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Old 08-03-2007, 02:56 PM   #1
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BSE Info (Mad Cow Disease)

There was some discussion of BSE on another thread (which was completely off topic and getting a bit nasty) and there were some comments that were very wrong there. I thought it would be interesting to see what folks know and think they know about this.

One of the comments I read was that there is no legislation in Canada about what can be fed to cows, and that Canada has more instances of BSE than the US. Both of those statements are untrue. Canada has more cases of BSE reported because their scanning is more rigorous since the first outbreak a few years ago. As far as legislation around feeding cattle ground up "stuff" well that hasn't happened here for a LONG time. I for one am quite grateful that they are finding it. Someone I know works for our goverment here and has been instrumental in creating a tracking system for the feed and sale of cattle. He is a wonderful resource.

The other comment that caught my eye was that the beef in the US is all "homegrown" beef. Not at all. Lots of your USDA prime cuts come from right here in my home province. Alberta ships tons of beef to the US. Just because it is labelled USDA doesn't mean it comes from the US, just that it has passed your inspectors.

The biggest myth I think I have seen about BSE here on the boards (and elsewhere) is that you can get BSE from eating a steak. Just can't happen folks. The only way you can get BSE is if you eat the brains or spinal cord of an infected animal. Ick. I'm not big on cow brains myself.

Just wondering what is going on in other folks brains. Heh heh...no pun intended there.

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Old 08-03-2007, 04:48 PM   #2
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Alix,

You just reminded me of Indiana Jones and chilled monkey brains.

Thanks for the mental picture. YUM!
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Old 08-03-2007, 06:39 PM   #3
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it is quite sad that cattle, meant by nature to graze on grass, are fed corn and antibiotics to help them digest it, and were once and may still be some places fed ground up body parts. It is sad because it does contaminate the food supply in some ways...and has perhaps injured people. Brains cooked properly, are quite tasty, but I am not eating them anymore because frankly I don't raise my own cattle and don't know where others are coming from or the lineage of said beasts. The virus or whatever that causes "mad cow" and possibly the similar effects disease in humans is such a simple critter that basic things like cooking don't kill it.

We are doing much the same with poultry in the way we raise it in "factory conditions", creating nearly tasteless critters, prone to flu etc.

Fish are next with elevated levels of polutants etc.

I do belive we need to produce adequate supplies of food, but are we doing it the right way or just the cheapest way?
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Old 08-03-2007, 07:24 PM   #4
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About Canadian feed, the US and Canada did ban ruminant-to-ruminant feed back in 1997, however, it is well known that the Canadian government didn’t strictly police the ban and make sure it was enforced.

The unnamed distributor, and the feed manufacturer, are now part of a government probe which is tracking back eight years, to the time when the feed ban came into effect.

At the time no one checked to ensure ranchers and manufacturers had stopped using the cheaper, illegal product. Instead officials relied on an honour system.
Link here.


Further, recent investigations into Canada’s feed supply has suggested they are far from rigorous in complying with the ban and are indeed allowing animal proteins into the feed.

USDA inspectors are currently assessing Canada's compliance with its mad cow regulations, Johanns said, including the feed ban.


USDA Chief Veterinarian Ron DeHaven called Canada's oversight "very effective."


"Their surveillance would be at least comparable to ours," DeHaven said.
But recent evidence suggests the Canadian feed ban is far from rigorous and is routinely allowing animal proteins into cattle feed.
Link here.

The 2003 Canadian beef scare was enough to ban the import of Beef from Canada, but the ban was lifted in 2005. But:

Since the 2005 decision, however, there have been several new BSE detections in Canadian cattle, including cows born after that country's ban on ruminant feed containing animal proteins went into effect in 1997, according to R-CALF.
Link here.

And cases of BSE are still popping up in Canada.

Wed Jul 25, 2007 4:01 PM EDT
WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Canada's 10th case of mad cow disease likely caught the deadly brain-wasting condition by eating contaminated feed, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said on Wednesday.

"In essence, the case confirms what was already known about an extremely low level of BSE infectivity having existed in Canada's feed system during the late 1990s and early 2000s," the CFIA said in its final report on the investigation.
Link here.

In humans, Mad Cow Diseases is known as "variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease" (vCJD). It is basically caused by a misfolded “Prion” which is a protein that occurs naturally in the brains of humans and animals. When these proteins (Prions) are properly shaped, they are harmless, but when they mis-fold and become mis-shaped, they are deadly.

Further they are contagious and will cause normal cells to mis-fold as well. The incubation period in cows is 3 to 8 years, but it is unknown how long a human can be infected with a mis-folded prion before the disease manifests. We all could have it right now and not even know.

Since it is not a virus or bacteria, but is instead a mis-shaped protein, it is nearly indestructible:

To make matters worse, prions are nearly indestructible. They're impervious to radiation, washing, boiling and the intense heat of autoclaves used to sterilize surgical instruments. Unlike many harmful bacteria, prions aren't destroyed by cooking or by the strong juices produced in your stomach.

Due to the resilient nature of the prion, it can easily cross contaminate. That is, bits of the mis-shaped prion can reside on processing tools and regular cleaning will not destroy the prion. Then, when the tool is used on uncontaminated meat, the prion spreads. They can even be spread by contaminated medical instruments in the hospital!

Because rogue prions aren't affected by standard sterilization methods including heat, radiation, alcohol, benzene and formaldehyde, instruments used in some types of brain surgery can harbor small bits of infected tissue, even after undergoing stringent cleaning procedures.

As for how a human can contract the disease, it comes from many other sources than just brain and spinal matter. Not only can the prions be spread by contaminated processing tools, but other meats, and even blood, can harbor it as well.

To date, vCJD has been linked primarily to the consumption of beef infected with mad cow disease. The parts of meat most likely to harbor infection include:

Bone marrow
Brain
Spinal cord
Nerves attached to the brain, eyes, tonsils and spinal cord
Small intestine

Hot dogs, ground meat and sausages are especially likely to contain contaminated tissues, whereas milk and other dairy products haven't been implicated in vCJD.

Studies have also shown that vCJD can spread through blood transfusions, even if the infected donor has no signs or symptoms of the disease.
Link here.

Scary stuff!
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Old 08-03-2007, 09:19 PM   #5
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Keltin, I've read all those articles and I have to say it seems that not all the information is in any of these articles. The reason more cases of BSE are being detected is because of the incredibly rigorous screening. As far as the feed issue, I can't comment effectively there. I know there has been a tracking program put in place and it is also very stringent but I don't know the exact time line. I don't see any information about how the US screens their cattle in your post. Do you have that information? Until the first reported case in 2003, I think it was only one in every 10 cattle that got a random test for BSE, now it is every single animal.

I take it you don't eat any beef anymore? Sounds like you definitely avoid hot dogs and sausages.
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Old 08-03-2007, 09:30 PM   #6
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In this article it looks the US is just considering passing some legislation in 2005 about banning stuff that should have been dealt with in 1997. I guess everyone got pretty shook up after that initial case in 2003. Everyone is passing legislation and trying to make things safer.

I am sure anyone in the media will back me on this. There is the total wealth of information out there, and then there is the size of the news article/length of the news blurb that the reporter has to fill. Guaranteed those two things are not going to mesh. So you get about 10% of the information the reporter actually has, and he has about 10% of the actual information that is available. That means to me, that I need to look places other than just the news for to be truly informed.

I feel very confident trusting the men I know who are in the agriculture business here who have shared their knowledge with me. We are all still eating beef and loving it. Admittedly, not the brains or spinal cords, but thats not a big loss to me anyway.

Here is a comprehensive article on TSE's that I found very informative. It stresses the partnership between countries that have trade agreements.

I am going to do a little more research on where the gelatin on my vitamins comes from. I never really considered that bit before.
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Old 08-03-2007, 09:55 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alix
Keltin, I've read all those articles and I have to say it seems that not all the information is in any of these articles. The reason more cases of BSE are being detected is because of the incredibly rigorous screening. As far as the feed issue, I can't comment effectively there. I know there has been a tracking program put in place and it is also very stringent but I don't know the exact time line. I don't see any information about how the US screens their cattle in your post. Do you have that information? Until the first reported case in 2003, I think it was only one in every 10 cattle that got a random test for BSE, now it is every single animal.

I take it you don't eat any beef anymore? Sounds like you definitely avoid hot dogs and sausages.
Heh Ė Oh I eat beef. Something has to kill me, right?

The only thing I was saying about Canada is that Iíve heard of more reports there than I have in the US, and Iíve read reports about how the feed industry is not tightly policed like it is here in the US. But letís be honest, the FDA canít go to every farmer's ranch and inspect every bag of feed now can they?

In the US they order strict record keeping, feed inspections, veterinary records checks, spot checks on the cows themselves, and processing guidelines.

Iím not saying itís perfect or that the US is better than Canada, but in that other thread, I was commenting (and you commented on my comments in this thread) on how I hear more about mad cow and tainted feed in Canada than I do in the US.

However, South Korea recently found vertebrae material in a beef shipment from the US and is banning US beef imports for now. Regulations say that all exported beef (even from Canada to the US) have to be boneless since the bones (marrow) can contain the prion. There is no mad cow in the South Korea shipment (that theyíve found as of yet), but the fact that bone matter was in the beef is a big infraction.

The last case of mad cow I heard of in the US was March 2006, and of all places, it was here in Alabama! However, I just read about a case last month in Canada. Does that make the US better than CanadaÖ.no, it just means I hear more about Canada and mad cow.

To be honest, the real problem is over in the UK where the most cases of vCJD have been reported (163). Only 1 case in Canada and 3 in the US have been reported, although one of the cases in the US is probably from an earlier infection when he lived in Saudi Arabia.

Stats here.

And I do eat hot dogs, ground beef, and sausages too. To be honest, Iím more worried about botulism and e-coli than mad cow.
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Old 08-03-2007, 10:03 PM   #8
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Ah. I understand now Keltin. Thanks for the clarification. I hope you understand that the reason you are hearing more about it from Canada is because things are so much stricter here. Take it from someone who hears from ranchers bi... I mean, complaining about the regulations and all the testing. Things are VERY strict here.

I'm glad you aren't giving up your beef. You are quite likely supporting a lot of ranchers here in Alberta if you are eating the Prime stuff, so...THANKS! Remember folks, beef is good for you!
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Old 08-03-2007, 10:05 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alix
In this article it looks the US is just considering passing some legislation in 2005 about banning stuff that should have been dealt with in 1997. I guess everyone got pretty shook up after that initial case in 2003. Everyone is passing legislation and trying to make things safer.
Yes, Iíve read that article. Itís talking about food and feed stuffs other than cattle foodÖ..for example, pet food. The prohibitions they are putting in place have always been in place for cattle feed since 1997 (both in the US and Canada). They are doing this to ensure there is no cross contamination in feed manufacture (as I showed earlier, the prion can not easily be killed and can live on the processing tools). Also, they want to maker sure that, if someone does feed cattle (ruminant animal) dog food (non-ruminant animal) that infected material does not get passed to the cow.

From that article:

All of the proposed prohibitions, except for those related to tallow, have already applied to cattle feed since 1997.

The removal of high-risk materials from all animal feed -- including pet food -- will protect against the transmission of the agent of BSE that could occur either through cross-contamination of ruminant feed with non-ruminant feed or feed ingredients during feed manufacture and transport, or intentional or unintentional misfeeding of non-ruminant feed to ruminants on the farm.

Has Canada taken such steps, I donít know? Itís actually a pretty good idea. Not that I plan on eating dog foodÖ..or can imagine a farmer feeding a cow dog food!
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Old 08-03-2007, 10:07 PM   #10
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Since we are trade partners all the same legislation happened at about the same time Keltin. Its a matter of policing now.

Gotta worry about those folks making pet food putting other crap in there. EEK.
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