A recent screening resulted in the discovery of a dairy cow in California with Mad Cow disease. The USDA says the detection of the cow, and its removal, shows that the food safety net is working. However, critics don’t agree. In 2006, the USDA instituted a wide-spread testing program for mad cow disease, otherwise known in scientific terms as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE. The program tests 40,000 cows per year. This may seem large until you consider that the US slaughters nearly 35 million cattle per year. Even the USDA estimates, about one million U.S. cattle carry the disease.
Critics argue that the testing program is too small to catch enough of the cases in time, and they fear that the rate could amplify. In the USDA’s defense, BSE is caused by a buildup of abnormal proteins in the animal’s brain. It can take from 2 to 8 years to manifest. Most cattle in the U.S. are slaughtered before they are 2 years old, but this is no guarantee. Another safety procedure is, the USDA forbids meat processors from using any brain or spinal cord tissues in food programs – this is the where the disease lives.
While that is reassuring, you may want to reduce your risk further by avoiding certain cuts of beef where the origin of that beef may come into contact with the harmful parts. Organ meats – tongue, liver, etc. are the most risky, followed by ground beef and bone products.
Given all the negative health issues with red meat, this just adds another reason to limit the amount you eat. Cutting back may not just be good for your heart; it also may be good for your brain.
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