Researchers Find 'Mad Deer' Disease Can Also Infect the Human Brain

Article excerpt

Public health advocates are demanding that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) close loopholes in animal feed regulations to prevent the spread of "mad cow"-type diseases-now at epidemic levels in western deer and elk-that might infect people who eat these types of meats in the United States.

In a letter to the FDA, the Center for Food Safety (CFS), the Humane Farming Association, and families of victims of the human version of mad cow disease-Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)-are demanding new efforts to protect public health and food safety. The FDA was asked to respond to a legal petition filed in January 1999 that would change animal feed regulations to prevent the spread of mad cow-type diseases already occurring in deer, elk, sheep, and humans and that are suspected in pigs and cattle.

Under current FDA regulations, animals known to be infected with mad cow-type disease (deer, elk, and sheep) can be legally fed to pigs, chickens, and pets, which in turn can be rendered and fed to cows. Billions of pounds of slaughterhouse waste in the form of rendered animal by-products are fed to livestock in the United States every year as fat and protein supplements, even though this practice is known to be the route of transmission of British mad cow disease.

A fatal "mad deer" disease ("chronic wasting disease") is affecting levels in deer and elk in the West and on game farms, CFS legal director Joseph Mendelson wrote in the letter to the FDA. This epidemic may already be claiming human lives, as suggested by the alarming appearance of unusually young victims of CJD. …