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Mad cow disease: A timeline

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 12, 2001


Mad cow, first diagnosed in 1986 in the United Kingdom, is thought to have resulted from the feeding of meat and bone meal containing infected sheep parts to cattle. The outbreak probably was then made worse by "amplification" -- feeding meat-and-bone meal made from those cattle to young calves. Here are some dates to track the disease and the attempts to control it.

1986

November: BSE, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, is first confirmed in the U.K.

1988

July: Meat and bone meal made from ruminants (grazing animals) is banned from inclusion into cattle feed in the U.K.

1989

July: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) bans the importation of ruminant animals from countries with confirmed cases of BSE.

1991

December: The USDA bans at-risk by-products of ruminant origin from countries known to have BSE.

1993

The U.S. mad cow surveillance program is expanded to include examination of brain tissue from "downer" cows.

January: The mad cow epidemic in U.K. peaks with 1,000 new cases reported per week.

1996

March: National livestock organizations and professional animal health organizations in the U.S. announce a voluntary program to discontinue use of ruminant-derived protein in ruminant feed. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and USDA announce their intentions to determine if additional regulations are necessary to prevent the introduction or amplification of the BSE agent in the United States.

March 20: The British government confirms the suspicions of many scientists by announcing a link between BSE and cases of a disease called CJD (vCJD), or variant Cruetzfeldt-Jacob disease.

1997

June: The FDA bans the use of at-risk mammalian protein in animal feed.

1998

April: The USDA enters into an agreement with Harvard University's School of Public Health to analyze and evaluate the USDA's mad cow prevention measures.

2000

July: The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture issues a Declaration of Extraordinary Emergency after four sheep in Vermont test positive for Transmissable Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE). The sheep came from one of three flocks that have been quarantined by the state of Vermont since 1998 after learning the sheep may have been exposed to BSE-contaminated feed in Belgium and the Netherlands, from where they originated.

December: U.S. government bans all imports of rendered animal protein products from Europe, regardless of species.

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