Beef Tainted by Mad Cow Likely Eaten

FRANCE-British public health researchers are reporting that 100 French cattle slaughtered for human consumption this year may have been infected with Mad Cow disease.

At least 1,200 French cattle have been infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or Mad Cow disease, since 1987. That number could be as high as 7,300 cattle infected if French meat producers and officials have underreported inspection results.

There are no reports whether this tainted meat ever reached markets or was eaten. However, two people have died of the disease in France.

Mad Cow disease originated in Britain in the 1970s. Researchers think the brain-wasting virus was spread through recycling meat and bone meal from infected animals back into cattle feed.

In 1996, the disease was linked to a variant human illness called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The human strain leaves holes in the brain, causing dementia and eventual death.

In October, France released that beef from 11 potentially infected cattle had reached markets. Mad Cow panic has raced across Europe with cases reported in Germany, Spain and Britain.

The European Union has ordered a six-month ban on animal products in fodder. The move is expected to cost $1.3 billion.

Neither Mad Cow or Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease has been reported in the US. The US banned British beef imports in 1997, plus American cattle are generally fed corn and grains.