Published Date: 2002-09-14 23:50:00
Subject: PRO/AH> BSE - Japan (07): source
Archive Number: 20020914.5305
BSE - JAPAN (07): SOURCE
A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases
Date: Sat, 14 Sep 2002
From: Pablo Nart <email@example.com>
Source: Financial Times, 11 Sep 2002 [edited]
BSE origins baffle Japan
The Japanese government yesterday said it was unclear how mad cow disease
had infected Japanese cattle, one year after the brain-wasting disease was
first diagnosed in the country. The admission is unlikely to engender
confidence in the government's handling of food safety after a series of
food-related incidents shook the public's trust in the industry and its
The agriculture ministry said it was uncertain how 5 cows became infected
with mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). But it
suggested at least 3 possibilities involving contaminated meat and bone
meal (MBM) and fertiliser from Europe, where more than 100 people have died
from the BSE-linked [variant] Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease [abbreviated in
ProMED-mail as (vCJD) or CJD (new var.)] over the past decade. It called
for a further investigation into the causes of the disease in Japan.
But some farmers, traditional supporters of the Liberal Democratic
party-led government, believe the administration had enough information to
prevent the outbreak.
In 1996 the World Health Organisation advised member states against the use
of MBM in animal feed, and 4 years later Tokyo quibbled with a European
Union report that warned of the risk of BSE in Japan because it used
More than 60 farmers in Hokkaido, Japan's northern island, plan to file a
lawsuit next month seeking 200m Yen (USD 1.7m) in compensation.
Tsutomu Takebe, the agriculture minister, admitted that the government's
handling of the BSE affair had done little to bolster public confidence.
"The administration's confused response has led the public to distrust the
[Byline: Bayan Rahman and Nobuko Juji]
[The source of BSE infection in Japan, where 5 cases have been diagnosed
since September 2001, remains debatable. Since the first 4 infected dairy
cows, from different farms, were of the similar age group and said to have
been fed during their first months with a calf milk-replacer (CMR) from a
common source, earlier commentaries raised the possibility that CMRs might
have played a role in the epidemiology. Reportedly, the 5th cow was
"probably" fed the same substitute. A Japanese delegation visited The
Netherlands in June 2002 to discuss the matter, since the Japanese CMR's
were said to have contained Dutch animal fats; however, the results of this
visit remained inconclusive.
The need to investigate the possible role of CMRs in the epidemiology of
BSE has recently been discussed in several other countries. Concerns about
the use of tallow in CMRs were raised by David Byrne, the European
Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, in his speeches to the
Agriculture Council in Brussels on 19 Dec 2001 and 18 Feb 2002.
As reported in a previous posting (BSE - European Union: source
20020601.4379], the Scientific Steering Committee of the EU (SSC) has been
working on an updated quantitative assessment of the possible residual BSE
risk in bovine-derived products such as tallow, gelatin, and dicalcium
phosphate (DCP). The possible BSE risk from CMRs could then be deduced from
information such as the type, purity, and amounts of animal fats used in
milk replacers, the daily consumption, etc. A specialized working group is
preparing a report containing proposals for the basic assumptions and input
data to be used in the risk assessment (for example: amounts consumed by
humans and animals; ratio ruminant/non ruminant raw materials; geographical
origin of the raw materials; TSE infectivity reduction by processing; etc).
The final report is expected during the last trimester of 2002.
Referring to the (remote) possible role of fertilizer from Europe in the
epidemiology of BSE in Japan, as mentioned in the current FT article, the
interested reader is referred to the opinion of the SSC on the safety of
organic fertilizers derived from ruminant animals, adopted on 11 May 2001