Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), also referred to as Mad Cow Disease, is a chronic, degenerative disease affecting the central nervous system of cattle that is always fatal. It was first diagnosed in 1986 in Great Britain and has been found in countries throughout Europe as well as our trading partners Japan and Canada.
Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) is from a class of diseases known as TSE's (Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies). The cause of Mad Cow Disease and other TSE's is controversial. There is strong evidence that they are not caused by typical infectious agents such as bacteria or viruses, but rather by something called a prion. A variety of other species get these diseases, including mink, sheep and goats which can get scrapie, deer and elk which can Chronic Wasting Disease, and humans that can get Creutzfeld-Jakob disease. It is believed that humans in Great Britain got a variant version of Creutzfeld-Jakob disease (nvCJD) possibly related to the consumption of infected tissues. The tissues infected with BSE are brain, spinal cord, and the distal ileum. These tissues are prohibited in meats for human consumption.
The following lists some precautions previously taken to protect the United States meat supply:
Consumers with food safety questions can phone the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). The hotline is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Eastern Time), Monday through Friday. Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day. Please follow the links on the right for more information.
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