MAD COW DISEASE IN THE U.S.
DO I NEED TO WORRY ABOUT
I’m just about ready to put a succulent piece of
steak into my mouth when the thought crosses my
mind, “How safe am I from getting “Mad Cow
Disease?” Is the United States government really
looking out for my well being or are all the warning
signs slipping past them again?
Awareness from around the world…
08 October 2001…Amman, Jordan “Beef banned
from countries affected by mad cow disease.” In
reaction to Saudi Arabia’s recent measures to ban
beef imports from Czech Republic due to the risk of
mad cow disease a senior official confirmed on
Sunday that Jordan already bans Czech beef. Saudi
Arabia’s measure to ban beef from the Czech
Republic came after cases of mad cow disease was
found in the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic
was added to the already long list of countries
including France, Great Britain, Ireland, Denmark,
Holland, Switzerland, Portugal, Luxembourg,
Liechtenstein, and Germany where a ban to import
cattle, fresh and frozen beef, and feed concentrates
including bone meal.
05 October 2001…”Japan urges recalls over mad
cow.” The Japanese government asked the nations
food manufacturers to stop using ingredients made
of animal parts that most likely to carry the deadly
mad cow disease and to immediately recall products
if use is suspected. It was further reported by the
financial daily Nihon Keizai newspaper that Japan’s
agriculture, forestry and fisheries ministry
announced that farmers across the country may
have given feed made from meat and bone meal to
as many as 8,000 cattle even after they were told by
the government to stop doing so.
03 October 2001…”Japan consumers shun beef
amid mad cow scare.” Japan’s mad cow scare is
taking a heavy toll on sales of home-bred and
foreign beef as wary consumers switch to
alternative meats, ignoring reassurances from
politicians that the beef is safe. It is interesting to
note that in fiscal 2000/2001 Japan imported
738,000 tons of beef mostly from the U.S. and
Australia. Japan in the same time period produced
approximately 364,000 tons of beef.
28 September 2001…”Beef disease sneaks by cud
Mad Cow disease has broken out in Japan—a fact
confirmed last week by British researchers - - and
consumers have already started to shun beef and
prices have plummeted.”
What is Mad Cow Disease-How did it start?
Mad Cow Disease, more
formally known as BSE (Bovine
Spongiform Encephalopathy) is
one of a family of brain-
destroying diseases that afflicts
many species including sheep, elk, deer, mink and
now humans. It is a chronic, degenerative disease
affecting the central nervous system of cattle. It
was believed by most scientists that this disease was
species specific and posted no threat to other
animals, but it is now believed that the disease got
into cattle by way of using infected sheep that was
ground up into cattle feed and thus infected cattle.
Treatment for Cattle …
There is no treatment for this disease and
infected cattle will die. If the disease is found, the
animal must be put to death and burned.
Mad Cow Disease in humans…
This is a brain destroying disease with no known
cure. The British government announced in 1966
that 10 young people had died of a brain destroying
disease. The suspected cause of this disease was the
consumption of BSE from infected beef. The
disease was called a new variant Creutzfeld-Jakob
disease because of the resemblance of a rare human
disease of the same name. The new variant was
slightly different. It seemed to affect younger
people. It began with psychiatric symptoms such as
anxiety and depression, rather than the rapidly
progressing dementia that so classically
characterized CJD. People in their 60s and older
were primarily affected by CJD, although there has
been documentation of younger cases. In CJD
death was imminent within a few weeks or months,
while in the vCJD strain a patient may battle the
disease as long as two years.
How are we protecting our meat in the
July 2001 The USDA Department
of Veterinary Services announced
that the President has requested a
$35 million dollar supplemental
appropriation for fiscal year 2001 to
continue protecting our borders
from foreign agricultural diseases
and pests. Of that amount, $8 million would go
directly to the Federal and State surveillance
infrastructure. Firewalls are in place, according to
the USDA. There are inspectors at ports of entry,
an active surveillance program since 1990 and very
stringent import requirements designed to prevent
the introduction of BSE .
Age of cattle seems to make a difference…
According to the Animal and Plant Health
Inspection Service, (APHIS) a department of
USDA, “cattle less than 20 months of age make up
approximately 88% of the slaughter population, and
NO where in the world has a case of BSE been
diagnosed in cattle less than 20 months of age.”
Most of the cases in Great Britain had occurred in
dairy cows between 3 and 6 years of age.
1989 USDA banned import of cattle from
BSE infected countries…
The USDA stated that 496 cows from the UK and
Ireland were imported before the 1989 ban went
into effect. All but 32 of those animals were
tracked down, tested or burned
Missing: 32 cows …
The missing 32 cows were never found and could
have entered our food supply.
What infects the meat?
It is believed that a prion which is a form of protein
that has become mishappened because of the
disease. This prion is found in the infected brain
and spinal cord tissue.
Can cooking infected meat make a
Cooking infected meat to over 1100 degrees
Fahrenheit for 15 minutes does not make a
Are some meat better than others?
Muscle meats such as steaks and roasts are believed
to be the safest, but there is no evidence.
In the UK, there was speculation from some
scientists that some of the infected meat got into
pureed meats often used in baby foods, sausages,
and ground beef.
FDA steps in…
In 1997 Food & Drug Administration prohibits use
of most mammalian protein in feed for cows, goats
In USA Non compliance with FDA
Inspections at almost 10,000 renderers and feed
mills released in a report in December 2000,
showed that some are not in compliance and
following the regulations issued by the FDA.
We are at War and it is essential that the
US government is NOT complacent about
the safety of our meat.
In the 40 million cows that are slaughtered in the
U.S. only approximately 12,000 brains have been
examined in a ten-year period ending in 2000.
France is currently testing 20,000 brains per week.
We need to do much more testing in the United
European countries require that the brain and spinal
cord be removed early before processing other parts
of the animal so that there is no contamination. The
U.S. needs to do this too. In the U.S. there are no
effective regulations and the process is varied. We
need to establish and enforce strict regulations to
ensure the continued safety of our meat throughout
the United States and the world.
There is much more the U.S. can do to make sure
that our beef is safe to eat. These are trying times,
but because of the crises we are in we need to be
sure that our beef industry is protected, both from
an economic point of view and also to prevent any
type of epidemic, which can result from BSE.
Author: Mary Kip