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France Says Mad Cow Cases Fall Again in 2004

Date: 12-Jan-05
Country: FRANCE

Following the mad cow epidemic in Britain in the 1990s, mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), spread to France causing a national crisis in 2000, prompting mass culls, beef-on-the-bone bans and extra tests on cattle.

Nine people have been diagnosed in France with vCJD (variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease), the human form of BSE and six have died. In Britain more than 140 people have died of the disease.

The French farm ministry said of the 54 BSE cases last year, eight were detected in the framework of a national surveillance system, 29 under the animals at risk programme and 17 from the compulsory screening of older cattle at slaughterhouses.

Confirmed cases stood at 137 in 2003, 239 in 2002 and 274 in 2001, it added in a statement.

It also said the rising average age of cattle found with the brain-wasting disorder showed that measures decided in 1996 -- the removal from the animal and human food chain of high risk material, so called SRMs -- had been effective.

"This removal of SRM (specified risk material) is still in force and will remain so for as long as the health situation requires it," the ministry said.

France tests all cattle aged over 30 months that are destined for the food chain. The British government plans to replace its food chain ban on older cattle with a testing system in the middle of this year.

BSE cases have recently surfaced in the United States and Canada causing millions of dollars in lost beef exports.

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