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Mad Cow Disease

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is a progressive neurological disorder in cattle. More commonly referred to as “mad cow disease,” the disorder resembles other wasting diseases found in elk, sheep, deer, and mink. In cattle, it is fatal, causing neurological dysfunction and, in some cows, aggression (hence the name mad cow). This entry discusses the origins and impact of BSE worldwide, including concerns about factory-farmed beef. It begins with a look at BSE and food safety.

Food Safety and BSE

Starting in the 1980s, BSE was described, defined, and detected in British cattle, though the disease has been found in many other countries since then. Initially, public health officials in Britain were not worried about the impact of the disease until a link between BSE and a fatal ...

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