Tuesday, December 18, 2007

More waiting for a Farm Bill

It's been delayed for a few years because the process is so time-consuming. It's been delayed this year because Congress and Bush can't agree on anything. Oh, wait, it's still going to be delayed, because whatever they turn out is going to be vetoed.

Well, that's legislation for you -- but the ag committee can't do much else until this goes through. That means delays in funding the USDA. The USDA does a number of important things (food inspection, WIC and food stamps, not to mention basic research like mine) that really shouldn't get put on the back burner for too long.

But I guess that's why the bill is so difficult -- it has to cover all these things, too, along with little stuff like subsidies.

Senate passes farm bill, moves to conference under veto threat
By Janie Gabbett on 12/17/2007 for Meatingplace.com

The Senate on Friday voted 79-14 to pass a version of the 2007 farm bill the White House has already threatened to veto, sending the legislation to the House-Senate conference committee to hash out differences and agree a bill that the White House will sign.

"This legislation is fundamentally flawed. Unless the House and Senate can come together and craft a measure that contains real reform, we are no closer to a good farm bill than we were before today's passage," Acting Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Conner said in a statement.

Conner acknowledged he was disappointed the Senate approved the bill by such a wide margin. Broadly, the Administration opposes the cost of the $286 billion farm bill, which it says includes $22 billion in unfunded commitments and includes $15 billion in new taxes, as well as the fact that it did not limit subsidies to wealthier farm owners as much as the Administration sought.

Packer livestock ownership

The Senate version of the bill includes a livestock title (Title X) that contains a provision that would only allow meatpackers to own livestock 14 days before slaughter.

"We have a number of concerns with key aspects of that whole competition title," Conner said, when asked on a teleconference with reporters if the Administration would seek changes in the packer livestock ownership provision.

"We're going to be working very closely with the conferees in both the House and Senate to address this issue very directly as we go into the conference," Mark Keenum, under secretary for farm and foreign agricultural services, told reporters, adding that the provision is, "impeding commerce and trade with a specific commodity, in this situation livestock, and that's a slippery slope."

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) praised the livestock title, saying in a statement, "The bill's livestock title will promote market opportunities for producers; it will protect animal health; and it will strengthen enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act."

COOL and state-inspected meat

Both House and Senate versions of the bill contain mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) provisions that meat industry groups have agreed they can live with.

The House version of the bill includes a provision that would allow some state-inspected meat to cross state lines.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Taking everything into account . . .

. . . you can't.

New research is saying that local foods don't necessarily have a lower carbon footprint. When you consider technical economies of scale (i.e. more efficient transport -- containers on trains instead of boxes in pickups), mass-produced fruits and vegetables shipped across the country use less gas than local ones from small farms. This is based on, for example, the gas per strawberry. Many strawberries makes light footprint.

There are other things the article didn't go into (machinery efficiency, farm supply shipping, etc.) that large monoculture farms have going for them as far as carbon footprint goes. With all of these things, I have to admit that buying all your groceries at Wal-Mart, especially with only one trip a week, uses the least carbon.

If that's your goal.

Me, I eat locally for other reasons. I want to support local farmers and local industry. I want the flavor of the heritage varieties (wonder why they taste better than the shipped ones? flavor and storage value are inversely related for most fruits and veggies). I want to know where my food came from.

Yes, I feel guilty when I drive my car all alone to the farmer's market, only to go to the grocery store once or twice a week on separate trips. I used to bike it, but that was when I lived in Kansas (ah, flatness; the prospect of hauling my shopping up two blocks at 40% grade or more is rather discouraging). I used to do all my shopping on Saturday morning, going without rather than doing quick runs for one ingredient. I need to get back into at least some of those good habits.

Still, I can't help thinking that basing a drastic shift in behaviors (an all-local diet, for example) on one good-hearted idea is dooming it to failure. As soon as you start bringing in other calculations, you'll run into complications, realize how complicated life is, and give up. Yes, we need to consider confounders. We still need to act, though, and it's up to you what confounders you use in your analysis.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Controlling(?) E. coli

Someone was telling me last night about her friend's revolutionary work on controlling pre-harvest E. coli in cattle by feeding hay for a few days. I had to break it to her that it's common knowledge, now, that that works. There are probably thousands of studies going on right now to figure out E. coli reduction in cattle.

With all this work, though, who do people trust? The activists.

Yes, the people (in some cases) who say raw milk is healthier than pasteurized, or veganism is healthier than carnivorism, or homeopathy works. I'll grant them homeopathy -- there is a documented placebo effect if people believe something will work. Still, less than half surveyed trust the government on food safety! That technically includes me right now: I work for a land-grant university, studying pre-harvest food safety. But government isn't looking out for us like the activists are . . . I'm just going to stop now . . .

Less than half Americans see meat safety regulations as adequate: survey
By Janie Gabbett on 12/6/2007 for Meatingplace.com
In the wake of this year's spike in ground beef recalls, fewer Americans are confident the government has adequate food safety regulations for meat and poultry, according to a new GfK Roper Public Affairs and Media survey.

The telephone survey, commissioned by The Worldcom Public Relations Group, showed only 46 percent of 1,009 adults polled were confident meat and poultry were adequately regulated, compared to 48 percent for seafood, 57 percent for dairy, 58 percent for fruits and vegetables and 65 percent for cereals and grains.

At an average of 50 percent, confidence in food regulation in general ranked below every other category polled, other than toys (37 percent).

Trusting activists

The survey also found that U.S. consumers have more faith in activists and retail grocers than either the government or food companies when it comes to providing information about food choices.

While 64 percent said advocates and activist groups have consumers' best interests in mind when providing information about food choices, 62 percent felt that way about grocers, 53 percent about food manufacturers, 47 percent about the U.S. government and 26 percent about fast food companies.

"These results support the idea that activists may have been successful in dominating discussions about food policy," said Bob Giblin, a senior public relations counselor and research director who tracks food and agricultural issues for Morgan&Myers.

Subsidies aren't bad?

Depends on who you are. If you're Malawi, it turned out to be the answer, the way out of the poverty trap.

The lesson here is not to ignore the experts, as the article's title says, but to work to your situation, not someone else's expectations and desires. Those experts Malawi was ignoring? The ones that said subsidies and big government would sink a poor country? They wanted Malawi to spend less of their (loaned) money. Most people could tell you, though, that sometimes a little more money spent is worth it in the long run.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sometimes we're right

Apparently, epidemiologists have been saying for a while that the UN's estimation of AIDS cases in low-income countries is flawed. Turns out, they were right.

I hadn't heard anything about the criticisms before this article, but I don't blame them for criticizing: estimates were based on anonymous women coming to free clinics for pregnancy or STD tests. Free clinics are primarily in the cities, and women needing pregnancy or STD tests are, by definition, sexually active. Rural, sexually inactive women would be ignored by this method. And they overestimated?

Lesson: think about biases before you extrapolate results to a general population.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Can you pay extra for a sterilized cooking staff?

My first thought seeing this article: what will this mean for the CDC's 'cruise ship of the week'? After all, those things are great infection vats! Mostly because all the people are shoved together, though . . . maybe this will help.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Slow food revival? Nah.

A friend was just asking me if slow food was as popular out East as it was back (for him) West. This seems to say that no, slow food isn't overly popular in the US in general.

I'm very worried by the statistic that 25% of family dinners are at restaurants. 1) You don't teach your kids to cook by going to a restaurant. 2) That probably includes (and is overwhelmed by) fast-food restaurants. Eek.

Americans like hamburgers, locally grown and convenience foods: poll
By Janie Gabbett on 11/8/2007 for Meatingplace.com
According to PARADE magazine's biennial "What America Eats" survey, 21 percent of Americans would choose a hamburger as their only food on a deserted island.

Respondents to the survey of 2001 Americans over 18 years of age were given a choice of seven foods. Pizza was the top choice at 37 percent, followed by hamburger (21 percent), fruit (17 percent), veggies (12 percent), chocolate (8 percent), apple pie (3 percent) and French fries (2 percent).

The survey also found that 82 percent of Americans use convenience foods (pre-made fresh, frozen, refrigerated, canned or packaged) and 22 percent are using more of such foods than a year ago. While 46 percent believe these foods are more expensive, 71 percent said the cost is worth it for the time saved.

Local, natural and green

The movement towards eating foods grown locally is "one of the hottest culinary trends to come along in years," according to the survey, which cited recent E. coli scares and tainted food from China as factors driving Americans to think about where their food comes from and how it is grown.

When shopping for groceries, 38 percent of respondents said that all-natural claims are important, while 34 percent said recyclable packaging is a big factor and 32 percent said "environmentally friendly" labels are an important purchasing consideration. And 70 percent said they are at least somewhat likely to buy products that won't harm the environment, even if they cost more.

Where we eat

  • 87 percent said they eat home-cooked food for dinner, 5 percent chose restaurant take-out and only 1 percent eat supermarket-prepared meals
  • 81 percent said they eat breakfast at home, but 59 percent admit they skip it and 4 percent eat it in a restaurant
  • 60 percent eat lunch at home, with 36 percent skipping it and 10 percent in a restaurant
  • 25 percent of family dinners are at a restaurant and only 5 percent don't eat dinner

More men in the kitchen

Men are doing more grocery shopping and cooking more meals than 20 years ago. The survey said 71 percent of women now do the grocery shopping versus 93 percent 20 years ago, and 68 percent of women said they prep and cook food for their household versus 94 percent two decades ago.

Fantasy meals

If a TV family could join them for dinner, 29 percent of respondents picked the cast of "Friends", while 24 percent preferred "The Brady Bunch" and 15 percent want to eat with "The Simpsons." Only 7 percent want to eat with The Costanzas from "Seinfeld".

Rachael Ray was the pick (38 percent) for the chef Americans want to cook their dinner, followed by (30 percent) Emeril Lagasse.

And if calories and nutrition were no object, 26 percent of Americans would most often eat pizza, 20 percent Chinese food, 14 percent fried chicken, 10 percent fast-food hamburgers and 9 percent deli sandwiches or wraps. A hot dog with the works was the choice of 3 percent of those polled.

The survey was sponsored in part by Sara Lee Food and Beverage and conducted by Mark Clements Research Inc.

Translation: foreigners are dirty!

Okay, this doesn't really surprise me. What does surprise me is that this hasn't come up before. The real lesson: cook your meat fully (and don't drink raw milk -- the population of poultry workers and that of milkers isn't all that different).

More than 200 test positive for TB at poultry plant
By Alicia Karapetian on 11/5/2007 for Meatingplace.com
Some 28 percent of the 765 employees screened for tuberculosis at one of Wayne Farms LLC's poultry processing facilities in Decatur, Ala., tested positive, the Decatur Daily reported.

Final testing was completed at the Alabama State Department of Public Health's Tubrerculosis Control Division Wednesday, with a total of 212 positive skin tests.

The testing was done in two batches. On Oct. 11, 167 employees were tested, resulting in 47 positive skin tests, one of which was an active, and contagious, case.

More recently, the final group of tests was completed last week, which resulted in 167 positive skin tests from a pool of 598 samples. Those most recently tested and with positive skin tests will receive chest X-rays on Thursday to determine if any of those cases are active and contagious, according to the Decatur Daily.

Scott Jones, interim director at the state's TB division told the Decatur Daily that he is not surprised by the number of positive skin tests given that many of the workers at the facility were born outside of the United States.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Really?!?! Not a lobbyist?

This is surprising! No, I'm not bashing Republicans -- most secretaries of agriculture have industry ties. Schafer, though, seems to be clean (of the ag industry; he has worked in other industries). Nice change . . . although the new Farm Bill looks like more of the same . . . one step at a time!

Bush nominates new ag secretary
By Tom Johnston on 11/1/2007 for Meatingplace.com
President Bush has nominated Edward T. Schafer to serve as the nation's next Agriculture Secretary, saying Schafer's service over two terms as governor of North Dakota has well qualified him for the job, the White House announced.

Schafer, a Republican who elected not to make another run for North Dakota governor office in 2000, will succeed Mike Johanns, who resigned to campaign for Nebraska's Senate seat. (See Johanns announces U.S. Senate bid on Meatingplace.com, Oct. 11, 2007.)

Chuck Conner, who has been serving as acting agriculture secretary, applauded the president's pick.

"Having served two terms as governor of an agricultural state, he (Schafer) knows the issues," Conner said. "He has led trade missions, promoted renewable energy and advanced rural development in his home state. His reputation for being a strong leader with a straightforward approach and optimistic outlook will fit perfectly here at the department, and it will be appreciated by the farmers, ranchers and other stakeholders whom we serve."

Jay Truitt, vice president of government affairs for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, also spoke highly of Schafer.

"He will bring a fresh perspective to USDA at a time when American agriculture is facing many new challenges in policy development and opportunities in innovation and technology," Truitt said. "This is a critical time for U.S. agriculture, and we're looking forward to working with Mr. Schafer to help guide the cattle and beef industry into the future."

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The title says it all

Yep, no surprises here:

New cancer report says limit red and processed meat; industry disagrees
By Janie Gabbett on 10/31/2007 for Meatingplace.com

A new report by the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research suggests limiting intake of red meat and avoiding processed meat as one of ten recommendations to reduce cancer risk.

The report, which updates the group's 1997 findings and reviewed over 7,000 studies, said it found that both red meat (defined as beef, pork, lamb and goat) and processed meat (defined as meat preserved by smoking, curing or salting or chemical preservatives) increased risk of colorectal cancer if eaten in large quantities.

It cautioned people who eat red meat to consume less than 500 grams (18 ounces) of cooked red meat a week and that they consume "very little, if any" processed meat, such as bacon, ham, sausage and lunchmeat.

"The panel emphasizes that this overall recommendation is not for diets containing no red meat or diets containing no foods of animal origin," the report said, noting that meat can be a valuable source of protein, iron, zinc and vitamin B12.

"An integrated approach to the evidence also shows that many foods of animal origin are nourishing and healthy if consumed in modest amounts," it said.

The report pointed to excess body fat as a major cancer risk and noted that, "diets with high levels of animal fats are often relatively high in energy, increasing the risk of weight gain." It linked excess body fat to cancers of the esophagus, pancreas, colon and rectum, endometrium and kidney, along with breast cancer in post-menopausal women.

To view the entire report, click here.

Industry response

The American Meat Institute (AMI) said the study's meat intake recommendations, "reflect WCRF's well-known anti-meat bias and should be met with skepticism because they oversimplify the complex issue of cancer, are not supported by the data and defy common sense."

"Given the complexities and conflicting research findings, it is inconceivable that WCRF could draw definitive conclusions and make such precise recommendations about specific food categories," said AMI Foundation Vice President of Scientific Affairs Randy Huffman, noting the causes of cancer involve factors like genetics, the environment, lifestyle and a host of other issues.

AMI also disputed the report's recommendations on processed meats. "Our own systematic review of the literature by independent epidemiologists has documented that 15 of 16 comparisons regarding processed meat and colorectal cancer were not statistically significant," said Huffman.

Harvard data

Huffman also questioned why WCRF didn't take into account a 2004 Harvard School of Public Health analysis that concluded that red meat and processed meat were not associated with colon cancer.

He said the Harvard study, involving 725,000 men and women, was presented at the 2004 American Association for Cancer Research Conference in abstract form but never has been published in its entirety.

Huffman called the Harvard paper, Meat and fat intake and colorectal cancer risk: A pooled analysis of 14 prospective studies, the largest study ever done on red meat and colon cancer. He said lawmakers are now asking Harvard why the study has not been published, given its completion three years ago and its federal funding.
The point is, again, how much can we trust epi studies? We can design a study to say almost anything; whether we can get it published is another issue. Should you refute a published study with an unpublished study? Or is it, as they imply, refuting a p.c. study with a politically blocked study?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

How not to be part of the problem

Good, timely article in the NYT today about MRSA and antibacterial . . . umm . . . stuff.

MRSA: methicillin-resistant Staph. aureus, which caused, apparently, 19,000 deaths in the last year, 2 recently in healthy high schoolers.

antibacterial stuff: soaps, toys, cutting boards, etc. that have been impregnated with triclosan (an antibiotic) to prevent bacterial growth.

There is no direct epidemiological link between the two, but lab tests seem to indicate that over-use of the latter can lead to the former. (Interesting side note: should we reject a theory for lack of epi back-up, even though it works in the lab? Even when we also reject theories for lack of lab back-up, even when there's a statistical link in epi studies? Are we biased in our trust of the two methods?) Do we over-use the stuff?

If you want to control bacterial growth on stuff, as the article suggests, alcohol-based cleaners work better. If you want to control bacterial growth on your hands, ditto, but soap and water works too. Just in case, lets be sensible.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Geniuses can be stupid, too

James Watson has been known to say stupid things about women, but now he's added Africans -- apparently, he thinks there's no reason for them to be as smart as Caucasians. After all, tests have proven it!

Much as I generally don't agree with Stephen Jay Gould, just read The Mismeasure of Man. Tests don't measure IQ (or IQ doesn't measure intelligence, if you prefer). We have to acknowledge that cultural familiarity plays a role in both questions and answers. I'm sure that an African-created IQ test would show the same differences . . . in the opposite direction.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Food is a right

I hadn't seen anything worth the trouble of writing in a while, but apparently I missed World Food Day. It's good to see so many countries coming out in support of food as a human right (after all, if life is a right, food has to be a right). My one question: where was the US and why didn't we hear about this?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The oracle and Delphi

Yes, Taubes strikes another blow at the epidemiologic stronghold! This time, though, he has a point . . .

Namely, people can be influenced by a strong opinion, especially if they aren't certain and/or multiple people express the same opinion. Peer pressure by any other name . . . it can certainly affect any study that requires expert opinions to fill data gaps.

That's why there's this great thing called the Delphi method. Basically, a survey is sent to a panel of experts (or they are interviewed, whatever your method). They are asked to answer a series of questions. Those answers are compiled for each question (range and mean for numerical data, lists for qualitative answers) and sent back to the panel with a fresh copy of the same survey. The experts can then change their answer based on what other people answered without one loud voice dominating. This process is repeated a few times, simulating discussion. Et voila! a consensus is reached in which everyone has an equal voice. A friend of mine used this method in his MS research and it worked quite well.

The price of free things

Health agencies are starting to focus on giving away bed nets in Africa.

If you've been reading this for a while, you know how I feel about giveaways -- they cause dependency and ruin local producers/merchants! No hand-outs!

Except . . . giving away bed nets seems to be equivalent to giving away vaccines: bed nets actually have a protective effect on the community if used by a sufficient number of residents. First, really?--cool! Second, public health issues are actually considered to be areas in which the well-being of all benefits from public funding. Just like vaccines, it's in the public interest to provide bed nets to those who can't afford them.

So why the debate? Well, there are always a few small government advocates who want everything to be in the private sector. Also, some people don't like to let go of an idea once they get hold of it. I was once told that the correct answer to any question asked by an epidemiologist is 'it depends'. For the people who still cling to the concept that giving away free goods is the least cost-efficient development scheme, add this caveat: only if the societal benefit of the giveaway is less than the societal cost. In this case, that assumption fails, so we must change our stance and encourage bed net giveaways.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Can we even trust epidemiology?

Another class assignment! In this case, just forcing me to do a more thorough review of an article I meant to review anyways. Here it is:

What level of proof is necessary to make a claim? That seems to be the question Taubes is asking in “Do we really know what makes us healthy.” I would posit that a more appropriate question would be ‘how do we interpret our claims?’

Taubes doubts the validity of epidemiological arguments based on his understanding of statistics as “tools . . . that may be unreliable” and “circumstantial evidence” that should be barely trusted, and only until clinical evidence is available. In one sense, he is right: as a science based on probabilities, epidemiology can be done badly and misused, with results that are untrustworthy. What about epidemiology done right? Sampling biases still exist: healthy users, atypical study subjects, compliance. Diagnostics are imperfect and that can bias results. Some confounders are unknown or immeasurable. However, dealing with these issues is one of the purposes of peer review. Taubes claims that the first report is untrustworthy simply because it lacks that peer review, ignoring the review process that is required to make that report. Any report published without peer review is indeed suspect, but that is true in any field. To re-quote John Bailar, “The appropriate question is not whether there are uncertainties about epidemiologic data, rather, it is whether the uncertainties are so great that one cannot draw useful conclusions from the data.”

The problem may come, not from the science itself, but from the understanding and application of the results. Taubes quotes an editorial from the New England Journal of Medicine on the role of the media in this debacle, namely, that the lay media interprets studies wrong. Rather than seeing an association as it is, they insist on a causative – it’s just easier to report. When a majority of these causations fail to materialize (although the associations may still be present), Taubes suggests they should reject epidemiology as an untrustworthy source.

Rejecting epidemiologic studies on the whole because a majority have been refuted is not a sensible choice. For example, many movies and even more books have poor to dismal ratings from tough critics; should I then reject all such media because the majority are considered bad? I would rather focus on the good, even if they are in the minority. That, of course, requires close, skeptical reading on the part of the science reporters.

Taubes champions the experimental study as the savior of epidemiologic conclusions. After all, if we can prove that the epidemiologists were right, we can ‘trust’ them (for a certain value of trust). However, one of the older studies he cites is ethically questionable (Goldberger trying to infect himself and colleagues) and the new studies he considers have plausibility problems of their own (H.R.T. studies choosing different subject types). In many cases, experimental studies are simply not possible, as Taubes admits. Why, then, does he end with a suggestion to wait for clinical trials to back up the epidemiologic associations?

The main problem with this entire debate, however, is the differing viewpoints. Taubes writes to inform the individual readers, who will try to apply the results of epidemiologic studies to their own lives. As any epidemiologist knows, those studies are not meant to predict individual results. To an individual, population-level data is a step removed. Maybe the problem comes simply in the application, stepping down to the micro what is meant to be macro – in other words, the ecologic fallacy.

Friday, October 05, 2007

It could happen here?

Think I wasn't accurate about the UK being a little unlucky? Well, turns out their most recent FMD problem could happen here, too.

Just so you know. I mean, if I'm going to stay up at night worrying, why shouldn't you?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Unlucky? Unlikely

Somebody asked Slate.com why British cattle get so many diseases.

Ummm . . .

Let's talk about information bias. To be specific, diagnostic bias and reporting bias. The UK has a fantastic diagnostic service. The UK also reports any diseases it finds. Therefore, the UK reports a lot of disease outbreaks. In sub-Saharan Africa, which has 75% of the world's disease burden according to a recent lecture I attended, there is no money for diagnostic services, so even strict reporting (which is unlikely) wouldn't lead to a lot of outbreak reports. Ditto for Southeast Asia -- diagnostics are lacking and reporting is low. China, on the other hand, probably has good diagnostic services; they don't report many outbreaks because they choose not to report what they find.

The reporting bias is an important point. On Promed, outbreaks in some countries are reported by the OIE or the country involved; outbreaks in other countries are reported by field workers or locals. If we only consider outbreaks in countries where reporting is through official channels, those (few) countries will look disease-ridden compared to the rest.

Okay, there may be some luck (or lack) involved in the case of the UK. I'm not sure Heathrow is a bigger international hub than Schipol or LAX. I'm not sure the UK has a bigger smuggling problem. They just got unlucky with FMD.

In the case of BSE, though, we got lucky that it happened in the UK. They diagnosed it (and fixed it) faster than most countries could have. Think SARS or avian influenza, but with no obvious animal link -- how long would it have taken Thailand to figure it out or China to tell us about it?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Zoonotic diseases? From livestock? You're kidding, right?

This is a serious problem; urban agriculture is a growing segment of the livestock industry in many low-income countries with large, sprawling cities. Especially with the lack of good water treatment facilities or sewage control -- the sewers were one of the biggest gains in public health in human history, so what happens if we don't have them and we have all sorts of livestock spreading manure in our cities? In traditional systems, we didn't have this problem because animals were kept out on ranges. Of course, the animal caretakers had issues to deal with . . . and still do . . . but now consumers are at risk.

This doesn't even address the issue of free-ranging animals in urban areas (cattle in India, poultry and small ruminants in many other areas). They could spread disease directly, as well as from their waste. No solutions from me, sorry -- this is a sticky issue that needs a lot of attention.
FAO sees disease threat from increase global meat production
By Janie Gabbett on 9/18/2007 for Meatingplace.com
Increase global meat and poultry production to meet escalating demand has pushed production closer to urban areas, increasing the risk of animal to human disease transmission, according to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

"The risk of disease transmission from animals to humans will increase in the future due to human and livestock population growth, dynamic changes in livestock production, the emergence of worldwide agro-food networks and a significant increase in the mobility of people and goods," FAO said in a policy brief titled "Industrial Livestock Production and Global Health Risks."

It warned the risk of pathogen transfer is increased by: animal movement; the concentration of confined animals; and the waste produced by large animal houses.

With global pig and poultry production growing the fastest, the FAO cited a trend towards industrialized livestock production replacing traditional systems in developing countries, most notably in Asia, South American and parts of Africa.

It also raised concerns that most chickens and turkeys in industrialized nations are now produced in houses with 15,000 to 50,000 birds and that both poultry and pig production rely on significant animal movement.

The FAO called on meat producers to: apply basic biosecurity measures, refrain from building production sites too close to human settlements or wild bird populations, regularly clean and disinfect farms, control staff and vehicles movement and train employees in biosecurity.

A long-overdue study

What are the international trade barriers to US beef, and how do they effect the industry?

Are you kidding? Haven't they done this before now?!?! For all I know, of course, this is just a duplication of somebody's thesis that never got read . . .

ITC to investigate international trade barriers on U.S. beef
By Tom Johnston on 9/17/2007 for Meatingplace.com

The U.S. International Trade Commission said on Friday it launched a probe into the effects of international trade restrictions on U.S. beef.

The ITC investigation follows a request by the Senate's Finance Committee, which lamented the economic impact of restrictions by Japan and South Korea on the U.S. beef industry. (See Senator wants audit of Asian barriers on U.S. beef on Meatingplace.com, Aug. 8, 2007.)

The commission said it would provide an overview of the U.S. and global markets for beef, as well as information on animal health, sanitary, and food safety measures facing U.S. and other major beef exporters. It will also will render information on other barriers to U.S. beef exports in major foreign markets, including high tariffs, quotas and import licensing and distribution systems, as well as analyze their economic effects.

The ITC is slated to submit its report to the Senate's Finance Committee on June 6, 2008. It will hold a public hearing related to the investigation at 9:30 a.m. Nov. 15, 2007. Requests to appear should be filed with the Secretary, United States International Trade Commission, 500 E Street SW, Washington, D.C. 20436, by 5:15 p.m. Oct. 18.

Sensible classes? Real-world ideas? Yes, thank you.

I know, I've been away for a little while (busy, sick, etc), but I've built up a backlog of articles to comment on, so here goes:

MIT apparently started classes in basic technologies that could be used in countries with infrastructure or supply issues. Simple, useful ideas for heating, cooking, powering, processing -- this is exactly the sort of thing more development agencies should be doing.

Now, if only we could get the classes held on-site . . .

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Not again!

British farmers can't catch a break. Also, the government needs to start contacting people, if this article is anything to go by.

Date: Wed, 12 Sep 2007 09:44:17 -0400 (EDT)
From: ProMED-mail <promed@promed.isid.harvard.edu>
Subject: PRO/AH/EDR> Foot & mouth disease, bovine - UK (England) (21): new, conf

A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases

Date: Wed, 12 Sep 2007
Source: BBC News [edited]

New foot-and-mouth case confirmed
- ---------------------------------
A new case of foot-and-mouth disease [FMD] has been confirmed in the
same county as the UK's last outbreak.

The government has set up a 10km (6.2 mile) control zone centred on
the affected farm near Egham, Surrey, and a pre-emptive slaughter has
been ordered.

A national movement ban has been put in place to prevent the disease
spreading from Milton Park Farm, Stroude Road.

A report into the August [2007] outbreak blamed a leaking pipe at the
Pirbright animal research site in Surrey.

The latest outbreak comes just days after the government declared
Surrey to be FMD free.

Peter Kendall, president of the National Farmers' Union, said it was
a "disaster" for British agriculture.

"The industry will be devastated that all the hard work it has put in
to eradicate the outbreaks of 3 Aug and 8 Aug 2007 when the whole
industry was completely locked up for a long time," he said.

Dr Reynolds, said the control zone was put in place swiftly because
"containment and eradication of FMD is our top priority".

She urged farmers to remain vigilant and report any suspicions.

The EU has halted plans to lift the export ban on livestock products
from the area around the original outbreak.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown is due to chair a meeting of the Cobra
emergency committee at 1700 BST (1600 GMT).

A farmer at Stroude Farm, Stroude Road, said he had heard nothing of the news.

He said: "This has made me go all cold. It was only Monday [10 Sep
2007] that they opened up the country after the last time.

"I can't believe it's happening again. I have heard nothing about it.
You'd think they'd let us know."

The Cobra meeting will take place once the government has received the results.

The control zone was set up around the suspected outbreak at 0935 BST.

Earlier in the summer, 2 farms tested positive for the disease but
the all-clear has since been given.

FMD was confirmed in a herd of cattle at Woolford Farm in Surrey on 3 Aug 2007.

A 2nd case, at a farm nearby, was confirmed on 7 Aug 2007.

A report into the previous outbreak found it was probably caused by
leaking drains, heavy rain and building work at the Pirbright site, 4
miles from where the disease was originally found.

But the Health and Safety Executive said it was not clear which of
the 2 labs which share the site - Merial, a private pharmaceutical
company, and the Institute of Animal Health (IAH) - were responsible.

- --
Communicated by:
ProMED-mail Rapporteur Mary Marshall

[ProMED-mail would like to thank Chris Griot for submitting the
original alert that this outbreak was identified, shortly before the
laboratory confirmation was received. - Mod.MPP]

[DEFRA's press release on the suspected outbreak in Wegham (seemingly
confirmed in the meantime) is available at

The declaration of a control zone, including a map, is available at

Details on the affected holding, number, species and age of the
animals involved, proximity to other animal holdings, the estimated
age of the erosions (if observed) and the suspected route(s) of
introduction, are anticipated. If in case clinical symptoms have been
observed now, the virus may have been circulating on the premises for
some time, up to several weeks. Unravelling the source and route of
the pathogen's introduction are crucial for the decisions on the due
steps which may be needed to contain the outbreak and subsequently
regain the UK's freedom of FMD. The earlier such information becomes
available, the earlier efficient measures may be applied, free
movement of animals of susceptible species within the UK is
reinstituted and UK's international trade in animals and their
products may be resumed. - Mod. AS].

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Why does everyone hate animal industry?

Okay, not everyone -- just the radicals. The ones who want to convince us that animals are worse for global warming than SUV's. Yes, scientifically, that is correct -- feedlots contribute more to greenhouse gas production than autos (at least, if we only count the driving -- I wonder about production and transport of autos and fuel, mining, the steel industry, etc.). That is a problem in our livestock industry.

Is veganism the answer? I don't think so. Before I'm written off as a carnivore apologist: I was a vegetarian for 4 years, and I rarely eat meat. My point is the difference between complete abstinence and sensible moderation: I eat meat (and dairy products, and eggs) in small amounts from local, mostly organic, farms. Local being upstate NY, these farms are in an appropriate place (I'd probably eat less dairy if the only local source was a mega-farm in AZ, for instance), more appropriate, in fact, than most organic produce. In other areas, there is no other agriculture option -- what do you expect the people of Karamoja, for example, to do with their land? It's only appropriate for livestock. The problem comes more from large feedlots full of corn-fed cattle being turned into triple cheeseburgers for consumers that live thousands of miles away. That system is the problem -- producing enough meat to feed the American appetite for it has led to an environmentally draining, non-sustainable industry standard.

There is a good lesson here: eat less meat. As a matter of fact, Al Gore's official response to this criticism is along the lines of 'I told people to eat less meat.'

I'm a little more peeved at this than I normally would be because of a conversation last night. Several intelligent, educated friends tried to claim that dairy was just bad for a person. I know the one person has no background in nutrition and gets information from misleading and plain wrong internet sources. The other was just railing against fat and environmental issues, and claimed that, since you couldn't expect people to be sensible about buying local, sustainable dairy products, we should ban all cheese as an environment-killing weapon of mass hunger. Sorry, but no. Eat less. Eat responsibly. Don't eat at all if you don't want to. But don't blame me for my choice to support (and work for) appropriate livestock production.

Alternative antibiotics

Yes, you could get a cilantro film on your chicken that blocks antibacterial growth, to go with the cranberries! Someday, at least . . . I love this idea. No excess chemicals to safety-test, no antibiotic residues and resistance, no scary-scary radiation, just some spices and safer products.

Then again, as they say, we can't replace best management practices with fancy films -- basic food safety principles are still optimal.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Risk, from the Street's view

This is a bit long for an article on my daily trawl (NYT Sunday magazine, I think), but it does give a fascinating explanation of risk, insurance, and what to do with the tails of a distribution.

Also, it confirms why I don't like the stock market.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Epi 101: Diagnostic Bias

Other than not giving it a name, this NYT article gives a great overview of something called diagnostic bias. If we start looking harder for something, we'll see the prevalence increase. If we look harder for diabetes in men, we're going to find more diabetes in men. If we find the same amount of diabetes in men as in women, but we tried to find it in men about twice as hard, chances are there is more diabetes in women than in men.

Just think about the math: if men have a 20% true prevalence and we find 75% of cases in a population of 100 men, we identify 15 cases for an apparent prevalence of 15%. If women have a 30% true prevalence and we find 50% of cases in a population of 100 women, we identify 15 cases for an apparent prevalence of 15%.

Real world example? Ever heard of the diagnosis disparity between men and women with heart disease?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

We can do without them

Hurrah for CARE! They have chosen to phase out US-donated food aid, focusing instead on local production systems. After the Farm Bill has gone through Congress with subsidies still in place, it makes me glad to see someone is going to break the connection between over-subsidized crops in the US and low-balled markets in the developing world. Helping local farmers produce and sell the commodities needed is always the better way to develop.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Any relation to what's going on in the UK?

The USDA is going to start up their committee on foreign animal diseases (again). Wait, why did we stop having one? Anyways, anybody think there's a relationship between this and the FMD outbreak in Pirbright?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Yes, our development money is being well spent

Of course, the US needs a military base in Africa.

Sorry, but I agree with the Africans -- I want to know why!

Monday, August 13, 2007

What will be the next local?

Looking critically at the idea of 'food miles' and greenhouse gas production, some people are starting to think that eating locally isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Well, it depends on how you eat locally.

For instance, I could eat locally by demanding the same level of aesthetic perfection in the same variety of foods, willing to pay extra for the fruit or vegetable that wasn't meant to grow in my region. In that case, the extra water, pesticides, energy, etc. used to grow that produce could outweigh the resources needed to ship it from South America or New Zealand.

On the other hand, I could eat locally by paying attention to growing seasons and regional specialties, willing to eat in-season, local varietals that may have a few blemishes. In that case, well, I'm eating like one of my ancestors, who would never have considered demanding California strawberries in December when they lived in New York. In other words, I'm decreasing my footprint the old-fashioned way.

What's that? You can't give up your exotic tastes? Then don't. But buy the exotic stuff from the places it's meant to be grown.

You want more variety in your diet, and less seasonal clumping? Shut up and eat your zucchini!

With little power comes . . .

From today's Promed digest:
A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases

Date: Thu 9 Aug 2007
From: ProMED-mail <promed@promedmail.org>
Source: Pressgazette [edited]

Two journalists covering the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Surrey
have been arrested after breaching a cordon inside a protected zone close
to Wanborough.

The 2 freelance male journalists were today [9 Aug 2007] charged under
Section 27 of the Animal Health Act and are facing prosecution by Surrey
Trading Standards.

They were arrested, disinfected, and their equipment was seized on Sat 4
Aug 2007 after breaching a cordon inside the protected FMD zone close to

Peter Denard from Surrey Trading Standards urged journalists to act
responsibly. He said: "This is a virulent disease spread on contact and
proximity. The idea that anyone not wearing protective clothing and taking
no bio-security measures is trampling through a potentially contaminated
area of the countryside is beyond belief. The media performs an absolutely
vital role in ensuring that information is made available to the public and
that everybody is kept informed of events as they unfold, and responsible
reporting is absolutely key. The local needs of the community must also be
respected, and we have been exceedingly disappointed that various members
of this rural community have been repeatedly contacted by different media
outlets and at inappropriate times of the night. We want the media focus to
remain here, and we are delighted by the professionalism shown by the
majority of the journalists; we would hope that the minority would follow

Surrey Police assistant chief constable Mark Rowley added: "These
restrictions are in place to protect contaminated sites and prevent the
possible spread of the disease. We all want to avoid the terrible situation
in 2001, and officers will not hesitate to arrest anyone who enters these
sites. So far, 2 photographers have been arrested for breaching cordons
despite the obvious need to protect the area and clear signs prohibiting
entry. No members of the public have tried to get inside contaminated
areas, and, unfortunately, the only attempted breaches have been by some of
the media. I'm sure all the responsible journalists working at the scene
and the public would be shocked to think that a very small minority of
media representatives are risking the further spread of the disease for the
sake of a photo or video from inside a contaminated site."

[byline: Sarah Lagan]

- --
communicated by:
ProMED-mail <promed@promedmail.org>

[We saw this kind of behavior a number of times in 1967-68, usually by
young and inexperienced journalists. The usual response was to immediately
send them back to London with a letter of reprimand for their files and a
suitable comment to their editor to not let it happen again. On the other
hand, the older journalists (foxes) knew how to talk and charm their way in
with official permission and therefore gained much more information. The
Agricultural Correspondent at the Daily Mail and I got to know each other
to our mutual advantage. I say mutual because he did give me an important
"heads-up" when the farmers in a village north of Oswestry noted that new
outbreaks seemed to be following 4 days after a certain veterinary officer.
He gave me a call at 0930, and I immediately told the RVO. By lunchtime,
the officer had been pulled in for office duties for a week or so. It was,
in reality, one of those statistical coincidences of no epidemiologic
relevance. Normally, I talked with him with a senior officer listening in
on the phone call. - Mod.MHJ]
What is to blame for this kind of behavior? I think the important difference, between the photographers arrested and the moderator's friend, is the position of the journalist. Note that it was freelance photographers who were arrested, whereas the useful journalistic contact was a correspondent from a major paper. If we pay the freelancers only for what they can give us, we'll have to expect some level of shenanigans to get the story/photo/scoop.

That does NOT excuse this behavior, though! Responsibility is not limited to those with power, regardless of how we want to interpret Uncle Ben. People need to take responsibility for their actions, especially when they could affect many others. These people? They could have caused a repeat of the epidemic of bankruptcy and suicide that followed the last FMD outbreak in England. I'm sure they wouldn't have considered self-quarantine, if they were ignoring security barriers.

Really, what more can I say?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Answer: No.

The New York Times is asking if raw milk should be legal. Asking with every intention, it appears, of convincing us that it should. Although they cite a few of the health risks, they focus on the 'brave' families breaking the law (or bending) to get raw milk in NYC. 'It tastes better!' 'It may have health benefits!'

Let me make this absolutely clear: there are no health benefits to drinking raw milk. It does not have any enzymes or bacteria that you need in order to drink milk. It is not enriched, like commercial milk, with vitamins A and D. It does not guarantee a better source, being closer to nature, environmentally-friendly farming, or any other advantage.

Not that it is universally unsafe -- I must admit that I drank raw milk as a child living on a dairy farm. I came out healthy, with a strong immune system. I was lucky.

However, now that I know what I know about food safety, I would never, ever give a child raw milk. Bad bacteria, people! Death! I have a feeling that the woman who said she drank raw milk while pregnant also gave up cold cuts -- Listeria lives in both! It causes abortions! Bad!

Trust me on this: you have no reason to drink raw milk.

Should it be illegal, though? Plenty of thinks I don't like are perfectly legal, and I'm not going to petition for their illegality. Raw milk, however, is a public health concern. When you get sick from drinking raw milk, you cost the health care system money. You cost our economy your work time while you're out sick. In the military, they refer to this as rendering yourself unfit for service. Gray area, in civilian affairs, but, if nothing else, we should be protecting these children. Right? Any law is okay if it protects children . . .

Monday, August 06, 2007

If you're curious about GB and FMD:

As usual, ProMed has the best information. Very curious -- apparently, it's a leak from a vaccine production facility. For those who told me they thought Plum Island could be moved to the new BSL3 lab at K-state: this is why that would be a bad idea!

A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases

Date: 4 Aug 2007
Source: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs [edited]

Foot and mouth disease confirmed in cattle, in Surrey
- --------------------------------------------------------
The foot and mouth disease (FMD) strain found in Surrey is not one
currently known to be recently found in animals. It is most similar
to strains used in international diagnostic laboratories and in
vaccine production, including at the Pirbright site shared by the
Institute of Animal Health (IAH) and Merial Animal Health Ltd, a
pharmaceutical company. The present indications are that this strain
is a 01 BFS67-like virus, isolated in the 1967 Foot and Mouth Disease
outbreak in Great Britain.

This strain is present at the IAH and was used in a batch
manufactured in July 2007 by the Merial facility. On a precautionary
basis Merial has agreed to voluntarily halt vaccine production.

In response to this new information Debby Reynolds, chief veterinary
officer, has instructed that a new single protection zone be created
encompassing both the infected farm premises and the Pirbright site,
with a single 10-km [6.2-mile] radius surveillance zone.

Immediate action is being taken with an investigation led by the
health and safety executive at the Institute for Animal Health and Merial.

In addition an urgent independent review into biosecurity
arrangements at both sites has been commissioned led by Professor
Brian Spratt of Imperial University. It will report to Hilary Benn
and Debby Reynolds.

This incident remains at an early stage. It is too soon to reach any
firm conclusions. All potential sources of the virus will continue to
be investigated. All other precautionary measures announced yesterday
[3 Aug 2007] remain in place.

A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases

Date: Sun 5 Aug 2007
Source: Defra news release Ref 070803F/07 [edited]

The culling of the cattle on the infected enterprise in Surrey was
completed yesterday [Sat 4 Aug 2007]. This included the 38 cattle
known to be infected and the cattle on the 2 additional sites, which
together make up this same farming enterprise. The cattle on these 2
sites, both within the Surveillance Zone, showed no clinical signs of
Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) but were culled in line with normal
procedure and tested. Results today have revealed that of the
additional animals slaughtered, one of them tested positive for FMD.

In line with normal procedures, Debby Reynolds, Chief Veterinary
Officer has instructed that an additional 3-km radius Protection Zone
and wider 10-km radius Surveillance Zone be placed around the 2nd
part of the farm. In addition, as a precaution because of potentially
dangerous contacts, susceptible animals on one farm located next door
to the field are being culled.

All procedures are being applied in line with the agreed contingency
plan, and intensive work is continuing to be done around the infected
area to eradicate the disease. We are grateful for the cooperation of
the local community.

Notes to editors

1. The Defra public helpline is currently operating from 6 am-10 pm.
The public should call: 08459 335577.

2. Advice from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) is that Foot and
Mouth Disease is not a direct public health threat. The Food
Standards Agency considers that foot and mouth disease has no
implications for the human food chain.

3. FMD is a disease of cattle, and very few human cases have ever
been recorded, even though the disease is endemic in animals in many
parts of the world, including Asia, Africa, the Middle East and South
America. Foot and mouth disease only crosses the species barrier from
cattle to human with very great difficulty. The last human case
reported in Britain occurred in 1966. The disease in humans, in the
very rare cases that have occurred, is mild, short-lived and requires
no medical treatment.

4. The exact details on the measures that apply in Protection and
Surveillance Zones can be found on the Defra website at:

- --
Communicated by:
ProMED-mail <promed@promedmail.org>

Date: Sun 5 Aug 2007
Source: BBC News [edited]

Health and safety inspectors have arrived at the laboratory complex
identified as a possible source of the foot-and-mouth outbreak in Surrey.

The strain of the disease found is identical to that used for
vaccines and testing at a Pirbright research site.

Inspectors will 1st be examining Merial Animal Health, a private
pharmaceutical company on the site. Prime Minister Gordon Brown said
the efforts were to "contain, control and then eradicate this
disease." He also said the disease's "transmission mechanism" had
still to be discovered. "I'm determined that we do everything to
ensure that the biosecurity that we want to see is properly in place
and we can be assured of that," he said.

Mr Brown said the inspectors' report would be completed in the next
48 hours and that the ban on the movement of cows, sheep and pigs
would remain in place.

There have so far not been any further outbreaks, but Environment
Secretary Hilary Benn has urged people to remain vigilant, as the
source has not been confirmed.

Following the arrival of the inspectors at the site, Merial's
managing director David Biland said "our initial investigation shows
no breach of our procedures."

Defra has widened the size of the protection and surveillance zones.

Mr Biland stressed that the company's Pirbright centre had produced
millions of vaccine doses in the past 15 years without any problems.
"It is too early in the investigation for anyone to determine the
source of the outbreak," said Mr Biland.

As well as Merial Animal Health, the Pirbright site houses the
Pirbright Laboratory, a research facility of the government's
Institute for Animal Health (IAH). The institute's director,
Professor Martin Shirley, said there had been limited use of the
strain at the institute within the past 4 weeks but insisted there
had been "no breaches of our procedures." He said that the facilities
at Pirbright were being redeveloped following a report made in 2002
as a result of the foot-and-mouth outbreak the previous year, which
had criticisms of the institute.

The strain of the disease identified at Wolford farm, near Guildford,
was also used in a batch of vaccine manufactured on [16 Jul 2007] by
Merial. When the strain was identified, Merial voluntarily halted
vaccine production as a precaution.

Mr Benn said earlier that safety inspectors would 1st examine the
Merial part of the site, "because we know that vaccines were being
produced last month [July 2007] using the particular strain." As well
as the health and safety inspection, an urgent review of biosecurity
would be carried out at the site, he added.

Staff are also expected to be questioned on management procedures,
particularly in relation to biosecurity issues.

Mr Benn told BBC News "24 Sunday" the link to the Pirbright site was
a "promising lead," but he added: "We don't know for sure, and
therefore it's very important that people continue to be vigilant."

Conservative leader David Cameron said that if the virus was found to
have been released from the Pirbright site, then it would be
"astonishing news, because the organizations responsible for stopping
things like foot-and-mouth will effectively be responsible for starting it."

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
has increased the size of the protection and surveillance zones
covering farms in the area to 10 km.

The strain of foot-and-mouth identified is not one normally found in
animals but is used in vaccine production and in diagnostic laboratories.

In a statement, Defra said: "The present indications are that this
strain is a 01 BFS67-like virus, isolated in the 1967 foot-and-mouth
disease outbreak in Great Britain."

BBC science correspondent David Shukman said that if the virus did
escape from the Pirbright site, the question to ask was how. He said:
"Experts speculate that either it escaped through the ventilation, or
possibly an employee carried it out accidentally on a boot or clothing."

The review of biosecurity measures at Pirbright will be led by
Professor Brian Spratt of Imperial College London, who will report
back to Mr Benn.

A ban on the movement of all livestock is in place in England,
Scotland and Wales.

Northern Ireland has imposed a ban on all cattle, sheep and pigs from
Britain, but there are currently no restrictions on the movement of
livestock within NI and across the border.

Britain has also imposed a voluntary ban on exports of all animals
and animal products, Defra said, and the European Commission said it
would ban live animal exports from the UK, as well as meat and dairy
products from the area affected by the outbreak.

Some 64 cattle have since been culled at Wolford farm, and another
herd at an adjacent farm were also culled as a precautionary measure.

The outbreak in 2001 led to between 6.5 million and 10 million
animals being destroyed and cost as much as GBP 8.5 billion [USD 17
326 400 000] .

Defra has set up a helpline in response to the latest outbreak on 08459 335577.

- --
Communicated by:
Keith Marshall <kcm@cix.co.uk>

[The FMD virus which caused the 1967-8 outbreak in the UK was
designated FMDV-O1 BFS 1860/UK/67; its detailed sequencing data and
references are available in the table "Foot-and-Mouth Disease Virus
O" at IAH's website

Experimental data during the 70's showed that this particular strain
was characterized by its capability for a relatively long-distance
air-borne transmission. To infect a susceptible animal, a minimal
infective dose is required. The number of airborne FMD virus
particles which may reach the respiratory system of the target animal
depends upon several factors, particularly their number at the
emission source (virus output), as well as wind speed and direction,
weather conditions such as relative humidity, cloud cover and
precipitation in the region of the outbreak, and latitude and
topographical features of the area.

A computer program for the analysis (and prediction) of airborne FMD
virus spread was developed by researchers of IAH and the UK
Meteorological Office in 1981; it was based upon data pertaining to
the BFS 1860/UK/67 virus strain (see references 1, 2).


1. Gloster J, Blackall RM, Sellers RF & Donaldson AI (1981).
Forecasting the airborne spread of foot-and-mouth disease. Vet Rec.

2. Gibson CF & Donaldson AI (1986). Exposure of sheep to natural
aerosols of foot-and-mouth disease virus. Res Vet Sci. 41(1):45-9.