Keywords: variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, vCJD, India, cultural belief systems, risk management, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, BSE, mad cow disease, variant CJD, food safety, Hindu tradition
Preventive risk management strategies for bovine spongiform encephalopathy and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in India
India is unique in its management of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) due to its distinct system of socio-religious beliefs with respect to cows and beef consumption. Hindus, who comprise the great majority (over 80%) of India's population, revere the cow as a symbol of life, a practice that has evolved over the centuries according to Hindu tradition. In this context, the apparent popularity of beef consumption and a thriving cattle industry in India is somewhat paradoxical. Although there is low demand for beef in the domestic market compared to other countries, the government has instituted precautionary safeguards to maintain its BSE free status and large international beef export market. With a population of over one billion people, managing potential health risk issues in India, including prion diseases, is challenging. Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) risk management could be improved by incorporating blood deferral into the country's national blood policy. To date, neither BSE nor vCJD have been reported in India.