This is the first case of the disease identified in animals other than cattle.
The goat had already tested positive for scrapie, a disease similar to BSE (bovine spongiform encepalopathy), in an EU-wide testing programme in 2000 and had been slaughtered. Further tests triggered the suspicion that this could be a BSE infection.
BSE, also known as mad cow disease, belongs to the group of diseases that also include Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) in man and scrapie in sheep and goats. These diseases lead to a degeneration of brain tissue which takes on a typical spongy appearance.
First identified in 1986 in the UK, 180,000 cases of BSE have since been diagnosed there alone and only four out of the 25 EU member states have not yet declared any cases. BSE has affected the entire beef food chain, from producer to consumer.
A recent report from the European Association of Animal Production estimates the cost of BSE to EU15 (prior to accession) member states at more than €90 billion. In addition, the BSE crisis has had a significant impact on public trust in government and governmental scientific advice.
Indeed, the newly created European Food Safety Authority, that made the goat and BSE announcement this week, was at the hub of Europe's white paper on food safety. Cleared in the 1990s, the legislation found its roots in the string of food safety crises, such as BSE, in Europe.
While it has been established that small ruminants can also be infected in experiments with BSE. Up to now, there are no signs of natural infection. The feeding of meat-and-bone meal - linked to BSE development in cattle - is under discussion as the possible cause of the only confirmed case of BSE infection in the goat.
The goat in question was already born before the entry into force of the ban on the feeding of meat-and-bone meal. It was slaughtered in 2002. Other animals in the herd were also examined, but they all tested negative.