Mad Cow Disease

March 2, 2001 • Volume 11, Issue 8
Are government efforts to protect the U.S. adequate?
By Mary H. Cooper

Introduction

This calf and 200 other animals in a herd near Regansburg, Germany, were ordered destroyed in late December after three animals turned up with mad cow disease. Germany, which long insisted its beef was safe, recently detected cases of the disease, sparking consumer beef boycotts and street protests by farmers calling for government help to shore up plunging cattle prices. (Photo Credit: Reuters Photos/Michael Dalder)
This calf and 200 other animals in a herd near Regansburg, Germany, were ordered destroyed in late December after three animals turned up with mad cow disease. Germany, which long insisted its beef was safe, recently detected cases of the disease, sparking consumer beef boycotts and street protests by farmers calling for government help to shore up plunging cattle prices. (Photo Credit: Reuters Photos/Michael Dalder)

Since the lethal condition appeared in British cattle in the mid-1980s, mad cow disease has jumped the species barrier and killed more than 90 people in Europe. But some experts say thousands of humans could be afflicted. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of cattle -- sick or suspected of infection -- already have been destroyed in Europe. The precise cause of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), is a mystery, but scientists do know it is spread by feeding cattle with meat-and-bone meal from diseased animals. The European Union has imposed strict rules to prevent mad cow's further spread, including banning feed made from animals. While the United States has yet to detect a single case of mad cow disease, critics warn that government surveillance efforts and cattle-feed regulations are inadequate.

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