Link between farmed fish and Mad Cow Disease

Articles
June 26, 2009

Link between farmed fish and Mad Cow Disease

Researchers are suggesting new reasons that support the importance of accurate and comprehensible labeling when it comes to seafood. Scientists from the University of Louisville have now brought into question the safety of eating farmed fish that could transmit Creutzfeldt Jakob disease, which is commonly now as Mad Cow Disease. Although it has not yet been proven that it is possible to transmit the disease to humans through consumption of fish, some farmed fish are fed byproducts rendered from cows, leading scientists to believe that a ban of feeding cow meat or bone meal to fish be put into place until the safety of this practice is confirmed. Creutzfeldt Jakob disease is an untreatable, fatal disease that can be contracted by eating parts of an animal infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or mad cow disease). As the disease has been learned to easily spread within the same species, the feeding of rendered cow material to other cattle has been outlawed in many countries due to an outbreak in England that led to 163 deaths. Although the risk of transmission to humans who eat farmed fish is perceived to be low, the scientists from this recent study say that it is possible for a disease to spread by eating a carrier that does not appear to be infected. In addition, scientists believe that fish consuming diseased cow parts may experience a pathological change that allows the disease to be transmitted between two species.

Researchers are suggesting new reasons that support the importance of accurate and comprehensible labeling when it comes to seafood. Scientists from the University of Louisville have now brought into question the safety of eating farmed fish that could transmit Creutzfeldt Jakob disease, which is commonly now as Mad Cow Disease.

Although it has not yet been proven that it is possible to transmit the disease to humans through consumption of fish, some farm fished are fed byproducts rendered from cows, leading scientists to believe that a ban of feeding cow meat or bone meal to fish be put into place until the safety of this practice is confirmed.

Creutzfeldt Jakob disease is an untreatable, fatal disease that can be contracted by eating parts of an animal infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or mad cow disease). As the disease has been learned to easily spread within the same species, the feeding of rendered cow material to other cattle has been outlawed in many countries due to an outbreak in England that led to 163 deaths.

Although the risk of transmission to humans who eat farmed fish is perceived to be low, the scientists from this recent study say that it is possible for a disease to spread by eating a carrier that does not appear to be infected.  In addition, scientists believe that fish consuming diseased cow parts may experience a pathological change that allows the disease to be transmitted between two species.

In 2005, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) developed mandatory Country Of Origin Labeling rules, which was intended to inform consumers about where seafood comes from and if it is farm-raised or wild-caught. Unfortunately the labeling program has its flaws leaving consumers still uncertain whether or not the fish they are buying is truly wild-caught, or in fact farm-raised fish that is mislabeled. A 2005 study revealed that wild-caught salmon at six of eight New York City stores was actually farm-raised.

Currently under the labeling law, processed seafood is exempt, leaving more than 50% sold in the U.S. without labels, and 90% of fish sellers, such as wholesale markets, are exempt.

Consumers face significant price differences when choosing to purchase wild vs. farm raised fish, and more importantly food safety risks, as the science seems to suggest. This findings of this latest study regarding the transmission of BSE is simply another confirmation that more attention is due when it comes to labeling laws, so consumers, as well as retailers, can make informed decisions.