New test scans beef for mad cow disease
August 14, 2008
The first test for instantly detecting beef that’s been contaminated with tissue from a cow’s brain or spinal cord during slaughter has been developed by U.S. researchers. They said the test is an advance in efforts to protect the human food chain from bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or “mad cow disease.”
The removal of brain, spinal and other central nervous system tissue after slaughter is “one of the highest priority tasks to avoid contamination of the human food chain with bovine spongiform encephalopathy,” noted Jurgen A. Richt and colleagues at Iowa State University and the National Animal Disease Center of the USDA-Agricultural Research Service.
However, there is no currently available method that “enables the real-time detection of possible central nervous system (CNS) tissue contamination on carcasses during slaughter,” the researchers said in an American Chemical Society news release.
They developed a test based on detection of the fluorescent pigment lipofuscin, a substance that appears in high concentrations in the nervous system of cattle. The test proved a reliable indicator for the presence of brain and spinal tissue in bovine carcasses and meat cuts.
The study is in the Aug. 13 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.