This is Germany’s first reported case since 2009. The cow was killed and its body destroyed, with none of the meat entering the human food chain.
Health officials said that the animal showed no symptoms of BSE when it was initially slaughtered for consumption, but, because it was 10 years old, it underwent a BSE test. That’s when it tested positive for an atypical type of BSE, L-type, which develops spontaneously in older cattle.
Epidemiological tracebacks identified seven offspring of the cow, five of which were already slaughtered. The other two were still on the cow’s farm of origin, where they were tested and subsequently killed, according to protocol for handling BSE cases.
The diseased cow’s herd is under quarantine until clearing further testing, although BSE is not considered contagious.
The incident is not expected to alter Germany’s beef consumption or rules regarding BSE. Germany’s BSE screening protocols require any beef cattle older than eight years to automatically be tested for BSE.
Germany’s first cases of BSE were discovered in 2000. The country has seen a total of 312 cases, compared to the United Kingdom’s 183,000 and the United States’ four.
The first known case of BSE occurred in the U.K. in 1986. Since then, more than 150 people in the U.K. have fallen ill and died from the human counterpart to BSE, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD).
The disease originated with the practice of feeding cattle meat and bone meal to cattle herds as a substitute for soy beans, which can be difficult to grow in Europe.
Humans can contract vCJD from eating meat contaminated with brain or spinal tissue from cattle infected with BSE, which is not destroyed when cooked.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced plans to ease regulations on beef imports in regard to BSE. The U.S. has banned beef imports from Europe since 1998 due to mad cow scares.
The latest USDA move would align the U.S. with international policies on BSE, while potentially opening up U.S. beef exports to new markets. The U.S. was recently adjusted to the safest classification for BSE risk, according to international standards set by the World Organization for Animal Health.
The most recent case of BSE in the U.S. occurred in 2012 in a California dairy cow which had developed the L-type BSE as in the latest German case. The other three U.S. cases occurred in 2003, 2004 and 2006.
Another 19 BSE cases have occurred in Canada, the first being a 1993 case in a cow imported from the U.K.
In the U.S. and other countries regulating BSE, cattle feed can no longer contain the meat of other ruminant animals. USDA runs a surveillance program for BSE, and slaughterhouses are required to remove the brains and spinal cords from all carcasses.© Food Safety News