MAP in the Environment

MAP in Food

The Paratuberculosis Problem


Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP), which causes Johne's Disease in many species of ruminants, is endemic in the food animal herds of almost every developed country.  According to a study conducted by the USDA in 1996, in the United States, between 20% and 40% of dairy cattle herds are infected with MAP, resulting in economic losses of at least US$1.5 billion each and every year. 

Results of a new USDA survey will be published in 2003, based on data collected in 2002.  With Johne's disease increasing at an alarming rate, undoubtedly the new figures will be higher, perhaps significantly higher, than those in 1996.

Given the rampant spread of Johne's disease worldwide, consumers should be asking leaders of the cattle industry, government officials, food safety authorities, distributors of dairy/beef food products, and retail supermarkets/food chains that sell dairy/beef food products:  

 "What are you doing to protect us
from exposure to MAP?"  


Information about Johne's Disease

The best source of information about Johne's disease is the Johne's Information Center, located at the University of Wisconsin - School of Veterinary Medicine.  We would encourage you to visit that site for more indepth information about Johne's, including its history and background and other relevant information concerning controlling this disease in cattle. 

Johne's disease (pronounced "YO-nees") is a contagious mycobacterial disease of the intestinal tract of ruminant animals.   It was first described in 1895 by German researcher,  Dr. H. A. Johne, and even though it was identified more than a century ago, it remains a common and costly infectious disease of cattle.   

Citing from the Johne's Information Center's website

"Johne's disease control is not difficult. It simply takes time and good animal husbandry....Johne's disease control is achieved by preventing new infections and removing the infection source i.e. infected adult animals in the herd or flock.

"Johne's disease can be controlled and even eliminated from infected herds or flocks. To accomplish this, however, it takes a thorough understanding of the disease by animal owners, consultation with a veterinarian, and requires use of one or more of the available diagnostic tests. Half-hearted or short-term attempts to control Johne's disease generally will fail. A typical herd clean-up program may take 5 years or longer. Faster clean-up programs are possible, but they are usually more expensive. The basics of control are simple: new infections must be prevented, and animals with the infection must be identified and removed from the herd or flock. "

PARA'S COMMENT:  Since Johne's is not only controllable, but preventable with the implementation of good husbandry practices, it is unconscionable that the cattle industry has ignored it for so long, especially in light of its association with human Crohn's disease.    Now that it has reached epidemic levels in many areas of the world, including the U.S., getting control of the situation is more problematic in every aspect.  Unfortunately, cattle industry leaders have  been short-sighted in their interpretation of the ramifications of ignoring this disease.

What's Being Done to Control MAP in Europe and Australia?

For indepth information about actions taking place in various countries throughout the world, please see the Governments section of our website.   Highlights of those actions are:

  • Food Safety Authority in Ireland (FSAI) in 1998 took dramatic measures to remove MAP from the food chain by adopting measures:  (1) To ensure that animals diagnosed with Johne's disease must be removed from the food chain; and (2) From the time an animal is diagnosed with JD until it is culled, milk will not be used for humans or calves.

  •   United Kingdom initiates retail testing. The U.K. Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food  provided funding for an extensive survey to determine the scale of the food safety problem presented by Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis. The preliminary findings warranted a larger study, which was published in May 2002.  Results from that study confirmed that MAP survives pasteurization standards used in the UK, the very same pasteurization standards used in the U.S.  (More detail from the page entitled MAP in the United Kingdom.)
  • Australia initiates Johne's Disease control programs.   Australian Federal and State Governments, in cooperation with animal industries has instituted national programs for the control of Johne's Disease. (More detail from the page entitled MAP in Australia.)

  • Netherlands in 1998 pledges to eradicate Johne's Disease from herds of food animals. The government of the Netherlands, in order to minimize human exposure to Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis and to reduce the enormous economic losses associated with Johne's Disease, has pledged to eradicate Johne's Disease from herds of food animals. (More detail from the page entitled MAP in the Netherlands.) 
  • The European Commission/European Directorate General of Health and Consumer Protection (DG24) in early 2000 published a 76-page report requesting an "urgent research program" to deal with the connection between MAP and Crohn's disease, and to deal with the transmission of MAP to the human population through the food chain.  Stating that "There are sufficient grounds for concern to warrant increased and urgent research activity to resolve the issue," the Commission recommends a wide rage of research that should be conducted as a matter of urgency.

What's Being Done to Control MAP in the U.S.?

The U.S. appears to have the worst Johne's disease problem in the world, yet as unbelieveable as it seems, it has no uniform herd control program underway.   The U.S. cattle industry has turned a deaf ear to PARA's concerns for six years.  While Crohn's patients have continued to suffer, they have continued to do business and politics as usual.  They have given lipservice to this problem for two decades.  In that length of time, hundreds of thousands more people have been diagnosed with Crohn's disease.  

What will it take to get their attention?   

Reiterating a petition that was sent by PARA to various members of U.S. Federal Agencies and many U.S. dairy and beef industry leaders on July 4, 2001: 

"In August 1998, Ireland took dramatic steps to remove MAP from the food chain.  UK is now taking dramatic steps to remove MAP from the food chain, and other nations are moving in this direction as well.  In view of the increasingly compelling evidence with regard to MAP and Crohn's disease, these nations are acting responsibly to exercise the precautionary principle to protect the citizens. 

"In contrast, to date, the U.S. has taken no action whatsoever, neither to determine whether live MAP is in our food supplies, nor to act responsibly in exercising the precautionary principle to protect the citizens of this nation until the truth about MAP and Crohn's is fully known.  PARA finds this totally unacceptable.

"PARA petitions the responsible Agencies and U.S. leaders to:  Take immediate action - exercise the precautionary principle immediately to protect U.S. citizens from this potential pathogen associated with the very dreadful human disease known as Crohn's disease." 

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Sadly, PARA's concerns have still not been adequately addressed!

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(Please see the Governments section  of our website and PARA's Paper Trail  for  more detailed and indepth information about how the U.S. Government and cattle industry has failed the public on this issue.) 


Even though there are various herd control programs underway throughout the world, many are voluntary and do not demonstrate a will on the part of industry or government to adequately protect the public.    At a minimum, Johne's herd control programs should be mandatory, not voluntary.    

Sadly, what is being done is too little and too late,
far too late for those suffering from Crohn's disease
and far too late for those that are literally
time bombs in terms of becoming symptomatic for Crohns'  ravages.  

Source:   Contact PARA:
Paratuberculosis Awareness & Research Association, 1999-2003.