Remind me. What’s mad cow disease again?
Better known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), it’s a degenerative disease that literally eats holes in a cow’s brain and spinal cord.
Yikes. Where does it come from?
No one’s 100 percent sure, but the most common theory is that cows get it by eating tainted feed—made from other livestock, including cows. The USDA banned that form of feed in 1997, though, so in theory it shouldn’t have been an issue here.
If this is a cow disease, why did everyone freak out about it?
Well, technically, humans can get a variant of the disease by eating an infected animal, but only the affected parts—which rarely make it into the food supply. Britain did experience an outbreak in the ’80s, though, that killed about 140 people.
That sounds like a lot. Is it?
Not when you compare it to the 180,000 cattle that were infected.
So the chances of getting it are—
Slim to none. But this is America, and a good old-fashioned food scare sells newspapers.