Mad Cow Cheese

Since everyone seems so concerned about bovine-derived materials coming to the U.S. from countries afflicted with “mad cow” disease, why isn’t there a ban on cheese imports from those countries?

Because BSE cannot be transmitted via milk or other dairy products.

And you’re entirely certain of that, are you? We know so little about transmissible spongiform encephalopathies that we slaughter entire herds of animals to prevent their spread, but cheese and milk for certain can’t transmit them?

We do know that BSE, as well as it’s human equivalent, Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, are caused by particular prions. There are some pretty-well established ideas about how these “bad” prions cause the “good” ones in your brain to change into the bad ones (via allosteric behaviour).

NOTE: I have not researched any of this, but it was on my biochem exam this past Tuesday, so what I know of it is still fairly fresh in my mind.

So my WAG would be that, knowing which prions cause BSE and CJD, it would be possible to remove them in the milk/cheese making process. Some step in the process probably destroys the protein.

And where do you get your milk if you get it from Europe? Mine’s made not too far from here and it still has to be consummed fairly soon. Must be fast shipments…

Actually the nature of the prions which cause the disease are now very well understood. Suggesting otherwise is irresponsible.

It was my understanding that prions contain no genetic material, and are therefore “unkillable”: is there evidence to the contrary?

It wouldn’t be “killed,” since it’s not alive. But it could be destroyed.

There are plenty of chemical reactions that break up proteins.

From what I’ve heard (and I live in Sweden, I hear about this every day), the prions are found only in the brain and the bone marrow. How you might contract CJD by eating meat from an infected cow is that during slaughter and processing, the meat is contaminated by brain matter and bone marrow. Believe me, there are no t-bone steaks in any stores in Sweden.

WAG! Maybe the people who have contracted CJD have eaten mainly processed products, ie hamburger and the like. It seems a whole lot harder to make sure meat like that isn’t contaminated.

Modern methods of processing and packaging ground meats, involving tons of meat from different sources all being ground together, does pose an increased risk of all sorts of contamination.

There is also possibly a link between CJD and the use of bone meal, a common fertilizer often used on roses.

When some sheep in Vermont were thought to be infected the local health officials recommended that people not eat the cheese and milk made from their milk. They admitted that they had no real evidence that BSE/CJD could be transmitted through the milk, but advised that people avoid it just in case.

Whatever prions are, they are exceedingly sturdy things. Their infectious capacity is apparently unhindered by autoclaving conditions and ionizing radiation doses sufficient to render organic material to a charred state.

So much for pasteurization, deep fat frying, grilling, broiling, or irradiation to make us safe.

It would appear that the only way to eliminate the risk is to go ‘vegan’. The only caveat being the fertilizer link.

Yup, Vermonters are a wary bunch. I’ve never even HEARD of sheep cheese! Goat, maybe…

Mad Cow Cheese – great band name.

Yeah,Jeff, let’s market it! We could put a label on it with a goofy-looking cow on it saying, “Look at me, I’m a helicopter!”

As for sheep cheese, I’d never eat cheese that comes from something I have sex with. :eek: