Milk Isn't "Mad" or Bad
Apr 24, 2012
The fourth case of BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), also known as mad cow disease, to ever be found in the U.S. was confirmed today on a dairy farm in California. The Centers for Disease Control says that BSE "is a progressive neurological disorder of cattle that results from infection by an unusual transmissible agent called a prion." Because BSE is a neurological disorder, it cannot be transmitted to humans through milk or meat. The bovine version of the human disease Crutchfield-Jacobs disease, BSE can only be transferred through the ingestion of neurological tissues, whether in the brain or bone marrow. This is important to note because there is a misconception that BSE is contagious from one cow to the next, although it is not.
So is the cow really mad? The nickname "mad cow disease" is widely used and likely originated from the behavior of one of the first cows to be infected with BSE in the UK. Because it is a neurological disease, it often causes the animal to lose control of basic mobility functions. The cows appear to act drunk or crazy, i.e., "mad."
The case discovered today is an atypical strain. This means it rose spontaneously and was not transmitted through something the cow ingested. The USDA has not confirmed how the disease was contracted in the animal but has confirmed that the milk, meat and food supply is safe. "It was never presented for slaughter for human consumption, so at no time presented a risk to the food supply or human health," says USDA Chief Veterinarian John Clifford. "Additionally, milk does not transmit BSE." The carcass of the dead animal is now in the hands of the state's ag department.
While this means that the food safety system is working, today's finding will undoubtedly cause fear in consumers. Similar to the first case of BSE in the U.S., which was found on Dec. 23, 2003, and was nicknamed the Christmas Cow, today’s events will likely lead to lower milk prices for dairy farmers. Since that time, only three others (including today’s) have been discovered in America. It is important to reassure your friends and neighbors that their milk is safe! "Milk isn’t Mad or Bad.