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April 23, 2012

Experts: No Risk From US Mad Cow

by Steve Baragona

Experts say a case of mad cow disease announced Tuesday in a dairy cow in the U.S. state of California poses no risk to the public or other animals.

The case of mad cow disease is the fourth detected in the United States since 2003.

The cattle illness is caused by a faulty protein in the animal’s brain or central nervous system.

Eating tissues infected with the protein is believed to be responsible for a rare human form of the disease. Most of the 224 cases worldwide are linked to an outbreak in cattle in the United Kingdom in the 1990s.

But since then, the European Union and the United States have tightened regulations to prevent another outbreak, according to Ron DeHaven, head of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

“Even if an infected cow were to go to slaughter, the tissues that represent a food safety risk never make it into the human food chain," said DeHaven.

Tissues at risk of infection - including brains and spinal cords - are also no longer permitted in animal feed, which is how the U.K. outbreak is believed to have spread.

This case is not linked to animal feed. It appears to have happened spontaneously, according to Cornell University veterinarian Martin Wiedmann.

“And that happens every now and then. We don’t know why," said Wiedmann.

Wiedmann says the fact that regulators caught this cow before slaughter shows the safety system is working.

His one piece of advice:

“Make sure you cook your hamburger well," he said. "And that has nothing to do with mad cow disease.”

He says it is just a good idea to keep your food safe.