Keywords: bovine spongiform encephalopathy, BSE, variant, risk management, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, variant CJD, Portugal, vCJD, mad cow disease, food safety, transparency, decision making, scientific advice, government policy
Risk assessment and risk management of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in Portugal
Portugal was one of the first countries outside of the UK to detect indigenous bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) cases. However, initial low compliance with control measures contributed to the occurrence of increasing numbers of cases. This resulted in Portugal being the only other country to be designated at a higher risk level (GBR IV) by the European Commission (EC). By 2003, Portugal had the highest annual BSE incidence rate worldwide. The outbreak of BSE in Portugal can be divided into three periods, each marked by a major event at the national-European level: the disclosure of BSE (1993); second, the linkage of BSE to vCJD (1996); and third, the embargo on cattle and beef exports (1998). The embargo represented a turning point that led to needed risk management interventions. It demonstrated the importance of implementing proven protective measures, transparency in decision-making, and consideration of scientific advice in government policy development.