Milk from cows fed on bracken 'carcinogenic'
Thursday 15 August 1996
The carcinogen, ptaquiloside, would not be destroyed by pasteurisation, according to one expert. It is well known for its ability to cause tumours by damage to DNA, the basic genetic material of all cells. Now a team of scientists in New Zea- land and Venezuela has discovered that almost 10 per cent of the chemical eaten by cows is passed on in milk, a fact the team calls a "cause for concern".
The team suggests that ptaquiloside in milk is "certainly likely" to be responsible for the level of stomach cancer found in farmers in Costa Rica and other Central American countries, where bracken is particularly dense.
Though cows in the UK do not normally eat bracken, they may do if there is a drought, if fields have been overgrazed, or if they wander into thickets. The National Farmers' Union said: "Cows don't like to eat bracken, and farmers don't encourage its growth. Even in winter cows would be fed from winter stocks." But Alan Heyworth of the Bracken Advisory Commission said: "If the animals are in a field which has some fronds, it's obviously going to happen that they'll eat some."
The new research, published today in Nature, investigated the effects of feeding bracken to cows and discovered that ptaquiloside is still excreted in milk almost four days after feeding stops. Pasteurisation would be unlikely to affect the chemical, said Mr Heyworth: "If it survives getting through the cow's digestive system and blood, I don't think heat treatment would have any effect."
In the UK, the plant covers a total area equivalent to the size of Yorkshire. It is poisonous to animals which eat it, and its spores can be carcinogenic when fed to mice and guinea pigs. Although efforts are being made to destroy it using pesticides, European Union rules prevent spraying near watercourses - which can also be polluted by the plant.
Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises in the...
£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...
£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...
£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...