The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) won’t make any change to Brazil’s status as a “negligible risk” country for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). Also called “mad cow disease,” BSE is a chronic degenerative disease affecting the central nervous system of cattle.

The OIE ruling came just two days after the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture confirmed the discovery of two cases of BSE of “atypical origin.” One diseased animal discovery each occurred in the Brazilian states of Minas Gerais and Mato Grosso.

The Ministry of Agriculture collected animal samples and sent them to an OIE laboratory in Canada for more detailed analysis. The animal with BSE in Minas Gerais was more than 10-years old. At the slaughterhouse operating in the region, Federal Inspection Service reported suspicions about the animal.

OIE’s “negligible risk” ruling will likely mean there will only be a hiccup for Brazil’s beef exports. Brazilian beef accounts for 40 percent of China’s imports. Brazil suspended exports to China until it sorts out the “Mad Cow” situation.

It is a classic “Mad Cow” disease with links to variant Creutzfeidt-Jacob disease in humans and spread by contaminated animal feed. The infections of “atypical” BSE in the two animals in Brazil are not as much of a risk.

Brazil’s last “atypical” case occurred in 2019, resulting in beef exports suspending for ten days.

“Mad Cow” disease first appeared during the 1980s in Great Britain. Since 2003, six BSE-infected animals have turned up in the United States. Only one, a six-year-old dairy cow imported from Canada, was classical BSE. The subsequent five cases, from 2005 to 2018, were “atypical” BSE.

The United States is also a “negligible risk” for BSE, according to OIE.

According to USDA: “Agricultural officials around the world have taken actions to eradicate or control the disease. These entail prohibiting the inclusion of mammalian meat-and-bone meal in animal feed; prohibiting the use of specified risk materials or SRMs (those tissues, e.g., brain and spinal cord, known to have the highest infectivity) in food, feed, or other products; and destroying animals showing signs of BSE and other animals at high risk of developing the disease. As a result of these actions, most notably the imposition of feed bans, the rate of newly reported cases of BSE around the world has decreased to less than 10 cases annually.”

Further, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) implemented regulations in 1997 that prohibit the feeding of most mammalian proteins to ruminants, including cattle. This feed ban is the most important measure to prevent the transmission of disease to cattle.

In 2008, the ban was strengthened by prohibiting the inclusion of SRMs (brains and spinal cords from animals 30 months of age or older) in any animal feed. The 2008 rule also prohibits the use of all cattle carcasses not inspected and passed for human consumption, unless the cattle are less than 30 months of age, or the brains and spinal cords have been removed.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)