By: Cassandra Anderson
A dairy cow in California’s Central Valley was found to be infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or Mad Cow disease, which is fatal and causes degeneration in the brain and spinal cord. A USDA spokesman said that the cow did not enter the food chain and that its carcass will be destroyed.
John Clifford of the USDA chief veterinary officer says that the cow had an atypical case of BSE and did not get the disease from eating infected cattle feed. An official at Cornell University says that this was a “random mutation” that happens once in a while.
The massive British outbreak of mad cow disease in 1993 was blamed on farmers feeding recycled meat and bone meal from infected cows to cattle feed. Young calves were also fed protein supplements that were infected. Cows are herbivores and should only be fed grass and vegetation. The US has a ban on Specified Risk Material that restricts the use of most mammalian proteins in animal feed, but not everything. For example, cow feed may include blood and blood products, milk products, pure pork protein, pure horse protein and gelatin.
According to Wikipedia, the disease is transmitted to humans who eat food contaminated with the brain, spinal cord or digestive tract of infected carcasses, but the infectious agent can be found in all tissues throughout the body, including the blood.
It is interesting to note that this cow was at a rendering plant which is a place that processes waste animal tissue into “useful materials” such as animal fatty tissue converted into lard and tallow for use in food products and may also be used in food products and animal feed.
Mad Cow disease has has killed 171 people worldwide, mostly in the UK, with an infection called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease that is caused by prion proteins that cause the brain to break down.
Health officials working on this case say that Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease cannot be contracted through milk.
Mad cow disease was first uncovered in the US in 2003 and this is the fourth cow that has been detected as having the disease in the US since that time. Mad cow disease devastated US exports to foreign countries who refused the meat. The last time this disease was detected in America was in 2006.
The US is estimated to raise 97 million cattle across the country and the USDA tests only 40,000 per year, which is woefully inadequate. California alone has approximately 620,000 beef cattle and 1.84 million dairy cattle, so federal safety oversight is very limited.