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The spread of mad cow disease

Canadian cattle have also been infected with the disease.
Canadian cattle have also been infected with the disease.

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U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman confirms the mad cow case.
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•Mad cow disease was first reported in the United Kingdom in 1986, peaking in 1993 with almost 1,000 new cases per week. 
•In 1996, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) was detected in humans and linked to the mad cow epidemic. Eating contaminated meat and cattle products is presumed to be the cause.
•Both are fatal brain diseases with unusually long incubation periods, often lasting years.
Source: CDC
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The following are key dates in the spread of mad cow disease, believed to be transmitted by contaminated meat-and-bone meal fed to cattle:

1986 November

Britain makes first diagnosis of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), a new disease in cattle

1988 July

Britain announces that all cows known to be infected with BSE will be destroyed as a precautionary measure. Eventually 3.7 million cattle were destroyed.


Britain bans human consumption of certain offal, including brain, spinal cord, thymus, spleen and tonsils. The United States prohibits the import of live ruminants, including cattle, sheep, bison and goats, from countries where BSE is known to exist in native cattle.


European Commission bans imports to the Continent from Britain of cattle over six months old.

1993 December

One beef cow in Canada diagnosed with BSE. Authorities say it had been imported from Britain in 1987. The animal carcass and the herd it came from are destroyed.


EU approves proposal to ban exports of meat, containing bones, from herds that had not been free of BSE for six years instead of two. 1996 British government admits for the first time that BSE could be transmitted to humans in a variant form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD). The classical form is a slow degenerative disease in humans seen in about one person in a million worldwide each year.


Japan bans imports of meat-and-bone meal from Britain.

March 23

Fast food chain McDonald's Corporation suspends the sale of British beef products in its restaurants in Britain.

March 27

EU ban on British beef and beef products announced.

August 1

Britain's agriculture ministry confirms that mad cow disease can be passed from cow to calf.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirms the suspected mad cow case.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirms the suspected mad cow case.

August 19

British coroner rules that Peter Hall, a 20-year-old vegetarian who died of the vCJD, contracted it from eating beef burgers as a child. The verdict is the first to legally link a human death to mad cow disease.

1997 August 7

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration prohibits feeding of most mammalian proteins to ruminants.

December 3

Britain bans the sale of unboned beef as a precautionary move to stop the risk of mad cow disease.

1999 August 1

Export ban on British beef following the mad cow disease scandal is lifted after 3-1/2 years.

October 29

The European Commission's top scientists give British beef a clean bill of health.

2000 June 29

British Agriculture Minister Nick Brown announces that a cow, born after measures were introduced to eradicate mad cow disease, had been found to have BSE.

December 7

The United States prohibits all imports of rendered animal protein products, regardless of species, from Europe.

2001 September 10

Japan's Agriculture Ministry says a dairy cow tested positive for mad cow disease in the Chiba area near Tokyo, the first outbreak in Asia.

2002 April 19

U.S. health officials report the first suspected case of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), the human form of mad cow disease, in a 22-year-old British woman living in Florida. They said she most likely contracted the disease while living in Britain.

August 8

Health Canada says a Canadian man died in Saskatchewan from vCJD, apparently after contracting the disease in Britain.

2003 January 30

World Health Organization warns that contaminated feed was exported to many countries in central and eastern Europe and Southeast Asia and says they are at risk of BSE.

May 20

Canada says one cow in Alberta tested positive for BSE, Canada's first case since 1993. Canada Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief said the animal "did not enter the food chain" and its origin was being investigated. United States temporarily bans imports of Canadian cattle, beef and other ruminants and ruminant products.

May 21

Australia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Mexico and other nations ban imports of Canadian beef.

May 22

Canada broadens hunt for origin of Alberta mad cow case to Saskatchewan and expands quarantine to seven herds in the two provinces. U.S. officials said they are mulling whether to isolate Canadian cattle now in U.S. feedlots. Russia, Singapore, Chile and Indonesia ban imports of Canadian beef.

May 23

Canada expands quarantine to a total of 13 cattle herds in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia in mad cow probe. U.S. National Farmers Union demands more cattle tests at the U.S.-Canada border before U.S. ban on imports lifted.

May 28

China and Brazil ban Canadian beef imports. Canada says will test 600 more cattle in mad cow probe in attempt to track down source of the infected Alberta cow's disease. Canada cattle industry says losing US$20 million a day during probe.

July 18

Canada introduces new safeguards against mad cow disease to force its crippled beef sector to remove risky organs from carcasses, a move its top trading partner, the United States, said was key to lifting its import ban.

November 4

Japan says it has confirmed another case of mad cow disease, the ninth since the brain-wasting illness was discovered in the country in September 2001 and the second in less than a month.

December 23

At least one suspected case of the deadly mad cow disease found in an animal in Washington state, a U.S. Agriculture Department official said.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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