Mad Cow

Could Mad Cow Disease Already be Killing Thousands of Americans Every Year?:

“October 2001, 34-year-old Washington State native Peter Putnam started losing his mind. One month he was delivering a keynote business address, the next he couldn’t form a complete sentence. Once athletic, soon he couldn’t walk. Then he couldn’t eat. After a brain biopsy showed it was Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, his doctor could no longer offer any hope. ‘Just take him home and love him,’ the doctor counseled his family.[1,2,3] Peter’s tragic death, October 2002, may have been caused by Mad Cow disease.”

There are hundreds of “sporadic” cases of CJD in America, considered to arise on their own, not from eating meat. But now studies are showing that they arise in meat-eaters and may not be sporadic after all. The article is detailed, but worth reading.

Compared to people that didn’t eat ham, for example, those who included ham in their diet seemed ten times more likely to develop CJD.[27] In fact, the USDA may have actually recorded an outbreak of “mad pig” disease in New York 25 years ago, but still refuses to reopen the investigation despite petitions from the Consumer’s Union (the publishers of Consumer Reports magazine).[28]

Sporadic CJD has also been associated with weekly beef consumption,[29] as well as the consumption of roast lamb,[30] veal, venison, brains in general,[31] and, in North America, seafood.[32,33] The development of CJD has also, surprisingly, been significantly linked to exposure to animal products in fertilizer,[34] sport fishing and deer hunting in the U.S.,[35] and frequent exposure to leather products.[36]

We do not know at this time whether chicken meat poses a risk. There was a preliminary report of ostriches allegedly fed risky feed in German zoos who seemed to come down with a spongiform encephalopathy.[37] Even if chickens and turkeys themselves are not susceptible, though, they may become so-called “silent carriers” of Mad Cow prions and pass them on to human consumers.[38]

What it all boils down to is they ahve been feeding animals to other animals that shouldn’t be eating animals, and the animals are getting or carrying this disease, and now it looks like people might be getting it, too.

The recent exclusion of most cow brains, eyes, spinal cords, and intestines from the human food supply may make beef safer, but where are those tissues going? These potentially infectious tissues continue to go into animal feed for chickens, other poultry, pigs, and pets (as well as being rendered into products like tallow for use in cosmetics, the safety of which is currently under review[42]). Until the federal government stops the feeding of slaughterhouse waste, manure, and blood to all farm animals, the safety of meat in America cannot be guaranteed.

Regular readers of Seeing the Forest already know about the problem in deer. Are we seeing the tip of an iceberg — a new disease that will emerge in the next decades, thanks to deregulation and corporate greed?

The hundreds of American families stricken by sporadic CJD every year have been told that it just occurs by random chance. Professor Collinge, the head of the University College of London lab, noted “When you counsel those who have the classical sporadic disease, you tell them that it arises spontaneously out of the blue. I guess we can no longer say that.”

Just how bad might it be?

The most frequent misdiagnosis of CJD among the elderly is Alzheimer’s disease.[55] Neither CJD nor Alzheimer’s can be conclusively diagnosed without a brain biopsy,[56] and the symptoms and pathology of both diseases overlap. There can be spongy changes in Alzheimer’s, for example, and senile Alzheimer’s plaques in CJD.[57] Stanley Prusiner, the scientist who won the Nobel Prize for his discovery of prions, speculates that Alzheimer’s may even turn out to be a prion disease as well.[58] In younger victims, CJD is more often misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis or as a severe viral infection.[59]

Over the last 20 years the rates of Alzheimer’s disease in the United States have skyrocketed.[60] According to the CDC, Alzheimer’s Disease is now the eighth leading cause of death in the United States,[61] afflicting an estimated 4 million Americans.[62] Twenty percent or more of people clinically diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, though, are found at autopsy not to have had Alzheimer’s at all.[63] A number of autopsy studies have shown that a few percent of Alzheimer’s deaths may in fact be CJD. Given the new research showing that infected beef may be responsible for some sporadic CJD, thousands of Americans may already be dying because of Mad Cow disease every year.[64]

Still eating meat?