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TSE's (Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy) are a group of diseases that affect the brain and nervous system of humans and animals. These include scrapie in sheep and BSE (mad cow disease) in cattle. With the exception of classical BSE, there is no scientific evidence that TSE's can be transmitted to humans but the World Health Organization (WHO) has enunciated the importance of keeping the agents of all known prion diseases out of the human food chain. BSE in particular has had a tremendous impact on the international trading of beef since 1996, especially for the EU and within the 28 country Customs Union, for Great Britain and are only now climbing out of that category some 22 years later.
A recent report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) provides results on data collected by all EU member states plus Iceland, Norway and Switzerland for 2016. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is a fatal neurological disease of adult cattle that was first recognised in Great Britain and that has been identified in classical (C-type BSE) and atypical forms (H-type and L-type BSE). The classical form is caused by the feeding of insufficiently heated ruminant fats and proteins containing the pathogenic prion protein, while the atypical form occurs spontaneously in older animals.

In 2016, 1.35 million bovine animals were tested in the EU or BSE of which only 5 tested positive. There was one case of classical BSE in France and four cases of atypical H-type BSE, one in Spain and three in France. For the first time, the UK did not report any case of BSE which has become a strong argument for reassessing UK beef access to markets such as China, Japan and the United States. The decline in classical BSE cases continues both in terms of the absolute number of cases and the proportion of cases in tested animals. Also as expected, there is not a significant trend for atypical cases of BSE, as they continue to develop spontaneously in a very small percentage of older animals and could happen anywhere in the world, even Australia.          
Monday 19 February 2018
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