PARA Takes the Case for Retail Testing to USAHA(U.S. Animal Health Association).
USAHA '98, Minneapolis MN, October 3 1998
In October 1998, three board members of the Paratuberculosis Awareness and Research Association (PARA), Cheryl Miller, Steve Merkel, and Alan Kennedy, attended the annual meeting of the United States Animal Health Association (USAHA). PARA attended this meeting to present the case for retail testing of milk, beef, and other cattle products. The purpose of such testing is to determine if those products contain viable bacteria of the species Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis(MAP), which has been implicated in the causation of Crohn's disease. PARA attended the following committees:
National Johne's Working Group
For a discussion of the history of the National Johne's Working Group (NJWG), please read our NJWG page.
Report of the Subcommittee on Research Status and Priorities: Dr. Judy Stabel, Chair, presented the report of this sub-committee, which essentially consisted of a printout of a query on the MEDLINE database, using the keyword "paratuberculosis". This report downplayed the link between MAP and Crohn's disease by emphasizing that while some research studies do detect MAP in tissue from Crohn's patients, an "equivalent number" do not. The report also attempted to minimize current research showing MAP surviving in pasteurized retail milk, and essentially ignored recent findings in the United Kingdom that MAP can be cultured from retail milk.
An NJWG objective approved at the USAHA annual meeting in October 1997, stated "NJWG will evaluate information suggesting M. paratuberculosis is a zoonotic pathogen and assess the likelihood that animals serve as a reservoir of infection." We believe that this Subcommittee report was inadequate at addressing the stated objective.
Discussion of quantitative Johne's tests: There was discussion of using tests for Johne's to determine a quantitative measurement of the degree of infection in a cow, so that only those cows above a certain threshold would be culled from the herd. This discussion caused Paul Shadbolt, Staff Veterinarian for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, to comment, "I'm losing faith in you folks in the U.S.A. If you're trying to get rid of Johne's in your herd, you don't leave positive cows. You cull all the positive cows. This talk of a threshold of disease is crazy."
Report from the Subcommittee on Herd Certification: presented by Co-chair Dr. Leslie Bugala, Veterinary Medical Officer with USDA, this report outlined a practical plan for achieving Johne's-free status in a herd with a 99% confidence level in four years, using present testing technology. The practicality of this plan and the reasonable cost of implementation leaves the dairy industry with no excuse for not cleaning up the herds.
Voluntary control of Johne's disease: Great emphasis placed on making all Johne's control programs voluntary. As one NJWG member put it, "If the farmers have to report positive cows, then it will be like the sheep scrapie program. Instead of reporting the disease, the farmers will 'shoot, shovel, and shut up.'" In line with that philosophy, the NJWG drafted a resolution reversing last year's position of recommending that states make Johne's a reportable disease. This year's resolution asks the states to NOT make Johne's a reportable disease.
Our comment comes from a cattleman: "Voluntary? Unless you make it mandatory, nothing's going to happen."
Congresssional awareness:One of last year's resolutions called for NJWG members to "seek greater Congressional awareness and support to adequately fund Johne's and Crohn's research needs."
In 1998, PARA has influenced congress and the National Institutes of Health far more effectively than has the NJWG.
PARA's presentation to the NJWG
First Cheryl Miller spoke on "Why is Crohn's disease a concern?" Then Alan Kennedy presented his paper: "MAP: The case for retail milk testing." While he was speaking, John Adams, who was chairing the meeting, kept interrupting, "Hurry up, make it short, we need to move on." His interruptions were very unnerving.
Cheryl Miller spoke again. She challenged the NJWG to fulfill their duty, according to their own mission statement, reminding the veterinarians in particular that they had taken a oath to work for human health. But her choicest remarks were saved for the two milk pasteurization studies that the FDA and the National Milk Producers Federation use to justify their position that there is no hazard from MAP in pasteurized milk. She pointed out the fact that the Keswani/Frank study was structured as an exercise to give graduate students a project they could complete in a year, and criticized Dr. Stabel's study as one "performed by a researcher who by her own admission couldn't find MAP in raw milk in bulk tanks on farms with known infected herds." (Full text of speech)
Meeting of the Food Safety Committee of the USAHA
On Monday October 5th, Alan Kennedy again presented his paper: MAP in food: The case for retail testing. In this committee, his presentation was very well received. Several attendees asked thoughtful questions and many came up to him afterwards to compliment him on his presentation. Dr. Irene Wesley, a researcher with USDA/ARS, who herself had given an excellent presentation on Campylobacter, complimented Alan on his paper. It was a dramatically different reception that the hostility shown by the Co-chair at the NJWG.
Meeting of the Johne's disease Committee of the USAHA
The meeting of the Johne's Disease Committee was held on Tuesday October 6th. The committee actions of interest to PARA were two resolutions introduced by Michael Collins DVM, of the University of Wisconsin. They are as follows:
RESOLUTION: TESTING OF RETAIL MILK
There was lively debate on this resolution, with Dr. Collins defending it and John Adams quite vocal in his opposition to the whole notion of retail milk testing. Typical comments:
Conclusion: This resolution was voted down by an overwhelming majority.
RESOLUTION: ASSESSMENT OF GROUND BEEF CONTAMINATION
When this resolution was opened for discussion there was little opposition voiced. John Adams said nothing. But when it came to a vote, the "Aye's" were a little stronger than the "Nay's", and the chair ruled that the resolution was passed.
BUT: The case of the missing resolution: Somewhere between the Johne's committee and release by the USAHA, this resolution was rescinded, i.e. although it was passed in open committee, it was voted down behind closed doors. So the USAHA is now on record as deliberately choosing ignorance about the presence of MAP in food products for human consumption.
A LEGAL PERSPECTIVE
The last speaker at the Johne's Disease Committee meeting was Paul Strandberg, Assistant Attorney General, State of Minnesota. He warned the committee that if they chose to be less than forthright about the possible link between milk and beef and Crohn's disease, they could wind up on "60 Minutes" in the middle of a media circus. He advised them to take heed of what happened to the beef industry in the UK following the BSE debacle, and to apples with the Alar scare.
Did PARA make headway at the USAHA meeting? Here's what one researcher said: "You might be discouraged because your milk testing resolution didn't pass. But so many other very important resolutions did pass! You folks have made an INCREDIBLE difference in what has been in the past a 'do-nothing' group!"
For further information contact
Paratuberculosis Awareness and Research Association, Inc.is a non-profit organization of Crohn's disease patients, their families and friends who are dedicated to the following goals:
Paratuberculosis Awareness and Research Association, Inc.
Temple Terrace, FL 33687-6219
Source: http://www.crohns.org/media/pr151098.htm Contact PARA: http://www.crohns.org/contact.htm
Paratuberculosis Awareness & Research Association