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Serving: United States

Video reminds consumers: BSE is not 'common' threat to human health

Recent identification of BSE in Canadian cow fires up new consumer concern about mad cow

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or "mad cow" disease, is a major concern for beef producers around the world and generates headlines on the rare occasions it is found. The newest Meat MythCrusher video from the North American Meat Institute, however, reminds producers and consumers that BSE is not a 'common' threat to human and animal health.

The video features Jeff Savell, Ph.D., animal science professor at Texas A&M University, who explains the significant reductions in BSE cases around the world since the early 1990s and the various steps the U.S. and other countries have taken to prevent BSE.

BSE prevention steps include an Food and Drug Administration rule that bans feeding cattle protein derived from ruminant animals; veterinary inspection of animals at meat packing plants and removal of specified risk materials such as the brain and spinal cord from at risk animals.

"What I feel great about is there have only been four animals here in the U.S., out of hundreds of millions of animals, that have been diagnosed with BSE," said Savell. "I have no fear that if there were one next year that it would not be something of great risk because of all the programs we've put in place."

Related: Identification of Cattle Virus Helps Researchers Better Screen BSE

Savell also discusses why people cannot be exposed to BSE from eating beef and the difference between typical and atypical varieties of BSE. He explains that the BSE agent only accumulates primarily in brain and spinal cord tissue in infected cattle and these are banned from human consumption.

BSE returned to the front burner in February as Canada reported its first identified mad cow case since 2011 in a beef cow from Alberta.

No part of the animal's carcass entered the human food or animal feed systems, the Canadian government said.

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