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Why does Customs ask if you stayed at a farm? And a couple more questions...


Sep 25th, 2007, 09:20 AM
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Interesting as horses do not get foot and mouth (or hoof and mouth) disease. Their movements are often restricted during outbreaks as they can spread it - but only in the same way that humans can spread it, by having the virus on their hooves or coat and touching things.
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Sep 25th, 2007, 10:00 AM
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If you traveled to certain European countries in the mid 1980's during the height of the Mad Cow disease epidemic, these questions wouldn't seem so crazy or paranoid...Mad cow disease or BSE - bovine spongiform encephalopathy - was linked to a human disease called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) which is a neurological disease that is fatal. In order to contain the possibility of this disease, whose symptoms would take years to emerge in infected humans, those who visited certain countries in the 80's were not allowed to donate blood for a number of years and it was recommended that travelers avoid cow products.

Yes, Mad Cow was (and is) found in the US as well, but not in nearly as many cases as in the UK, and the FDA banned all feeding of mammal-derivative products to cattle which was the cause of this disease. Mad Cow has also been found in deer meat which, typically hunted non-commercially, is not regulated by the FDA.

Birds carrying flu become an issue because they can be symptomless carriers of strains of flu contracted from pigs which act as mixing vessels for both human and bird variants - potent combinations. This has long been a problem in Asia where farmers keep pigs and ducks in close proximity - thus many flu epidemics start in those areas and spread worldwide via migrating ducks...

That said, I would still consider most foods "safe" to eat and those that would represent a significant health risk the US typically would issue a warning to travelers about, as was done with Mad Cow...I have heard of no warnings about beef or poultry in Germany...

I don't allow my children to eat raw meat, eggs or fish and I don't either, as you are most likely to get sick anywhere from those and who wants to ruin a nice vacation with e. coli? My husband eats lots of raw things - his choice - and he's pretty hearty so I don't worry too much. Most food-borne illness is worse for children and the elderly...

Also, you will find many restaurants and markets in Europe identify the country of origin on edible products if you are curious about where your food came from.

Have a nice trip!
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Sep 25th, 2007, 11:24 AM
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"the FDA banned all feeding of mammal-derivative products to cattle which was the cause of this disease."

Not quite: "Because cattle contract BSE by eating infective material from other cattle, both the United States and Canada banned the use of CATTLE [my emphasis] protein in feed for cattle and other ruminant animals in 1997. But the two countries have continued to allow cattle parts in feed for nonruminant animals, such as pigs and poultry." (Univ. of Minn. CIDRAP) Canada has now extended the ban to other animals, but the FDA is still taking comments. The extension is needed to make sure no inadvertant mixing of feeds occurs.

It also seems that there is a BSE-like disease showing up in sheep.
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Sep 25th, 2007, 11:39 AM
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The BSE like disease in sheep is the original and has been around forever: Scrapie.

From what I gather it "crossed the species barrier" when they started feeding sheep to cows (duh!) hence BSE.

A human cannot (I think) get scrapie from eating sheep, but once Drs Moreau and Frankenstein got done with feeding contaminated sheep to vegetarian cows, we now have CJD.

Great going guys!

The Prion (great word) which causes the disease and CJD is in brain and spinal tissue, and was spread the the practice of "mechanically recovering meat", whereby they steam clean the carcasses of cows, once the good cuts have been taken off, filtering the run off water, and putting the recovered sludge into pies, burgers and sausages.

This practice is now illegal.

You are very unlikely to get CJD from a steak, and testing is very very strict.

Humans CANNOT contract foot (or hoof) and mouth.
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Sep 25th, 2007, 11:43 AM
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Unless something happened when I was inattentive (always a possibility) the etiology of BSE is not known.

A finger of suspicion has been pointed at the use of feedstuffs containing animal product, and there are some who believe that the true problem might not be the use of bovine proteins, but ovine ones; sheep are subject to a disease somewhat similar to BSE, scrapie, and it might have made its way over to cattle, aided by modern farming practices.

There should be limits to how much we meddle with nature without sufficient knowledge. Cattle are herbivores, and it seems a bad idea to include animal product in their diet.

That said, I would happily eat beef anywhere in Europe. Poultry too, provided it is free-range.
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Sep 25th, 2007, 11:45 AM
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I see waring beat me to the soapbox. I must improve my typing speed.
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Sep 25th, 2007, 12:01 PM
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"testing is very very strict" as discussed above, this depends on the country.
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Sep 25th, 2007, 12:35 PM
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I have a relative who was a consultant pschiatrist working with CJD patients, and while not conclusive, feeding sheep to cows (duh again!) is the prime suspect.

Testing does vary from country to country. The UK I believe tests all cattle (?),

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Sep 26th, 2007, 02:16 AM
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Well, we're probably not making the OP feel any better but just to feel safer I try to buy certified organic meat/poultry whenever possible...I'd eat fish instead but that opens up a whole nuther can o' worms!!
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Sep 26th, 2007, 03:20 AM
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Actually, there have been cases of foot and mouth in humans.
See http://tinyurl.com/2gcujz
It seems to be pretty rare and not a serious disease.
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Sep 26th, 2007, 03:52 AM
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Not wishing to court controversy, but I am a microbiologist, and I prefer not to eat beef in the UK. As Padraig has stated, there is much still unknown about the links between BSE and nvCJD(often reported as "Human mad cow disease).

It is not proven how it is spread, how much genetic disposition plays a part, whether the effect is cumalative/"dose related". For years we have been assured that the disease was purely a feeding issue, and that BSE could not be passed down from mother to calf, but years after the end of the feeding regime, we still have the disease.

Part of the "Solution" of slaughtering animals before 3 years of age has meant that these are too young to exhibit physical signs of CJD , but is no guarantee, as far as I understand the science, that they do not stil carry the prion.

My understanding of the situation in the US , was that the immediate response to reports of CJD was a mass of laysuits threatening to sue anybody who mentioned the disease for $millions.
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Sep 26th, 2007, 03:56 AM
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There is a huge concern in farming communities about foot and mouth, leading to a mistaken impression of what sort of threat it poses.

It is not particularly dangerous to humans -- in fact, hardly dangerous to humans at all. The meat from an infected animal that is slaughtered is safe to eat.

FMD is one of the most contagious animal diseases. It is not seriously dangerous to livestock, as very few infected animals die of the disease. What happens is that after infection, their recovery is limited: as my farming neighbours would say, they do not thrive. Meat and milk yields are lower. The concern about FMD is primarily economic.
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Sep 26th, 2007, 11:41 AM
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Customs might ask you to stick out your tongue.
Bluetongue disease has now reached the UK from mainland Europe.
It seems that it is spread by midges. I didn't know that the little perishers could fly that far.
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Sep 27th, 2007, 08:20 AM
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The original question of 'is it safe to eat the food' has been responded to but I like to add my two cents when the question concerns farms in Germany. I have stayed at over 30 farms throughout Germany and Austria and I have never thought twice about enjoying the meat and dairy products served for breakfast whether from the farm or locally purchased. One of the benefits of staying at a Bauernhof (for me) is the usually large Frühstück served.

I just returned from Germany yesterday and stayed at a farm for six days in the Black Forest. Excellent meals - immaculate quarters - friendly farm family - very attentive staff which consisted of a sweet Haus Frau who was constantly cleaning and tending to her house and guests. I had an apartment there (by myself) which would sleep four persons, with full bath, toilet, complete kitchen, cable TV - for the very acceptable price of fifteen (15) Euro per night. My friends had two double rooms there for the same price (15 Euro each).

I travel on a tight budget anyway so it would be tough for me to trim much fat from it. But I think the average tourist who travels using hotels who might think they can no longer afford to travel to Europe (based on the strength of the dollar) would do well to give farms and privatezimmers a try. They might be pleasantly surprised to find that if they cut their lodging budget in half they might be able to afford a longer vacation or vacations more often. I also stayed at a zimmer frei this week in Bavaria (near Mittenwald) - an immaculate double room (single occupancy) for 14.50 Euro a night (with a terrific view from the balcony). Inexpensive, quality accommodations are available if you just look for them. Try a farm - you can't go wrong... (IMHO) Ben
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Sep 27th, 2007, 11:43 AM
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Thank you SO much, Ben. My husband loves the small towns in the south -that's where he is from (and boy does he have the southern dialect!) and we always stay there...but never tried a farm. We are usually in homes with family and friends. I showed him your website and he selected a farm based on your recommendation. By the way, your website is GREAT! Where do you live?
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Sep 27th, 2007, 01:26 PM
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Actually, the issue in Germany now is Blue Tongue - another livestock disease that is devastating for farmers who lose animals to the disease, but doesn't tend to infect/cause illness in humans.

You are perfectly safe - any of these disease except BSE are killed by cooking and don't generally transmit to humans well at all. And your chances of contracting BSE are close to nil. Much higher chance of being hit by a bus etc.

If you are asked about being on a farm, answer honestly - it's for the safety of farms back in the US. Some infectious agents travel very easily - you don't have to be in the fields to get them if someone else tracks dirt back into the guesthouse/B&B etc. Better to be safe than sorry even if it does mean a bit of a hassle.

Also, be aware that you will need to be very careful about any food items you bring back - no meat, no milk products etc.

But, as human you have few worries. Enjoy the food, enjoy the scenery and have a great time!
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