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BSE: A Year Later

One year after the first case of the brain-wasting disease BSE was reported in Germany, nobody is talking about it anymore. But the worst of the crisis may yet be to come.


Off to the slaughter house

So far, 124 cases of BSE infected cattle have been reported in Germany. Most cases have arisen in animals born in 1996 and 1997.

Presuming the disease was passed on through infected animal feed, agriculture minister Künast said, the danger has not yet been banned.

More cases are expected to surface in the next three to five years. "We have to keep a watchful eye on developments", Künast said.

Künast wants to extend BSE testing to sheep, as well as to deer, stag and other game. "The government will continue to implement safety measures", she said.

The agriculture minister warned that there were no quick solutions to the mad cow crisis, but said that her aim would be to draw food production "close to nature".

Human toll

While the human infection rate is lower-than-expected, scientists remain baffled by the mysterious disease and are at a loss to explain why the number of human cases is still relatively low.

Despite the wave of panic that swept Europe because of BSE, only 25 new human cases have been reported this year.

This brings to 113 the total of those diagnosed with the illness since it was first identified in 1995. Of them, 105 have died and all but four of the deaths have occurred in Britain.

EU to relax ban

Meanwhile, the European Union is planning to relax a ban on meat-based livestock feed for certain types of animals, EU officials said last week.

The embargo was introduced in January in response to the discovery of the brain-wasting cattle disorder in Germany, Italy and Spain. The discoveries had fuelled fears that contaminated meat and bone meal was spreading mad cow disease across the continent.