Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), frequently called Mad Cow Disease, is a degenerative neurological disease affecting the central nervous system (CNS) in cattle. BSE affects older cattle, typically more than 30 months of age. The vast majority of the cattle going to market in the United States are less than 24 months old.
U.S. Beef Safety Because of progressive steps taken by the U.S. government over the past 15 years, all U.S. beef is safe from BSE.
BSE agent is not found in beef, firewalls protect the food supply Current science indicates that BSE is not found in the meat we commonly eat, such as steaks, roasts and ground beef. The most recent firewall established by USDA and FDA ensures that all material that could potentially carry the BSE agent (such as brain and spinal cord) does not enter the food supply.
America’s cattlemen remain committed to a simple goal: Continuing to produce the world’s safest beef. Cattlemen are family farmers who produce beef served on tables around the world and to their own families. U.S. beef producers have worked with federal authorities for more than 15 years to set up the system of science- based firewalls that is working today to keep the food supply safe.
BSE Testing In 1989, the United States began a series of bans on imports of animals or at-risk animal products from BSE countries. In 1997, it banned feeding practices that could spread the disease.
All U.S. cattle are inspected by a USDA inspector or veterinarian before going to slaughter, with high-risk animals identified for BSE testing. Meat from cattle being tested for BSE is held until the test results are confirmed. Animals targeted for BSE testing include those exhibiting signs of central nervous system disorder, non-ambulatory animals (those that can not walk), and animals exhibiting symptoms consistent with BSE that die on-farm. The program also focuses on cattle older than 30 months of age since research shows younger animals do not develop the disease.