The most recent firewall established by USDA mandates removal from the food supply material that would most likely carry the BSE agent (such as brain and spinal cord). This process happens every day with every animal to ensure this diminishing disease has no affect on public health.

  • BSE infectivity exists primarily in nervous system tissues such as the spinal cord and brain of older animals with this rare disease, and USDA mandates that these materials are removed prior to processing.

Banning animals that cannot walk or show signs of neurological disease

  • In 2003, USDA strengthened its food safety program by banning from the human food supply any cattle that are unable to walk or show signs of possible neurological disease.

Feed Ban

  • In 1997, the FDA banned feeding ruminant-derived protein to cattle. This feed ban breaks the cycle of BSE.  

If asked about the susceptibility of other animals:

Dogs, birds, reptiles and horses are not known to be susceptible to the infectious agent that causes BSE in cattle. However, cats are susceptible. Approximately 90 cats in the U.K. and several cats in other European countries were diagnosed with the feline version of BSE, or FSE.

Currently in the U.S., some animal products that are prohibited from cattle feed are acceptable for use in pet food. Such products include meat and bone meal, for example. However, FDA believes that the safeguards it has put into place (i.e. ruminant feed rule) to prevent BSE in the U.S. have also protected cats. To date, no case of FSE has been found in the U.S. FDA continues to review these safeguards to be sure they are adequate.

To learn more about BSE, information can found at the following Web sites:

    •    Centers for Disease Control Q&A
    •    Food and Drug Administration Q&A
    •    USDA Q&A