Meat eaters in Spain are in a panic after the public health director admits that two people have died from eating beef infected with mad cow disease.
In humans the disease manifests as variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (vCJD), a painful, brain wasting disease that is thought to be transmitted from eating infected meat and bone. The disease is always fatal.
The two victims were ages 40 and 51. One died three months ago and the other last week, reports BBC. They both lived in the central Castilla-Leon region.
The deaths were reported to a Spanish and European network that monitors mad cow disease, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) called that because the disease affects the central nervous system of cattle and renders the brain tissue into a spongy appearance.
The country’s only fatality from vCJD was in 2005, in a 26-year old woman from Madrid.
So far Spain has had more than 700 cases of mad cow disease in cattle.
To minimize panic, the agriculture minister from the Castilla-Leon region says these victims likely contracted CJD from cows with the disease before 2001 when more controls were put on livestock and meat production.
But the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) reports that the course of the disease varies from two weeks to 14 months, while in humans it could take decades to show symptoms of the disease.
Still officials say it’s safe to eat beef.
The world got a look at the ugly side of mad cow disease in Britain in a dairy cow in 1986 that was staggering and falling.
The disease swept through Britain killing 200 people, while almost four million animals were slaughtered.
Modern-day slaughter house practices are largely blamed for mad cow disease.
In order to find a cheap source of protein, ground up ruminants, cows, sheep and pigs, are fed back to other animals. When infected animals are fed to others animals, it can spread the infectious protein called a prion, which is resistant to heat and not killed by cooking.
The outbreak in Britain cost about $6 billion in job losses and a public health response and in banned British beef exports.
By 1988, that country banned the feeding of spinal cord material from feed. However since then the ban on EU beef exports has been lifted.
In the U.S. after an infected Holstein dairy cow was found in Washington State in 2003, the U.S. banned the practice of slaughtering “downed” cows that appear to be sick. The U.S. prohibited skull, brain, eyes, vertebrae, spinal cord, tonsils and ganglia of cattle from the human food supply.
But still in practice is feeding blood-based formula to calves. The brown red milk formula cleans up waste, saving money for processors and is still fed as a cheap protein substitute.
Consumers Union would like to see a total ban like one in the European Union that prevents all animal protein from being fed to animals used for food.
Last year, 12 cases of BSE were found in Canada and three in the U.S.
There is no test for BSE in meat, only through a post-mortem analysis of brain tissue.#