Breaking: Cheese burgers are still safe to eat. Despite U.S. health officials confirming the first case of mad cow disease (since 2006) in California’s Central Valley.
Luckily, the diseased cow never made it into the human food chain, which means that our beef products are safe. We know all you meat lovers must be ecstatic. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief veterinarian John Clifford, the animal "was never presented for slaughter for human consumption, so at no time presented a risk to the food supply or human health."
Not too sure about the details on mad cow disease? Don’t sweat, we’ve got you covered.
What it is:
- Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), aka mad cow disease, was first discovered in the mid-1980s when an outbreak occurred in England.
- It affects a cow’s nervous system and causes it to act strangely/lose control of the ability to do normal things—like walk.
- Researchers aren’t sure how cows get it. And the disease can develop spontaneously in cattle or humans, but that’s rare.
- Scientists know it can be spread to other livestock when remains of an infected animal are used in feed.
- The disease can affect cattle, sheep, deer, elk, minks and humans.
- Cattle infected with the disease have been discovered in the U.S. only three previous times: in a Canadian-born cow in 2003 in Washington state, in a Texas cow found in 2005, and one in Alabama in 2006.
Its history in humans:
- Britain announced that 10 young people had died of the disease after eating BSE-infected beef in 1996.
- This disease was called “new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease” or vCJD, because it was similar to a rare human disease by that name, which affects the brain.
- Sadly, there is no treatment for vCJD (or CJD). The disease is fatal, but some patients can live as long as two years.
- The disease is not contagious. The only way to get it is by eating contaminated meat.
What’s being done:
- The USDA prohibited importation of cattle from BSE-infected countries in 1989.
- The Food and Drug Administration banned the use of most animal protein in feed for cows, goats, and sheep.
- All sick or injured cows are inspected by a vet. And tissue samples must be tested for mad cow before slaughter.
Ways to protect yourself:
- Experts suggest avoiding any beef products made from the brain or nervous system tissue, like headcheese.
- And rest assured all you chocolate milk drinkers, BSE cannot be transmitted through milk or milk products.
What can you do?