Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), is a severe neurological disease in cattle that causes damage to the brain and spinal cord. Consumption of food contaminated with infected animal carcasses can lead to serious illness in humans.
The human form of mad cow disease is called variant Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease. There is often confusion between these two illnesses. No cases of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease have been identified in Australia to date.
Following the initial cases of mad cow disease (BSE) in the United Kingdom in 1986, Australian government bodies and industry have worked to minimise the potential risks to humans from BSE through careful risk management strategies to beef supplies.
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Last reviewed: September 2020