Lauren Melella, Global Animal

Routine BSE testing of cattle destined for human consumption is no longer necessary. Photo Credit: David Cheskin/PA/PA
Routine BSE testing of cattle destined for human consumption is no longer necessary. Photo Credit: David Cheskin/PA

The Food Standards Agency has advised ministers that routine BSE (more commonly known as mad cow disease) testing on the carcasses of healthy cattle slaughtered for food is no longer necessary.

The agency board says testing of healthy cattle is no longer necessary as long as other existing safety controls be enforced vigilantly. Other safeguards, such as removal of the most risky parts of the animals from food and banning animal protein in cattle feed, should be more than sufficient to protect consumers from unsafe consumption.

However, testing will continue on animals that die for reasons other than for human food. The recommendation marks the end of an era, 26 years after the first BSE case was found in Sussex in 1986 and 16 years after the first linked cases of variant CJD (a form of brain damage that leads to a rapid decrease of mental function and movement) in humans were identified.

Up until 1996, only animals under 30 months could be eaten by people in the UK until a testing regime allowing for food from older cattle was introduced in 2005. Currently, the upper age limit before testing has been gradually raised and is now necessary only on cattle over six years old. Regardless, huge numbers of cattle have continued to slaughtered merely because they could not be sold for food. During testing, the cattle are slaughtered where the meat is destined for human consumption. 

So far this year, only two confirmed cases of BSE have been reported in the United Kingdom. This compares with over 37,000 in 1992. The decision follows the European commission’s proposal to allow some member states, including the UK, to decide to stop testing these cattle. Food agency chairman Jeff Rooker said he believed the decision was a proportionate measure.

Rooker states, “The FSA is here to protect the public and, with no new BSE cases in cattle slaughtered for their meat for more than three years, we believe the decision to stop this particular testing requirement is a proportionate measure. However, this is not a green light for the industry to cut corners, so it is imperative the other controls, including the other surveillance measures, are maintained vigilantly.”

He added that if ministers agreed to stop testing in January, the FSA would produce a report after six months detailing the results of BSE monitoring and the enforcement of other controls to ensure confidence in the continued effectiveness of the anti-BSE measures. Further reports would be published annually.

In all, 176 people in the UK are thought to have died from vCJD. No one thought to have contracted the disease is still alive.




  1. Since 2001, Japan tests all cows slaughtered for human consumption and has found 32 mad cows. The new UK policy of not testing food cows under 6 years is very risky. Japan has found Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (mad cow disease) in three cows under 24 months of age: 23 month, 21 month, and 20 month old bull

    The ground beef used today for most fast food hamburgers originates from large slaughterhouses and grinder operations. Modern plants can process 800,000 pounds of hamburger meat a day, from many thousands of different cattle. A study done by R.P. Clayton and K.E. Belk in 1998 concluded that a single 4-ounce ground beef patty was made from, on average, at least 55 different animals to, at most, an average of 1082 animals. Is that what you picture when you hear Wendy’s advertise their “old-fashioned hamburger” or what you think you’re getting in that “100% All-Beef Patty” from McDonalds? Most hamburgers and ground beef in fast food restaurants represent “many bits of many cows”.

    Brazil recently admitted it covered up a mad cow case for almost 2 years

    In the USA, hamburger is ground up from aging, asymptomatic dairy cows potentially infected with Bovine Amyloidotic Spongiform Encephalopathy (BASE) mad cow [Three out of four US mad cows were infected with the "atypical" BASE strain of mad cow.] Old dairy cows are ending up UNTESTED in huge industrial mixing vats of hamburger, each containing meat from 50 to 100 animals from multiple states and two to four countries.

    Scientists have concluded Alzheimers Disease (AD) is a transmissible prion disease, a sister disease to Creutzfeldt Jakob prion Disease (sCJD)

    Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and sporadic Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (sCJD).
    are sister prion diseases (like mad cow and Chronic Wasting Disease), transmissible by aerosols, tainted meat and feed, infectious by medical (scopes, etc.) dental and eye equipment, blood, urine, feces, saliva, mucous. sCJD is AD on fast forward.

    AD epidemic = 6 million US victims, new case every 68 seconds.

    Recently, scientists including UCSF Nobel Laureate Stanley Prusiner (for his prion research) identified other diseases including Parkinson's (3 million US victims), Huntington's and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis as being caused by misfolding infectious prions/proteins.

    "The prion-like behavior implicated in Alzheimer's disease also suggests that it may be transmissible like mad cow disease."

    "Our findings open the possibility that some of the sporadic Alzheimer's cases may arise from an infectious process," senior author Claudio Soto said in a statement in October. "

    One pathway of human risk for being infected with a prion disease is ingesting prion infected food/meat.

    Two researchers were prescient in the mid 2000s, when they predicted the mad cow/Alzheimer's epidemic:
    VIDEO Interview – Mad Cow and Misdiagnosed Alzheimer’s Disease.
    Interview with Colm Kelleher author of “Brain Trust: "The Hidden Connection Between Mad Cow and Misdiagnosed Alzheimer’s Disease” recorded November 16, 2004.

    Dr. Murray Waldman, a coroner of the City of Toronto and co-author with Marjorie Lamb of the McClelland and Stewart book, "Dying for a Hamburger: modern meat processing and the epidemic of Alzheimer's disease", charges hamburger is the main source of prions, which infect and cause Alzheimer's.

    Helane Shields, Alton, NH USA [email protected]