Brazil officially reopened it’s market to fresh American beef in August 2016 because of the United States’ classification by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) as a negligible risk country for BSE.
But now Brazil has a BSE problem of its own. A cow found in Mato Grosso state has the disorder, which is also known as mad cow disease. People can become infected from eating meat from infected animals.
Bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE is a progressive neurological disorder of cattle that results from infection by an unusual transmissible agent called a prion, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
BSE is not entirely understood, and it is always fatal.
The Brazilian Agriculture Ministry has confirmed the discovery of a case of “atypical” BSE in a 17-year-old cow on Friday, May 31. After securing the necessary materials for tests, it says the cow carcass was incinerated. The Agriculture Ministry said no part of the animal entered the food chain, and there are no risks for the population.
Shipments of beef have been temporarily suspended in compliance with quarantine and sanitary protocols between Brazil and China. Beef shipments after May 30 must be returned to producers or redirected to other destinations.
Under their agreement, Brazil’s beef exports to China are suspended pending the review of the BSE case by Chinese authorities. A BSE case is considered “atypical” if the animal contracted the neurological disease spontaneously instead of through contaminated meat-and-bone meal.
China accounts for about 20 percent of Brazil’s beef exports.
While Brazil is also considered a “negligible risk” country for BSE, this is only the latest in a string of difficulties for the South American nation’s beef industry. It’s been only two years since its food safety protocols led to numerous shipments being canceled after a national bribery scandal.
CDC reports that BSE surveillance since 1993 has identified 26 cases in North America: Six BSE cases were in the United States and 20 in Canada. Of the six cases identified in the United States, one was born in Canada. One of the 20 cases identified in Canada was imported from the United Kingdom.
During this time, Brazil had one previous BSE case in 2014, according to OIE reports.
Mad cow disease was first discovered in the United Kingdom in 1986 with an outbreak that peaked in January 1993 with almost 1,000 new cases reported a week, causing the European Union to ban British beef from the continent from 1996 to 1999.
Since it was discovered, 177 people have died from the prion disease with 156 of those occurring during the 1990s and associated with the British outbreak.
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