The Atlantic's web site is prominently featuring a link to Ellen Ruppel Shell's 1998 article entitled "Could Mad Cow Disease Happen here?". A couple of snippets:
A similar epidemic in the United States would be even more catastrophic. Britain before the outbreak had roughly 10 million cows; we have more than 100 million. Cattle and dairy farmers are at the heart of thousands of rural economies, and earn approximately $54 billion a year through meat and milk sales; more than $100 billion in additional revenue is generated by related industries and services.
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[The organism] concentrates in the central nervous system, in the spinal cord and brain. And the more of the infectious material an animal is exposed to, the likelier it is to get sick. For this reason Britain has implemented a series of more and more restrictive bans from its food chain, starting with cattle brains, spinal cords, and other tissues that have been shown to contain infectious material, and now including some sheep and goat parts as well. The United States has not followed suit, and the heads and backbones of cows, pigs, and other animals continue to figure prominently in the rendering mix.
And John Stauber, author of a 1997 book on the subject, writes "Mad Cow USA: The Nightmare Begins" at AlterNet. The money quote comes early:
Those who did read "Mad Cow USA" when it was published in November, 1997, however, realized that the United States assurances of safety were based on public relations and public deception, not science or adequate regulatory safeguards. We revealed that the United States Department of Agriculture knew more than a decade ago that to prevent mad cow disease in America would require a strict ban on "animal cannibalism," the feeding of rendered slaughterhouse waste from cattle to cattle as protein and fat supplements, but refused to support the ban because it would cost the meat industry money.
Last, read today's Chicago Tribune for a piece on Evansville, Indiana, and the predeliction of its residents of German ancestry for brain sandwiches, in "Brain sandwich still heads some menus". Among its other revelations is the fact that some Chicago-area taco stands offer "cows-head tacos" and that others offer the South Asia "spicy cow-brain delight called mughuz masala".