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Columbia Missourian

Forum to answer mad cow questions

January 14, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST

Although it has been a couple of weeks since the most recent mad cow disease scare, some consumers are still concerned about bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

In response, the Missouri Department of Agriculture and the agriculture and health sciences departments at MU will hold a question-and-answer session about BSE and similar diseases at 1 p.m. today at MU’s Veterinary Medical Auditorium.

In the first hour, Jeff Tyler, professor of internal medicine and epidemiology at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, will give an overview of the science behind transferable animal spongiform encephalopathy, which includes BSE, scrapies, chronic wasting disease and the human variant, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

“The big problem is that most people don’t have the background knowledge to know what questions they would want to ask,” Tyler said.

He said he expects people to learn more information in the first hour, equipping them to ask more in-depth questions during the second hour.

At 2 p.m., MU and Missouri Department of Agriculture specialists will gather for a panel discussion to answer general questions from the public.

“We should have an expert on the panel to answer their question with the best information that is available from the university,” Larson said.

Panelists include experts from the state Agriculture Department, as well as experts on veterinary medicine and human nutrition and health.

One of the featured panelists is Eric Berg, an MU assistant professor of animal science, who runs the university meat lab on campus. The lab, which is the site of meat research, also sells retail meat.

Jo Britt-Rankin, interim associate dean with the MU College of Human Environmental Studies, is also scheduled to be on the panel.

“We know there are people who are concerned about BSE, but we haven’t had as many calls as expected,” said Britt-Rankin, an expert in human nutrition.

State veterinarians, university faculty and staff, livestock producers and the general public are invited to attend the meeting.