Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)
Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease belongs to a group of fatal brain diseases called Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSE) og prion diseases. These diseases are caused by a change in the function of the prion protein that are found naturally in the body.
Mad cow disease was first diagnosed in the UK in 1986. Studies have shown that the disease is spread by meat and bone meal that originates from infected cattle. As meat and bone meal were previously used extensively in cattle feed, the disease spread rapidly.
Precautions in Denmark
Consumer safety is a top priority in Denmark. Major elements in safeguarding consumer safety are the establishment of efficient food safety measures in the legislation and organising efficient control provisions and inspection systems.
To protect against any BSE-risk in Danish bovine, sheep and goat products, severe precautions have been taken.
To prevent the risk of infecting the national herd, the use of meat and bone meal from ruminants was banned in 1990, and in January 1997 the use of mammalian meat and bone meal was banned in feeding stuffs for ruminants.
In this context, it should be underlined that at least 95% of all cattle in Denmark are slaughtered in slaughterhouses, which only slaughter bovine animals borne and raised in Denmark. To control the origin, all imported animals must be earmarked with tag-colours different from animals of Danish origin.
The traceability system in the cattle sector is very well developed in Denmark. All animal movements from farm to farm are registered in The Central Husbandry Register, and meat can be traced back to the farm.
Furthermore, the slaughterhouses and cutting plants have traceability systems in place, which enable the origin of the meat to be followed throughout the production.
From 28 February 2000, new slaughtering procedures were implemented in all Danish slaughterhouses by ordering the compulsory removal of specified risk material (SRM) from cattle, goats and sheep slaughtered in Denmark. All meat and meat products marketed since 28 February 2000 have been produced according to the new procedures.
Precautions have been taken to ensure that no SRM enters the food or feed chain again. The SRM is transported to a special treatment plant and disposed by incineration.
These slaughtering procedures effectively protect the consumer against risk of contamination from Danish bovine products. Thus, Danish bovine products can be assumed to be as safe as ever.
At the request of the authorities in importing countries, the veterinary and food authorities in Denmark may issue appropriate certificates.
For further information on the above items, please contact the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration.
Surveillance in Denmark
The current Danish BSE surveillance programme implements the most recent European TSE legislation laid down in Commission Regulation (EC) No 999/2001 as amended and Commission Decision 2009/719/EC as amended.
Active surveillance was implemented in October 2000, and from 2001 to 2009 the surveillance programme generally comprised the testing of:
- All clinical suspects (no age limit).
- All fallen stock, emergency-slaughtered animals and animals older than 24 months in which observations had been made of accidents or functional or neurological problems at the antemortem inspection at slaughter (AM animals).
- All healthy slaughter animals older than 30 months at slaughter
The surveillance programme has been revised a few times since 2009 due to amendments to EU legislation. The latest revision was made in July 2013, when the testing of healthy slaughter animals was discontinued.
As from 4 July 2013, the surveillance testing regime for animals born in Denmark has comprised:
- All clinical suspects (no age limit).
- All fallen stock older than 48 months, emergency-slaughtered animals older than 48 months and animals older than 48 months in which observations were made of accidents or functional or neurological problems at the antemortem inspection at slaughter (AM animals)
To prevent the risk of infecting the national herd, the use of mammalian meat and bone meal is banned in feeding stuffs for ruminants.
- 1990: Ban on use of protein from ruminant in feed for ruminants
- 1994: Ban on use of protein from all animals for feed for ruminants. The ban came into force in Denmark in 1997.
- 2001: Ban on use of protein from animals for feed to all kind of production animals.
More information on BSE
For updated information on BSE in Denmark, see the annual publication on Animal health
For historic information see below: