Alleged death by mad cow disease rattles trade market

CHICAGO (AP) — Beef, corn and soybean futures fell Wednesday on the Board of Trade with a newspaper report that an Indiana man died of an ailment linked to mad cow disease.
The report prompted worries that people will eat less meat, leaving less need for livestock feed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there is no direct evidence that mad cow disease — bovine spongiform encephalopathy — can spread to humans. But a story in Saturday’s The Times of Hammond, Ind., said Joseph Gabor, 62, died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare and fatal brain-wasting disease in humans.
Mad cow disease has been linked by the British government to the practice of mixing ground-up sheep into feed for cattle. Mad cow, in turn, is suspected as the cause of a new strain of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
The newspaper didn’t specify the strain that killed Gabor. At least 10 people from Great Britain have died of the new strain, which might have been caused by eating infected beef. However, that hasn’t been proved.
Gabor, a retired electrician from Schererville, Ind., died March 30. His wife, Marcia Gabor, said she does not know how he contracted the disease, speculating that it may have been transmitted through garden fertilizer containing bone meal that he spread on his roses.
“We ate the same things and were always together, so I should have it, too,” Marcia Gabor said. “The only thing he did alone was garden a lot and grow roses. He should have worn a mask and gloves to put the bone meal on them.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture banned imports of bone meal years ago from countries with mad cow disease.
“I think it’s safe to say that the source for this gentleman’s disease was something else,” USDA spokesman Patrick Collins said.
After hearing of the newspaper report, investors thought people won’t eat red meat anymore, analysts said. And pork prices gained on speculation that people may switch from beef to pork.
The USDA and the Denver-based National Cattlemen’s Beef Association insisted Wednesday that there is no mad cow disease in the United States.
The beef association was unhappy with investor response to the report.
“Floor traders at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange should not use issues like this to add volatility to the market,” the group said in a statement.