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About Mad Cow Disease

Center for Food Safety

Formally known as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), “Mad Cow Disease” is a persistent food safety concern in the U.S. and abroad.  BSE occurs when cattle are fed rendered meat products made from other dead, disabled or diseased cattle or sheep as a feed supplement -- or when chickens are fed rendered animals and their manure is mixed into cattle feed. 

Tissue from infected cows’ central nervous systems (including brain or spinal cord) is the most infectious part of a cow.  Such tissue may be found in hot dogs, taco fillings, bologna and other products containing gelatin, as well as a variety of ground or chopped meats.  People who eat meat from infected animals can contract the human version of the disease, known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD).  The disease slowly eats holes in the brain over a matter of years, turning it sponge-like, and invariably results in dementia and death.  There is no known cure, treatment or vaccine for vCJD.

Center for Food Safety seeks to end dangerous animal feed practices that threaten human health and the safety of our meat supply, such as feeding rendered animals to other animals.  We urge the CDC to classify vCJD as a reportable disease so occurrences can be tracked and to work to plug the loopholes that still exist in FDA and USDA regulations.

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