THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A cow that died recently on a Dutch farm has tested positive for mad cow disease, the government announced Wednesday, in a rare case of the cattle illness that can cause a fatal brain disease in people who eat tainted beef.
The farm where the cow died has been sealed off, Agriculture Minister Piet Adema said in a letter to lawmakers. He added that the infected animal "did not get into the food chain and does not constitute a risk to food safety."
Formally called bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, the disease first broke out in the late 1980s among cattle in Britain. Hundreds of people fell ill, after eating contaminated meat, with the disorder caused in humans — named variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease — and many died. Over the years, 4.5 million cattle were slaughtered to contain the spread.
The number of BSE cases plummeted after bans were introduced on feed that included meat and bone meal from infected cows believed to cause the disease.
The last case detected in the Netherlands was in 2011.
Further tests are being conducted to establish what form of mad cow disease the dead animal had. So-called classical BSE is caused by animals eating contaminated feed, while another variant called atypical BSE is a naturally occurring form of the disease.
The government did not release details of the location of the farm affected.
Food safety authorities are conducting an investigation to trace any offspring of the dead animal as well as cows that ate the same feed or grew up with it. They will be euthanized, tested for BSE and destroyed, the ministry said.
If the dead animal is found to have classical BSE, further analysis will be needed to establish if other cattle have eaten tainted feed.
"In that case, measures must be taken to manage risks to food safety and public health," Adema wrote.