BSE and other Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies

Cattle, sheep and goats are susceptible to a group of brain diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). The best known of these diseases is bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cattle, it is also known as BSE or mad cow disease.

There are strict controls in place in the UK to protect people from BSE. The Food Standards Agency monitors these controls and publicises any breaches, as well as the actions taken to prevent further failures.

Although no sheep in the UK flock have been found to have BSE, there are a number of precautionary safety measures in place since it has been shown under laboratory conditions that sheep can be infected with BSE. The Agency continues to review and support research into TSEs in animal species used for food.

The Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens (ACDP) TSE risk assessment subgroup provides independent expert advice on TSEs to the FSA and other departments.

More in this section

  • BSE controls explained

    The European TSE Regulation 999/2001 (as amended) sets out the requirements for TSE monitoring, animal feeding and the removal of specified risk material.

  • BSE Controls Breaches

    These reports provide updates on any BSE controls breaches.

  • TSE research

    Details of the Agency-funded projects under the Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies, including BSE.

  • Cutting plants authorised to remove SRM

    Vertebral column in cattle older than 30 months and spinal cord in sheep and goats over 12 months of age or with a permanent incisor erupted is specified risk material (SRM).

  • About BSE and other TSEs

    Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, is one of a group of diseases known as Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs), or prion diseases. They result from the build-up of abnormal prion proteins in the brain and nervous system. TSEs get their name from the spongy appearance of the infected brain, and the fact that they are transmissible via infected material.