US senator wants to ban Brazilian beef after mad cow disease cases

A big cow is sitting with a baby cow next to her
Rescued cows at a sanctuary, photo: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

US Senator Jon Tester on Thursday introduced legislation to ban the import of Brazilian beef into the United States because of mad cow disease concerns.

Last week, Brazil reported two people in Rio de Janeiro who might have Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), a human variant of mad cow disease.

Mad cow disease, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), is a fatal disease that slowly destroys a cow’s brain and spinal cord. So far, there’s no cure for it.

When humans eat nerve tissue of an animal infected with mad cow disease, they can get variant CJD. Humans can also get sporadic CJD; it’s not precisely known what triggers sporadic CJD.

Brazil said that the two cases reported in humans in Rio de Janeiro were sporadic CJD and not related to beef consumption. 

Tester wants a halt on beef from Brazilian cows because he doubts the safety level of meat from Brazil, and he wants clarity on the processes Brazil uses to detect animal diseases.

In September, Brazil confirmed two cases of mad cow disease in animals at two slaughterhouses, triggering a suspension of beef exports to China.

The top five countries the US imports beef from are Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia and Brazil. 

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