A cow that died on a Dutch farm has tested positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the Netherlands government has announced.

It is a rare case of the cattle illness that can cause a fatal brain disease in people who eat infected beef, writes Simon Drury, PA.

The farm where the cow died has been sealed off, agriculture minister Piet Adema said.

He added the infected animal “did not get into the food chain and does not constitute a risk to food safety”.

BSE, colloquially called mad cow disease, first broke out in the late 1980s among cattle in the UK.

Hundreds of people fell ill with the human equivalent, a brain disorder called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and many died. Over the years, 4.5 million cattle were slaughtered to contain the spread.

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The number of BSE cases plummeted after bans were introduced on feed that included meat and bone meal from infected cows believed to cause the disease.

The last case detected in the Netherlands was in 2011.

Tests on the eight-year-old cow from a farm in a South Holland province, established the dead animal had a naturally occurring form of the disease called atypical BSE and not so-called classical BSE, which is caused by animals eating contaminated feed.

Food safety authorities are conducting an investigation to trace any offspring of the dead animal as well as cows that ate the same feed or grew up with it.