Keywords: bovine spongiform encephalopathy, BSE, UK, risk management, risk assessment, risk communication, United Kingdom, science-based assessment, transparency, decision making, public outreach, mad cow disease, food safety, variant CJD, vCJD, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
Continued risk management of the diminishing bovine spongiform encephalopathy outbreak in the UK
The UK was the first country to detect bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in 1986, and has reported the vast majority (over 97%) of the world's BSE cases. BSE resulted in large economic losses, disbanding of the lead government agency responsible for managing the outbreak and a loss of public trust in government. Despite a World Organization for Animal Health designation of 'controlled BSE risk', and the near eradication of BSE in the UK, over 100 countries still maintain live cattle and beef bans against the UK. A review of the evolution of outbreak from 1986 to 2008 shows that risk assessment, risk management and risk communication efforts changed markedly over that time. Early management in the UK was confounded by high degrees of uncertainty and notable delays when implementing appropriate risk assessment, management and communication policies. Later, BSE management efforts were characterised by a greater reliance on science-based risk assessments, coupled with improved risk communication, transparency in decision making and public outreach.