Monday, January 12, 2009

Mad Cow Disease

Have you ever found yourself at home watching television and the latest Wendy’s commercial comes on advertising their newest burger? Suddenly you find yourself thinking, “It sure would be nice to have that nice juicy burger.” Sure you have, and that is the entire point of the commercial. However, do you ever stop to think what the consequences could be in eating that burger? No one ever stops to think that they could possibly contract Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human form of the bovine ailment known as “mad cow” disease. This disease is not a great concern at this point in the United States, but it is sweeping across Europe at an alarming rate. Even though “madcow” disease was not considered a very threatening disease in the past, studies show that if not curbed, this disease has the capability to turn into an epidemic.

“Mad cow” disease, known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, (BSE) is thought to be transmitted when cattle eat meat-based animal feed. This feed, meat and bone meal ground from the carcasses and entrails of cattle or sheep and then fed to the other cattle, is considered the most likely channel by which the disease spreads among herds. Scientists believe that it spreads to humans by the consumption of contaminated beef. It appears to be carried by a rogue protein called a “prion” not by a microbe, and therefore cannot be blocked by cooking beef thoroughly.

Many steps are being taken in Europe as an attempt to launch a Europe-wide strategy to stop mad-cow disease from spreading to humans. Many people have died from the human form of the disease in Britain and France, and many more have been infected. “Mad-cow disease is now moving from one member state to another,” EU Health Commissioner David Byrne said. “We should adopt an overall approach to address the risks so consumers can see what is done to protect their health” (Constant Brand, Herald Leader 2000). Therefore, bans of French beef imports as well as East European nations have been put into affect since the discovery of infected cows in France, and because scientists stumbled upon infected cattle in Germany and Spain.

What measures is Europe taking to eradicate the mad-cow situation? “Agriculture ministers from the 15-nation bloc were expected to approve the temporary fodder ban Monday along with other recommendations. Last week, they agreed in principle to more testing of cattle of 30 months and older,” (Constant Brand, Herald Leader 2000). Under this proposal, half a million cattle could be tested during the first six months of 2001. Thus, the EU will then review whether continued testing is needed. The European Commission also suggests that the “specified risk material” meaning brains, nerve tissues, and other animal parts be expanded to include the intestines of cattle of all age groups. These parts are thought to be key in the spread of mad-cow disease (BSE), or the human form Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

It is very simple to see why this disease is a universal alarm. The United States does a great deal of international trading. Therefore, this evidence of mad-cow disease could easily make its way to the United States and onto every kitchen table in America. Not only are cattle getting sick, people are dying due to this potential plague. Restaurants like Wendy’s loose mass profits due to scares like this, which also makes the economy suffer. These are only a few reasons why the United Nations should take every precaution necessary to eradicate this disease. Based upon the findings on this subject, I’ll think long and hard about the consequences in eating that juicy hamburger the next time a Wendy’s commercial comes on to tempt me.

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