WASHINGTON, DC, January 4, 2005: The
Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has confirmed
that a dairy cow from Alberta has tested positive for
bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), usually called
mad cow disease, just four days after the United States
lifted a mad cow ban on the import of Canadian beef.
"No part of the animal entered the human food or
animal feed systems," the CFIA said in Ottawa.
"This finding does not indicate an increased risk
to food safety."
This identification of this diseased animal did not
cause the U.S. government to reverse its decision to
lift an 19 month import ban and allow Canadian beef
to cross the border in March, a move announced announced
December 29, 2004 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture
The USDA imposed a ban on the import of Canadian beef
in May 2003 after the first native Canadian case of
mad cow disease was identified, also on an Alberta farm.
Removal of the import ban is based on a new final rule
defining "minimal risk regions for BSE, along with
the classification of Canada as the first minimal risk
region under the rule," U.S. Agriculture Secretary
Ann Veneman announced.
But American cattlemen say removal of the import ban
is premature and they are asking that the new rule be
"There is a serious BSE problem in Canada and
there has been no comparable problem in the United States,"
said Bill Bullard, CEO of the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action
Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA).
"USDA must require Canada to begin mandatory BSE
testing for all Canadian cattle over 20 months of age,
so the prevalence of BSE in native Canadian cattle can
be determined and appropriate steps taken to help Canada
eradicate BSE from its cattle herd, rather than to put
our consumers at risk or risk spreading the disease
to the U.S. cattle herd," he demanded.
Based in Billings, Montana, R-CALF represents thousands
of U.S. cattle producers on domestic and international
trade and marketing issues.
But USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
Administrator Ron DeHaven said Monday that the USDA
"remains confident that the animal and public health
measures that Canada has in place," ensure the
safety for U.S. meat eaters and livestock.
"The extensive risk assessment conducted as part
of USDA's rulemaking process took into careful consideration
the possibility that Canada could experience additional
cases of BSE," said DeHaven, a veterinarian.
"Confirming BSE in this animal is not unexpected,"
the CFIA also said.
Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, such as
mad cow disease and its human form, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob
Disease (vCJD), are spread by prions - abnormally shaped
proteins that originate as regular components of neurological
tissues in animals such as the brain and spinal cord.
They are not bacteria or viruses.
Mad cow disease spreads from one animal to another
by consumption of feed that has been contaminated by
these proteins, such as blood or meat meal that contains
nervous system tissue from an infected animal. In 1997,
a ban on cattle feed containing blood or meat meal was
put in place in Canada and in the United States to contain
the possible spread of BSE.
The infected animal identified on Sunday was born in
1996, prior to the introduction of the 1997 feed ban,
the Canadian agency said on December 30, explaining,
"It is suspected that the animal became infected
by contaminated feed before the feed ban."
Canada's public health safeguards have been developed
on the assumption that a low, declining level of BSE
remains in North America, the CFIA said.
Canada requires the removal of specified risk material
from all animals entering the human food supply, saying
that this measure is internationally recognized as the
most effective means to protect public health from BSE.
In addition to the removal of specified risk materials
and the feed ban, Canada has in place a national surveillance
program and import restrictions. The infected animal
was detected through the recently enhanced national
surveillance program, the CFIA said. "Additional
cases may be found as testing of high-risk cattle continues."
As a result, the United States continues to consider
Canada as a minimal risk region. As stated in the United
States Department of Agriculture press release of December
30, 2004, the United States will not alter the implementation
of its minimal risk rule that opens the door to resume
trade with Canada.
"According to the World Organization for Animal
Health (OIE) guidelines, a country may be considered
a BSE minimal-risk country if it has less than two cases
per million cattle over 24 months of age during each
of the previous four consecutive years," explained
the USDA's DeHaven.
"Considering Canada has roughly 5.5 million cattle
over 24 months of age, under OIE guidelines, they could
detect up to 11 cases of BSE in this population and
still be considered a minimal-risk country, as long
as their risk mitigation measures and other preventative
measures were effective," DeHaven said.
But American cattlemen are not satisfied with this
“Based on USDA’s own description of the
incubation period for BSE, this native Canadian cow
most likely became infected with BSE after Canada implemented
its meat-and-bone meal (MBM) feed ban in 1997, suggesting
that Canada’s MBM feed ban was not enforced,”
They assert that on December 31, the CFIA "confirmed
that the infected Canadian cow was only eight years
However, a statement by the CFIA on January 2 again
says, "The infected animal was born in 1996, prior
to the introduction of the 1997 feed ban."
Still the American cattlemen are worried. “This
is the third confirmed case of BSE in native Canadian
cattle found in less than two years, and all three native
Canadian BSE-infected cattle were found using only very
limited BSE testing,” Bullard said.
“It is critically important for everyone to understand
this is Canada’s third publicly acknowledged case
of BSE in a native Canadian cow in the past 20 months,
not its second case,” Bullard emphasized.
“The United States has never detected a BSE-positive
animal in our domestic cattle herd," he said. "U.S.
cattle producers are asking the media to help correct
the misperception that the United States has ever had
a case of BSE in our native cattle herd. The BSE cow
found in the U.S. in December 2003 was not part of the
U.S. native cattle herd, but was a cow imported from
Canada’s native cattle herd."
Bullard says his membership believes that "the
true prevalence of BSE in Canada is likely to be much
higher than previously assumed, and USDA is dangerously
premature in its efforts to relax U.S. health and safety
standards by forcing Canadian cattle under 30 months
of age – and Canadian beef from cattle of all
ages – to be allowed into the U.S. beginning March
“We are deeply concerned that despite the known
and expanding prevalence of BSE within its domestic
cattle herd, Canada continues testing only cattle that
already exhibit BSE disease symptoms,” Bullard
"We believe Canada should follow a much more rigorous
testing program to determine the prevalence of BSE in
its cattle herd to protect its consumers and to prevent
the spread of this disease," said Bullard.
The CFIA is continuing its investigation and has determined
the infected animal's farm of origin. Efforts are now
underway to identify any other animals of similar risk.
Specifically, the agency is focusing on two categories
of animals: recently born offspring of the infected
animal and cattle born on the same farm within a year
of the infected animal.
The agency has also launched a feed investigation "to
examine what the infected animal was fed early in its
life, when infection was most likely to have occurred
prior to the 1997 feed ban."
Given the age of the animal, it may not be possible
to definitively identify a particular feed source as
the origin of infection, the CFIA said. However, said
the agency "information gathered through investigations
and analyses continues to suggest that the feed ban
has limited the spread of BSE since its implementation."
Canada discovered its first clinical case of BSE in
1993 when a cow imported from Great Britain in 1987
tested positive for the disease.
In 1989, Canada banned import of cattle from the United
Kingdom and traced all imported cattle to their Canadian
farms of origin, where they were monitored and eventually
destroyed. "Before this time, when BSE had not
emerged as a significant animal health threat, it is
likely that some imported animals entered the North
American feed system," the CFIA acknowledged.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2005. All