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Mad Cow Crisis Reaches Vatican Table

January 31, 2001

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ Europe’s mad cow crisis, which is making beef an increasingly rare item on menus across the continent, has reached Pope John Paul II’s dinner table, the pontiff’s butcher said Wednesday.

The pope has a household staff of Polish nuns who do the shopping, make up the menu and cook for the Polish-born pontiff, who is known as a light eater with a preference for meat.

``Last week red meat was on the list, this week it wasn’t,″ Giulio Lucarelli told The Associated Press.

Lucarelli has a butcher shop in Rome and holds the meat concession at the Vatican supermarket, supplying Vatican officials as well as John Paul. The supermarket is open to Vatican employees.

In general, Lucarelli said, the purchase of red meat has gone down at the Vatican as a result of the mad cow scare but ``not as sharply as elsewhere in Italy.″ Customers are buying pork and chicken in place of beef.

European Union beef consumption has dropped an average 27 percent, but in Italy it has fallen as much as 70 percent. The crisis started in October with the discovery in France of animals with bovine spongiform encephalopathy and of one case of the human form of the disease. Italy discovered its first mad cow case in January.

Many experts believe the brain-wasting disease can be transmitted to people who eat infected beef.

Lucarelli says his meat comes mainly from Reggio Emilia, in northern Italy, and only from farms he deals with personally. ``We are sure of what we are doing. Our customers don’t have to worry,″ he said.

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