News Frequently Asked Questions About BSE

Frequently Asked Questions About BSE

Frequently Asked Questions About BSE
January 28, 2004 |

Q: What is BSE?A: BSE is a degenerative neurological disease caused by an aberrant protein called a prion. It is in the family of diseases referred to as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, or TSEs. TSEs include scrapie in sheep and goats, chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer and elk, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in humans. TSEs are not communicable diseases, and they do not spread easily like viruses.Q: What are the risks to the U.S. food supply?A: USDA remains confident in the safety of the U.S. food supply. The risk to human health from BSE is extremely low. As was standard practice for downer animals identified prior to slaughter, the animal’s brain, spinal cord and other related products were removed and sent to a rendering facility. These so-called “specified risk materials” present the greatest risk of carrying the BSE agent and have not entered the U.S. food supply. The scientific community believes there is no evidence to demonstrate that muscle cuts or whole-muscle meats that come from animals infected with BSE are at risk of harboring the causative agent of the disease.Q: How is BSE spread in cattle?A: Cattle can become infected with BSE by eating feed contaminated with the infectious BSE agent. This is why in 1997 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration prohibited the use of most mammalian protein in the manufacture of animal feed intended for cows and other ruminants.Q: Is there a number consumers can call with
questions about meat products?A: Consumers with food safety questions can phone the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline. The hotline is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Eastern Time), Monday through Friday. Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day.

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