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Animal Disease and Human Health Risk

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Prion Diseases Have Long Incubation Periods

There is one other very important aspect that needs to be reemphasized. These transmissible spongiform encephalopathies have extremely long incubation periods. As already mentioned regarding humans, there is evidence that kuru can take up to 30 years to manifest itself. This is likely to be the same with CJD. As we have seen with BSE, it may take up to six or eight years or more before infected cows show signs of the disease.

Again, the important implication is that thousands of animals and humans may now be infected but may not develop symptoms for many years. However, an infected cow can theoretically transmit the illness whether or not it has yet developed symptomatic disease. The widely publicized ban on feeding dead animal parts to British cattle has not stopped the epidemic, although it has appeared to slow it down. When the statistics were reviewed in a 1997 report, 31,903 British cattle that had developed BSE were born after the ban was implemented.59 The important message is that young cows may be infected and may be able to transmit disease to humans.

"Calf Milk Replacers" Fed to Calves Contain Animal Products Furthermore, if BSE is indeed present in countries like the U.S., agricultural processes have likely disseminated the disease quite widely. Up until April 1996 in the United States, as much as 15 percent of protein in cattle feed was from rendered (animal) sources.60 One surprising place that remnant materials have been used is in the feed for calves. On many farms calves receive "calf milk replacers," a type of artificial milk. This practice allows the mother's milk to be sold on the market rather than fed to her calf. Up through the beginning of 1996, if you had read an ingredient list on these calf milk replacers, you would have found such items as "animal plasma" and "animal protein products" that may include "meat and bone meal."61 These milk replacers may thus expose calves to the infected blood constituents or other body parts of diseased cattle.

Even with the knowledge that BSE likely resulted from the practice of feeding rendered meat to British cattle, the United States had for years appeared unwilling to make any laws forbidding such practices in our nation. However, in the wake of all the mad cow furor, the FDA has finally put forth a ban on feeding ruminant animals any part of the carcasses of other ruminants (ruminant animals include cattle, sheep, and goats). This became effective August 4, 1997.62

However, blood products, milk, milk products, and gelatin from ruminants and protein solely from pig or horse sources will still be allowed to be included in feeds in the U.S. An FDA advisory committee has asked the FDA to also exclude gelatin for feed, saying that there is not enough data to prove that gelatin is safe, particularly gelatin that comes from Europe. As of this writing, the FDA has not yet decided on the gelatin issue. It was not until 1996 that Great Britain banned the feeding of all animals or animal parts to other animals.

Some have suggested that the U.S. government's delay in implementing a ban on rendered animal tissues illustrates a very real conflict of interest in the department's organization. Like their British counterparts, the USDA serves two roles: to safeguard the nation's food supply and at the same time protect the interests of the agricultural community by promoting the sale of animal products. It is readily apparent that these dual goals can often conflict.

59 Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food (MAFF), United Kingdom (UK): BSE Enforcement Bulletin Issue 8: BSE status report to March 17, 1997. From Internet at

60 Rodney Scale personal communication with Kendra Pratt at Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS). U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1996.

61 Bovine Alliance on Management & Nutrition (BAMN). Undated. A Guide to Modern Calf Milk Replacers. USDA. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Agency (APHIS), 1996 p. 3.

62 (21 CFR Part 589) Substances prohibited from use in animal food or feed; Animal proteins prohibited in ruminant feeds. Food and Drug Administration. Department of Health and Human Services. Federal Register 1997 Jun 5;62(108):30936-30978.

Notice of Credit
The article above is compliments of the Uchee Pines Institute, Seale, Alabama, a teaching and treatment facility devoted to natural remedies. For mor information, call 334-855-4781,e-mail:, or visit their Website:

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