|By DAVE BLOWER JR.
Farm World Editor
OTTAWA, Ontario — The National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease in Winnipeg on Sunday confirmed Canada’s fifth case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as Mad Cow disease, in a cow from British Columbia.
On April 13, samples from this 6-year-old dairy cow were sent to Winnipeg for additional testing after screening tests produced inconclusive results.
USDA Secretary Mike Johanns has accepted an invitation from Canada’s Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Chuck Strahl to conduct a joint investigation into this case - Canada’s fourth in nearly three years.
"With the confirmation of a new BSE case in Canada, Minister Strahl has invited the United States to participate in the epidemiologic investigation. We will dispatch a USDA animal health expert to Canada on (April 17),” Johanns said.
“Information gathered through this investigation will help us to determine what, if any, impact this should have on our beef and live cattle trade with Canada. Based on the information currently available, I do not anticipate a change in the status of our trade. It is important to note that Canada’s monitoring system identified this animal as one that should be removed from the food and feed supply chain, ensuring food safety continues to be protected.”
The United States and Canada have been key beef industry trade partners. In 2002, Canada’s beef and cattle exports were worth approximately $4 billion - the United States imported more than 80 percent of those products.
Other key export markets for Canada include Mexico, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.
Canada’s BSE history
BSE was first discovered in Canada in 1993 in a beef cow that had been imported from Britain in 1987. The animal was destroyed and additional measures were taken by the federal government to deal with any risk that may have affected Canadian cattle.
Through Canada’s BSE surveillance program there have been three cases of Mad Cow since 2003.
The first was reported May 20, 2003. The animal was condemned at slaughter and no meat from the carcass entered the human food system. Canadian officials responded with a comprehensive investigation that tested some 2,000 animals. All test results were negative for BSE.
The second and third cases were confirmed on Jan. 2 and Jan. 11, 2005, respectively. Neither of these animals entered the human food or animal feed systems. Investigations into these cases are complete and all of the animals depopulated through this investigation tested negative for BSE. BSE has been a reportable disease in Canada since 1990.
Food supply is safe
Canada’s agriculture department officials said Sunday’s finding would not affect the safety of Canadian beef.
They said the tissues where BSE is found are removed from all cattle slaughtered in Canada for domestic and international human consumption. No part of this animal entered the human food or animal feed systems.
Preliminary investigations conducted prior to receiving the final results identified the animal’s exact date of birth and birth farm - two critical elements required to trace other animals of interest, as defined by the World Organization for Animal Health. With the confirmed positive results and this information in hand, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has begun its animal component of the investigation.
The CFIA is conducting an examination of potential sources of infection. Investigators will pay particular attention to the feed the animal may have been exposed to early in its life, when cattle are most susceptible to BSE. The CFIA is collecting records of feed purchased and used on the animal’s birth farm. As in previous investigations, the CFIA will fully consider all other scientific pathways in an attempt to definitively determine how the animal became infected.
This dairy cow developed Mad Cow after the implementation of Canada’s feed ban.
The feed ban and national surveillance program, which identified this animal, contribute to Canada’s BSE controls. While the feed ban continues to limit the spread of Mad Cow, Canada’s national surveillance program monitors the health of the Canadian cattle herd. The national surveillance program has tested more than 100,000 animals since 2003.
This farm news was published in the April 19, 2006 issue of Farm World.