Nutritional expert Andreu Palou from the Balearic University said yesterday that Spain has been slow to respond to the mad cow crisis, revealing that all the scientific information was available in 1995. Palou, who is president of the organising commitee of the third Spanish Basic and Applied Nutrition Society congress which opens today in Palma, admitted that the political measures than can be adopted to battle mad cow “are difficult” because a balance has to be obtained between protecting the public's health and economic interests. The latter is what Portals Nous Dr. Stoma said appears to have been more of a concern for governments than the general public. Palou said yesterday that controlling the spread of mad cow disease “is not so much a problem of scientific analysis, but ensuring the scientific recommendations are put into action rapidly by politicians.” “The time has now come for politicians to listen to the scientists,” he said. Palou added that in Spain, unlike the rest of Europe, there is a solid structure to the scientific world and the competent administrations should be listend to. The scientist said that there will be a “before and after” to the mad cow crisis, which is starting to grip the world, with revelations yesterday of cases in South and Central America and growing suspicion in Asia. But he maintained that one of the biggest flaws in dealing with the crisis is the lack of participation from nutritional experts. During the conference, which starts today and closes tomorrow evening, some 400 nutritional experts will be discussing a wide range of important and topical nutritional questions. On the agenda are topics such as the consumption of dairy products and eggs, obesity, the Mediterranean diet, technological developments and food safety. Palou said the congresss will try to deal with the the principal problems of nutrition, not only in Spain but world wide - such as the development of foods containing beneficial nutrients which help combat certain diseases. With regards to the safety of food, Palou was forced to admit that the mad cow crisis has brought the topic to the top of the agenda. But taking that a step further, genetically modified food will also be debated. Palou said while a whole new world of biotechnology has been developed over recent years, “one cannot generalise saying they are more or less safe. We've got to talk about each food, one by one.” The nutrition expert also said that problems caused by dioxines which cause the build up of fat is another topic for discussion over the next two days.

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