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NEWS RELEASE January 24, 2001

Doctors Call for Stronger Action Against Mad Cow Disease

WASHINGTON—The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) is calling on the U.S. government to take stronger steps to protect the public from mad cow disease and its human equivalent, the new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD). PCRM will issue a set of recommendations tomorrow to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services. vCJD is a fatal brain-wasting disease that has killed almost 100 Europeans since it was first identified in 1996.

"Our government has been frighteningly slow to react to the very real threat of vCJD in America," says PCRM president Neal D. Barnard, M.D. "The protective measures taken so far are grossly insufficient. We should learn from Europe’s mistakes and implement tough precautionary measures—now, before it’s too late."

Here are PCRM’s five recommendations for protecting the public against vCJD:

  1. Ban the use of animal-derived livestock feeds for any species, given the likelihood that animal byproducts will, in turn, be recycled to ruminants (that is, cows, sheep, and goats).
  2. Prohibit animal byproducts in all medications, supplements, or cosmetics.
  3. Label all foods containing animal byproducts (such as gelatin or "natural flavorings"), indicating both the presence of animal byproducts and the species of origin.
  4. Provide warning labels on all foods that carry a risk of vCJD, using standards similar to those for tobacco and alcohol products.
  5. Institute comprehensive monitoring programs to check for diseased animals and humans in the U.S.

PCRM’s Nutrition Department based its five recommendations on a comprehensive review of the scientific literature on mad cow and vCJD diseases and recent news reports. "Meat is simply a risky product," says Dr. Barnard. "And it’s not just Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease people need to worry about: Heart disease, colon cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and many other dangerous diseases—not to mention foodborne illnesses—would be greatly diminished by avoiding meat entirely."

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.

Media Contact:
Jeanne S. McVey

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