Mad Cow Disease (Can it be transmitted through milk or cheese?) : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

I was wondering if it is possible to spread mad cow disease to humans if they consume milk or cheese from an infected animal?! I expect this could be a problem, too, couldn't it? It sure does make you leary of ever eating out again, or buying things from a grocery store.

-- Tammy (, February 01, 2001


Response to Mad Cow Disease

We listened to a segment on PBS last evening on the safety of the food supply in the United States. They were also giving statistics on the number of cases in Europe of the syndrome in humans in relationship to the number of people. I think it was very accurate in depicting a mood of panic just by the discription of the disease that is self defeating and destructive to the well being of society. We either believe that our government is doing everything that they can to keep a safe food supply and act as if, or go off the deep end and get all paranoid. The choice is ours. If in fact they have failed us, than the damage is already done and worrying about it is not going to make a huge difference. Since this forum seems to thrive on negativity, I expect I had better put my kevlar on, but I think surrendering to this mad cow disease panic is detrimental to our society and to everyone involved with meat or milk production. I am not suggesting putting our heads in the sand, but really go to some length to search out the FACTS before forming an opinion. The underground press is having a hayday with this because it is what keeps people reading them. Shame on them for thriving on human tendency to distrust and fear. I for one am sick of it!!!

-- diane (, February 01, 2001.

Response to Mad Cow Disease

I am particularly sensitive to this issue since I am a cattle farmer. Have around 120 head on the place now.

MCD claim to fame started in England when it was noticed people under the age of 40 were coming down with Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), which is extremely unusual. About the same time the livestock industry there started finding animals which staggered and were very agressive. A connection between MCD and scappies was documented, then the connection was made between MCD and a new variant CJD when researchers found a commom link among vCJD victims was the consumption of beef. Altosphies (sp?) confirmed the link.

At first scientists were convinced MCD was solely created by feeding meat and bone meal (MBM) from sheep which had scappies to livestock, mostly dairy cattle. However, recently cases have been confirmed to which their owners claim they never received any feed which contained animal byproducts. Some scientists/investigators are now starting to think MCD can happen spontaneously, much like its equivalent of CJD in humans. It may have been around for a while, just never in sufficient numbers, such as in England, to warrant further investigation.

At this time there is no link between consumption of milk or cheese and vCJD; however, it is one possibility being studied in Europe. At first it was thought MCD prions were only in the brain and spinal cord, but now evidence of them have been found in other organs as well. Tests have now been developed for MCD in live animals not showing any outward signs, so milk samples can be taken.

The U.S. acted promptly and agressively to stop the introduction of MCD into the U.S. as soon as it was confirmed in England. The FDA/USDA say they have built a fire wall against it. Some would say the wall is more like a picket fence.

For example, the USDA still allows the importation of live animals from countries in which MCD has not been documented. Most of these are feeder or slaughter cattle coming in from Mexico and Canada. Here the FDA and USDA have no say over what they are fed, although there is a certain degree of cooperation between countries. Mexico and Canada don't want MCD to crop up there either.

On the recent incident in Texas. What happened is three years ago the FDA banned the use of MBM from runimants in feed intended for other ruminants. It could still be used in feed for non-ruminants. Purina Mills simply made the mistake of sending the wrong batch to the feedlot. Purina will buy the 1,222 head involved and, in all likelihood, have them destroyed. They have also said they would not put MBM in any livestock feed in the future; however, I have been unable to determine if it extends to pet food, rabbits, etc., which aren't considered to be livestock. Their largest competitor, Cargill, hasn't made a similar pledge, and there are over 1,000 independent feed mills.

Even as sensitive as I am to the subject I feel the U.S. food supply as it relates to beef or dairy products and MCD is 99.999999999999999999999999999999% safe. I don't drink milk as a matter of course, and won't stop eating cheese or beef.

Right now I see the glass as half-full.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, February 01, 2001.

I have a friend who works for the department of agriculture, and she is very concerned about the BSE. Her opinion seems to be that the gov't is trying to keep a lid on it so we don't all have a big panic attack. I don't see how the milk and butter could be contaminated with BSE unless they had been in contact with meat somehow, which seems unlikely. What I have read and heard is that the pneumatic air hammers used to slaughter the animals can force bits of brain and spinal tissue into the muscle meat of the animal. It's not very reassuring to me that the disease might be rare here, because even if only one animal in ten thousand has it, that one animal could contaminate a lot of meat being ground up into hamburger,sausage, and other processed meat products. I intend to keep eating meat but it will be homegrown beef, not the storebought which is hardly edible anyway.

-- Rebekah (, February 01, 2001.

No one knows how BSE is transmitted for sure, don't even know if there is only one way for it to spread. Spreading it is, country after country. Perhaps like the early years of AIDS?

The only safe way to consume food is to know your producer, hopefully, it is yourself. If you buy food from others, then you owe it to your family to be safe and investigate the food or do not eat it. Homesteader may turn out to be the Blessed Ones.

-- Lynn Goltz (, February 01, 2001.

Very interesting subject. CJD in cheese and milk? I hope not...I love cheese and my kids are milkaholics. I eat a little beef......rarely at home and usually at McD's or Taco Bell...that is beef right!?!?LOL

Diane commented.." either believe that our government is doing everything that they can to keep a safe food supply and act as if, or go off the deep end and get all paranoid" Not really. There is a middle ground. To quote the Bible...and if some readers don't care for it, stop here....Proverbs 14:15 reads, "Anyone inexperienced one puts faith in every word, but the shrewd one considers his steps". Take what the government says and apply it....but use common sense too. COOK your meat! Don't get that steak rare! Cooking is the key to NOT getting these food borne bugs...E.coli.....salmonela......Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. I said I eat at fast food places...probably a GREAT way to get one of these bugs....after all TEEN-agers run these places! Think about it...I really should stop!LOL

Kens' comments were right on target.....this is a serious problem and not near over yet. I think it WILL get to the US's beef is impossible for it not to. All the beef that is imported is clean and free of BSE?....Not a chance. Foriegn beef producers DON'T meat (pun intended) the same standards. I'm not talking about England and other industialized countries...I mean Mexico, Brazil, and other South American countries among others. Why some of these countries still use pesticides that are banned here! The cheapest way to produce and ship it their it or not.

Even goat raisers like myself and Diane (judging from your caprine e-mail address) should worry...Why?...Have your goats ever swiped a bite of dog or cat food? Mine have. Every goat on a farm probably has! Now I don't slaughter my goats as they are just field mowers, but those MCD prions are tough and they may have already infected my goats and maybe yours Diane. You just never know.

What is the answer?

I don't know it, but I think proper cooking will go a long way to prevent it in your home. Fast food, cold cuts, and rare steak?.....I don't know them up may be the only way to really prevent that path.

-- Jason (, February 01, 2001.

I actually am more concerened for the backyard producer than the big cattle farms who have nutritionists building their feeding programs. Very few cattle dairy or meat farmers would use rabbit feed instead of alflafa pellets, or let thier cattle eat laying pellets "because they like them" As a matter of course folks don't think anything of their goats eating their guardian dogs food, and most newbie goat folks think that horse/mule feed is actually a better feed to use than goat feeds, because it is so pretty and sweet "the goats love it". And if thier is a break in prototcols here in the US, it will be in the cheapest bags of crappy horse and mule and hog feed, by the cheapest mill, selling the cheapest feed, because that is usually what the most backyard raisers buy! Paying 1$ more per 50# is simply never going to happen, I see it all the time. Vicki

-- Vicki McGaugh TX (, February 01, 2001.

Jason, yes-cook your meat. But no, my goats have not eaten dog food, rabbit pellets, chick food or catfood. I don't feed anything in my goat barn but goats. I take it very seriously and always have. I think Vicki is right on with this. I see this is going to be another one of those "passionate" topics and I am sorry that I bothered responding and getting into it. If people want to live in a fear- based world, that is a choice I guess. I chose not to. I think there are a lot of strong points made for closing our borders for livestock imports all together. But then we have NAFTA the big business answer to everything. Sorry I got so passionate folks, I just hate to see the same thing happen here that has happened in Europe. There were 90 cases in all of England and Europe. Our children have a hugely higher chance of getting killed by many other things than BSE.

-- diane (, February 01, 2001.

Vickie....Lets not forget it was those "nutritionists" who said doses of antibiotics will make your animal grow faster and ground up animal carcasses in feed is good protien. Now the opinion has changed.

Fear is not what I have Diane....I have caution and a great desire to provide my family with good,wholesome food, like you and everyone else I'm sure. I'm an avid "label reader" and buy a good bit of organic food. I also grow alot in my garden. I've not taken the step to slaughter my own animals for meat...I'm too much of a softie. But if the food producers keep cutting corners and maximizing profit at the expense of safety....I will.

If you keep such a clean and uncontaminated herd...I applaud you. You are just the type of producer I would pay top dollar to buy your meat and cheese.

90 + cases of CJD is not many...compared to E.coli...salmonela....listeria. But I wonder if the Europeans are the voracious meat eaters that we are? Will it be worse when it gets here?

I don't know. I hope not.

-- Jason (, February 01, 2001.


Problem is ordinary, and even extra-ordinary, cooking methods will not kill the MCD prions. Livestock with MCD have been cremated, and the MCD prion have still been found to be active in the ashes. If there was an all out nuclear war, probably the only two things to survive would be cockroaches and MCD prions.

And, yes, I will still order my prime ribs slightly bloody.

I see this on two levels:

As a cattle farmer it scares me greatly. First confirmed case of MCD or vCJD from MCD in the U.S. and my market is gone. My approach is going to continue to be alert, and at the first confirmed case, get out of the industry ASAP.

On the consumer level, I will continue to purchase beef and dairy products with little concern about their having MCD prions in them. However, that is subject to change as above.

Even as a cattle farmer, I don't eat much beef to begin with. I simply prefer pork (hams mostly), chicken and seafood (oriental at that). My stopping eating beef will have no impact; however, the recent experience in Europe has shown a good scare can just about wipe out an entire industry.

What are German's now going to instead of European beef: emu, ostrich, croc. and kangaroo imported from Australia. Beef which isn't guaranteed to have been imported from places like Argentina or Australia just about doesn't sell there. Some small butcher shops have switched to fish, but there are dangers there also from pollution (and over-fishing).

And yes, most European countries are also big meat eaters. Difference is they went for mostly prime cuts, sausages and dishes related to the organs and intestines. You probably don't want to know what are considered to be favorite cattle dishes in Turkey and elsewhere.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, February 01, 2001.

The Drudge report had a story about this about a week of which said that the animals th the local petting zoo had been disappearing. The zookeepers were so hungry for meat that they had taken to killing the chickens and geese! In Germany, even pork has had problems, since the East Germans for years have been using steriods in the feeder hog ration. And they aren't really big on fish, either.

-- Leann Banta (, February 01, 2001.

An interesting, disgusting, and seemingly unbiased website .....

Don't read too much if you have a weak stomach.....

-- Jason (, February 01, 2001.

Happened to catch the episode of Survivor II tonight, and one of the challenges involved eating different bugs and things. One set of survivor contestants had to eat COW BRAINS. All I could think of was man, I hope they aren't eating those mad cow disease prions.....I would have given up the million right there. Jan

-- Jan in CO (, February 01, 2001.

Here is a story with a little different twist on it as to where MCD comes from. It is an interesting theory that is gaining credibility. Sorry, I don't hot link. ng.htm

-- Notforprint (, February 02, 2001.

Thanks for the post greenbeanman!!! I love it when some ordinary guy can get to the bottom of something!!! My neighbor years ago, Ted Halbert did the same thing with the fire retardant that was killing his cows. No one wants to listen to the ordinary.

-- diane (, February 02, 2001.

I'm an herbivore, so I can't claim to be an expert on cows, or killing them. However, I did read a year or so ago that in England cow brains and spinal column tissue aren't used, for fear of MCD. Here in the States, on the other hand, the spinal columns are pressure washed with a solvent to get every last bit of meat off them. Yech!


-- jumpoff joe (jumpoff@echoweb.neet), February 02, 2001.

In answer to the original question, it is my understanding that milk and cheese are considered safe from BSE by every expert of any standing. Some alarmists and some with personal agendas may disagree but they will be hard pressed to come up with any documentation.

As for the relative danger of BSE in our food chain, it is very insignificant in terms of risk given the size of the populations involved and the very few cases of the disease.

This is not to say that we should be unconcerned. We should be very concerned and be very careful that we do nothing to encourage infestation.

-- Neal Van Milligen (, February 04, 2001.

After all this reading, I still feel stupid. I lived oversees for years and they really don't eat much beef, lots of pork and lamb. Now my husband raises cattle, I raise sheep & horses and I don't thinks we could get feed with animals in it. My horses eat oats, do some horses eat something else. Now why on earth did England feed their cattle sheep remains. The whole thing does scare me. Everytime one of sheep looks up to the stars I figure its the start of scrapie, which I still haven't figure out what the symtoms are. Lets just say you have it and don't know it (as a small raiser) you butcher this animal that doesn't seem to "fit in" eat it and it turns out to have MCD, do you just die or what?

-- Debbie (, February 05, 2001.


There is not much of a world-wide market for mutton, which is why many cull sheep in Britian were slaughtered, cooked, dried and then ground up into meat and bone meal. It was added to livestock feed for its protein value (and it is also used as a fertilizer). At the time, scientists just didn't think scrapies could be transmitted to another species. As far as I know there has not been a documented case of scrapies being passed from sheep directly to humans.

From The Stockman's Handbook: One symptom of scrapies is an intense itching to where sheep will rub up against objects to the point of rubbing off wool; hense, the name. The symptom most used is an uncoordinated gait from scrapies has eaten away at their brain and affects the central nervous system. Animals are restless and excitable, walk unsteadily, suffer from thirst, are weak, beocme paralyzed, and die. The appetite remains good and there is no rise in temperature. Scrapie seldom appears in animals under 18 months of age and is usually fatal after a course of some weeks or months.

There is no cure. Scientists don't know how it is passed from animal-to-animal, which is why the USDA opts to destroy entire herds if a single case if found. They are now trying to do this to three dairy sheep herds in Vermont. Your vet can run a simple test.

On the original question, remember the primary reason pasteurzation was developed was to prevent the transfer of tuberculosis from cows to humans via raw milk.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, February 06, 2001.

Sorry,folks, but the temptation on this thread is just too great:

Did you know that Mad Cow Disease is just another name for PMS?

Like I said, I just couldn't resist! :~)

-- Sandy Davis (, February 06, 2001.

Update on the Vermont Dairy Sheep herds. Bummer. The U.S. imports quite of bit of dairy sheep cheese from Europe, and this promised to be the start of another U.S. livestock industry. I suspect the USDA is already lining up trailers to haul these sheep to an incinerator.

Judge: USDA May Seize Belgium Sheep

---------------------------------------------------------------------- ---------- A.P. INDEXES: TOP STORIES | NEWS | SPORTS | BUSINESS | TECHNOLOGY | ENTERTAINMENT ---------------------------------------------------------------------- ----------

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Filed at 11:36 p.m. ET

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture can seize two flocks of imported sheep suspected of carrying a form of mad cow disease, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge J. Garvan Murtha said the owners of the sheep imported from Belgium must comply with an order issued last summer by former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman to give up their herd.

The USDA moved to seize the 355 sheep in July, after a laboratory test indicated that four animals were infected with a form of ``transmissible spongiform encephalopathy,'' a family of illnesses that includes mad cow disease.

The owners, Linda and Larry Faillace of Warren, and Houghton Freeman of Stowe, appealed the ruling in U.S. District Court. They claimed the science used in determining that the sheep were infected was flawed.

In November, the owners turned down a government offer of more than $2.4 million for the sheep.

Davis Buckley, a lawyer for the Faillaces, said they would appeal the ruling and asked the USDA not to physically seize the sheep while the appeal is pending.

``We're looking at our options, we're considering appealing but we haven't made a decision,'' said Thomas Amidon, a lawyer for Freeman.

Linda Faillace criticized the Agriculture Department as being selective in its measures to prevent the potential introduction of infected meat and cattle by-products into the United States from Europe.

``The danger of the disease does justify taking preventative measures, but you can't just randomly go out and say 'I don't like those sheep because they come from Europe,' '' Faillace said.

Mad cow disease -- formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE -- has been linked to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human version of the fatal brain-wasting ailment that has killed some 80 Europeans since the mid-1990s, mostly in Britain.

BSE first appeared in 1984 in a cow in Britain thought to have eaten feed that included offal from sheep that harbored scrapie, a similar illness.

USDA officials have said they were not willing to risk even a remote possibility that mad cow disease could gain a foothold in North America.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, February 07, 2001.

I just wanted to comment on the post that mentioned basically that we should believe the government and not panic. I thought I would just mention that this government was the same one that told the Vietnam vets they were not having medical problems as a result of exposure to agent orange. It is the same government that said their was no problem with exposure to the injections given to the Gulf War vets. It is the same government that produced the standards of what was safe exposure to radiation for nuclear workers and then over time lowered that amount, and lowered that amount, and lowered that amount. Nuclear workers that trusted their government on exposure levels have now died by the thousands of cancer as a result.

Remember, government doesn't just try to protect our health. It has to balance competing issues, i.e. was nuclear power plants being built to generate heat for our nation more important than some workers dying of exposure. Yep, at that time it was. Was it more important to save tax dollars by not compensating vets who were dying of cancer and producing children with birth defects than admitting there was a problem? Yep, at least until a lot of the vets had died so there wouldn't be as many to compensate.

My point is. The government is watching out for our health but if dollars gets into the equation which would be the case with MCD because the beef industry would go down the tubes, they are not going to be honest with us. Wake up and realize they are not the grand protectors we may think they are. Not when money is involved. They will admit it years later after the dust settles that they knew about the problem and quashed it. I'm not going to be one of their casualties. We are no longer buying beef from the grocery store. We are going to our local producer who is feeding grass and grain, not animal parts to their cattle. I don't call that panic. I call it smart.

-- Colleen (, February 08, 2001.

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