Mad Cow's Disease
Name: Micah B.
If you cooked beef from a cow that had Mad Cow Disease
at higher temperatures than normal boiling would it get rid of the prions?
Good thinking! In general proteins are not very stable at high
temperatures. The prions causing BSE are mal-folded proteins, and if we
could unfold them by heating there would be no problem. Unfortunately,
they are folded into an extremely stable form, and heating to
food-preparing temperatures will not destroy them completely. That is the
bad news. The good news is, that there are probably very few prion
proteins in red meat. If the risky parts of the animal (e.g. brain,
tonsils, eyes, bone marrow) are separated from the beef without
contamination, the meat should be pretty
safe. That is in essence the measures taken in Europe. The other measure
is, to test or not eat meat from animals over 3 years of age. It is
unlikely that young animals have BSE since it takes several years for the
disease to develop.
Dr. Trudy Wassenaar
Prions are not living things but are abnormal versions of proteins that we
all have. Something happens to make a certain protein change its shape which
makes it behave differently. It starts to accumulate in the brain and
nervous system and eats holes in the tissue. When the brain of people who
have died of this is looked at it, it looks like a sponge with all the holes.
Now as far as whether cooking destroys this protein, I'm not sure. But I
think if you go to the website of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta,
you will find lots of information about this. The website is:
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Update: June 2012