Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or "Mad Cow Disease" is a degenerative disease of the central nervous system found in cattle. It is linked to a rare, fatal disease in humans called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD). Since the early 1990s, there have been approximately 180 cases of vCJD in Europe, linked to humans eating contaminated beef products from animals infected with BSE.
In Canada, there has been one case of vCJD. However, it was linked to the United Kingdom as this person lived there for an extended period of time during the peak of their BSE epidemic. There have been no cases of vCJD linked to eating Canadian beef.
In Canada, BSE continues to pose an extremely low risk to human health. Many steps have been taken to reduce the potential risks.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is responsible for animal health and for enforcing Health Canada's food safety regulations. They provide a broad range of information about Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), including the latest updates on BSE in North America.
Both BSE and vCJD belong to a category of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). Other TSEs include scrapie in sheep and chronic wasting disease in deer and elk. CFIA provides information about TSEs.
The Public Health Agency of Canada operates a comprehensive CJD surveillance system to monitor the instances of both classical and variant CJD across the country. You can find the latest information on vCJD in Canada on their site.
Federal Regulations Amended to Enhance BSE Controls by Preventing Specified Risk Material (SRM) From Entering Food Supply