A Brief History of Dietary Madness

Nutrition Health Review, April 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

A Brief History of Dietary Madness


1986 - The first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is confirmed in the United Kingdom.

July 1988 - Britain bans all cattle feed that contains parts of other cows. The destruction of BSE-infected cattle begins.

1990 - British Agriculture Minister John Gummer appears on television and urges his five-year-old daughter to eat a hamburger in an attempt to prove to the public that their beef is safe.

May 1993 - Canada reports its first case of mad cow disease.

1994 - The European Union bans exports of meat that contain bones from herds that have not been BSB-free for at least six years.

1996 - The British government admits that BSE-infected beef can transmit mad cow disease to humans by way of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD).

March 1996 - The European Union bans British beef and beef products. Britain offers to cull their herds. By the end of March 1996, they offer to slaughter up to 40,000 cows in order to eliminate the disease.

1997 - The United States and Canada ban all cattle feed that contains parts of other cows.

October 1997 - Dr. Stanley B. Prusiner earns the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for his "pioneering discovery of an entirely new genre of disease-causing agents and the elucidation of the underlying principles of the mode of action." His work with prions showed that the proteins could cause several deadly brain diseases and dementia in humans and animals.

August 2000 - The British Health Department reveals that 14 people died of mad cow disease that year. Scientists predict that 500,000 people might die of the disease by 2030.

October 2000 - French supermarkets are found to be selling BSEtainted meat.

November 2000 - Scientists warn that chronic wasting disease, a transmissible encephalopathy that affects American deer and elk, can be transmitted to humans. Kuru, a disease spread by eating human brains, is discovered to be more widespread than previously thought in New Guinea.

December 2001 - German health officials claim that German sausage may be contaminated with mad cow brains. Germans, who consume an average of 55 pounds of sausages a year, are on the verge of hysteria.

January 2001 - United States Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.) officials insist that the American public is not at risk from mad cow disease, even though testing has not been widespread. One thousand Texas cattle are quarantined after they are fed ground-up ruminants. Italy finds its first mad cow.

February 2001 - France says that it will kill 10,000 head of cattle each week in order to raise beef prices, which have drastically lowered since the panic about mad cow disease began.

June 2001 - Mad cow disease appears in Greece.

May 2002 - The Irish Food Safety Authority reports finding bovine and porcine deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in a significant percentage of chicken filets. Many fear that mad cow disease can be transmitted through chicken meat as well.

April 2003 - Three deer hunters die of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not investigate the deaths, saying that there is no evidence the men ate tainted meat.

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