Most of the health information I share with others comes from my training in Ayurveda, in curanderismo, listening to the plant people, or from western research. Yet I have recently shared my observation that it seems people are dying in the US from Mad Cow disease.
I became interested in this issue many years ago while working with USDA Soil and Conservation, county officials and a group of ranchers and farmers. Our monthly meetings revealed a surprisingly stubborn refusal by ranchers to get cattle tested for this fatal disease. Instead, they demanded that the US govt. punish those countries who would not buy US beef. Which they did. This is why today, many musical instruments, like harmonicas from Germany are very expensive.
Looking into the issue a little further I found some horrifying facts about the cattle industry in this country. As a long-time journalist I began to write about these. I interviewed the head of the Cattlemen’s Association at the Roundhouse in SF (she was there to lobby our legislators). I read the trade magazines. One memorable article expressed great enthusiasm for effecting weight gain in cattle by feeding them cement, another recommended the use of thalidomide for cattle.
The CDC and US govt agencies report that there have been only four cases of Mad Cow in the US. Eating an animal with Mad Cow has been linked to a fatal brain disease in humans called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Because the disease is usually found in older cattle and concentrates in certain areas of the body, banned materials included brains, spinal cords and other neural tissue from animals older than 30 months, along with the tonsils and small intestines of all cattle.
The government and industry rely on this ban as a safety linchpin: If potentially infectious items are removed from the food supply, they insist, all meat should be safe. A panel of international experts convened in 2001 stressed removal of this risk material. It suggested more stringent rules -- removal of these parts from any animal over 12 months -- but said the regulations were "a reasonable temporary compromise."
“SRMs are high-risk tissues that pose the greatest risk of containing the agent associated with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (also known as BSE or "mad cow disease"). Some examples are the brain, skull, eyes, trigeminal ganglia, spinal cord, vertebral column, and dorsal root ganglia of cattle 30 months of age and older; the tonsils of all cattle; and the distal ileum of all cattle.” https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/production-and-inspection/slaughter-inspection-101/slaughter-inspection-101
Yet the union representing federal meat inspectors told the USDA that inspectors reported finding older animals on slaughter lines that hadn't been marked for special processing.
Cases of Mad Cow Disease occur in the U.S. each year, yet regulators only test 40,000 of the 35 million cattle slaughtered annually. In Europe, all older cattle are tested for Mad Cow Disease, and in Japan every cow slaughtered for human consumption is tested.
The USDA is cutting back on federal meat inspectors, allowing slaughterhouses to self-police, and already questions about the program are surfacing. The USDA recalled 8.7 million pounds of beef products processed at Rancho Feeding Corp. which included Nestle's Philly Steak and Cheese and Croissant Crust Philly Steak and Cheese Hot Pockets, Walmart Fatburgers, Kroger Ground Beef Mini Sliders and other well-known brands.
The reason for the gigantic recall, says USDA, is that the slaughterhouse "processed diseased and unsound animals and carried out these activities without the benefit or full benefit of federal inspection." The multi-state recall, applying to all meat produced over a year at the facility, caused Rancho Feeding Corp to close.
The USDA cost-cutting, self-regulation program, called HIMP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point-Based Inspection Models Project) will eliminate 800 federal meat inspectors and is already in operation at about 25 chicken and turkey plants. It likely played a role in the Rancho Feeding Corp. recall said Stan Painter, president of the National Joint Council of Food Inspection Locals, which represents 6,000 inspectors nationwide. "In many places, managers and veterinarians are being asked to help with inspections," because of a shortage of federal inspectors, he said.
How Is Mad Cow Disease Transmitted?
Prions -- the infectious, deformed proteins that cause chronic wasting disease in deer -- can be taken up by plants such as alfalfa, corn and tomatoes, according to new research from the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison.
The research further demonstrated that stems and leaves from tainted plants were infectious when injected into laboratory mice.
The findings are significant, according to the researchers and other experts, because they reveal a previously unknown potential route of exposure to prions for a Wisconsin deer herd in which the fatal brain illness continues to spread. Christopher Johnson, who conducted the study, wrote in the abstract: "Our results suggest that prions are taken up by plants and that contaminated plants may represent a previously unrecognized risk of human, domestic species and wildlife exposure to CWD."
Although the fact that Mad Cow disease causes variant CJD had already been strongly established, researchers at the University College of London nevertheless created transgenic mice complete with "humanized" brains genetically engineered with human genes to try to prove the link once and for all. When the researchers injected one strain of the "humanized" mice with infected cow brains, they came down with the same brain damage seen in human variant CJD. To the extent that animal experiments can simulate human results, their shocking conclusion was that eating infected meat might be responsible for some cases of sporadic CJD in addition to the expected variant CJD. The researchers concluded that "it is therefore possible that some patients with [what looks like]... sporadic CJD may have a disease arising from BSE exposure." Laura Manuelidis, section chief of surgery in the neuropathology department at Yale University comments, "Now people are beginning to realize that because something looks like sporadic CJD they can't necessarily conclude that it's not linked to Mad Cow disease
“This is not the first time meat was linked to sporadic CJD. In 2001, a team of French researchers found, to their complete surprise, a strain of scrapie--"mad sheep" disease--that caused the same brain damage in mice as sporadic CJD. ‘This means we cannot rule out that at least some sporadic CJD may be caused by some strains of scrapie,’ says team member Jean-Philippe Deslys of the French Atomic Energy Commission's medical research laboratory.
“Pork is also a potential source of infection. Cattle remains are still boiled down and legally fed to pigs (as well as chickens) in this country. The FDA allows this exemption because no "naturally occurring" porcine (pig) spongiform encephalopathy has ever been found. But American farmers typically kill pigs at just five months of age, long before the disease is expected to show symptoms. And, because pigs are packed so tightly together, it would be difficult to spot neurological conditions like spongiform encephalopathies, whose most obvious symptoms are movement and gait disturbances. We do know, however, that pigs are susceptible to the disease--laboratory experiments show that pigs can indeed be infected by Mad Cow brains--and hundreds of thousands of downer pigs, too sick or crippled by injury to even walk, arrive at U.S. slaughterhouses every year.”
Sporadic CJD has also been associated with weekly beef consumption, as well as the consumption of roast lamb,veal, venison, brains in general, and, in North America, seafood.[32,33] The development of CJD has also, surprisingly, been significantly linked to exposure to animal products in fertilizer, sport fishing and deer hunting in the U.S., and frequent exposure to leather products.
The recent exclusion of most cow brains, eyes, spinal cords, and intestines from the human food supply may make beef safer, but where are those tissues going? These potentially infectious tissues continue to go into animal feed for chickens, other poultry, pigs, and pets (as well as being rendered into products like tallow for use in cosmetics, the safety of which is currently under review). Until the federal government stops the feeding of slaughterhouse waste, manure, and blood to all farm animals, the safety of meat in America cannot be guaranteed.
Cases of CJD in the US
We don't know exactly what's happening to the rate of CJD in this country, in part because CJD is not an officially notifiable illness. Currently only a few states have such a requirement. Though the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) does not actively monitor the disease on a national level, they continue to insist that there have been only four cases of CJD in the US. The National Institute of Health reports that “During 1979 through 2006, an estimated 6,917 deaths with CJD as a cause of death were reported in the United States, an annual average of approximately 247 deaths” A number of U.S. CJD clusters have already been found. In the largest known U.S. outbreak of sporadic cases to date, five times the expected rate was found to be associated with cheese consumption in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley. A striking increase in CJD was also reported in Florida and New York (Nassau County) with anecdotal reports of clusters of deaths in Oregon and New Jersey.
Over the last 20 years the rates of Alzheimer's disease in the United States have skyrocketed. According to the CDC, Alzheimer's Disease is now the eighth leading cause of death in the United States, afflicting an estimated 4 million Americans. Twenty percent or more of people clinically diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, though, are found at autopsy not to have had Alzheimer's at all. A number of autopsy studies have shown that a few percent of Alzheimer's deaths may in fact be CJD. Given the new research showing that infected beef may be responsible for some sporadic CJD, thousands of Americans may already be dying because of Mad Cow disease every year. An informal survey of neuropathologists registered a suspicion that CJD accounts for 2-12% of all dementias in general. Two autopsy studies showed a CJD rate among dementia deaths of about 3%.A third study, at the University of Pennsylvania, showed that 5% of patients diagnosed with dementia had CJD. Although only a few hundred cases of sporadic CJD are officially reported in the U.S. annually, hundreds of thousands of Americans die with dementia every year. Thousands of these deaths may actually be from CJD caused by eating infected meat.
Ignorance is Not Always Blissful
Most Americans do not seem to keep up with policy changes USDA makes, how that affects their food, or with current research.
The first myth: U.S. beef is safe because brain and spinal cord tissue (which are said to harbor mad cow) are removed before processing.
The claim is odd to anyone who has ever seen a T-bone steak, which includes a section of the spinal cord that can easily contaminate meat during butchering. U.S. Department of Agriculture reports reveal that as much as 35% of beef, hot dogs and sausage samples taken from advanced meat and bone separation machinery are contaminated with ''unacceptable nervous tissues'' that may harbor the contaminants that cause Mad Cow Disease. In addition, concussions created in animals by the use of stunning devices currently used to kill them can force brain tissue into the bloodstream. These practices have been eliminated in the European Union, but continue in the United States.
The second myth: U.S. beef is safe because 20,000 cattle are inspected each year.
The problem is that this represents only a tiny portion of the 100,000 to 1,000,000 annual "downer" cattle. Too sick to stand up, such a cow is "down." Yet, under the Clinton/Gore administration and continued under Bush/Cheney, meat inspectors across the country have been laid off. In Europe, just the opposite has occurred; there, cattle are tested for BSE at a rate nearly 2,000 times greater than in the U.S.
The third myth: U.S. beef is safe because the U.S. halted feeding rendered meat to cows.
Actually, the Clinton/Gore administration allowed Congressional negotiating committees from industrial cattle-raising areas to overturn attempts to ban the rendering of all animal parts into feed. It is consequently still legal to manufacture animal feed from ground-up cattle, potentially contaminated deer and elk, and feed it to pigs and chickens; the industry then grinds up these animals, along with "chicken litter," blood, and offal, and feeds the mixture to cattle.
According to St. Louis Green Party organizer Don Fitz, the U.S. cattle industry would prefer that these secrets not reach the light of day lest consumers, in disgust, refuse to purchase beef. "The most shocking practice," Fitz reports, "is that the industry suckles calves with blood rather than milk. Many dairies separate calves from their mothers and wean them on the brownish 'milk replacer' made from cattle blood protein. At least 15 published studies show mad cow disease can be transmitted through blood."
There are currently more than 250 recognized cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in the U.S. It is also likely that many Alzheimers patients have been misdiagnosed, due to that disease's similarity to CJD.
In 2001 two patients died at a Colorado hospital this year from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and there is concern that other patients may also be at risk, a hospital spokeswoman said Friday. The patients, both over 60, died in January and February at Exempla St. Joseph Hospital
Two patients with forms of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, one of which was contracted from eating infected beef, have been treated at a San Francisco hospital with an obsolete malaria drug that doctors hope will alleviate the fatal brain malady.
“Health officials have confirmed that a patient who underwent neurosurgery at a New Hampshire hospital in 2013 had Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease.
The death, and suspicions that the patient may have had the devastating brain ailment, prompted authorities in two states to warn that as many as 13 patients may have been exposed to surgical equipment used during the patient's surgery, thus to the same disease.
The now-deceased patient had undergone neurosurgery at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester. The patient was later suspected of having sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare, rapidly progressing and always-fatal degenerative brain disease.
But by the time this diagnosis was suspected, equipment used in the patient's surgery had been used several other operations. This raised the possibility that the equipment might have been contaminated -- especially since normal sterilization procedures are not enough to get rid of the disease proteins, known as prions, tied to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease -- thus potentially exposing the other patients to infection.” http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/20/health/creutzfeldt-jakob-brain-disease/index.html
October 2001, 34-year-old Washington State native Peter Putnam started losing his mind. One month he was delivering a keynote business address, the next he couldn't form a complete sentence. Once athletic, soon he couldn't walk. Then he couldn't eat. After a brain biopsy showed it was Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, his doctor could no longer offer any hope. "Just take him home and love him," the doctor counseled his family.