Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)

BSE or "Mad Cow Disease" is a progressive, fatal disease of the nervous system of cattle. It is what is known as a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). Other TSEs include scrapie in sheep, chronic wasting disease in deer and elk, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. Although the exact cause of BSE is unknown, it is associated with the presence of an abnormal protein called a prion. There is no treatment or vaccine currently available for the disease.

The protection of public health, food safety and animal health has been and continues to be a fundamental concern for the Government of Canada. In relation to BSE, the Government of Canada, through Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), have responded to the challenges presented by developing a comprehensive suite of internationally recognized, science-based measures to effectively minimize the likelihood of exposure, amplification and spread of BSE within the cattle population and to protect consumers from the associated human health risks.

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