There have been a number of recent news reports of a case of BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or 'mad cow disease') being confirmed in Scotland.

I was wondering if there are any potential risks to human health from eating beef, either in the UK or elsewhere in the world.

  • I'm voting to close this as it's a medical question, and therefore off-topic.
    – GdD
    Oct 19 '18 at 7:24
  • I don’t know, but I’m not allowed to give blood because of it. Anyone attached to a US military base in the 1980s in Western Europe is banned. (They sold / served British beef)
    – Joe
    Oct 19 '18 at 10:59

From the linked article, there is a non-zero risk to human health if eating beef infected with the Mad Cow disease.

"There was nationwide alarm following the confirmation of the first deaths caused by transmission of BSE to humans in 1996. At the time there were fears that hundreds of thousands of people might die as a result of eating infected beef.

As it turned out 178 people have died of the human form of mad cow disease, known as Variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease (CJD). It is believed that these individuals were genetically more sensitive to succumbing to the disease than the wider population. "

If uncertain, make certain your butcher shop has verifiable traceability of all the meat he/she sell, so you can know where the meat comes from.

I think the information should be publicly available at your butcher shop.

Elsewhere, well, in Europe and North America, the standards are very high, so I would not worry that much; I can't say anything about the rest of the world as I don't know enough.

  • 1
    Also from the article: 'Since then, cattle are closely monitored for signs of the disease and it seems that, in this instance, the surveillance system has worked well. The cause is not known at this stage. But if it is an isolated case there is very little if any risk to human health. According to Prof Matthew Baylis, Chair of Veterinary Epidemiology at the University of Liverpool, "BSE in cattle in the UK is largely over but there is still the odd detected case"'
    – BauerPower
    Oct 19 '18 at 14:29
  • Also worth pointing out that isolated cases pop up around the world
    – BauerPower
    Oct 19 '18 at 14:31
  • In Europe the standards should be high (and probably usually are) but I do remember the 2013 horse meat scandal. Though mostly likely the beef being sold now was already slaughtered months ago and has been sitting in a freezer for quite a while so the risk should be minimal. Oct 21 '18 at 11:08
  • The article isn't quite correct though in that it directly blames all those 178 on the BSE outbreak, which is fundamentally flawed. Nowhere is it proven any of those 178 were cause by eating contaminated meat, and indeed more than a few (maybe even all) were diagnosed well short of the required time for CJD to develop in a human being after exposure to prions, making it impossible for contaminated beef to have been the cause of the disease in the patient.
    – jwenting
    Nov 19 '18 at 5:55

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