AR-News: FARM SCENE: UConn taps interest in tainted beef with course on mad cow disease

jim robertson wolfcrest at
Tue May 4 16:35:51 EDT 2004

FARM SCENE: UConn taps interest in tainted beef with course on mad cow 


STORRS, Conn. -- A single cow in Washington state has caused trade friction, 
economic worries and a nationwide health scare. Now, it's behind a new 
educational initiative at the University of Connecticut.

The head of the school's animal science department decided to organize a new 
class after the discovery in December of the first known case of mad cow 
disease in the United States.

"Once the case broke I thought this is the perfect subject to show how 
complex this is," said Cameron Faustman. "It's been around 10 to 15 years. 
When it hit here, it was real for us."

UConn officials believe it's the only college-level course in the United 
States on mad cow disease, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, 
or BSE.

The disease's appearance in the United States generated interest among 50 
students in a one-credit course on the topic for the spring semester.

Thomas Hoagland of the animal science department said many students enrolled 
in the course because they "didn't know much about animals."

"They didn't know the difference between a cow, a heifer or a steer," he 

They learn plenty more than that. The course focuses on science, public 
health, international trade and nutrition and feeding of cattle.

The class is a natural at a university established in 1881 as a land grant 

The link between food and human health has stirred public interest before, 
said Faustman. In 1993, E. coli bacteria was found in hamburgers sold by 
Jack in the Box restaurants in Washington state. In the late 1980s, there 
was concern about the use of the chemical Alar on apples.

But he said mad cow is different, provoking a greater public response. 
"This, I think, is of special interest," he said.

Faustman said his course was inspired by a book, "The Pathological Protein," 
by Philip Yam, an editor at Scientific American.

Faustman invited Yam to lecture in early March on issues he researched for 
his book - and the author said he became aware of a few issues himself.

Students, he said, "presented things I never even thought of."

"One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill or 
torture an animal and get away with it" —  Margaret Mead.

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