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Friday, December 26, 2003
Getting Mad Cow in Perspective

By Steven Taylor @ 5:50 pm

Steve Bainbridge puts the Mad Cow story in perspective (and deals a little criticism Slate’s way while he’s at it).

I would add another point that seems to be lost in the news rush on this whole affair: when comparing an issue like this to Britain one has to remember that the UK is roughly the size of a postage stamp, making the containment of such outbreaks more difficult to manage. For the geographically impaired, I would note that the US of A is BIG.

So, one cow, in a BIG country may not be worthy of panic, shall we say.

Of course, given the slow news period and the 24/7 cable channels, no doubt an appreciable portion of the population thinks that all the beef in the US is contaminated, or soon will be…

Filed under: US Politics
  • PunditFilter linked with Mad cow reaches US
  • PunditFilter linked with Mad cow reaches US
  • CALIFORNIA YANKEE linked with Gaps In Mad Cow Monitoring

Click here to go to the main page.

3 Comments»

  1. In Canada, we are several steps ahead of the US on the knowledge curve when it comes to BSE. As a western Canadian, in the heart of the prairies, we know more than we need to.

    If your media does not get a handle on their irresponsible and obsolete reporting, your industry will suffer the disaster ours did.

    The knowledge about prion disorders renders risk of BSE virtually non-existant in today’s day and age. First, it is not certain that only contaminated feed can cause BSE - it may very well be the result of spontanious mutations in individual cows. The trackback system in Canada is several years ahead of that in the US. Our infected cow was carefully traced to her herd of origin, and all animals that could have come into contact with her, or eaten the same feed euthanized. No other cases were found.

    In Britain the problem was exacerbated by their inability to grow high protein forage crops. They must supplement protein levels, especially for high volume dairy producers, and as soy and other plant sources became more expensive, they turned in large numbers to animal source protein. This type of supplementation has never been required in North America, with our low cost grains and forage. (The problem in the UK may have been exacerbated by low trace mineral levels, namely copper, which has been implicated in other prion disease such as chronic wasting of deer and elk. A google search on “prion + copper +bse” will provide good sources.)

    In addition, meat processing has changed - spinal and brain tissue were routinely included in process meats in the UK, meaning that with hundreds of thousands of infected cattle going to slaughter, millions of British ate BSE contaminated products. (Normal muscle meat is perfectly safe, even from an infected cow). Yet, only a handful have gone on to develop the disease. Why?

    Research into scrapies in sheep provides clues - specific alleles have been found that if present in the homozygous state, predispose the animal to scrapies infection, if exposed. Sheep with only one copy of the allele, or none, will not develop the disease even when innoculated with the agent. Similar research in mice and studies into genetic prion disorders in humans have shown similar findings. It is likely that most people are not susceptable to vCJD at all - their genes protect them.

    Finally, with knowledge of the risk, slaughtering methods have been altered. Brains and spinal tissue are no longer used, and procedure have been adopted to minimize contamination.

    The bona fide risks? None, so far as the beef consuming public is concerned. There is a bona fide risk for the rendering industry to deal with - the real problem may lie with BSE contaminated tissues ending up in chicken, pig or pet food. These species can safely consume it, but it may also accidentally be fed to cattle. Safeguards need to be in place to prevent this from happening.

    But as far as mad cow is concerned, there is more danger from being run over by one, than there is in consuming the meat. I responded to the BSE scare here in Canada by buying as much low priced beef as I could afford.

    Comment by Kate — Friday, December 26, 2003 @ 9:22 pm

  2. Quote…….
    “Mad cow, officially called bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), has been linked to a fatal human form of the disease, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.”

    Just what is the evidence that anyone with CJD has caught it from eating infected “mad cow” beef? CJD has risen to epidemic proportions in the past in cannibal populations. But rates of CJD seem unaffected by outbreaks of Mad Cow. Could it be that it is politically useful to link the two. Using science for their agenda like global warming?

    Comment by Geoff Dean — Saturday, December 27, 2003 @ 2:50 pm

  3. Irresposible Reporting On BSE (Mad Cow)
    US major media outlets and the BBC were still not reporting facts and are tracked as to what was reported as late as 12/29/09 in www.theusmat.com. What some of them ABC,BBC,CBS were doing is documented the article I posted in my website. Now what they’re going to do is kill coverage after doing the damage. What they need is a good kick in the ass for playing around with news material and witholding key information that would have killed the contraversy. What media coverage needs now is a congressional investigation into media creating a situation which is costing billions of dollars, and legal action taken.

    Comment by L,J.Keslin — Friday, January 2, 2004 @ 10:29 am

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