Mad cow disease has been found on a U.K. farm for the first time since 2015, raising concern that some countries may move to limit imports of British beef.
The disease, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE, was confirmed on a farm in Aberdeenshire, eastern Scotland, according to a government statement. Officials stressed that the case is classical BSE and doesn’t pose a threat to human health, and the animal did not enter the food supply.
Still, there’s concern that importers will cut off purchases of British beef because of fears linked to the disease. In the 1980s and 1990s, Britain suffered an epidemic of mad cow disease that killed several people and led to widespread export bans on beef.
Eating meat from animals infected with BSE has been tied to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, an incurable human illness that destroys brain tissue. More than 185,000 BSE cases in cattle were confirmed in the European Union during the previous epidemic. Since then, cases have been sporadic and isolated.
The Scottish government said precautionary restrictions have been put in place at the farm and further steps are being taken to identify the origin of the disease.
The impact of this case will be whether Scotland loses its status as an area with negligible BSE risk, which could affect whether importers buy British beef. Agriculture is a major part of the Scottish economy, especially in the rural areas like Aberdeenshire.
Britain has worked to sell beef as a premium product to other countries and assure consumers of its safety. In recent months, the industry has been courting China as a new market. China had lifted its ban on U.K. beef imports following more than two decades of restrictions due to mad cow disease.
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