BSE Issue Draws Activity December brought a flurry of moves in regard to BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy). BSE is a bovine neurological disease the British Health Ministry feels could have a possible link to a variant form of Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, a fatal degenerative brain disease in humans.

First, following the British government's announcement that there might be a slight chance of BSE transmission to humans through the bone marrow of cattle, the British government banned the sale of all beef-on-the-bone cuts (from cattle oversix months of age), both domestic and imported, in the UK.

Only Bones Are Banned The ban included ribs, roasts, oxtails, etc. Beef detached from the bone, however, is still legal to sell in the UK. A significant segment of the population didn't seem to be taking the warning seriously, however, as the Associated Press reported that British shoppers were flocking to butcher shops and retail outlets to stock up freezers before the ban took effect.

In December, the UK also banned beef imports of European Community beef that don't meet Britain's tough anti-BSE standards, Reuters News Service reported. And, effective January 1, the European Union plans to ban imports of some livestock products, a move the U.S. claims could disrupt an estimated $4.5 billion in cosmetic and pharmaceutical trade.

Meanwhile, the U.S. announced restrictions on imports of cattle, sheep, goats and some livestock products from 21 European nations until there is proof of no "mad cow" risk. Similar restrictions are already in place for ruminant animals and some livestock products in nine countries where BSE has been detected.