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What is mad cow disease, and how does it spread?

U.S. Food and Drug Administration shares video explaining BSE, or mad cow disease, and how the agency protects against it

What is mad cow disease and how does it spread?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration shares the answer to that question and questions related to how it protects the U.S. food supply from BSE effects in a new video released this week.

The video explains that mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was first discovered in Europe, and later was identified in an imported Canadian cow in the U.S. in 2003.

Since then, animals have been closely watched in the States to ensure that humans do not consume brain or spinal tissue from mad cow disease-infected cattle. This ensures consumers avoid contracting a similar disease that can affect humans – variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. This non-contagious disease, however, is very rare in the U.S., as only four cases have been identified.

Related: Identification of Cattle Virus Helps Researchers Better Screen BSE

Together, FDA and USDA oversee cattle processing requirements to ensure brain and spinal tissue are completely removed during the harvest process.

To control BSE, the FDA and USDA also:
• Manage ingredients in the U.S. feed and food supply
• Consider import restrictions to prevent infected feed or cattle from entering the country
• Ban or prohibit certain feeds for ruminants
• Oversee feed labeling for certain ingredients that may facilitate BSE
• Ensure BSE surveillance and testing is completed

Watch the FDA video below to see how U.S. agencies protect against mad cow disease, and see related stories:

Canada reports first BSE case since 2011
USDA's BSE Import Changes Take Effect in March, 2014
Video reminds consumers: BSE is not 'common' threat to human health

TAGS: Regulatory
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