Tuesday, June 19, 2007

More meat issues: Study finds link between foie gras and rare disease

A protein in foie gras can accelerate amyloidosis, a possibly deadly disease process, which occurs in TB and rheumatoid arthritis. The study found for the first time that amyloidosis, like mad cow, might be transmissible, although researchers also say that only certain people are high risks would be susceptible. "Perhaps people with a family history of Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or other amyloid-associated diseases should avoid consuming foie gras and other foods that may be contaminated with fibrils."

Friday, April 27, 2007

On the menu for Bush and Japanese prime minister...

Roasted duck, not beef at a state dinner, despite a request by the Montana senators to serve beef to make a statement about "unjustified trade barriers" concerning Japanese restrictions on imports of U.S. beef. "Petite roasted breast of duck, soft duck egg and crispy braised duck leg, to be exact." Full (short) story.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Mad Cow Lab Closing: Update

The Daily Evergreen has more about the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory closing that we reported on last week:
The region’s only mad cow testing facility, a part of the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory at WSU, will no longer test for mad cow disease as a contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture comes to an end March 1.

The Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory was given a contract to test Northwest cows for bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

The facility began testing in June 2004, several months after a cow in the Yakima Valley tested positive for BSE, the first such case in the United States.
It's disappointing that the USDA is taking this step, especially since the use of animal products in cow fodder is still allowed.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Mad Cow Test To Be Scaled Back (?!?!)

The UPI is reporting that the main US BSE testing facility will close:
U.S. agriculture officials are planning to close the mad-cow testing lab at Washington State University in Pullman, despite increasing concerns.

The Seattle Times reports the facility -- one of three slated for closure -- will cease operations March 1. It opened three years ago after the nation's first case of the brain-wasting disease -- bovine spongiform encephalopathy -- was found.
I'm pretty much speechless. What the hell are they thinking?

2nd Portugese vCJD Case

There's an item on the AP wire that Portuguese health officials have found what seems to be their second case of "human mad cow disease", also known as vCJD.

CattleNetwork has the low-down:
Laboratory tests indicated a young woman had contracted the human form of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, the General Health Directorate said in a brief statement posted on its Web site.

Officials said the disease could be proved beyond doubt only after death.
That last bit really makes the story.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Meat Inspections: A Cut Back Masquerading As An Increase

There's a story on CBSNews.com that's confusing the hell out of me.

The story starts out sounding pretty good:
Stepped-up inspections at some meat and poultry plants are set to begin in April, according to an Agriculture Department official overseeing the first overhaul of food safety inspections in a decade.
Not bad, right? Considering the large number of food-processing related stories over the past year it's nice to hear that the US government is doing something right. But then it gets murky:
Food safety critics weren't pleased. Carol Tucker Foreman, director of food policy for Consumer Federation of America, called the policy reckless and illegal. She said the new policy was the result of the White House's desire to reduce spending and "will almost surely result in more illnesses and more deaths from food poisoning."
What? Oh, right, see this is what they're talking about:
Plants with fewer risks and better food-handling records will be inspected less often.
So what's really going to happen is that the administration has figured out a way to cut back on regulation, while making it sound like they're doing more.

And that, my friend, is called burying the lede.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Canadian Cows And Their Wily Ways

Well, it looks like the inspection and documentation requirements that were supposed to keep our bodily fluids from getting contaminated by Canadian cow juice have broken down. All Canadian cows destined for the US are supposed to get ear tags for tracking and identification purposes and birth certificates showing that they're less than 2 and a half years old. From the Chicago Tribune:
In a memo dated March 7, 2006, representatives of one American cattle operation wrote, "52 head of the 60 came in NO EID. The papers have a mixture of EID & bar codes for official tags. We recorded the bar codes (although a couple came in with no tags at all) and gave them our EID tag." ... "We had a load come in with the wrong health papers all together," stated an e-mail dated April 6 to the state from a cattle firm. "It was never caught at the border." The correct health papers for that load of 66 cattle, the e-mail's author noted, were later obtained from officials at the Canadian border.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

vCJD Transmission Study

A recent study in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface suggests that vCJD (variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease) might be spread by improperly sterilized surgical instruments. This has been suspected for a while, but this study shows that there's a correlation between the number of times a particular instrument is being used, the cleaning method, the type of instrument (some are more easily "infected"), and the scale of a local vCJD outbreak. Infection Control Today (which has the best website name ever) has more:
The authors begin by presenting data on the surgical procedures undertaken on vCJD patients prior to the onset of clinical symptoms which support the hypothesis that cases via this route are possible. They then apply a mathematical framework to assess the potential for self-sustaining epidemics via surgical procedures.

They conclude that further research is needed into how surgical instruments are used so as to reduce uncertainty and assess the potential risk of this transmission route.