From: TSS ()
Subject: Re: FOIA REQUEST FOR ATYPICAL TSE INFORMATION ON VERMONT SHEEP
Date: July 12, 2007 at 9:44 am PST
In Reply to: Re: FOIA REQUEST FOR ATYPICAL TSE INFORMATION ON VERMONT SHEEP posted by TSS on July 11, 2007 at 1:39 pm:
NOW the Faillaces' claim there sheep were disease free ;
When Linda Faillace sat down to write a memoir about the events in 2001 that
led to the federal seizure of her family’s sheep, she wasn’t motivated by
fame or fortune. Her impetus was purely personal.
“Basically, Larry (my husband) had said I’d gotten too difficult to live
with,” Faillace recalled. “He said, ‘You really gotta do something.’”
So she set to work putting their story on paper, as much for her own peace
of mind as for posterity. And now, just five years after the USDA forcibly
removed the couple’s 125 sheep on their 90-acre homestead in East Warren,
Faillace has a book in hand that details the family’s struggle for answers.
In “Mad Sheep,” Faillace writes that they still don’t know why their flock
was targeted by the USDA for testing for the rare brain-wasting disease
known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathy. Since the seizure and
subsequent liquidation of the flock at a laboratory in Ames, Iowa,
government scientists have determined that none of the sheep had TSE, a
condition related to mad cow disease. The Faillaces meanwhile, lost all hope
of fulfilling their dream of sheep farming and producing artisanal
Science 1 June 2001:
Vol. 292. no. 5522, pp. 1639 - 1641
Is the U.S. Doing Enough to Prevent Mad Cow Disease?
U.S. officials say they're taking every reasonable step to keep mad cow
disease out. But critics still see chinks in the country's armor
On a cold spring morning, when the hills in East Warren, Vermont, were
covered with a fresh pack of snow, the Faillace family lost its livelihood.
It happened in a government action that--if you hear Larry Faillace recount
it--was every bit as dramatic as the one that wrenched Elián González from
his Miami relatives last year. At 5:30 a.m. on 23 March, says Faillace,
armed federal agents in flak jackets entered the family farm and ordered his
three children to stop feeding the sheep. Shortly after, an enormous truck
pulled up, and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) agents began loading
all of the Faillaces' 126 sheep. A few hours later, the truck was gone,
leaving the family, the town, and several dozen protesters behind in anger
The early morning raid is perhaps the most dramatic example of the U.S.
government's efforts to keep "mad cow disease," or bovine spongiform
encephalopathy (BSE), out of the country. USDA suspected that the sheep,
which the Faillaces had imported from Belgium and the Netherlands in 1996,
were infected with a sheep version of BSE. So they took no chances: The
entire herd was destroyed days after the animals were seized.
To prevent a BSE outbreak, USDA, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the
U.S. Customs Service, and other government agencies have put in place a long
list of safeguards--from barricading the borders to analyzing brains of
people suspected of having died from the human form of mad cow disease,
called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD). Yet public interest groups
and others have long argued that the government's response has been too
little, too late. Because of this lax response, the critics say, the disease
may well be among us. And if it is, the government is not vigilant enough to
detect it, they warn, nor tough enough on the meat industry to keep it out
of the human food chain.
Government agencies say they've taken "aggressive" measures to prevent the
disease, and many scientists agree. They admit that the precautions are not
failsafe and that the disease could emerge in the country--but say the risk
is vanishingly small. Even so, the concerns are reverberating on Capitol
Hill, where House and Senate committees have summoned officials to discuss
the risks. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) announced recently that he will
introduce a bill that would beef up border inspections and other controls to
keep BSE out of the food chain.
But underlying the argument is a broader question: How much prevention is
enough? Scientists point out that the U.S. defense against BSE consists of
multiple tiers, each of which would have to break down for an outbreak to
occur. Although the risk could be reduced further, the necessary control
measures would become increasingly costly and draconian. "You don't go
spending half the budget to reduce the risk to zero," says Paul Brown, a
senior scientist at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and
Stroke (NINDS) in Bethesda, Maryland, "especially in view of much more
serious public health problems that afflict us."
BSE is one of the so-called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies
(TSEs), a mysterious class of fatal brain diseases. Scientists are still
debating their etiology, but the leading theory is that they're caused by
abnormal forms of proteins, called prions. Several TSEs have the scary
ability to jump the species barrier; in Britain, for instance, 99 people are
known to have died or are presumed to be dying of vCJD, most likely
contracted after eating meat products from infected cattle. Epidemiologists
expect more cases in the United Kingdom, but they're not sure how many;
there could be tens of thousands.
In the United States, the first line of defense is to block entry of the BSE
agent, and most people agree that the government has been thorough. As early
as 1989, USDA banned the importation of all ruminants (cattle, goats, and
sheep) and many animal products from the United Kingdom and other countries
with BSE. In 1997, when BSE cases started showing up in several other
countries, that ban was extended to all of Europe. The 500 or so animals
that were imported from those countries before 1997--such as the Vermont
sheep--have almost all been quarantined or purchased and killed.
But closed borders offer no guarantees. Researchers still don't know how BSE
arose in Britain, but whatever the process, it could happen here, too. One
prominent theory is that the agent that causes scrapie, a TSE in sheep,
crossed the species barrier and ignited the cattle epidemic in
Britain--specifically, when cattle were fed meal that contained infected
sheep tissue. That practice is now banned in the United States, making such
a scenario unlikely.
But BSE could also arise out of nowhere. Each year about one in every
million humans worldwide gets CJD spontaneously, and it's possible that the
same happens in cattle--or indeed all mammals. Last year a U.K. panel
chaired by Lord Andrew Phillips supported the theory that such a "sporadic"
case may have started the British outbreak.
Work by Richard Marsh, a veterinary virologist at the University of
Wisconsin, Madison, who died in 1997, suggests that sporadic cases of a
cattle TSE may have already arisen in the United States. Five times between
1947 and 1985, a disease called transmissible mink encephalopathy decimated
populations on U.S. mink farms. After investigating the last outbreak, Marsh
concluded that cow carcasses fed to the mink were the most likely source of
the disease agent. He speculated that at least one of the cows must have had
Another potential source of BSE is a homegrown prion disease that afflicts
deer and elk. Conceivably, this ailment, called chronic wasting disease,
could jump to cattle or sicken people who eat infected venison (see
But would anybody have noticed if the United States had a couple of cases of
BSE? Probably not, say some critics. USDA now tests some 50 suspect cows a
week. The test program pales in comparison to the massive effort started
last year in the European Union, where every cow over 30 months old is
tested after slaughtering. The United States should do something similar,
says Thomas Pringle, a molecular biologist with the Sperling Biomedical
Foundation in Eugene, Oregon, who maintains a Web site about BSE. "You can
try all these containment measures, but at the end of the day the question
is: How much BSE do you have?" he says. "The way to find out is to run
hundreds of thousands of tests."
Testing at that level would be silly, replies Linda Detwiler, a senior staff
veterinarian at the USDA, because BSE has never been found in the country.
Even so, she says, this year the agency will double the number of tests it
Cows eating cows
Even if a cow got BSE and it went undetected, that wouldn't spell doom for
the rest of the nation's livestock. The only plausible way for an outbreak
to occur would be if that cow were fed to other cows, thereby passing on the
infectious agent. For decades, cows did eat other cows, when they were fed
meat-and-bone meal, a protein concoction produced by milling and boiling (or
"rendering") the carcasses of, say, sick farm animals, road kill, and dead
pets. The epidemic in Britain is believed to have been fueled after infected
cattle were recycled on a large scale.
But this route is now cut off in the United States, at least in theory: FDA
banned feeding most mammalian protein to all ruminants in 1997. Those same
proteins can still be fed to pigs and poultry, however, so FDA has ordered
rendering plants and feed mills to prevent commingling of the two types of
feed. Enforcing this separation has proven difficult, however. A March 2001
FDA inspection report showed that about one in seven feed mills and
rendering plants didn't have adequate procedures to prevent commingling;
many haven't been inspected yet.
Indeed, Purina Mills in Texas discovered in January that a new employee had
mistakenly let cattle protein slip into a batch of cow feed. After 1222
animals that had been given the suspect feed were quarantined, Purina paid
for the entire herd to be destroyed. "Who knows how many other cases have
been swept under the rug?" asks Peter Lurie, a researcher at Public Citizen,
a consumer watchdog group in Washington, D.C., and a member of FDA's
advisory committee on TSEs. Lurie would like to see the FDA get much tougher
on the feed industry.
Although that may not be a bad idea, others say, the current situation is
hardly a recipe for disaster. Suppose a BSE-infected animal did end up in
cattle feed, says NINDS's Brown, and a few cows became infected and went to
the slaughterhouse undiagnosed. For the outbreak to continue, they would
have to be rendered themselves and mistakenly turned into cattle feed again.
"A regulatory breakdown of this magnitude is virtually impossible," Brown
wrote recently in Emerging Infectious Diseases. Similarly, Will Hueston, a
veterinary epidemiologist at the University of Maryland, College Park, says
the risk of even a single case of BSE is "pretty darn small."
The chance that humans might get vCJD from eating infected cattle is even
smaller. But here, too, critics see loopholes that they would like closed.
European countries now require brains and spinal cords to be removed from a
carcass directly after slaughter; no such safeguard exists in the United
Another route of infection could come from the local health food store. In
1994, Congress deregulated dietary supplements. Many of these contain animal
parts-- including brain tissue. Although the FDA has asked manufacturers not
to use such materials from countries known to have BSE, it can't ensure that
no cow brains make it in, says Lurie. Supplements are a problem as long as
FDA lacks jurisdiction over them, agrees Brown, who chaired FDA's advisory
panel on TSEs until last January.
PRION DISEASES FOUND IN THE U.S.
Scrapie. First case diagnosed in 1947; now 40 to 60 infected sheep farms are
reported per year.
Chronic wasting disease (CWD). Afflicts wild deer and elk in Colorado,
Wyoming, and Nebraska; also found on elk farms in other states and in
Transmissible mink encephalopathy (TME). Five outbreaks reported at mink
farms in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Idaho between 1947 and 1985.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). An estimated 250 to 300 cases per year;
about 85% "sporadic," 15% genetic.
Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker disease and fatal familial insomnia. Two
extremely rare genetic human diseases.
NOT FOUND IN THE U.S.
Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or "mad cow disease"
Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), the human form of BSE
How much is enough?
In the end, nobody disputes that more can be done to prevent BSE; the
question is how much the country is willing to invest. For instance, banning
the use of all animal proteins in livestock feed would all but eliminate any
risk, says Brown. But it would be the end of the $2.5 billion rendering
industry, and it might make meat more expensive, he says.
In his recent commentary, Brown summed up seven holes in the safety net that
critics are sure to pounce on if a BSE case were ever to occur. Even so,
Brown thinks the current safeguards earn "high marks." Rather than closing
each and every hole, he suggests that the money could be better spent on
other public health issues, such as diabetes, hypertension, or car
George Gray, a risk analyst at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston,
agrees. "Every bit of attention and effort we put into [BSE] takes away from
something else," says Gray. "And I think there are considerably bigger risks
out there in the food supply." An estimated 5000 people a year die from
microbial contamination in food alone--many more than would be harmed by BSE
in any plausible scenario, he asserts. At USDA's request, Gray is studying
the risks of BSE and related diseases in the United States. The study, which
will guide future policy, will be presented to the agency within the next 2
Lurie dismisses such comparisons. "By that argument, we should not worry
about microbial contamination because many more people die from cancer," he
says. Although the risk may be low, he says, the worst-case scenario would
have such disastrous public health and economic consequences that extreme
caution is warranted.
That's the argument that led USDA to kill the Faillaces' sheep and another
nearby flock, says Detwiler. Tests carried out last year on four slaughtered
animals showed signs of a BSE-like disease, although it wasn't clear whether
it was scrapie or a sheep version of BSE. Sheep have been infected with BSE
in the lab, but no natural cases have been found in the world. If the
Vermont sheep did have a form of BSE, they would be the first. Better to err
on the side of caution, says Detwiler, than for the United States to have
that dubious honor.
The Faillaces, who fought the seizure in a long legal battle, claim the
sheep were healthy and the tests were sloppy. Additional tests of the
Faillaces' sheep are now being performed at the National Animal Disease
center in Ames, Iowa. The results, says Detwiler, will be available in a few
months--about the time that Gray's risk assessment is due.
some history here ;
there are over 20 documented strains of typical scrapie to date. however, we
are talking atypical TSE of foreign origin is what the declaration of
extraordinary emergency was ordered for. if it was just regular scrapie,
then why not all other scrapie infected farms, why were they not treated the
same way, scrapie is and has been out of control in the USA for decades,
it's rampant? if it was atypical TSE in either cattle or sheep, they do not
know SRMs and or horizontal/vertical transmissions. if it were BSE, then why
the fuss of vertical and lateral transmission? so again, were not talking
regular scrapie with those sheep, and were not talking regular BSE with the
mad cows in Alabama and Texas. so confusious is confused still. why not the
same treatment$ ...tss
MAD SHEEP OF MAD RIVER VALLEY
THE TRUE STORY BEHIND THE USDA'S WAR ON A FAMILY FARM
The video is available as either a Windows Media Player file or QuickTime
View QuickTime clip
View Windows Media Clip
I have the book transcript, and wept several times through the course of
reading. IT will blow you away. I was at a crossroads of being mad because
of a 'oh my
poor sheep blah blah blah, to what about my poor mom, mentality', to
Francis and Heather and there plight with there animals, heathers remarkable
dear leon speech, to francis and his true grit, and honorable strong young
man indeed, to 'what about a farmers rights and how far can the gov go
mentality'. i would argue with some parts of the book about atypical TSE and
BSE to sheep and the fact i still believe that not only atypical scrapie and
or BSE in sheep, but some and or all of the 20+ strains of typical scrapie
are transmissible to humans, and the fact in my opinion it was USDA's fault
for ever letting those sheep into the USA in the first place. They knew
Europe was infected with BSE. But USDA got caught up in a bunch of lies and
deceit here with the Faillaces'. The testing is very very questionable to
I guess i might now have my answer as to those infamous 'mouse bio-assays',
but the book is remarkable, i received a copy from the publisher. everyone
in the world of TSE pro/con needs to read this book. .....TSS
----- Original Message -----
From: "Terry S. Singeltary Sr."
Sent: Wednesday, June 28, 2006 1:44 PM
Subject: Re: DECLARATION OF EXTRAORDINARY EMERGENCY BECAUSE OF AN ATYPICAL
T.S.E. (PRION DISEASE) OF FOREIGN ORIGIN IN THE UNITED STATES
IF this was so serious that a DECLARATION OF EXTRAORDINARY EMERGENCY BECAUSE
OF AN ATYPICAL T.S.E. (PRION DISEASE) OF FOREIGN ORIGIN IN THE UNITED STATES
was ordered, plus, a family farm was hijacked by the federal authorities and
held quarantined for 4 to 5 years, you would have thought the mouse
bio-assays would have been an important scientific part of the equation,
_if_ those sheep had any TSE at all, but even more
important if atypical TSE. but myself, and others are beginning to wonder if
those sheep had any atypical TSE at all.