[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) is an at present inevitably lethal neurodegenerative disease which can only be diagnosed definitely post mortem. The majority of the approximately 200 victims to date have resided in the UK where most contaminated beef materials entered the food chain. Three cases in the UK demonstrated that vCJD can be transmitted by blood transfusion. Since BSE and vCJD have spread to several countries outside the UK, it appears advisable that specific risk assessments be carried out in different countries and geographic areas. This review explains the approach adopted by Germany in assessing the risk and considering precautionary measures. A fundamental premise is that the feeding chain of cattle and the food chain have been successfully and permanently cleared from contaminated material. This raises the question of whether transmissions via blood transfusions could have the potential to perpetuate vCJD in mankind. A model calculation based on actual population data showed, however, that this would not be the case. Moreover, an exclusion of transfusion recipients from blood donation would add very little to the safety of blood transfusions, but would have a considerable impact on blood supply. Therefore, an exclusion of transfusion recipients was not recommended in Germany.