On April 24, 2012, the USDA announced that they had a confirmed case of BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) in a California Dairy cow. It is only the 4th case ever found in the U.S. but it is still raising a lot of concern with consumers.
There have been several articles on this already, but I wanted to write one to help calm those fears. Even just this morning, people on social media were panicking because of the headlines, but I’ve done my research and I went to school for animal and food science so I know how the screening procedures work and can assure you that the food supply is still safe!
First, let’s dive into what BSE actually is.
What is BSE?
- Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), commonly called “mad cow disease,” is a degenerative neurological disease of cattle that is caused by misfolded proteins (called prions) that build up in the central nervous system (CNS) and eventually kill nerve cells.
- It is typically caused by eating contaminated feed, but the ingredients that could cause this have been banned since 1997.
- The USDA maintains an ongoing BSE surveillance program and currently tests approximately 40,000 high-risk cattle annually, a number that exceeds the OIE’s recommended testing levels for the risk status assigned to the United States by the OIE. The ongoing BSE surveillance program is designed to detect BSE at a prevalence level of one case per 1 million adult cattle. All U.S. cattle are inspected by a USDA inspector or veterinarian before going to harvest, with high-risk animals identified for BSE testing. Meat from cattle being tested for BSE is held until the test results are confirmed. If you would like to know more about BSE, please visit BSEinfo.org
Now back to this current case.
- This animal tested positive for ‘atypical BSE’ which is a very rare form of the disease not generally associated with eating contaminated feed
- This cow did not enter the food chain. The cow was on a rendering facility, it was never meant to go into the food supply in the first place. America’s farmers, ranchers, and the USDA took the proper procedures to isolate the animal so the beef supply is still safe.
- BSE affects the cow’s brain and spinal cord; therefore, it never transfers into a cow’s milk supply. The milk supply is also still safe!
The media has been covering this heavily (which is ok in theory because people have the right to be informed) but their use of terms like “Mad Cow Disease” and not presenting all of the facts immediately causes more panic and fear in consumers, especially the consumers who don’t know what BSE is. That is why I wanted to write this article to help de-bunk some of the myths and uncertainties about this disease.
The agricultural industry works extremely hard to make sure your food supply is safe. If this would get into the food supply, they would be at the same risk as consumers like us. Therefore, they want to ensure food safety for everyone.
If you have any more questions or concerns about BSE and this case, I encourage you to contact me or check out this cattlemen’s blog: BSE Confirmed In California Cow – Food Supply Safe
He has a lot of good information about what the USDA is doing to ensure our food safety, the video announcement from the USDA, and great links to learn more about BSE.