Mad Cow Disease: We’re Not out of the Woods
Alarming new findings from Britain’s Health Protection Agency reveal that many people could still be infected with, and eventually die from, mad cow disease. In humans, it is referred to as “new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease,” or vCJD. As leading vCJD expert Professor John Collinge notes, “The incubation period, where there are no symptoms, can last for decades.”
But that’s Great Britain, not the U.S., right? Well, we’re potentially at an even higher risk because while Europe banned the macabre farming practice that is believed to have caused mad cow disease—feeding ground-up farmed animals to other farmed animals—it is still legal in the United States. And while England tests every cow slaughtered for the presence of the disease, the U.S. tests only a small percentage.
The symptoms of vCJD are so similar to those of dementia or Alzheimer’s that there is some indication that a large number of Americans may have been misdiagnosed.
Obviously we can’t un-eat meat we ate in the past that may have contained the indestructible prions that cause mad cow disease, although British scientists are working on a blood test that can check for the disease. But what we can do is reduce our risk of future infection by quitting hamburgers and steaks, ahem, cold turkey.
But if you’re thinking that eating cold turkey or another meat would be better, don’t be fooled—you still run the risk of all those other diseases that any kind of meat consumption contributes to, including heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer.
Continuing to eat meat despite the mounting evidence that it will hurt us in one way or another seems pretty mad, right?
Written by Michelle Sherrow