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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.


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


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


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


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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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