The French Ministry of Agriculture released a statement this morning confirming that a single case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), also known as Mad-Cow Disease, had been detected in a five-year-old cow from the country’s Ardennes region. The diagnosis was confirmed on March 23 by the Reference Laboratory of the European Union (LRUE).
BSE is a chronic, degenerative disease that affects the central nervous system of an infected animal, and is part of a family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). Other diseases within the TSE family include Scrapie in sheep and goats, Chronic Wasting Disease in deer and elk, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in humans. TSEs are not known to be caused by bacteria or viruses, but by a type of infectious protein called a prion.
In accordance with European regulations, the diagnosis of this case will result in a change to the country’s OIE status related to BSE. This will require the country to adopt several changes to processing methods and disposal procedures for the Specified Risk Material (SRM) of all harvested cattle. The export conditions of French cattle may also be changed as a result of the diagnosis.
The Ministry has emphasized that this isolated case is not an active risk to consumers, and that the consumption of beef, veal, and dairy products are still considered incredibly safe. There is no evidence showing that BSE can spread through direct contact, either between two live cattle or between live cattle and other species, and research has shown that the prion infection accumulates in specific tissues throughout the nervous system and the bone marrow, not in muscle meat used for human consumption. Regardless, animals suspected of being infected with BSE are prohibited from entering the human food supply. The BSE agent has never been detected in blood, milk or dairy products.
“There is no risk in consuming beef or offal,” the Ministry stated on their website. “Consumer protection is ensured by the systematic removal at slaughter of parts of the animal likely to transmit the disease.”
The French Directorate General for Food (DGAL) will meet on Friday with members of France’s National Advisory Panel on Animal and Vegetable Health Policy to present the new management measures that will be implemented.