Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in Japan
How was the “Blanket Testing Myth” Created?
Life Science Department, Science Council of Japan
In 1986, after bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was discovered in the United Kingdom, over 183,000 cases have been confirmed to date. In 1996, the UK government announced that BSE may be transmitted to humans, causing variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD). Retrospectively, the measures taken by the UK government were appropriate and the number of new cases of both BSE and vCJD decreased. Because of the long incubation period between infection and the appearance of clinical symptoms in both BSE and vCJD, a long time was needed to determine the effects of these measures. The inappropriate risk communication, however, caused people to lose trust in the UK government, and fear spread. In Japan, a cow infected with BSE was found in 2001. Although no cattle showing BSE symptoms were found and the risk of BSE infection was low, fear again spread due to inadequate risk communication. To allay consumer anxieties, the government began testing all cattle at slaughter facilities. This, in turn, generated the “blanket testing myth” – the misunderstanding that BSE testing was the most important measure needed to maintain the safety of beef consumption.
How was the “Blanket Testing Myth” Created?,” J. Disaster Res., Vol.2, No.2, pp. 81-89, 2007.