Mad Cow Disease
The Environment
Human Health
Animal Rights


  • MAD COW DISEASE [New Factoids/Info] [Definitions/History] [In Humans/Other Species] [Feed/Testing/Rendering] [Politics/Economics] [Resources/Links of Note]

    Posted 05/24/04]: "Dying For A Hamburger How Modern Meat-packing Led To An Epidemic Of Alzheimer's Disease:" "Dr. Murray Waldman, in collaboration with writer Marjorie Lamb, sets out to show that Alzheimer's is, indeed, a deadly modern plague. They present startling evidence that Alzheimer's is one of a family of diseases caused by a malformed protein - or prion - that also causes mad cow disease and its human variant, Cruetzfeld-Jakob disease (CJD). Could Alzheimer's, like CJD, be caused by tainted beef? In this compelling exposition, the authors come to a frightening conclusion about our seemingly insatiable hunger for hamburger. " Before about 1900 Alzheimer's disease did not exist, or if it did, was so rare as not to be noticed. But just over a hundred years ago, Alzheimer's disease was unknown, and most people did not know anyone who exhibited the symptoms of dementia that are now all too familiar to the families and friends of victims. Alzheimer's disease (AD) now afflicts 15 million people around the world, including 250,000 Canadians and 4.5 million Americans. One in 10 persons over 65 and nearly half of those over 85 have the disease. More significantly, the number of people with dementia is expected to increase steadily over the next 25 years: in Canada, 10,000 new cases of AD are diagnosed each year - 27 cases per day."
    [Edited from the book summaries and the excerpt below:

    [Posted 05/23/04]:"Five CJD Deaths In North N.J. In 15 Months:" (03/24/04): "A 62-year old man in Northern New Jersey has died from a brain disorder that appears to be Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which, if confirmed, would be the fifth case of the rare disease in a little over a year in a two-county area, United Press International has learned. The possible CJD cluster is associated with the Garden State Race Track in Cherry Hill, where as many as 13 CJD deaths might have occurred among employees and patrons who ate at the now defunct track. Both variant CJD and the spontaneously occurring form of the disease -- called sporadic CJD or simply CJD -- are incurable conditions that degenerate the brain and ultimately cause death. This would be an unusually high number for a uncommon disorder that is thought to occur at the rate of only one case per 1 million population per year. The combined population of the two counties is approximately 789,000, so they would expect to see no more than one case of sporadic CJD in that time frame. According to DHSS figures, which go back to 1979, the two counties have never experienced two CJD cases in the same year -- let alone five." [Very edited from:

    [Posted 04/28/04]: "Health Officials Probing CJD Cases In N.J.: (03/09/04): "Federal and New Jersey authorities appear to have bowed to pressure from Congress and are investigating a potential cluster of cases of a fatal brain disorder called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in the southern part of the state, United Press International has learned. The investigation was spurred by the persistence of Janet Skarbek, a private citizen in Cinnaminson, N.J., who has been collecting information about local CJD cases for nearly a year. Skarbek has compiled a [statistically shocking] list of at least nine -- and as many as 13 -- CJD cases with ties to the Garden State Race Track in Cherry Hill.

    Skarbek became concerned about the disease after Carol Olive, a woman with whom her mother had worked at the Race Track, died last May of CJD. As Skarbek's research turned up more cases of the rare disease, she began urging the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, to investigate. But both agencies dismissed her pleas, claiming there was no evidence of abnormally high occurrences of CJD in the state."
    [Quite edited from: http://www.upi.com/view.cfm?StoryID=20040309-011038-7707rUSDA

    [Posted 02/15/04]: (02/05/04): "Experts Predict More U.S. Cases Of Mad Cow: More American cattle probably are infected with mad-cow disease, and the federal government needs to expand its testing program and tighten feed rules to prevent the infection from spreading, a panel of international experts said yesterday. It's unlikely the single Holstein discovered in Washington state is the only sick animal ever imported into the country from Canada, and possibly Europe, panel members said at a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) meeting.
    Since none of the other animals was detected, their infected tissues were almost certainly processed into cattle feed years ago, spreading and amplifying the disease "so that cattle in the U.S.A. have also been indigenously infected," says a report presented to Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman.

    Panel chairman Ulrich Kihm, former chief veterinary officer of Switzerland, estimated that one new U.S. mad-cow case a month might appear, based on the experience of other European countries. Though the rate of infection is low, the government should consider several steps, including a ban on the use in human and animal food of brains, spinal cords and other high-risk tissue from animals older than one year, Kihm said. The panel also recommended a ban on the use of all mammal and bird protein in cattle feed.

    Consumer advocates praised the report, which they said validated many of their criticisms of the U.S. mad-cow safety net. Industry reacted strongly against the report, and predicted the proposals, if adopted, would have substantial impacts on everyone involved in the beef business - from cattle growers earning less per animal to consumers paying more for less variety at the meat counter."
    [Very edited from - more recommendations and issues at:

    [Posted 02/15/04]: (01/18/04): "How Safe Is Beef? U.S. Kept In Dark: Since the discovery of a mad-cow infected Holstein in Washington state, our public officials have been busy telling consumers that there is nothing to worry about. President Bush and Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman even made a point of serving beef at their holiday tables. But given how little we know about the scope of the contamination and the nature of the disease, such gestures are little more than acts of faith, not demonstrations of safety. The evidence that could demonstrate the safety -- or absence thereof -- of U.S. beef is in large part not being revealed by U.S. officials, and in some cases isn't even being collected. For starters, the Department of Agriculture -- a conflicted agency charged with simultaneously promoting the consumption of, and protecting consumers from, U.S. beef -- has yet to give us a transparent definition of what "safe" means when it comes to transmission of this brain-wasting disease, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), to humans.

    Does "safe" mean there's no risk of contracting the disease, or merely a relatively small risk? What information is being used to determine the difference? Answers to these questions would first require an estimate of the number of cattle infected. This is not a number the USDA has released. ..... consumers -- and researchers -- would benefit from better information about exactly how BSE is transmitted from cow to human.

    U.S. officials have consistently discounted and downplayed these indirect [non-beef consumption] avenues. In the Washington Post article on Dec. 23 that first reported the U.S. BSE-infection, Veneman was quoted as saying that BSE is "not known to be transmitted" through the consumption of these non-beef products. The secretary's statement is extremely misleading and gives consumers the mistaken impression that there is no risk associated with eating these foods. BSE is neither known nor not known to be transmitted through non-beef products. The truth is we have no idea.

    Secretary Veneman and the beef industry have been quick to act on a handful of long-overdue, common-sense reforms. However, it's an outrage that there's no such urgency when it comes to collecting and releasing vital information that will allow the American public to make informed choices about the foods we eat. The American people deserve hard evidence and policy changes made in their best interests."
    [Very very edited from the excellent essay at: http://www.sacbee.com/content/opinion/story/8123078p-9055134c.html

    [Posted 02/15/04]:
    (01/18/04): "New Research Indicates Human Form Of Mad Cow More Complex Than First Thought: New research suggests that the human form of mad cow disease is a lot more complicated than originally thought, and, potentially, much scarier. Scientists have long agreed that eating cattle tissue infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy - mad cow disease - can cause the human form of the disease, known as variant Creutzfeld-Jacob disease. But recent animal tests indicate that eating infected beef may also cause another form of the disease, classical CJD, forcing scientists to re-examine assumptions about the nature of the deadly disease and raising fears that it may be more widespread than previously thought.

    The accepted wisdom has been that classical CJD has nothing to do with mad cows. It affects older people, those over 55, and generally occurs spontaneously at the rate of about one person per million per year. It has been confused with Alzheimer's disease and there is some concern that because of misdiagnosis, it may be more widespread than the confirmed numbers indicate. The question is, could an epidemic of classical CJD be lying dormant in the brains of people who have eaten infected cattle products - specifically products containing brain or spinal cord matter?"
    [Edited from:


    [Posted 02/15/04]:
    (01/16/04): "Action Urged To Stop Human 'Mad Cow' In UK Blood: In a letter published in the British Medical Journal, a senior member of the UK's Medical Research Council calls for urgent action to prevent the spread of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) -- the human form of mad cow disease -- through blood transfusions. Last month, UK health secretary John Reid announced the first case of vCJD that is believed to have to have occurred through blood donation. In light of this event, Dr. Sheila M. Bird, a statistician with the MRC, emphasizes that "we now need to take steps" to spell out the rights and responsibilities of people who have received blood and blood products that were possibly contaminated with vCJD, as well as those of the rest of the population.

    In her letter, Dr. Bird outlines several steps that can be taken to prevent further human-to-human spread of vCJD.... Until more is known about bloodborne transmission, she concludes, "we must hope for the best and protect against the worst."
    [Edited from:
    [Their source: BMJ 2004;328:118-119 (17 January)

    [Posted 02/15/04]:
    (01/17/04): "Mad Cow In Milk?: The one dairy cow infected with Mad Cow Disease from a Washington herd, whose milk was pooled with 3,000 others from that same herd, had the potential to infect every American thousands of times over. Her "pooled" milk was distributed on the West Coast. Her infected milk was made into cheese and butter and ice cream, and shipped from the West Coast to the East Coast, and to all points."
    [From the Robert Cohen essay building on the above BMJ Editorial:

[Posted 01/27/04]: (01/12/04): "Studies Quietly Raise Questions About Threat To Humans: Below the drumbeat of reassurances from government and the cattle industry that mad cow disease poses no threat to public health, a small universe of scientists working on a family of related illnesses are finding disturbing evidence to the contrary.... Just last week, for example, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association described mad cow disease solely as an animal and economic problem - not a human health problem. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Colorado's own commissioner of agriculture have made similar pronouncements. Such statements, offered frequently since the December discovery of a Holstein with mad cow in Washington state, spark criticism from scientists and consumer advocates who say that the government and industry are injecting certainty into a field where uncertainty remains the dominant theme."
[Very edited from the comprehensive/informative article

[Posted 12/28/03]: 07/22/03: Steve Mitchell, UPI Medical Correspondent: "CJD Screening May Miss Thousands Of Cases: The federal government's monitoring system for cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a fatal human brain illness, could be missing tens of thousands of victims, scientists and consumer advocates have told United Press International. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease or CJD can be caused by eating beef contaminated with mad cow disease, but the critics assert without a better tracking system it might be impossible to determine whether any CJD cases are due to mad cow or obtain an accurate picture of the prevalence of the disorder in the United States. Diagnosing CJD or Alzheimer's is difficult because no test exists that can identify either disease in a living patient with certainty. So physicians must rely on the patient's symptoms to determine which illness might be present. Sometimes, however, the symptoms of one disease can appear similar to the other disorder. The only way to determine the disease conclusively is to perform an autopsy on the brain after death. Unfortunately, although autopsies once were performed on approximately half of all corpses, the frequency has dropped to 15 percent or less in the United States. The National Center for Health Statistics -- a branch of the CDC -- stopped collecting autopsy data in 1995. [Edited from:

[Posted 12/25/03]: "Prions NOT Found in Just Central Nervous System Tissue:" (Nov. 2003): In patients with sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, pathologic disease-associated prion protein (PrP(Sc)) has been identified only in the central nervous system and olfactory-nerve tissue. We search[ed] for PrP(Sc)) in extraneural organs of 36 patients with sporadic CJD who died between 1996 and 2002. Results: PrP(Sc)) was present in the brain tissue of all patients. In addition, we found PrP(Sc)) in 10 of 28 spleen specimens and in 8 of 32 skeletal-muscle samples. Three patients had PrP(Sc)) in both spleen and muscle specimens. ...we identified extraneural deposition of PrP(Sc)) in spleen and muscle samples from approximately one third of patients who died with sporadic CJD. Extraneural PrP(Sc)) appears to correlate with a long duration of disease." [From abstract: N Engl J Med 2003;349: 1812-20]

"Compelling scientific evidence suggests so-called prion disease can and has infected humans... at present, there is no reliable antemortem diagnosis, specific treatment, or vaccine to prevent the disease. The agent thought to be responsible for this unusual class of disease is a rogue protein (called a prion) that, unlike all other agents known to cause infectious disease, contains neither DNA nor RNA. The "bad" prion forms holes or a spongy appearance in the brain in all disease variants, hence the generic designation of spongiform encephalopathy." [Quintessence International, 1998 May, 29:5]

"A 24-year-old vegetarian has been diagnosed with Cruetzfeld-Jacob disease. Scientists fear that milk and cheese may be the source of infection." [Michael Hornsby, London Times, August 23, 1997]

"The destruction of milk from suspected cows was recommended in England to insure the public's safety... Experiments also indicate that temperatures reached during pasteurization of milk and household cooking does not kill the agent. In the United Kingdom on December 1, 1988 the government announced a ban on the sale of milk from infected cattle..." [Virgil Hulse, M.D., Mad Cows and Milkgate]

"Transmission of prions from infected cattle to humans by oral intake seems no only possible but also very probable." [Annals of Italian Medicine, 1998 Oct, 13:4]

"How many people will come down with the disease from having eaten British beef is literally incalculable, because people typically are infected with nvCJD for 10 to 30 years before symptoms appear." Cited in "Deaths From CJD..." John von Radowitz, Medical Correpondent, PA News, Jan 20, 2000 [02.06.27:10]

"...the expected rate of occurrence of CJD (the human variation of mad cow disease) has been 1 in 1,000,000 people. Up until the advent of mad cow disease, CJD was, literally, a "one-in-a-million" disease. Yet in one U.S. study, when people diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease (whose symptoms can be difficult to distinguish from CJD) were examined after death, 5.5% of the presumed Alzheimer's victims were found actually to have CJD." Boller, Francois, et al, "Diagnosis of Dementia: Clinicopathologic correlations," Neurology, Jan 1989, pg 76-79 [02.06.27:12]

"And in another study, at Yale University, when people diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease were examined after death it was found that 13% of the presumed Alzheimer's victims actually had CJD." Manuelidis, E.E., et al. "Suggested links between different types of dementias: Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, Alzheimer disease, and retroviral CNS infections," Alzheimer Disease and Associated Disorders, Vol 3, Nos. 1-2, 1989, pgs 100-09 [02.06.27:13] 

"Four million Americans are currently diagnosed with Alzheimer's." Estimate from Alzheimer's Association, Chicago, IL [02.06.27:14]

[up to index]


[Posted 05/23/04] "Mad Cow Disease May Have Spread Into Sheep:" (04/08/04): "Scientists have detected the first signs that bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) may have crossed into sheep in a study that is likely to rekindle anxieties over the safety of lamb and mutton. One of three tests used to determine whether sheep that had seemingly died from scrapie were in fact infected with BSE (also known as "mad cow" disease) has produced positive results. The four-year-old animal was thought to have developed scrapie, a brain disorder that affects sheep and is believed to be harmless to humans. It was always theoretically possible for sheep to be infected with BSE because they were once fed the same infected material that had spread the brain disease in cattle during the 1980s and early 1990s. But there is no simple test to distinguish BSE from sheep scrapie, and sheep experimentally infected with BSE show the same symptoms as scrapie, which means that scrapie in the field could be masking a hidden BSE epidemic in sheep. Experiments suggest that BSE could be easily transmitted to sheep, and it could, like scrapie, be passed down the generations. This would mean that BSE could still be infecting the national flock today, more than a decade after meat and bonemeal was banned."
[Edited from:

[Posted 12/28/03]: "BSE Killing Europe's Pets:" "Contaminated material from cattle infected with BSE has been rendered and used in commercial pet foods in Europe. Most scientists determined the practice would be safe; that BSE would not cross the species barrier. They were wrong. As of January 2000, more than 100 cats in the UK had died from illnesses attributed to eating diseased meat contained in commercial pet foods made in Europe. Some veterinarians believe the actual number of cats who died from feline spongiform encephalopathy (the feline variant of mad cow disease) is far greater. In 1996... not only were household cats contracting the disease but it had also spread to animals in zoos where it killed a lion, five cheetahs, three ocelots, two tigers, three pumas, six eland, six kudu and one bison. For years, government officials claimed that dogs were not susceptible to a canine form of BSE. But were we getting the truth? In 1997, Reuters European Business unearthed a 1991 study on the brains of 444 dead hunting hounds that suggested some of the animals had developed the first signs of "spongiform disease." Despite the concerns of medical doctors and veterinarians, no further tests on the tissue samples from these animals were ever done." [Edited from: Autumn, 2001 Earth Island Journal Vol. 16, No. 3 by Ann N. Martin]

[Posted 12/28/03]: "Fish Too Can Suffer Version Of Mad Cow Disease:" 02/02/03: London, Feb 2 (ANI)[excerpted]: "Now fish like sheep, elk and humans could suffer a version of mad cow disease, or BSE, according to preliminary evidence. The results might help reveal how the disease jumps from species to species. Infectious prions are thought to cause BSE and human variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD). They probably crossed from sheep to cows and then to humans in infected meat. Now a team at the University of Konstanz in Germany has identified a cousin of the prion protein in pufferfish. The discovery of a prion in fish - which are evolutionarily distant from humans - suggest that the protein is "probably doing something fairly important and basic", says Jonathan Weissman, who studies protein folding at the University of California in San Francisco." [Full article: http://in.news.yahoo.com/030202/139/20qaf.html]

[Posted 12/28/03]: "...the form of the disease that afflicts elk and deer (called Chronic Wasting Disease, or CWD) is not only present but spreading among elk in Montana, and among wild deer and elk in northern Colorado and southern Wyoming. Between four and eight percent of the 62,000 deer in the area between Fort Collins, Colorado, and Cheyenne, Wyoming have the disease." "Mad Cow Disease in Humans," Rachel's Environment and Health Weekly. Jan 20, 2000 [02.06.27:11]

[up to index]