June 17, 2009
LOUISVILLE, Ky. A new study from the University of Louisville suggests farmed fish could transmit Creutzfeldt Jakob diseasecommonly known as mad cow diseaseif they are fed byproducts rendered from cows. The researchers are asking government regulators to ban feeding cow meat or bone meal to fish until the safety of this common practice can be confirmed.
We have not proven that its possible for fish to transmit the disease to humans. Still, we believe that out of reasonable caution for public health, the practice of feeding rendered cows to fish should be prohibited, said Robert P. Friedland, MD, lead author. Fish do very well in the seas without eating cows.
The risk of transmission of BSE to humans who eat farmed fish would appear to be low because of perceived barriers between species. However, the authors stated that it is possible for a disease to be spread by eating a carrier that is not infected itself. Its also possible that eating diseased cow parts could cause fish to experience a pathological change that allows the infection to be passed between the two species.
The fact that no cases of Creutzfeldt Jakob disease have been linked to eating farmed fish does not assure that feeding rendered cow parts to fish is safe. The incubation period of these diseases may last for decades, which makes the association between feeding practices and infection difficult. Enhanced safeguards need to be put in place to protect the public, Friedland said.
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