Investigators search for additional cases of BSE, USDA reaffirms safety of food supply

State and federal officials have increased testing in the central California area where the U.S.’ fourth case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was confirmed earlier this week.

The infected dairy cow’s herd and others in the area are undergoing testing for the disease, also known as mad cow, including the animal’s offspring and cattle that were born at the same time as the infected cow, according to Food Safety News.

The cow did not show any symptoms of BSE, including motor impairment or aggression, prior to its death, according to Food Safety News.

The confirmed case was announced Tuesday.

The USDA has stressed the cow never was meant for human consumption and does not pose a risk to the U.S. food supply. BSE also cannot be transmitted via milk.

“The beef and dairy in the American food supply is safe and USDA remains confident in the health of U.S. cattle,” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement posted on the USDA website. “The systems and safeguards in place to protect animal and human health worked as planned to identify this case quickly, and will ensure that it presents no risk to the food supply or to human health. USDA has no reason to believe that any other U.S. animals are currently affected, but we will remain vigilant and committed to the safeguards in place.”

Quick facts

What is BSE?

BSE is a progressive, degenerative disease that attacks the nervous system in cattle. It is thought to be caused by prions, which are “abnormal, pathogenic agents that are transmissible.” Prions are thought to disrupt the normal folding patterns of specific proteins found in the brain. The disease is always fatal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

How is it transmitted?

One way BSE is transmitted is through the consumption of meat and bone meal, as the causative agent is found in the brain and spinal cord. However, the U.S. and many countries worldwide have banned this practice. BSE cannot be transmitted through milk.

How effective are global safeguards against BSE?

Data shows the safeguards are highly effective. At the peak of BSE infections in 1992, there were 37,311 cases of the disease. In 2011, there only were 29 cases worldwide, according to the USDA.

For more information, visit:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention BSE page  here

To follow updates from the USDA, visit their BSE site here.

For a Q and A on the California case from the USDA, click here.

For information on prions, visit the CDC prion page here.

For a study on prions and BSE from 1997 Nobel Prize winner Dr. Stanley Pruisner, click here.

The latest updates from around the Web:

Search underway for any more “mad cows” – Food Safety News

California cow with BSE (mad cow disease) does not pose a threat to the food supply – Food Safety News

Mad cow case won’t prevent record beef sales: commodities – Bloomberg Businessweek

Analysis: U.S. mad cow find: Lucky break or triumph of science? – Reuters

Farmers at center of mad cow probe grumble over tainted image – Bloomberg Businessweek


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