Sunday, 18 April 2004

Don't panic over mad cow, expert says

by Damon Boughamer
Public Radio Capitol News, serving Pennsylvania

State College, Penna. (PRCN, 18 November 2004) -- A Penn State expert says consumers should take-in-stride word that the U.S. may have its second case of mad cow disease.

Bill Henning is a professor of animal and dairy science in PSU's College of Agricultural Sciences.

Henning cautions that officials will need some time to confirm the case and determine the extent of the problem, but he says American consumers have little to worry about.

"Even if there's a positive cow," Henning says, "there isn't any real potential for that being in the meat supply."

Henning says that's because mad cow disease is transferred only through "prions," or abnormal proteins, that are eliminated from the supply before meat reaches supermarkets.

"The potential tissues that might carry these prions have all been removed. It's not found in muscle tissue," Henning says.

Although humans cannot contract mad cow disease, a related and potentially fatal illness has been seen among people who have eaten affected meat.

A spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture says state officials are aware of the potential outbreak.

They may play a role if there's a Pennsylvania connection to the diseased cow, but otherwise, federal officials will manage the response.