BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy)
Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) is a disease of cattle. It was first recognised and defined in the United Kingdom in November 1986. Over the next few years the epidemic grew considerably and affected all parts of the country but to different degrees. It reached its peak in 1992, when 36,680 cases were confirmed in Great Britain, and since then has shown a steady decline.
BSE occurs in adult animals in both sexes, typically in animals aged five years and more. It is a neurological disease in which affected animals show signs that include; changes in mental state, abnormalities of posture and movement and of sensation. The clinical disease usually lasts for several weeks and it is invariably progressive and fatal.
The disease is notifiable: if you suspect the disease, you must immediately notify the duty vet in your local Animal Health Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) office.
- BSE testing: from 1 July 2011 the age from which healthy cattle slaughtered for human consumption must be tested for BSE in England rose from four years to six years. Testing of slaughtered cattle and fallen stock is carried out to monitor the levels of BSE. As BSE has almost disappeared, the testing of healthy slaughtered cattle is no longer needed at the younger age. BSE will continue to be monitored effectively by testing BSE suspects, fallen cattle and emergency slaughtered cattle. The key method of protecting food safety is the removal of specified risk material such as brain and spinal cord from carcases which continues to be obligatory. The Food Standards Agency advises the risk to food safety will remain extremely low. (27 June 2011)
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We are in the process of moving more detailed information about BSE into this new website. In the meantime further information is available on our old website.