MAP in the Environment
MAP in Food
MAP IN FOOD:
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.)
Since MAP is not classified as a human pathogen, meat, milk and other products from animals infected with MAP may be continually entering the human food chain. There is a wealth of evidence which appears to indicate that MAP
is capable of surviving the food
processing methods that we employ to protect us from disease, such as cooking
and pasteurization. This scientific evidence is thoroughly reviewed and
discussed in the MAP in Dairy Products,
MAP in Beef Products, and
Marshfield Clinic Study sections of our website.
MAP as a Food Safety Problem
in the U.S.
Concerns about MAP and the scientific studies which suggest a
connection to Crohn's disease in humans raise extremely grave concerns about
What are the chances that live MAP is in our food? It is an
undisputed scientific fact that live MAP is excreted in the milk of
infected cattle. Terrifyingly enough, scientific
studies published in peer-reviewed journals have determined that MAP may
be capable of surviving U.S. pasteurization standards. And, scientists have
levied significant criticism at the one study that disagrees with the other studies, citing a misinterpretation of data by the scientists that conducted
the study. (See the MAP in Dairy
Products section for detailed information.)
As a bit of history, in 1993, the first scientific study was published
indicating that MAP may survive pasteurization standards used in the U.S.
This study was ignored by federal agencies responsible for food safety in the
Much later, in 1998 when University of Wisconsin researchers published their
findings that MAP was able to survive current U.S. pasteurization standards,
this study was again ignored by U.S. Federal Agencies cognizant of food safety.
All in all, during the period 1993 through 2000 -- seven long years -- nine (9)
scientific studies came in from the U.S. and around the world which suggested
that MAP may survive current U.S. pasteurization standards/practices, and
all of them were tossed to the side, ignored by cognizant U.S. Federal Agencies
such as USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) and FDA (Food and Drug
In May of 2002, a study was published, entitled
"Incidence of Mycobacterium paratuberculosis
in Bulk Raw and Commercially Pasteurized Cows' Milk from Approved Dairy
Processing Establishments in the United Kingdom" (Grant,
I.R.; Ball, H J.; Rowe, M.T. Applied and Environmental
Biology, May 2002, p. 2428-2435, Vol. 68. No. 5).
Results from this study confirmed that MAP survives pasteurization standards
used in the UK, pasteurization standards which equal or exceed those used in the U.S.
Regardless, despite MANY pleas from PARA since mid 1997, the
and FDA have not taken measures to exert the precautionary principle in
determining whether indeed the food we give our children is free from
contamination with MAP.
Other Countries Have Taken the Lead in Food Safety
While U.S. Federal Agencies ignored the scientific findings, other nations
have stepped to the forefront in this issue.
In August of 1998, the Food Safety Authority in Ireland (FSAI) took dramatic
measures to remove MAP from the food chain, by adopting the
- Animals diagnosed with Johne's disease must be removed from the food chain
- From the time an animal is diagnosed with Johne's disease until it is culled, milk will
not be used (pasteurized or raw) for humans or calves
Additionally, in 1998 the United Kingdom took action. The
United Kingdom's (UK's) Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAFF) undertook a
nationwide study to investigate the microbiological quality of raw and
pasteurized cows' milk in the UK. The preliminary findings warranted
a larger study, which was published in May 2002 (Study by Grant, Ball and Rowe
In early 2000 the European Commission/European Directorate General of Health
and Consumer Protection (DG24) 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.
In December of 2001 the UK Government adopted a comprehensive strategy to
prevent human exposure to MAP. The Advisory Committee on the
Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF), which advises the UK Government Food
Standards Agency, approved a comprehensive program of measures aimed at
eliminating MAP from retail milk, as purchased by consumers. As the
ACMSF says in its strategy document, "The Agency has put to one side the
question of whether or not there is a link between MAP and Crohn's
disease. The Agency believes that precautionary action to reduce human
exposure to MAP should start now and should not be dependent on waiting
for the link to be proven."
U.S. Will Be Forced to Act!
PARA commends these European nations on their willingness to act in the best
interests of their citizens and the best interests of the public health.
Unfortunately, U.S. Food safety regulators (FDA/FSIS/USDA) have taken the
opposite position of perpetuating human exposure till a conclusive link is proven,
literally gambling with the lives of millions of people. Because of
actions taken by other nations, the U.S. Government and animal industry will be
forced to deal with the issue, despite their obvious reluctance to do so.
As evidenced by "PARA's Paper Trail",
a compilation of nearly 70 letters that PARA has sent to and replies from
various agencies of the U.S., the formal record clearly demonstrates that
every responsible agency of the U.S. Government, leaders of animal industry and
the U.S. Congress have been sufficiently apprised of this
Undoubtedly, there will be accountability issues raised in the future
as to why the individuals within those agencies have been remiss in their
responsibility to the American public.
In the opinion of PARA, the
failure of these federal agencies to take swift action to ensure the protection
of U.S. citizens is nothing short of a national disgrace!
(Please visit the Governments Section of our
website for detailed information about actions taking place in various countries
throughout the world.)