ban being lifted in the near future, it would remain in place until
such a time that the slaughter plan had been enacted and their
consumers could be assured that they were not getting
contaminated beef.

     While the British government scrambles to recover what is now
a practically non-existent trade in beef, many farmers are
concerned about their herds.  In some cases, dairy cows can call a
price well over $100,000.  While they acknowledge the need for the
government to do whatever necessary to instill public confidence,
they fear that they will not be fairly compensated for both the
loss in sales they have suffered as well as the potential loss of
prize cattle. (11)  Beef prices continue to fall in almost all
cases except those farmers who chose not to feed their cattle
protein supplements in the last twenty years but to let them graze
and grass feed instead.  Those farmers who can claim their cattle
are 'special' free range have experienced a sky-rocketing in demand
for their beef.  Other nations with large beef exports such as
Argentina and Australia have also experienced a surge in demand for
their product as neither country has any BSE in their herds. 
According to some, this pattern will continue for some time, as
regaining public confidence in British beef will not be an easy

3. Related Cases

ECCO2 Case


4.  Draft Author: Katharine Harris (April, 1996)

B.  LEGAL Cluster

5.  Discourse and Status:  AGREE and INPROGress

6.  Forum and Scope:  EU and REGION

7.  Decision Breadth:  15

8.  Legal Standing:  TREATY


9.  Geography

              a. Continental Domain : Europe
              b. Geographic Site : Western Europe
              c. Geographic Impact: UK
10.  Sub-National Factors:  No

11.  Type of Habitat:  Temperate


12.  Type of Measure: IMport BAN

13.  Direct v. Indirect:  DIRect

14.  Relation of Measure to Impact

  a. Directly Related to Product: YES
  b. Indirectly Related to Product: NO                            
  c. Not Related to Product: NO
  d. Related to Process: YES

15.  Trade Product Identification: BEEF (and by-products)

16.  Economic Data: Industry Output: $3,000,000,000/yr.

17.  Degree of Competitive Impact: HIGH

18.  Industry Sector: FOOD

19.  Exporter and Importer: UK and EU


20.  Environmental Problem Type: HEALTH

21.  Species Information

22.  Impact and Effect: HIGH and REGULatory

     Until there is some conclusive scientific evidence linking the
cause of the new form of CJD to BSE and scrapie, it is impossible
to determine whether there is any impact at all.  If the link is
found and it is determined that the millions of people who ate beef
during the worst stages of the BSE contamination, then the impacts
could be unlike any seen in recent history.

23.  Urgency and Lifetime: HIGH and about 10 years

24.  Substitutes: LIKE

     While beef is the most commonly eaten meat in the United
Kingdom there are other available meats, including lamb, mutton,
fish and pork.  While these have also suffered some sales declines,
especially lamb and mutton because of their ties to scrapie
disease, other restaurants and food stores have sought out other
sources.  Some have turned to importing beef from Australia and
Argentina, or closer sources in Europe.  McDonalds (UK) has
announced that for the duration of the crisis, all their beef
products will be from Holland where there has not been a single
reported case of BSE.  Still others have begun to look to entirely
new sources of meat in other animals.  Horse has traditionally been
shunned in the UK, but rather popular in France and other areas of
Europe and around the world.  There has also been suggestions of
goat, a very common meat in the Middle East, ostrich, wild boar,
alligator, crocodile, kangaroo, bison, llama and buffalo.  There is
also, for many restaurants and individuals, the option of simply
removing beef or all meat from their diets entirely and becoming
vegetarian, a trend that has been growing in the UK for decades
(see OSTRICH case).


25.  Culture: NO

26. Human Rights: NO

     While some may argue that there is an issue of
irresponsibility on the part of the British government towards its
citizens, it would be difficult to argue any true intent to harm

27.  Trans-Boundary Issues: YES

     This has become a trans-boundary issue in the sense that the
exporting of British produced feed in the 1980's spread the BSE to
other nations through trade.

28.  Relevant Literature:

Brown, David.  "British Researchers Link 10 Brain Infection Cases." 
Washington Post, 5 Apr. 1996.  A3

Barbash, Fred. "Britain Bans Sale of Older Cattle to Stem Growing
Scare of 'Mad Cow Disease'."  Washington Post  29 Mar. 1996.  A29. 

----, "Britain Wrangles with Human Fear Over Mad Cows."  Washington
Post  22 Mar.  1996.  A27+. 

----, "British Officials Can't Calm 'Mad Cow' Disease Fears." 
Washington Post  26 Mar.  1996.  A9.

----, "Calming the 'Mad Cow' Clamor: British Cattlemen Urge
'Culling' of Suspect Herdsto Reassure Public."  Washington Post  27
Mar. 1996.  A8.     

----, "Scare Story of Mad Cows and Englishmen;  Politics, Press,
Profit Motive Combine to Frighten the Wits Out of Beefeaters." 
Washington Post  28 Mar. 1996.  A21.

----, "To Calm 'Mad Cow' Fears, Britain Proposes Killing Older
Cattle."   Washington Post  2 Apr. 1996.  A10.

Behan, Peter.  "Culling Could Have Stopped the Rot."  European  28
Mar. - 3 Apr. 1996.  4.

Clarke, Hilary and Tony Patey.  "Beef Scare Infects Retailers." 
European  28 Mar. - 3Apr. 1996.  18.

Coggan, Phillip.  "Herd Instinct Takes Over."  Financial Times 
30/31 Mar. 1996.  XVIII.

Cookson, Clive.  "The Outrageous Risk from BSE."  Financial Times 
30/31 Mar. 1996. II.

Drozdiak, William.  "Beef Frenzy on the Table as EU Plans
Restructuring."  Washington Post  39 Mar. 1996.  A1+.

Evans, Robert.  "Experts Urge Measures on 'Mad Cow' - Link to Human
Disease Is 'Most Likely' Theory."  Washington Post  4 Apr. 1996. 

Hargreaves, Deborah and Jimmy Burns.  "Rule Change Angers Meat
Traders."  Financial Times  30/31 Mar.  1996.  4.

Hornsby, Michael and Andrew Pierce.  "Future for Priceless
Pedigrees Bleak as Farmers Await Ruling."  Times 39 Mar. 1996.  12.

Palmer, John, Michael White, and Stephen Bates.  "Beef Aid Pledge
by EU."  Guardian 30 Mar. 1996.  1.

Read, Julie.  "How Britain let 'Mad Cow' Virus Roam."  European  28
Mar. - 3 Apr. 1996.  4.

Read, Julie and Saskia Sissons.  "BSE Fear Spreads in Europe." 
European  28 Mar. - 3 Apr. 1996.  1+.

Short, David.  "How Beef Scare Became a Crisis."  European  28 Mar.
- 2 Apr. 1996.  23.

Spencer, Colin.  "A Double Ostrichburger To Go."  Guardian  30 Mar.
1996.  15.

Webster, Philip, Charles Bremner and Nicholas Wood.  "Emergency Ban
on Sale of At-Risk Cattle."  Times 29 Mar. 1996. 1.

Weiss, Rick. "Link Between Rare Human Brain Ailment, Mysterious Cow
Disease  Baffles Scientists."  Washington Post  26 Mar. 1996.  A9. 

----, "FDA Targets 'Mad Cow' Loophole: Cattle Extracts Used in Non-
Food Items." Washington Post  3 Apr. 1996.  A8.

"Cattle Sales Canceled."  Times 29 Mar. 1996.  12.

"EU Approves Plan For Slaughter of Cattle."  Washington Post  3
Apr. 1996.  A16.

"EU Chiefs Pledge Aid Package for Britain over BSE."  Financial
Times  30/31 Mar. 1996.   1.

"McDonald's Cuts Out Beef in Britain: 'Mad Cow' Disease Could Lead
to Partial Slaughter of Herd."  Washington Post  25 Mar.  1996.

"U.S. Consumers Resist this British Invasion."  Washington Post  29
Mar. 1996.  A18. 

"World Summary."  Times, 28 Mar. 1996.  13.


(1) Brown,  A3
(2) ibid.
(3) Barush, A9
(4) Hergreaves, 4
(5) Behan,  4
(6) Weiss, A9
(7) Read, 4
(8) etal.
(9) Barush, A21
(10) Behan, 4
(11) Hornsby, 12

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May 2, 1996