Letter: Why we cannot know for sure that BSE-infected beef is harmful t o humans - and why that is no comfort

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The Independent Online
Sir: There are remarkable similarities between the current BSE/CJD scare and a brain disease known as kuru, once common in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. Kuru, like BSE/CJD is a fatal prion disease passed on through eating infected meat. A kuru epidemic was averted through a complete ban on eating the meat of the offending animal (in this case Homo sapiens). No one born since 1959, the year cannibalism ceased in the PNG highlands, has died from kuru.

There may be important lessons to be learnt: the probability of catching a disease from eating meat will probably be greatest from those animals to which we are most closely related. This is why cannibalism is so rare in nature. I recommend eating more distant relatives such as fish, or even better, insects!

Dr Richard J. Ladle

London W5