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FDA Vetoes Tighter 'Mad Cow' Blood Restrictions

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Based on the incidence of CJD in France, as compared to the U.K., 10 years would be the deferral policy for France. "There are so few people in the U.S. that have stayed in France for 10 years or more during the period 1980 to 1996, that I don't think it's even worth asking the question," Paul Brown, MD, panel chairman, tells WebMD.

"A recommendation for deferral of donors [from countries that have even lower rates of CJD] will necessarily further shrink a marginal blood supply," said Kay Gregory, director of regulatory affairs for the American Association of Blood Banks, in a statement for the committee. Apparently, the FDA policy hasn't had a measurable negative effect on the blood supply to date.

However, Paul Holland, MD, medical director of the Sacramento Blood Bank, fears that once a donor is turned down, that person won't come back. "We work extremely hard ... to get people to donate blood -- to do it again and again. And we're working harder and harder as we lose more and more of these 10, 20, 30 gallon donors," Holland tells WebMD.

Based on some reports, tainted blood is not as likely as tainted beef. Annick Alperovitch, MD, an epidemiologist from the Hospital de la Salpetriere in Paris, told the panel that based on her studies, it appears the three French cases are related to the import of contaminated British beef, as opposed to French citizens visiting Great Britain.

So a lingering concern is whether livestock still contaminated with mad cow disease have escaped the efforts of authorities to keep them out of the food chain. In addition to destroying hundreds of thousands of suspect cattle, authorities have tried to keep animals from eating contaminated feed. However, Linda Detwiler, D.V.M., of the U.S. Department of Agriculture said European data showed Portugal, The Netherlands, and Belgium, as well as several other countries on the continent, had herds infected with the disease.

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