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Timeline: How the crisis unfolded
February 1985 First signs of BSE in the UK. "Cow 133" dies after suffering head tremors, weight loss and inco-ordination. Symptoms are identified in a clinical report as a "novel progressive spongiform encephalopathy in cattle."
1986 The disease is officially recognised as an entity.
1987 UK government ministers are first told about the disease. Meat and bone meal identified as "only viable hypothesis for cause of BSE".
June 1988 Law banning use of certain types of meal, the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy Order, is passed in the UK.
July 1988 UK government announces slaughter policy for animals showing BSE symptoms.
July 1989 Europe bans export of British cattle born before July 1988 and offspring of affected animals.
November 1989 Ban on use of high-risk offal -- the brain, spinal cord and spleen -- for human consumption.
May 1990 Professor Richard Lacey makes first call for slaughter of all infected herds in the UK.
May 1990 British Agriculture Minister John Gummer claims beef is "completely safe" and appears on TV encouraging his daughter, Cordelia, aged four, to eat a beefburger.
1990 The UK government sets up National CJD Surveillance Unit to monitor CJD cases and investigate a possible link with BSE.
1992-1993 BSE reaches its peak with 100,000 confirmed cases.
1993-1995 Four cases of CJD reported in British dairy farmers who had BSE in their herds.
1995 The first known victim of variant CJD, 19-year-old Stephen Churchill, dies on May 21. Three more people die from the disease in the UK this year.
March 20, 1996 UK Health Secretary Stephen Dorrell officially announces there is a "probable link" between the cattle disease and vCJD.
March 27, 1996 The European Commission imposes a worldwide ban on all British beef exports.
April 1996 The UK Government launches a legal challenge to the export ban, and introduces a scheme to slaughter and destroy all cattle over the age of 30 months.
April 1997 Scientists find BSE can be transferred from cow to calf and offspring inherit susceptibility to infection.
December 1997 The UK Government imposes the "beef-on-the-bone" ban.
April 1998 Start of investigation into the care, diagnosis and information given to vCJD victims and their families.
August 1999 The European Commission lifts ban on British beef, but France continues to enforce the embargo.
November 1999 UK beef-on-the-bone ban lifted.
February 2000 A baby girl born to a mother with vCJD is also found to have contracted the disease.
July 2000 Investigation into "cluster" of vCJD cases around the village of Queniborough in Leicestershire.
October 2000 French President Jacques Chirac demands stronger measures to fight BSE after potentially-tainted meat found on supermarket shelves.
October 2000 UK Government releases results of BSE inquiry. The report strongly criticises former government ministers and officials for consistently playing down the risk to humans and failing to properly co-ordinate a government response.
October 2000 Doctors announce the death of a 74-year-old British man -- the oldest known victim of vCJD -- sparking further fears about the extent of the illness.
November 2000 Authorities in a number of French cities temporarily ban beef from restaurants and school canteens.
November 15, 2000 France bans beef on the bone and suspends the use of all livestock feed containing meat.
November 17, 2000 Italy bans the import of adult cows and beef on the bone from France.
November 17, 2000 The families of two French victims of the vCJD file a law suit charging that authorities in France, Britain and Europe did not act quickly enough to stamp out mad cow disease.
November 23, 2000 The first case of mad cow disease is detected in Spain.
November 24, 2000 Germany confirms the first two cases of mad cow disease in cows born on German soil. One of the cows had been exported to the Portuguese islands of the Azores, an area previously free of BSE. Authorities in the Azores say they will slaughter all cattle imported in recent years.
November 30, 2000 Germany announces mandatory beef testing in an attempt to calm public fears. Parliament also approves an immediate blanket ban on meat and bone meal feed.
December 6, 2000 European Union Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler announces a series of measures that must be taken to restore public faith in beef.
December 11, 2000 A new report finds the incidence of mad cow disease in France is more prevalent than previously thought. The Food Safety Board says it has detected at least one case of the disease for every 500 cattle tested in the northwest of the country.
December 20, 2000 Swiss politicians bring forward a planned ban on meat and bone meal in animal feed, ordering all animal meal to be incinerated.
December 22, 2000 The World Health Organisation announces fresh moves to address global concerns over mad cow disease. It says it will convene a major meeting of experts and officials from all regions
December 29, 2000 Thailand imposes a ban on imports of beef from seven European nations -- Portugal, France, Ireland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. Imports from Britain were banned in 1996.
January 2, 2001 France begins BSE tests on all cattle older than 30 months -- six months ahead of the European Union deadline for the programme.
January 5, 2001 Australia and New Zealand announce a ban of the import of beef products from 30 European countries. Retailers in Australia and New Zealand are advised to remove all European beef products from their shelves.
January 9, 2001 Germany's health and agriculture ministers resign after heavy criticism over their handling of mad cow disease.
January 10, 2001 France's farm minister says the resignation of two German ministers was the price Germany had paid for its "head-in-the-sand policy."
January 11, 2001 Malaysia bans European beef.
January 13, 2001 Italy has first case of mad cow disease in a domestic animal. Third Danish cow confirmed with BSE.
January 15, 2001 Thousands of farmers take to streets in protest in Spain demanding better compensation for slaughtered cattle. Britain's Food Standards Agency announces tests are to be done to see if mad cow disease can be transmitted through milk.
The BSE inquiry
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